Evolving a National Ranking System for Indian Universities

HRS Ministry is initiating an effort to evolve a National Ranking System to rank the 700 and odd universities functioning as of now in the country possibly to fine tune the accreditation systems in vogue currently through NAAC and NBA like bodies. When evolved, it would rank the Indian universities to let them know where exactly they stand in the quality continuum. It is hoped that this would be a stimulus for the universities to improve their ranking status through concerted efforts to find a place in the top 10 or 100 universities.

There are now assessment protocols for Affiliation, Accreditation, Quality Assurance and Academic Audits in the different countries. They do one or more of these processes but do not rank the institutions within the country except perhaps grading them into three or more categories mostly to encourage them to improve their category status. More recently there are some international popular Ranking Units that rank the universities among the chosen few hundred (500, 200 or 100) across the world. Their stakeholders are those who are anxious to sell or export higher education across the national limits for profit. This is an outcome of the declaration by GATS of WTO that services are also tradable commodities’ like any other materials/products among the nations of the world. These Ranking Units set their own standards as there are no official national/world standards of quality in education. These Ranking Units are mostly established and run by private entrepreneurs interested to promote the trade in education from advanced countries like UK, USA and Australia etc to the third world countries. There are a number of foreign Universities anxious to sell education either directly or through their off-campus units to trade. Perhaps the world ranking of their Universities would help them in their trade.

Understandably these assessing bodies of few hundred selected universities across the world use criteria that are preferred by buying countries and change their strategies often. Their ranking may not be valid for more than a couple of years. Of late, a few Indian private entrepreneurs are also aspiring to establish their companies to undertake assessment for either the national accreditation possibly for the government/funding agencies or on world ranking of the potential universities like others in field for profit.

As of now there is no National Ranking Agency either public or private that does the ranking of the institutions in a particular country. It is very difficult to identify the stakeholders for such an effort except perhaps a handful of ‘selling’ countries. India is, as of now not one of the selling countries even to the third world even though there are some efforts through EdCil. It is evident that there are a very few foreign students in our national institutions from the reports brought out in the AIU’s Occasional Paper (2014/1). As against a few lakhs of Indian students go abroad for higher education every year, only about 16,888 are in all our leading 28 universities and IITs in India now. It looks as though the assessment and ranking make no difference in the student flow across our national boundaries.

Apparently, the current effort to install a National Ranking System is not for its trade potential but to use it as stimulant to improve the quality of our education comparable and compatible with the rest of such national ranking it might be useful for the ministry and its agencies in evolving their ‘schemes’ and other strategies to promote quality.

Prof. P G Altbach, internationally known Educationist, in his recent article about our efforts to establish the National Ranking System sums it up as a lost cause (The Hindu, 22 Oct. 2014). He is of the view that the idea of ranking is good one as this would stimulate some sense of competitiveness and professionalism among the Indian Academea. But he cautions that one should be realistic about what is involved in terms of time and effort.

I have written a more elaborate article on this subject that is included in this special volume. I do hope that would enlighten a bit further for making our views known. Notwithstanding the above comments, the academia should dispassionately analyze the proposal and help AIU (Association of Indian Universities) to give an objective feedback of the south zone vice chancellors to the Ministry to take a decision. After all that is the role of Association of Indian Universities to reflect the views of its members to the world outside.

Dr. K.R.S. Murthy,
Member of the Board of Governors