Specializations in the field of science are coveted as the one of the most ‘respected’ educations in India, ‘guaranteed’ to ensure a successful career. There is no denying that India produces some of the world’s finest science experts, be it in engineering or medicine. These brains have been trained by our very own education system, thanks to the ever-growing number of educational institutes in the country, imparting top-notch professional education. There seems to be an ever-growing number of engineering or medical colleges in just about every city in the country.

Why is it then that in a country where more than 4 lakh students aspire to become doctors each year, there are no reliable mechanisms to evaluate various medical colleges and then take a final call based the ones that meet their specific requirements?                       

The media is abuzz with multiple agencies trying to outdo each other in ranking Engineering and MBA institutes in India, publishing their ranking lists year after year, be it Outlook, Business Standard etc. Sadly, when it comes to medicine, an equally sought-after professional stream, there is hardly anyone trying to help categorize the colleges. This often leaves prospective students and parents at the mercy of fancy advertisements (which often claim their own institute to be the ‘best’) and hearsay references in making the choice. Not surprisingly, some students/parents may not be even aware of the various options that are available.

Medicine is a noble profession and deals with the moral responsibility of precious human health and life in its ambit. When so much is being done in the field of healthcare, shouldn’t there be a priority to ensure that aspiring doctors get access to the best training faculty and facility available in their own country? Shouldn’t there be a fair evaluation system that can categorize all the medical colleges on a single platform for the convenience of the stakeholders, who will go on to hold the society’s health in their own hands?

Undoubtedly, some people have gauged the dire need for such a list and hence a few ranking lists have been published from time to time. Yet, these lists are scattered and few, and not very reliable.

Competition drives quality and investment, as in the case of B-school rankings. Negligible competition in medical institute rankings is at times a hindrance for agencies to put money and efforts in fine-tuning their lists. Also there are many colleges that never make it to these lists, hence there is no one-stop ready reference that is a unified collation of all the medical institutes in India.

Even if such a list were to exist, it would focus on ranking the colleges in a relative manner, as is the case with MBA and Engineering colleges too that are assigned a particular rank. For example, college X would be pitted against another college Y and their relative positioning would be listed.

Moreover, a simple rank doesn’t give an in-depth insight into individual parameters and other qualitative aspects that are important from an aspiring students or their parent’s perspective. For instance, if  X medical college enjoys  an overall rank of 7 in India, can you gauge how well it scores on the ‘Student:Faculty Ratio’ or ‘Infrastucture’ or ‘Affordability’? Also, any agency will rank only a certain number of institutes by picking a sample as per their norms, leaving the others out of the race. But is it fair to do so?                                 

Having a fair assessment of each medical college on various clear-cut parameters on a single platform can prove to be a big boon for students/parents in helping identify a college that matches their needs.

In this regard, the ‘rating system’ seems to be a better option than the traditional ‘ranking system’ in many ways. It is also a more inclusive approach to evaluating institutes since any and every college can be rated against certain predetermined criteria, rather than just ‘ranking’ a select few. Also, since it is not practically possible for all aspiring students to be a part of only the so-called ‘best institutes’, it helps if you know  how the other institutes fare on various criteria so you can apply to those that meet your requirements.

An institute could be rated on a scale of 1-5 on various factors, such as ‘academic excellence’, ‘Student:Faculty ratio’, ‘Affiliations to reputed hospitals for internship’, ‘Fee structure’, ‘Infrastructure’, to name a few.

That’s not all. You could go a step further and get the actual stakeholders, i.e., the students, parents, alumni (and for industry specific parameters, the employers) to rate the institute, since no outside gency can offer better insight and more genuine feedback than them.

Such a community-based participation in the evaluation will help aspiring students be better informed with a deeper insight while making the right choice. It would also be helpful to hospitals looking for potential tie-ups with medical institutes.

Manu Mital