Indian Universities: Are They Not Good Enough?

Posted on November 5, 2011 in Education

By Neetha Kurup:

Development is an ongoing process. Ever since the dawn of time man has been incessantly striving to do something better, to discover something new. In keeping with this it is no surprise that educational institutions do everything in their power to be better every year so as to churn out the brightest minds of the world. Indian institutes in particular are getting more competitive by each day. Lakhs of students compete to get into an IIT or an IIM.

However, the 21st century has seen the world getting smaller. Nothing is isolated to a country anymore. The whole world is the platform where standards are set and success is achieved. Every year, universities from around the world are put to the test based on different categories and a list of the best 200 of the lot is recognized. The categories include teaching quality, graduate employability, international outlook and research quality.

Topping the list is predictably Harvard University, followed by California Institute of Technology, MIT, Stanford and Princeton. The top ten include 7 from the US alone and 3 from the UK. In the top 200, 75 universities are from the US, 32 from the UK, 12 apiece from Germany and Netherlands and 9 from Canada. The list also includes Asian universities from Taiwan, China and Singapore.

Surprisingly, IITs and IIMs do not make the cut. When it is widely regarded that an IIT is one of the best places in the world to study engineering, why did it not get recognized as one of the top 200? The highest ranked Indian university is IIT Bombay which comes in the 300-350 range.

The ranking of any university depends on the amount of its cooperation. But the universities from India have been ranked well before (2 IITs were featured on the list in 2009), so it could not be the lack of cooperation that explains the poor performance.

Developing the education system does not only require a high financial input, it also requires faculty of excellent quality and good infrastructure among others. While our universities are growing at a steady pace, the rest of the world is speeding up. This wouldn’t do if we want our education system to be of world class quality.

Dr. Narayan Murthy-CEO of Infosys recently said that 80% of IIT graduates are unemployable. While debates are raging on the matter, Dr. Murthy’s comments are not far from reality. With the explosive success of coaching centres that teach students how to crack various entrance examinations, students aren’t really learning what is in the books. They get to see how to solve a particular problem but they do not necessarily see the logic behind the solution. Students follow the same method every time a question arises. There is no room for innovation anymore.

The representation of international faculty and the number of international students are important aspects but Indian universities lack in that portion.

As for the research quality, research being conducted in higher education systems–while taking away no value from them–is considerably of a lower quality when compared to the world. It doesn’t matter anymore if it is the best in the country. Not just the quality, but also the quantity of research is lacking in India. A country which gave the world people like Aryabhatta and Sir C. V. Raman should not struggle when it comes to finding geniuses.

So what could be done to ensure our universities can edge out foreign competition? What could be done to improve the quality of research, the quality of the graduates that Indian universities produce each year?

For one, a better academic infrastructure is needed. Most laboratories and libraries in Indian universities are outdated. They need to catch up with the 21st century. The examination process of admitting students could be re-evaluated. Instead of letting students in just on the basis of their marks–which are at times not a good judge of how smart they are in a particular subject–an all round evaluation can be performed–a more elaborate process.

Innovation must be appreciated and encouraged. Today when achieving ‘just ok’ grades are the norm, people must step up and strive to achieve the best in whatever field that suits them.