By Ankita Ghosh:
When I enrolled in Jadavpur University- a premier institution in the opinion of many, I hadn’t Googled government statistics. Naturally I continued to be taken by surprise several times when magazines and University ranking publications came out with their annual rankings for Asia, BRICS nations or the world. Most of these rank lists have disappointed me as I went about scrolling downwards and Indian Universities almost never figured among the top ranks.
Recently, QS University Rankings published their list of top 300 Universities in Asia for the year 2015 and as you’d have it, no Indian University features in top 20. Keep scrolling and a good 5 seconds later Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore will pop up in the 34th place to save your hurt pride. The QS Top Universities website will also give you a detailed methodology listing the judging criteria. Universities are assessed based on performance in 9 competent categories namely academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per paper, papers per faculty, proportion of international faculty/students, proportion of inbound/outbound exchange students.
National University of Singapore takes pride of place at the apex of the list closely followed by University of Hong Kong and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. In fact Singapore, China and Korea in that order are the only countries that make top 10 while Japan dominates the following 10. With a single look at the list you can very comfortably conclude that the best place to get a University degree is any one of these Pacific-rim countries. A report published by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development identifies Singapore and Korea as countries with a rank of superior pool of students, assessed on the basis of intellectual capacity. Japan and China on the other hand have become one-stop destinations in the global network of transnational higher education. Shanghai is increasing funds while Tokyo is categorically making education cheaper.
Coming back to India, a string of IITs, deservingly, figure between the ranks of 40 and 70, Delhi University being the only Indian institute of higher education facilitating non-technical learning to make it to top 100. 37% of graduate Indians study a humanitarian discipline, the single largest share and only about 6 Indian Universities granting degrees in Liberal Arts can be spotted anywhere on the list. According to a UGC source, 700 institutions all over India furnish degrees including 44 central and 306 State Universities, certainly not an encouraging figure.
Poor funding and allocation of grants from central and state governments result in infrastructural negatives. Lack of comprehensive method based assessment by the UGC and the NAAC on competence of curriculum, credit system, faculty, infrastructure, research and mainly decades of negligence have put Indian higher education on a back foot. Accreditation boards have also been found malfunctioning on several occasions when bribing of officials was all it took to get a mediocre grade certificate. As unkindly as it may sound, an overdrive of reservations and quota systems have also contributed to the systematic drop in performance credibility. The Director of a Kolkata based think tank complains that it is very rarely that he comes across a PhD level research assistance that can independently write a good paper. Politicization of education and regular disruption of classes as a result of transfer of faculty, compulsions of party politics on students and professors, poor implementations of policies make higher education suffer from stagnation. Without innovation and thorough mechanisms of monitoring in place the Universities and their commandeering councils don’t seem to be on the same page.