Global rankings of higher education institutions worldwide have been exhibiting the assessment of various institutions based on generic metrics like teaching-learning, research outcome, industry relevance, and international outlook. However, different ranking systems have specific criteria and methodology for quantifying different qualitative and quantitative attributes affecting the quality of the education provider. In the Indian context, the most recent global ranking released through The Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2019 has evinced the situation regarding research intensity along with due weight to other attributes.
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The presence of four public funded institutions and one private institution within the top 500 ranking is quite a solace, but the absence of certain other premier institutions of the country as per public perception is conspicuous. Undoubtedly, the ranking does not testify the worth of any higher education institution in the respective country, but the fanfare attached to the ranking makes it essential to have nuclei of excellence and get the country’s education system glorified across the globe. Therefore, honest introspection is required for the institutions finding a place in the global ranking concerning their scores in each attribute vis-à-vis the scores of top-ranking institutions worldwide.
Further, the other premier institutions of the country which are doing exceptionally well and are still capable of attracting the best brains rolling out of the secondary education system need to be cajoled for participation in the global ranking after thorough improvement in the metrics under consideration else the public disclosure should be made that these institutions do not participate in global ranking so as to alleviate the fear of being perceived as inferior institutions leading to drift of exceptional students in their campuses. In spite of various arguments for and against the ranking lists, the development of public perception by the ranking lists inevitably affects the quality of students getting attracted to the respective institution and needs to be accorded due importance. Eventually, the worth of any education provider gets majorly affected by the quality of students pouring into the respective campus every year and every effort should be made to ensure the best quality of admitting students.
The huge population of the country and efforts to create an opportunity for meritorious ones has made the higher education system of the country gigantic even with the average growth of over seven per cent in the last decade. It aims to be bigger with the attainment of targeted gross enrolment ratio of 30 by 2020 which would still be deficient for the interested youth due to demographic dividend available with the nation. A large number of higher education institutions and the number of students in them has made the journey of bringing in quality improvement in all of them together is a bit difficult, but the assertive efforts through accreditation and creation of national ranking framework is compelling the institutions for overall improvement.
It is a great opportunity when the country’s higher education system should harp upon the qualitative improvement in the teaching-learning outcome to enhance the capability of the educated ones comprehensively which will empower them for contributing the holistic growth of the society. Special mention is made to the numerous institutions of imminence and national importance established in the last one-and-half decade due to the expectation of good quality deliveries from them, but their weaknesses on different fronts are honking for quicker intervention to enable them to deliver suitably. Simultaneously, the selected few institutions which have been enchanting the young generation from secondary education to become their dream destinations for pursuing higher education need to work rigorously for qualitative improvement through their participation in research and development while enabling them with the capabilities for critical thinking in formal and informal teaching-learning processes.
Some of the generic issues needing the attention are the amount of spending per student per year, quality of infrastructure and learning environment, quality of education outcome, research volume, research influence, knowledge transfer, internationalisation, and industry interaction. The good quality of undergraduate students in Indian institutions can be ascertained by their global demand for pursuing higher education. Therefore, efforts are needed for retaining the best brains in undergraduate to pursue post-graduation and research in premier institutions of the country.
The facilitating system for regulating the higher education institutions should forthrightly permit the institutions to honestly evolve themselves by overcoming their weaknesses and compete with the best institutions of the world. In fact, the notion of enhancing funding to the institutions alone cannot bring the desired change, rather the harmonised efforts of the impactful and committed institutional governance with worthy credentials, teachers and staff, students and other stakeholders can bring significant changes at the earliest. It should be realised that the delay in getting sensitised for creating a reasonable number of world-class institutions will incur perennial brain drain to the country and publication of the ranking lists year after year may compel younger minds to explore better education opportunities outside the country.
The prosperity, faster communication, ease of transport, etc. are further making the situation vulnerable and call upon the higher education providers to upsurge the quality of teaching-learning and research while looking forward to bringing in the international community on the campuses in the form of education seekers and providers both else the migration of the young generations with good caliber to institutions outside the country will be a great loss to the nation.
(The writer is founder Vice Chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Currently, he is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur)