College rating serves as a mere tool for better selection

The quest for good education is universal among students and parents alike as it guarantees one’s career and advancement in life.

Word of mouth publicity is still relevant though nowadays students want something more concrete, supported by hard facts, to decide on the educational institutions they want to attend. A few magazines and periodicals are doing a good job in compiling data on the educational institutions of the country for various disciplines such as arts, science, engineering, medicine, tourism, hospitality industry, guide and so on. 

Come admission time, a number of magazines report on latest trends in college ratings pertaining to basically the IIMs as well as degree colleges in arts, science, and commerce on an All-India basis. This appears to be an ongoing exercise that helps aspirants aware of the rankings from year to year. It is interesting to note that top-notch colleges vie with one another to stay on top. That reminds one of the tough competition for the top spot between Harvard and Princeton in the USA for undergraduate and graduate studies. 

However, every aspirant for the prestigious colleges has to go through the grind via tough entrance examination, interview and group discussion where competition is keen. Those who crack these examinations have a choice of admission to the colleges of one’s choice provided they have the required marks as well other selection criteria fixed by that institution. A few go through the tough tests and are happy to be admitted to the colleges of their choice. Ratings, which are fairly comprehensive, serve a useful purpose in enabling a prospective candidate for admission to know where he / she is headed.

The methodology of a college rating differs from one rating agency to another though a few broad guidelines are followed. Interviewing present and ex-students, college professors, on campus study, interview of staff and consulting educational experts are part of the rating process. The debatable issue is how much weightage is to be allotted to each factor. Quality of research output from faculty and students is an important factor that determines how an institute has to be rated. In the US colleges, a professor is judged by the papers that he / she gets published in reputed journals and magazines. 

The actual process of teaching is an issue that doesn’t get that much weightage while judging a professor for tenure, award or promotion. The number of students enrolled for Ph D studies is another factor that would judge the quality of a professor who is guiding the scholars. It is clear that the quality of faculty members is an important issue and it is interesting to note that several Nobel laureates carry on research and teaching in various institutions abroad guiding, teaching and interacting with students and researchers.

Differing perceptions

Choices and perceptions differ from one individual to another. It is also a fact that perceptions could change after a personal experience gathered after visiting an institution. What looks so nice in colourful pictures and black and white glossy reports may not be so fascinating after a first-hand experience. 

Take for example a young woman graduate who had set her heart in entering the prestigious IIM-Ahmedabad. She, unfortunately, couldn’t get into it but was able to secure a seat at the IIM-Indore. She even considered attempting the next entrance examination. However, she wanted to give IIM-Indore a try and was pleasantly discovered that the institution met her expectations.

 She liked the informal environment, helpful staff and co-students, a good library and sound infrastructure. Her disappointment at not being selected at Ahmedabad turned into a pleasant surprise after that brief visit to Indore for that young management student. That’s why ratings may not tell everything a person wants to know. It would be better to make a campus tour, meet with the students past and present, see the infrastructure like hostel, library, and canteen before one makes up one’s mind about any institution.

What is also important is the success rate of candidates during placement interviews. That could be a vital factor in decision making that shows the true market value of the students graduating from a particular institution. 

Ratings as published from year to year by independent sources are important guidelines for candidates hoping to join colleges of repute to undertake further studies. It should be noted these are indicators only as rating of a college could change depending on many factors. These ratings are not precise to be totally depended upon due to personal and bias factor of assessors.

 Such perceptions could reflect that person’s idea what a certain factor has to be given a certain weightage. 

Though averaging out ratings of a number of experts and others in any survey could help, these remain as best guess-estimates and nothing else. It would be helpful if a candidate seeking admission has his / her own method of finding out what he / she wants from an institution of higher studies. A person’s likes and dislikes do affect what he / she perceives in a college. 

Some factors that must be considered are: reputation, quality and accessibility of faculty, facilities like hostel, library, fitness centre, research, and fees structure though in most cases finance could be made available by banks, financial institutions and the institution itself, campus placement, and a pleasant environment. 

College rating is nothing but a tool for better decision-making for both the parents as well as prospective students. It is also important to know how an institution has been doing from year to year on the rating scale. 

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