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India to lobby foreign agencies for improving university rankings

Absence of Indian institutes from top 200 list an embarrassment, say HRD ministry, Plan panel
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First Published: Wed, May 22 2013. 10 58 PM IST
In the THE World University Rankings of 2012-13, there were only three Indian institutes in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur which was at 226-250. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
In the THE World University Rankings of 2012-13, there were only three Indian institutes in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur which was at 226-250. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Updated: Thu, May 23 2013. 01 14 AM IST
New Delhi: India is set to lobby international ranking agencies and seek their expertise on improving the poor showing of the country’s higher educational institutes in the global league tables.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry and the Planning Commission consider the absence of the country’s best institutions from the top 200 an embarrassment, especially for a country that’s supposed to be a knowledge economy.
As a first step, the HRD ministry and the plan panel will lobby London-based Times Higher Education (THE), which publishes the World University Rankings every year.
“You can call it a lobby or dialogue or engagement, but we want to engage with THE and other ranking agencies to improve our standing,” said an HRD ministry official, who did not want to be named.
In the THE World University Rankings of 2012-13, there were only three Indian institutes in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, which was at 226-250. The other two were IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, only the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, figured in the top 500.
President Pranab Mukherjee lamented this state of affairs on 21 March. “This position is not at all acceptable,” he said. “This calls for serious introspection.”
“There is no point being dismissive about ranking. Instead we must understand why we are not there. While learning from them, we shall also present our case,” another government official said, also requesting anonymity. “So, their view about our institutions must be based on complete information.”
The dialogue with THE is not confined to HRD ministry controlled institutions alone, said Pawan Agarwal, higher education advisor to the plan panel. “We are taking along other departments from the ministry of health and agriculture,” he said.
The HRD ministry says better ranking is essential to woo more research, faculty members and foreign students to Indian universities. Around 10,000 foreign students are pursuing higher education in India, including several hundreds who have come through various scholarship schemes, ministry data show. India is already engaged in seeking more students from Africa to pursue their doctoral research at institutions in the country.
“The number can be multiplied, if we can showcase our universities through a credible ranking agency,” said the second official.
Phil Baty, editor of the THE World University Rankings said that its engagement with India is three fold—increasing awareness about ranking, evaluations and global benchmarking; improving relationships with Indian universities; and helping institutes recognize their weaknesses besides assisting them in developing a strategy to overcome this.
“We are not coming here for a quick buck but for a long-term relationship,” Baty said. “Over a period of time (we can move) to value relationship. As a knowledge economy, India is important for us.”
Around a dozen institutes participate in the THE rankings, a number that Baty wants to raise to 30 in the next few years.
He said that the research and the visibility of such work done by Indian institutes were “patchy”.
According to official data, India’s research output accounted for a 2.78% share of global publications in 2006-10. In the same period, China’s share was 12.75% while that of the US was 20.7%.
Ranking organizations see India as a potential market, more so as the country’s education sector is opening up and a number of leading business houses are entering the space, said the first government official cited above.
More than 100 institutes, including IITs, have been invited to participate in the policy dialogue on Thursday.
“We have some interaction with Shanghai Jiao Tong University and we could explore more. Besides, we can engage with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings authorities too,” said the official. QS is a UK-based ranking agency.
Jacob P. Koshy contributed to this story.
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First Published: Wed, May 22 2013. 10 58 PM IST