Jawaharlal Nehru University has entered the top 1,000 of the QS World University rankings for the first time, as its new undergraduate engineering programme now makes it eligible for the rating. It debuted at the 561-570 ranking band in the rankings, which only rate institutions offering both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
Overall, there are 22 Indian institutions in the top 1,000 list compared to 21 last year, with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Madras making major strides in rankings.
However, some institutions are still worried that the rankings do not accurately reflect the quality of education in India, as they are largely dependent on international perception factors.
IIT Bombay maintained its position as the top Indian institution for the fourth consecutive year, although it fell five places in the global rankings to the joint 177th position. IIT Delhi (185th rank) overtook the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (186th rank), giving India three institutions in the world’s top 100. IISc was also declared the world’s top research university by the indicator of most citations per faculty member, when adjusted for faculty size.
The citations per faculty metric were also key to the 75 rank jump by IIT Guwahati and the 73 rank jump by IIT Kanpur, according to QS regional director Ashwin Fernandes. The two institutions also improved their academic and employer reputation scores respectively, he said.
However, one IIT director, who did not wish to be named, alleged that this year’s improvement in scores was simply a manipulation of numbers by the rankings agency, driven by commercial pressures. Of the 35 Indian institutions in the rankings, 20 have improved on academic reputation this year.
“Half of the score comes from reputation indicators which are based on perception, rather than any objective methodology. They cannot afford too much unhappiness, or they may face a boycott like the THE [Times Higher Education rankings], so they manipulate the numbers. It does not reflect the quality of Indian education in any real sense,” said the director, adding that an Education Ministry committee set up a year ago to improve global perception had not made any progress.
Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare said the committee was yet to submit its report a year on, but argued that the improvement in QS scores could be attributed to the National Education Policy. “The NEP gave a free hand to institutions which has fuelled enthusiasm. There is a renewed focus on research and on new ways of teaching, and that has paid off,” he said.
Indian institutions continue to struggle in the institutional teaching capacity category, measured by faculty-student ratio, with 23 institutions seeing a drop in their scores. However, the IIT director pointed out that this is not because of any drop in hiring, but rather an increased student intake mandated by the government to implement reservations for economically weaker sections.
“We hire faculty at a much higher rate than western universities, but the ratio goes down because our student population growth is even faster. Plus, more faculty actually harms us on the citations per faculty indicator,” noted the director.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a decrease in international students and faculty, hurting those scores as well.
The IIT director also alleged that QS is driven by commercial concerns, charging institutions a fee to help them manage and improve perceptions, leading to a conflict of interest.
QS spokesperson Simone Bizzozero admitted that a couple of Indian institutions pay to use QS’ benchmarking solutions, a set of tools allowing universities “to identify areas of excellence and areas requiring improvement or attention”, but added that this commercial service is “functionally independent” from the ranking operations and is governed by clear conflict of interest policies.