‘Higher education institutes don’t understand what needs to be highlighted’

Indian universities and institutes of higher education are now being coached on how to pitch for a place in the global top ranking lists. Following concerns expressed repeatedly by President Pranab Mukherjee over the conspicuous absence of India from the ranking lists, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has instructed universities and institutes of higher learning to seek expert advice in filling out details about their research and teaching achievements that are prerequisites for being ranked.

The HRD Ministry recently organised workshops to brainstorm on how India can secure a place in the ranking lists. “During the workshops we learnt that a lot of universities and higher education institutes are not aware of how to fill the forms listing out their achievements, some of them do not understand what needs to be highlighted. For instance the research work that is carried out at the Indian Institute of Technology is not reported well, so it has been decided that these universities can rely on the know-how of ranking majors like Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds (Q5),” said Ashok Thakur, Secretary, Department of Higher Education, HRD Ministry.

Citing the example of Panjab University, which highlighted its achievement and got placed between 226-250 ranks in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings list 2013-14, Mr. Thakur said: “Indian universities are overall considered teaching universities and not research ones, but now it is imperative for the universities and institutes to present their data well so that they can improve their chances of making it to the global top ranking lists.”

India’s poor show in the global ranking lists has been flagged by President Mukherjee since assuming office.

In February this year, he became the first President to address the Vice-Chancellors of 40 Central Universities in his capacity as Visitor and in November he will meet the heads of NITs, again a first of its kind meeting, to discuss the overall pedagogy of these learning centres.

The President has asked the universities to establish at least one centre of excellence each and to enhance collaboration with specialists from India and abroad and compete to find a place in the global top 100.

“I must convey my sense of dismay on seeing a recent report that not a single Indian university, including the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), featuring in the 200 top-rated universities in the world”, the President said in his address at the 58th convocation of IIT-Kharagpur in September last year.

“You may question the report but for me the important question is why are we--a rising economic superpower--not able to promote our standards to be rated indisputably among the top 10 or even top 50 or 100,” he had questioned.

Speaking at the third convocation of Nagaland University in May this year, the President said: “As per an international survey, there is not a single Indian university amongst the top 200 universities in the world. There was a time when we had world class universities like Nalanda and Takshila which attracted scholars from all over the world. We can revive our lost glory. We have the capability to take at least a few of our academic institutions into the global top league.”