Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial – Ranking Systems and Performance of Higher Education Institutes in India


  • Ranking systems and performance of higher education Institutes in India
  1. Status of higher education in India
  2. Global Ranking systems
  3. Performance of higher education institutes in India
  4. Criticisms of global ranking systems
  5. Some reasons of low performance
  6. Why ranking has become important
  7. Some Government initiatives
  8. Criticisms of NIRF
  9. Solutions

Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (6th Dec. 2016)

Status of higher education in India

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education (HE) in India is under 25 per cent.
  • India has a massive HE system that turns out close to 8-10 million graduates.
  • There are over 50,000 institutions coming under some 800 universities.
  • These institutions are employing over 1.5 million teachers.

Global Ranking systems

There are now three ranking systems. The oldest one is Academic Ranking of World Universities, popularly known as Shanghai rankings because it was started by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2003. It is updated biannually.

The Times Higher Education (THE) World Education Ranking started in 2004 in collaboration with Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). In 2010 QS went its own way with its own ranking methodology whose citation data base is provided by Thomson Reuters.

Performance of higher education institutes in India

  • Even our Centrally funded elite institutions like the IITs were not doing well in any of the accepted global ranking schemes such QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Shanghai (ARWU) Ranking, etc
  • India’s highest ranked institution IISc Bangalore dropped out of the top 150 to be ranked at 152nd this year, down from 147 last year.
  • In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-17, not a single Indian educational institution figured in the coveted top 200 list.
  • India has 19 institutes in the top 800, two more than last year, and 12 others between 801 and 980.
  • While Indian educational institutes could only occupy 16 places among top 200 universities in Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings for 2016.
  • China, on the other hand, has five institutes among top 10 followed by two from South Africa, and one each from Taiwan, Brazil and Russia.
  • At 16th place, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is the only Indian institute to feature in the top 20.

Criticisms of global ranking systems

  • The three ranking systems provide different results because criteria used as well as their relative weights differ.
  • Many of the criteria are subjective and dependent on views of stakeholders sampled.
  • With different stakeholders, the results could be very different.
  • To be ranked, universities have to continually fill up numerous surveys from the three ranking organisations.
  • Reliability of self-reporting becomes doubtful, as there are considerable economic and reputational consequences in front of institutes.
  • Ranking system does not consider how good or relevant teaching quality is.

Some reasons of low performance

  • India spends less than 0.88% of its GDP on science research, compared with 2.76% for the United States and 4.04% for South Korea.
  • Zero emphasis on improving teaching and research
  • Indian institutes lacking international standard facilities with respect to research aspect
  • Teacher-student ratio in India seems poor
  • There is “lack of quality” in the India education system.
  • Indian universities are struggling to provide both the quantity of quality faculty members necessary to meet rapidly-increasing student demand.
  • Overall, in IITs nearly 30% of faculty positions cannot be filled because of lack of quality staff.
  • Lesser numbers of PhD qualified researchers from abroad serving in Indian institutes
  • Lesser number of publications is another concern.

Why ranking has become important

  • University rankings have become an important tool to attract high-quality staff, good students and serious funding.
  • For administrators, politicians, government officials, funding agencies and media, rankings are important.
  • Providing regular global rankings data have become a fiercely competitive, lucrative and booming market.

Some Government initiatives


Project Vishwajeet is the mission of HRD Ministry to fast forward 7 IITs into top global academic rankings.

It involves Setting up of laboratories with international facility

National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)

  • Recently, MHRD announced a National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) to assign ranks to institutions of higher education and research (HE&R) in the country.
  • There are separate rankings for different types of institutions depending on their areas of operation.
  • The Framework uses several parameters for ranking purposes like resources, research, and stakeholder perception.
  • The ranking system is expected to promote excellence in education in a competitive environment.
  • Of the top 25 “Engineering Institutions” and “Universities” each, about three-fourths are centrally funded institutions, and the rest divided equally between private and State institutions.

Criticisms of NIRF

  • NIRF exercise was carried out largely by members from the Central government institutions, while there was not much for the 90 per cent of the institutions that belong to the State system.
  • There are huge resource/funding gap between the central and state universities.
  • Here State-level institutions are only going to be going down further in comparison with the Central and private universities.
  • This would simply demoralize them as against motivating and encouraging them to do better.
  • Thus common ranking across Central and private institutions on the one hand and State-level institutions on the other does not make much sense in our country.


  • Performance index values for an institution should be normalized with respect to the investments and resources that have gone into that institution.
  • Alternatively, the present NIRF scheme could be retained for Central and private autonomous institutions, and another suitable scheme should be evolved for the State-level institutions.
  • Any State-level institution should also be free to join the elite ranking scheme additionally if it so chooses.
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