By Ruth A. Pagell* (3 January 2017)
The Good: More Indian universities are appearing in international rankings, as more institutions are ranked.
The Bad: Most ranked Indian universities are in the bottom half of global rankings
The Inconsistent: There is a disconnect between India’s internal initiatives and rankings and the global rankings
Two current headlines in Indian newspapers:
Indian varsities remain global non-entities (Oct 2016) The Hans India
India grabs 2nd spot in emerging markets university rankings: report (Kanna, Nov 2016) Live Mint
Asia, and especially China, has been rising within the global higher education landscape while India is struggling (Figure 22.1). This article attempts to make sense of the Indian higher education market and changing government policies. It includes charts tracking India’s internal ranking and their relationship to global rankings.
INDIAN HIGHER EDUCATION
Indian policy makers recognize their lack of competiveness and have made public announcements on changes throughout 2016.
I felt as if I were in a maze as I worked my way through the structure of Indian higher education.
The Department of Higher Education, including university education and technical education, is under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, (MHRD). It is home to the University Grants Commission ( UGC) which has the mandate to designate universities, maintain standards and award grants for universities and colleges and MHRD Funded Technical Institutions which includes India’s higher performing Indian Institutes of Technology. See Table 22.1, for types of institutions.
The Commission’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) website has a list of accredited universities and colleges. It grades on seven characteristics. The National Board of Accreditation (NBA) handles the technical institutions.
The Indian government publically issued its first five year plan in 1952 with the latest plan (XII), issued in 2012. Volume III, “Social Sectors”, covers higher education. The XII Plan noted that “The sector is plagued by a shortage of well-trained faculty, poor infrastructure and outdated and irrelevant curricula. The use of technology in higher education remains limited and standards of research and teaching at Indian universities are far below international standard “.
As part of the policy upgrade, the Ministry created the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) which presented its first rankings in 2016. In September 2016, the Ministry of Finance approved creation of a new Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) (Times of India, 2016). This is envisioned as a not-for- profit organization with joint participation from government and philanthropic donors. Funding will be provided to 10 public and 10 private institutions to become world-class teaching and research institutions (Dietrich & Choudaha (2016). The article goes on to question the entire proposition because of the “size, scale and complexity of the Indian higher education system”.
NIRF ranked 300 Institutions in 2016, with the following categories: Universities and colleges (100); Engineering (100); Management (50); and Pharmacy (50). The rankings contain five parameters: Teaching, Learning & Resources; Research and Professional Practice; Graduation Outcomes; Outreach and Industry, and Perception. Table 22:2 lists the parameters for the 2016 and ongoing 2017 rankings. Each institution has an accompanying document with the underlying data (see Example 22.1 in Table 22.2). The 2016 rankings used bibliometrics from, Web of Science, Scopus, and the Indian Citation Index, which covers Indian journals, most of which are not indexed in WOS or Scopus.
NIRF is preparing the 2017 rankings using data from Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. WOS data will be one of the multiple parameters used to analyze over 3,000 academic institutions and rank them based on a combined framework developed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). India’s new initiatives are designed to not only rank institutions but also allocate funding based on rank and what are determined to be key research areas. This approach fits the Flagship model (RR’s 20 and 21).
Table 22.3 compares NIRF top 10 universities and institutes with commercial rankings. Appendix 22.A links to the complete list of ranked universities. Download Excel file Table-22.A.1.xlsx. The NIRF Engineering rankings map to the commercial ranking while the university rankings do not fit as well. Disambiguation of institutions’ names made mapping a challenge. Institution names change, often honoring a public figure. Inconsistencies in the presentation of institution names lead to variations in international presentation of names. For example, QS uses University of Pune while THE uses its newer name, Savitribai Phule Pune University.
India has at least two local ranking. The Times of India, listing the top 150 engineering institutions, is based on survey data. Five of its top ten match the NIRF engineering rankings. India Today, ranks colleges by subject, based on perceptions of administrators from a survey by Nielsen Company and results focus on a few colleges.
Incites and SciVal
NIRF 2016 used data from Web of Science and Scopus. I drilled down into the underlying data from WOS’ Incites and Scopus’ SciVal. Data are updated on a regular basis resulting in the number of institutions and their metrics varying frequently, even during the course of writing this article. Appendix 22 B evaluates the relationship among the Indian rankings and coverage in WOS and Scopus. Download Excel file 22.A.1 which links to a complete list of the Indian institutions covered in the two resources and methodology I used. It also includes Excel file Table 22.B.2 which compares the Indian coverage of InCites and SciVal with NIRF and UCG featured institutions.
Commercial rankings – Quantity and Quality
Indian institutions do not do well in commercial rankings. They suffer in QS and THE because of the emphasis on reputation and international outlook and in the scholarly rankings because of the emphasis on citation metrics. Nature has published a balanced overview of highs and lows in Indian research (Van Noorden, 2015).
ARWU had three Indian institutions in 2014 and one in 2016. The QS-THE rankings of 2005 had three Indian institutions in their top 200. More Indian universities are included in 2016 rankings and most are in the bottom half. At the same time, more Chinese institutions appear in all rankings and they are growing in the top half. Table 22.4 lists the top 10 Indian institutions in commercial rankings.
Factors Affecting Indian Rankings
The FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce India) and Ernst and Young issue an annual report on the state of Indian education and offer suggestions for improvement. The 2014 report lists several gaps which impact not only internal performance but also have secondary effects on rankings including “a large number of Indian students studying abroad. India is second only to China in number of students studying abroad, “ (Higher education, 2014)
The Indian government is sending mixed messages on internationalization. There is a call for the Indian Institutes of Technology to increase their intake of foreign students while the Indian Student Mobility Report (2016) proudly presents statistics on the large contribution that Indian students are making to U.S., UK and Australian institutions. According to the Report the number of Indian students studying abroad is growing, reaching over 350,000 in 2105. Only China has more students studying abroad. China is also growing as an inbound destination for students with close to 400,000 students while the latest figures I could find for India showed about 20,000 inbound students. The detailed PDFs for the NIRF rakings include data on inbound students for each institution. In 2014, India had the lowest percentage of foreign students as shown in Figure 22.2 (OECD, 2016).
Reputation is another factor hurting Indian rankings. No Indian university received ranks for international students or faculty or for reputation in THE ranking. 50% of the QS rankings are based on research and employer reputation with five Indian institutions ranked on both, leading to higher rankings for Indian institutions in QS.
Indian higher education is caught in a vicious circle. The government is trying to improve the situation by adding new layers of bureaucracy; and being torn between adding new institutions and improving the quality of existing institutions to perform better in external global rankings. It lacks the focus and resources of China or Korea. We see from bibliometric metrics such as number of citations and impact and non-bibliometric rankings, such as reputation and internationalization, that India is falling further behind China. A simple search on the internet for “Indian higher education” will reveal a wealth of problems and solutions.
For administrators and researchers, look beyond the popular THE, QS and ARWU rankings to those that cover more Indian institutions and may provide better benchmarks: THE and QS’ BRICS rankings and the SciMago SIR and Webometrics rankings – but pay attention to the metrics.
Indian Official Documents
All India Survey on Higher Education (2014-2015) (2016). New Delhi, Department of Higher Education accessed 29 November 2016 at http://aishe.gov.in/aishe/viewDocument.action;jsessionid=5E655A9E5BF6B9E8FBB4EA33DD49E1C1?documentId=206 Annual since 2011
Educational Statistics at a Glance (2014). Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development, Bureau of Planning, Monitoring & Statistics accessed 3 December 2016 at http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/statistics/EAG2014.pdf. Aggregates statistics related to education from a variety of sources
India Students Mobility Report 2016. Latest Trends from India and Globally, MMA accessed 3 December 2016 at http://mdotm.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/MM-Report-2016-Final.pdf.
National Institutional Rankings Framework (NIRF) India rankings: Methodology for ranking of universities and colleges in India. Delhi, Ministry of Human Resource Development accessed 26 December 2016 at https://www.nirfindia.org/Docs/Ranking%20Framework%20for%20Universities%20and%20Colleges.pdf
Planning Commission, Government of India (2013). VIII, Social sectors, V. III. New Delhi, Sage, Chapter 21, pgs. 89-122 accessed 3 December 2016 at http://planningcommission.gov.in/plans/planrel/12thplan/pdf/12fyp_vol3.pdf
With a summary at Higher education in India, Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017) and beyond, EY (Ernst & Young) accessed 4 December 2016 at http://www.ey.com/in/en/industries/india-sectors/education/higher-education-in-india–twelfth-five-year-plan–2012-2017–and-beyond
Cabinet gives nod to Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) (12 September 2016) Times of India, accessed 9 December at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/Cabinet-gives-nod-to-Higher-Education-Financing-Agency-HEFA/articleshow/54291736.cms
Dietrich, E. & Choudaha, R. (2016). Rankings should be used to increase quality for all. University World News, 8 May, 2016, issue 00438 accessed 28 November at http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20160508085533181&query=ranking
Higher education in India: Moving forward towards global relevance and competitiveness (2014). FICCI Higher Education Summit 2014. Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in conjunction with Ernst and Young, accessed 12 December 2016 at http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY_-_Higher_education_in_India/%24FILE/EY-higher-education-in-india.pdf
Indian Citation Index accessed 26 November 2016 at http://www.indiancitationindex.com/ici.aspxFree registration required
India Today and Nielson (2016). India’s Best Colleges 2016 accessed 12 December 2016 at http://indiatoday.intoday.in/bestcolleges/2016/
Indian varsities remain global non-entities (17 October 2016). The Hans accessed 3 December at http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/News-Analysis/2016-10-17/Indian-varsities-remain-global-non-entities/259191 Includes reasons for poor showing.
Kanna, Aditi (1 Dec 2016). India grabs 2nd spot in emerging markets university rankings: report The Mint, from Ellie Bothwell (November 2016) BRICS & Emerging Economies University Rankings 2017: results announced, THE Higher Education Rankings accessed December 5 2016 at https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/brics-and-emerging-economies-university-rankings-2017-results-announced
OECD (2016). Education at a Glance, 2016. OECD indicators, Chapter C, Who studies abroad and why. OECD Publishing, Paris accessed 15 December 2016 at http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/education-at-a-glance-2016_eag-2016-en#page329. NOTE: Document cannot be downloaded or searched.
Tilak, J.B.G. (2016). Global rankings, World class universities and Dilemma in higher education policy in India. Higher Education for the Future, 3(2) pgs. 126-143. Article discusses world class universities within the Indian context on pgs.137-141.
Van Noorden, Richard (13 May 2015). Indian by the numbers: highs and lows in the country’s research landscape. Nature, 521(7551) accessed 26 December at http://www.nature.com/news/india-by-the-numbers-1.17519
A list of Ruth’s Rankings is here.
*Ruth A. Pagell is currently an adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. Before joining UH, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS – https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674.