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What Can Javadekar Do To Make Indian Universities Reach The World’s Top 250?

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By Charu Bahri,

As new education minister Prakash Javadekar takes charge of a ministry that appeared to impede the Prime Minister’s desire to see world-class Indian universities, step one could be to get his ministry’s first-ever national ranking in order.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development’s maiden ranking exercise for Indian universities, India Rankings 2016—a guide for students—lacks three key criteria used in prestigious university ranking exercises globally, such as Times Higher Education World University Rankings, a list of the world’s best universities, compiled since 2004.

The Indian ranking criteria, listed in the National Institutional Ranking Framework, lacks information on doctorates awarded, institutional income and global reputation of Indian universities, which, in general, fall short on faculty-student, male-female and international-local student ratios, according to an IndiaSpend analysis.

The world’s best university, according to The Times’ rankings, is the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech. India’s best, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, is ranked between 251 and 300—universities are banded after the first 200 ranks—the only Indian higher-education institution in the top 300. China is the only BRICS economy with three universities in the Times’ top 100 universities list: Peking University, ranked 42, University of Hong Kong, ranked 44, and Tsinghua University, ranked 47.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants 10 public and private institutions to be world-class teaching and research institutions over the next five years, “to allow ordinary Indians access to affordable world-class degree courses”, but that is inadequate for a country where 33.3 million students were enrolled in 716 universities and 38,056 colleges, according to the 2014-15 All India Survey on Higher Education.

Comparing world's best and India's best in a chart

What’s Missing In India Rankings 2016

Doctorates awarded: India Rankings ignored the number of doctorates awarded, important criteria—the doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio and the doctorates awarded-to-academic staff ratio—to indicate “how committed an institution is to nurturing the next generation of academics” and “the provision of teaching at the highest level that is thus attractive to graduates and effective at developing them”, according to the Times Higher Education criteria.

“The quality and quantity of doctorates in the country is very important for India, doctorates drive the quality and level of research happening, which in turn, boosts innovation and economic growth,” said Furqan Qamar, secretary general, Association of Indian Universities.

India had 20,425 and 22,849 enrolments in master’s and doctoral programmes, respectively, in 2013, making up 0.67% of all higher-education enrolments, when it should ideally be 5%, according to Qamar. Too few of these enrolments were in engineering/technology (5.9%), medicine/health sciences (2%) and agricultural sciences/technology (2%), “disciplines that are typically associated with applied research and which therefore, go on to further technological advancement”, said Qamar. Most were in pure sciences (32%) and arts/social sciences/humanities (35%).

Income: Income of any kind is absent from the India Rankings framework for universities. Times Higher Education considers institutional income, to provide “a broad sense of the infrastructure and facilities available to students and staff”; research income, “crucial to the development of world-class research”; and industry income to capture “the extent to which businesses are willing to pay for research and a university’s ability to attract funding in the commercial marketplace”.

India Rankings evaluates learning resources by assessing the actual facilities, a surer measure in a country where colleges can exist only on paper. However, institutional income can additionally indicate available resources for faculty remuneration, which, in turn, determines quality of faculty and research.

Assessing research income would show the ‘harsh reality’ of research grants in India, said Rajan Saxena, vice chancellor, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. “Globally, governments are the biggest grant-makers for research, but in India, the government tends to discriminate between institutes of national importance and the private sector,” said Saxena. “Research grants should be given wherever potential and talent exist.”

Likewise, assessing industry income would show the disparity between Indian academic research aims and industry needs.

“Most ongoing research in Indian universities is theoretical and incremental in nature whereas industry seeks research outcomes based on looking at issues in a fundamentally different way,” said Saxena.

“In developed nations, industry looks to universities for new ideas for potential use in the future. Indian industry is more demanding; it looks for problem-specific research that ends in almost a prototype of the device or process, so that product development can quickly ensue,” said Bishnu P Pal, a professor at the School of Natural Sciences, Mahindra Ecole Centrale, the Mahindra group’s engineering college in Hyderabad.

Most research in Indian universities is by doctoral students for their thesis, said Pal.

Global reputation: A global reputation survey result makes up 50% of the Times survey’s teaching score and 60% of the research score. To evaluate institutional reputation, India Rankings engages with all sorts of stakeholders in India. This is not enough, said experts. Indian universities must get known for excellence overseas.

Weak spots measured in India Rankings 2016

Three criteria figure in both India Rankings 2016 and the Times’ rankings, but these are also areas where Indian higher-education comes up short.

Faculty-student ratio: India’s leading university, IISc, has a staff-to-student ratio comparable with the world’s best, 1:8.2 versus Caltech’s 1:6.9. However, Indian institutions lower down the order fared poorly. For instance, Delhi University, ranked sixth in India and in Times’ 601-to-800 rank band, had a faculty student ratio of 1:22.9.

“India’s average student-faculty ratio for higher educational institutions has been hovering at about 27, based on sanctioned faculty positions,” said Qamar. “On the basis of the occupied faculty positions, the ratio would nearly double. To attract quality faculty and boost the ratio to an average of 10 in universities, India needs to invest more in higher education,” he said.

Global students: International outlook is the Times’ composite measure of international-to-domestic-student ratio, international-to-domestic-staff ratio and international collaboration (for research publications). Caltech scored 64 in this category, IISc 16.2. Caltech has 27% international students, against IISc’s 1%.

“A large international footprint both in terms of students and faculty is important for a university because this brings in new ideas and different work culture from all over the world,” said Rajiv Dusane, dean, International Relations, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. “To facilitate this, we are engaging with the ICCR (Indian Council of Cultural Relations) and Indian embassies. We are trying to bring in more international faculty by way of visiting and adjunct faculty schemes.”

Female-to-male student ratio: Caltech had 33% female students versus 19% in IISc. Although the enrolment of women in higher education rose from 38.6% to 46% between 2007 to 2014, according to the respective All India Surveys On Higher Education, fewer women sign up for engineering and technology courses, 29% at the undergraduate level and 37% at the postgraduate level.

“A higher female-to-male student ratio in academic institutions like IITs is important because there is a need of highly-qualified female engineers in various sectors of technology and education,” said Dusane. IIT Bombay is seeing more women enrol for master’s and doctoral programmes, a trend also visible at the undergraduate level.

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About the author: Bahri is a freelance writer and editor based in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

This article was originally published on, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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