Indian students are held in high esteem the world over and this is evident from the fact that leading organizations like Google, Microsoft, Accenture, IBM, Dell, and even NASA, that are known to hire only the best talent, now have a sizable chunk of Indians across the ranks powering their engines. In fact, this is amongst thetop reasons why India has emerged as the favorite hotspot for the most formidable MNCs, other than the fact that the cost of operations here is relatively lower.
Given the aforesaid facts, it comes as huge surprise that none of our Indian universities manages to make it to the list of ‘Top 100 Universities in the World’ even in the most reputed and supposedly reliable surveys conducted by leading brands like Times Higher Education, QS, ARWU and the likes.As per the latest survey by Time Higher Education (THE), the closest we are to the list is at number 122 with IISc.
So where does the fault lie? Is it because our education system actually fails to deliver or does it have more to do with the methodology adopted as part of these surveys itself?
First of all, it is important to note that even the prestigious Time Higher Education academic-opinion survey that is conducted annually, is done by ‘invitation only’, i.e., ‘they’ get to decide who is worthy of participating in the survey and whose isn’t, and therefore, many deserving institutions are not even given a chance to figure anywhere in the ratings.
Moreover, if you study the survey findings in detail, you will see that most surveys that are conducted for ranking educations institutions/colleges/universities base their survey on criteria that solely factor in the academic aspect, with a huge weightage being assigned to research work being done and the number of research papers being published. However, end users, i.e., students, parents or alumni normally cannot relate to these rankings because the parameters that are important for them from the perspective of seeking admission in an institute/college/university are significantly different. The prime concerns for them are the courses offered, fee structure, student-faculty ratio, quality of faculty (qualification and experience), infrastructure, campus placementstatistics, average salary offered, industry connect etc. Even facilities like incubators for startups are considered a big plus point with the entrepreneurship trend at an all time high. It is these finer nuances, the qualitative aspects, that are normally the most important, yet not even considered when ranking institutes/colleges/universities in surveys.
Even prospective employers cannot count on these rankings when deciding which institutes/colleges/ universities they can hire from to ensure a rich talent pool. So what purpose are these surveys serving at all?
Another challenge with these surveys is how they choose to define a ‘university’. Owing to this, many esteemed Indian institutions like IIMs, IISc, ISB etc. that offer only specialized courses and have otherwise earned repute over the years amongst students and employers alike, are not even considered for ranking. Moreover, the fact that Indian institutes/colleges/universities don’t have too many overseas students enrolled here becomes a drawback too, since the survey criteria demands so. It makes no difference that this is not even a thrust area for our higher education system, given that there is already a disproportionately large student population from India waiting to enroll in our institutes/colleges/universities. In that sense, the balance is already tilted in favour of larger and multidisciplinary institutions and that too towards those that are focusing their energies on research. Other smaller institutes/colleges are completely left out of the race and that is neither fair nor a true reflection of the education system across the world.
While there is no doubt there is ample scope to further improve our higher education system, there is no taking away from the fact that India produces some of the finest talent that the world is tapping into to fuel their growth.
A possible solution to this dilemma, so a more realistic and reliable picture can be brought forth for potential students or potential employers would be to have a democratic process whereby any institute/college/university can participate in the ranking process ‘at will’ (rather than at someone else’s discretion) and a community based rating system exists, whereby the actual students, parents and alumni give a rating based on their experience, since that is where the most genuine, honest and objective and actionable feedback will come from.