A debate to make our universities globally acceptable is yet to evolve
Just three Indian institutions have made it to the list of 200 top universities globally, as per QS World Rankings released on Thursday. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi and Mumbai and the Indian Institute of Sciences (IIS), Bangalore, are the only three organisations that figure in the global education sweepstakes.
Fifteen other top Indian universities rank anywhere between 264-1000 positions on four major parameters, academic reputation, faculty-teachers’ ratio, employer reputation and citations per faculty. The one redeeming feature is that the Indian Institute of Sciences has been ranked sixth globally, in terms of research intensiveness, impact and citations, best reflected in being quoted at least 82,000 times over a five-year period.
While there has been much politically motivated noise on a series of issues in institutions like the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the fact is that it does not figure on the list on any of these parameters.
If this ranking is any indication, Indian institutes and universities were found wanting on several fronts, vis-à-vis their global peers. It also signifies that unless drastic overhaul in the education system is brought about, there is no future for our institutes and universities. Without the right ranking and branding, students who have picked up the best of training and skills from Indian universities, may not make an adequate enough impact on the international scene. The biggest drawback faced by Indian universities is the lack of quality faculty getting into campuses, given that a vast chunk of appointments are made on political considerations.
Several faculty members have directed more than 30-40 doctorate and post-doctoral research students at any given time, giving them very little time to focus on academics. JNU Chancellor Kasturi Rangan was right when he said that the quality of research is more important that the quantity of Ph.D. students churned out from the campuses.
In addition, there is hardly any accountability for taxpayers’ money, which is channeled to fund research in most Indian universities. There is also no cost benefit analysis of the funds spent by the government. If ISRO spending on research, development of products and services can be subjected to cost benefit analysis, why cannot our academic institutions submit themselves to scrutiny through third party audits?
For achieving academic excellence, the politics of polemics on campuses must end forthwith. This should not be confused with student activism, which remains a highlight of Indian campus life. Student and academic energies must find a way to keep institutions relevant, their aim geared perpetually towards achieving academic excellence.