Institutions' ranking augurs well

Institutions' ranking augurs well

India Rankings 2016, which was released by the Human Resource Development Ministry last week, is a welcome attempt to make a relative assessment of India’s universities and institutions of higher education. It is the first official ranking of such institutions and covers much of the range of higher education like engineering, management and pharmacy colleges, apart from universities. Similar rankings are undertaken in many other countries to impart information to the public, students and all stake-holders in education about the relative strengths of institutions. Well-known international rankings like the Times higher education rankings attract attention every year. Indian universities have not found any high position in such rankings. They are annual reminders of the distance our universities have to cover to become acceptable as worthy centres of learning. An Indian ranking will not make them more acceptable, but can serve as a guide to students and others.

The rankings can help to create a milieu of competition among the institutions so that they will be able to realise their weaknesses and shortcomings, take steps to overcome them and improve their positions. The rankings were done on the basis of five criteria – teaching and learning resources, graduation outcome, perception, outreach, inclusivity and research productivity, and involved 3,500 private and public institutions. The judgment was based on self-disclosed information. This has attracted some criticism, but it was clarified that some verification had been made. Verification of data can be made better and stronger in future. Among the criteria, about 60% of weightage was given to teaching and research. The criteria can also be expanded and refined further so that the profiles of institutions get better defined. The rankings were generally on expected lines. The IISc, Bangalore, topped the list, but there were also surprises like some new IITs getting very good ranks.

The rankings help better performing institutions to attract more attention and to even secure more funding from the government and private agencies. Funding and the quality of resources are important for academic and research outcomes. Many countries have used such rankings to encourage and promote better institutions. Private industry will be more inclined to collaborate with better ranked institutions. They also have better claims for participation in government projects. Till now there have been only private exercises to rank educational institutions. But a public initiative like this ranking, undertaken transparently, will carry greater credibility and will be more useful. The exercise can be fine-tuned in the coming years by addressing this year’s complaints and grievances effectively.

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