Indian universities trail Chinese in research

Deep chasm separates centres of higher learning in two Asian giants

Chinese higher education institutions are three times ahead of their Indian counterparts in research performance, a new comparative study has shown, exposing the deep chasm between the centres of higher learning in two Asian giants.

The top 20 Indian institutes producing doctoral students are way off behind Chinese universities and institutes producing PhDs, according to an analysis by CSIR National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, here.

The comparison is made on the basis of three quality parameters and quantity of research output. Peaking University, which tops the list from the Chinese side, is almost three times ahead of India's best performing institute—Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

“As China is three times ahead of us, we will have to spend three times more in higher education to catch up,” Gangan Prathap, NISCAIR director who did the analysis, told Deccan Herald. The study has been published in the March 25 issue of the journal Current Science.

The Indian institutions whose performances were studied include seven Indian Institutes of Technologies, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, eight leading universities, two medical schools—All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in Delhi and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Education and Research in Chandigarh — and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advance Scientific Research.

The eight universities are: Delhi University, Punjab University, Pune University, Banaras Hindu University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jadavpur University, Hyderabad University and Madras University. All of them are beaten hands down by their Chinese counterparts.
However, the comparison does not include research councils like CSIR, ICAR and ICMR as well as institutes directly under government’s scientific departments.

“If you throw peanuts, you will only get monkeys. It is not possible to do any credible research in the universities with the kind of budgetary support we receive,” commented N Raghuram, associate professor at Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University in Delhi, who is not involved with the NISCAIR analysis.

Despite substantial jump in higher education allotment in the 11th plan, the lion's share went to 15 new central universities, staff salary and setting up of infrastructure leaving little money available with the scientists to buy consumables for research.

In most universities, almost half of the departmental budget for consumable is spent for practical examination further draining the research budget. “On the contrary, China spent a lot on research in universities and there is a tight monitoring system to ensure that the money is not wasted,” said Raghuram. The new performance comparison comes three months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said China had overtaken India in scientific research.

Addressing the Indian Science Congress in Bhubaneswar in January, Singh laid stress on strengthening the supply chain of the science sector. “The problem is that the government focuses on top of the line, neglecting the bottom,” said Raghuram.

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