Despite the Govt push on IoEs, IITs have slipped badly on the QS World University Rankings in just one year
India seems to be taking a beating on all fronts. Our economy is down, just one rung short of junk rating. We are in the top 10 worst-affected countries where the pandemic is concerned and now, our intellectual pride in the knowledge economy has plunged new lows in global ratings. Our Institutes of Eminence (IoEs), thus named enthusiastically by the Narendra Modi Government, have slipped in the QS World University Rankings. Though some of our big names are still in the top 200 institutions of higher education (IHE), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Delhi and Bombay and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have failed to maintain the positions they held last year. While IIT Bombay continued to be the best ranked Indian institute at 172, it saw a sharp fall from its earlier position of 152. IIT Delhi, which was at 182 last year, is now ranked 193 and IISc fell from 184 to 185 though it improved its India position. The other IITs, Madras at 275, Kharagpur at 315 and Kanpur at 350, also registered a steep decline as did premier institutions like Delhi University, Jadavpur University and Hyderabad University. It does not stop at that. Even the number of Indian IHEs ranked in the top 1,000 fell from 24 to 21. And shockingly, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), two of the nation’s most prominent private institutions, failed to make the cut this year. It would be simplistic to wish away this slide to differential standards set by pro-West rating systems but the QS Rankings are known for certain integrity and exacting norms. And while it would be easy, like China, to prop up a home rating system, fact is we need to subject ourselves to external assessment. Besides, this is not the only global list where we have fared poorly. Recently, we slipped on the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University rankings, too. IISc, which was at number 29 in 2019, dropped to 36. The IITs, including Bombay and Roorkee, slid among Asian universities. IIT Delhi and Kharagpur were the only Indian institutes to improve their positions. This means that we haven’t upgraded teaching modules and infrastructure or innovated enough to compete against those who have stolen a march over us. This is worrisome since IoEs were encouraged by the Government. Even select private institutions were unshackled from regulators, given more autonomy and the public ones were given more funds. We have 993 universities, 51,649 IHEs and 14.16 lakh teaching staff for 37.4 million students. So, logically we should have more numbers in the top 200 but obviously that is not happening.
The IITs claim that for all talk of enabling IoEs, the pace of funding has been slow to register significant improvement over the last year. Given the number of our students in classes, the faculty-student ratio is far from ideal. Besides, there are very few original research papers going around, except those co-authored with other prestigious universities. Research is a key denominator of international worth and Indian varsities clearly fall short in the absence of path-breaking studies that change the way we look at things. Despite a slew of innovations, seldom does IIT research find a place in rated international journals and papers. The UGC’s assessment of academicians through the Academic Performance Indicators (API) score has inflicted more damage to the overall quality of research as scholars are focussed on scoring higher points than maintaining the quality of work. And if we want to catch up indeed, then we need to roll out inter-disciplinary courses. It’s a sad reflection on our pedagogy skills if less than one per cent of the 1.5 million engineers, who enter the job market every year, are hired by the top 100 companies. There are constant complaints from industries that there is a major gap between what is taught in our professional institutions and the skills they require in the real world. Ninety per cent of academic activities in India focus on imparting bookish knowledge. So how do we ensure that our youth become worthy drivers of the global talent pool? We must globalise the curriculum and methods of instruction so that our students become well-armed to participate in the global discourse and future strategies. We also need to allocate Government spending in a better manner so that we can build a better infrastructure, improve methods of research and hire world-class faculty, all of which would encourage higher-order thinking, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking and client handling. These are, after all, skills that are required in the real world.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)