The flaws in the ranking frameworks of higher education

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Kanpur:

Every year, from the month of April to August, the print and electronic media remains flooded with various attractive admission advertisements from different higher technical education institutions in private sector while there is no such publicity initiative from the institutions in public sector in general.

Also, there are huge hoardings and signages along the roadsides for displaying the accomplishments of the institution and its students. Generally, these advertisements are populated with effective visuals, quotes and institutional differentiators with the sole aim of creating an impact on the passing/passed students of class XII.

One can easily find the mention of placement data, rank of the institution in some ranking list, accomplishments of their students and faculty, infrastructure, etc. in the marketing initiatives of the different institutions.

Ranking of the institutions is not quite old and the older institutions having credit of creating worthy technical human resource do not really need to figure in the top ranking of different ranking frameworks for getting their seats filled.

There are several ranking frameworks and one can easily decipher the variations in their criteria as well as the ranking output visible in the form of ranked institutions. It is important to diagnose the cause of changing rank of any particular institution in different ranking systems.

Due to availability of several ranking systems, the institutions use the appropriate ranking system for projecting their worthiness in the field of technical education.

The frequency and size of advertisement in print and electronic media depend upon the capability of the respective Institution, but the repeated proclamation of anything through any media tool definitely creates some dent on the prevailing catchment area of engineering aspirants.

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Apart from the pronouncement of marketable aspects of the Institution, there are also various allurements regarding rebate in fees, scholarships or providing certain utility goods to fascinate the students.

In respect to the private education providers, it needs to be understood that the complete cost of education has to be recovered from the receipts coming from the students. Therefore, any spending for attracting the admissions will be eventually borne by the admitted students only or the reduced spending for imparting education will deteriorate the quality of education provided to them. In all possible circumstances, the loser will be the students only.

Present statistics available on the portal of All India Council for Technical Education indicates the existence of 3,975 institutions in private sector with intake of 13,83,154 students and 446 Institutions in public sector with intake of 1,31,406 students at undergraduate level. It means that out of more than 1.5 million families being targeted for sending their wards to seek admission undergraduate technical education, more than 90 per cent is in the private sector.

The presence of private sector in technical education has definitely allowed most of the aspirants to get into technical education, but this needs to be audited from the perspective of the real worth of education provided by most of the education providers.

Generally, most of the children passing class XII possess the dream to become a technical professional which is also shared by their families. Thus, after completion of the programme, any stigma of being unemployable graduate severely affects the complete family.

There are numerous reports in the country which vouch for the significant challenge of appropriate placement of technically qualified graduates. The instances of unemployment and underemployment of such graduates are common.

Introspection into this situation of the institutions running after the engineering education aspirants through various marketing tools stipulates the stiff competition amongst them for admitting the students in the programmes offered by them which is majorly driven by their quest of survival and sustainability.

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In this process of simply eyeing for filling up the seats, the consideration of suitability of any student for the particular technical programme in terms of his/her aptitude and calibre takes back seat. The admissions made with the objective of sustenance of the institution simply drift them from the core mission of imparting good quality technical education and rolling out technically competent human resource.

Quite often, it is found that good numbers of technical graduates do not get placed and in certain cases even for those placed the per capita yearly spending during graduation course by the parents is more than the annual package one gets after completion of the course.

The situation is gradually becoming perilous due to the agglomeration of these numbers every year as well as insufficient return over the investment made to acquire the said qualification. As a whole, it is resulting in the attitude of futility and hopelessness among the qualified technical professionals.

The strategy of aggressive advertisement attempts to change the public perception about any institution and teenaged children get charmed by the attributes presented in the public domain which are sometimes camouflaged, and different from the reality.

It is imperative for the regulators to holistically assess the vicious loop of first allowing for the opening up of the institution followed by the improper education in them resulting into poor quality output compelling for adaptation of different marketing methods to attract the students for filling up seats for sustaining the Institution and continue producing the unemployable stuff.

The enablers of imparting good quality technical education in the private and public institutions should also be verified through stakeholders before allowing for the continuance of the institution along with taking suitable measures for regulating cost of education to ensure access to all.

Devising mechanism to prevent admission of students of inadequate competence will positively dispel the fear of creating poor quality technical human resource to certain extent.

(The writer is the founder Vice-Chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur, UP, the first non-affiliating technical University of UP. Currently, he is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur, UP)

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