Falling standards


For those fed up with the status quoism prevailing in India’s higher education sector, the country’s poor performance in the latest global university rankings should not come as a surprise. In fact, the slip in the rankings was expected, given the lethargy among policymakers in reforming higher education. This year, only three Indian institutes —IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore — could find a place among the top 200 list of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2021. And, all the three Indian institutes have slipped a few notches compared with their last year’s positions. Universities from the United States and the United Kingdom and one from Switzerland dominated the top 10 slots in the prestigious rankings. The IIT-Bombay continues to be the best-ranked Indian institute at 172, a 20-slot dip from the 2020 ranking when it was at 152 while the IIT Delhi, at 182 last year, is now ranked 193. The IISc also fell by one spot from 184 to 185. In total, 21 Indian higher education institutions are among the world’s top 1,000. Of the 21 universities, 14 have fallen in the rank over the past 12 months, while four have improved their position. The Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, has been ranked 470 globally, an improvement of 21 places from last year when it was at 491. The QS Rankings is the second consecutive international list where Indian universities have fared poorly. Last week, the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University rankings also showed that Indian institutes have slipped in their standings.

Indian higher education must find ways of increasing teaching capacity and attracting more talented students and faculty from across the world to study in India in order to improve its global standing. Educational experts have been calling for a drastic overhaul of the system to bring it on a par with global standards. There are nearly 780 universities and over 37,000 colleges in India but many of them lack quality comparable with world-class education. No doubt, there is plenty of potential and there are also pockets of excellence within the Indian system that need to be nurtured. In QS World University Rankings, the institutes are evaluated on six metrics including academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty and international faculty/student ratio. It is clear that the ‘Study in India’ initiative launched last year to attract students and teaching faculty from overseas has not yielded desired results. A plethora of factors, including lack of quality teaching and research, poor infrastructure, outdated curriculum, continued focus on rote learning, poor synergy between universities and industry and lack of genuine autonomy, has been preventing the higher education sector from unleashing its full potential.

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