College admissions are hard times for every student and parent, who can afford it. We live in a country that has 799 universities and 39,701 colleges which makes it difficult to fish out the best institution. However, to ease the process, we have different organisations who survey these colleges and universities and rank them accordingly. These organisations include those powered by the government, like NIRF or NAAC, as well as private media houses like India Today or The Week. However, the credibility of such organisations (and surveys) have often been called into question.
Rankings are supposed to guide students to make an informed choice about their next steps in education, but the non-transparency of these organisations make the blind faith in ranking an unintelligent decision.
The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is one of the oldest organisations that grades colleges on the basis of the number of faculty members, the number of research journals in the library, the number of international journals published by the institute and so forth. It is an autonomous body funded by the UGC and the Government of India making it one of the most credible sources of information.
However, the lack of transparency within the system that ranks these institutions had made NAAC revise its accreditation policy. According to a report in The Hindu last year, “instead of the earlier process which was completely done on-site by a group of assessors, there will now be two stages of assessment, of which 70% will be done off-site at NAAC.” It was thought that this would reduce the human element and make the process more objective.
Although, 70% off site assessment also means that ground level research would be reduced to a minimum and most of it would depend on the reports submitted by various colleges. Even though fake reports are supposed to meet with punitive punishments, the background checking of these reports is still a vague process.
To counter the problems with NAAC and to “galvanise Indian institutions towards a competitive environment” MHRDC came up with a new ranking framework NIRF. When the first list was out in the year 2016, it was put under severe scrutiny. There are four primary parameters used to decide these rankings and each is given a different value. While these may suffice at a cursory glance, a thorough look may bring forward the problems attached to such parameters. There are parameters like ‘Outreach and Inclusivity’ under which the percentage of socially and economically backward students and the facilities for the differently abled students are considered but their weightage in comparison to parameters like ‘Graduation Outcomes’ is always less. One of the parameters includes ‘Teaching, Learning and Resource’, under which sub-parameters like, ‘Student-Faculty Ratio’, the number of students enrolled are also considered but there are no subparameters that are based on ground level social research or surveys to define the quality of faculty or their regular presence in the institution.
The problem with rankings is that they have a huge impact on the decision that we make and thus their improvement and innovation in the choice of parameters are much-needed. We need to make sure more colleges participate in the survey and are given a fair platform to perform. However, we can’t ignore that there are several loopholes in the ranking process initiated by the government let alone the private organisations.
The basic thing to understand is that the ranking of a college does not define its quality of education. You may get into the rank 1 institution and later realise that some other institution has a better department of the subject you want or most clubs and societies here in the rank 1 college are dormant and many other. Finding a good college is difficult, so it is better you do your research while choosing one. Find out about the institution by tapping into your sources, try contacting a senior or put a question on Quora, you may just receive a more comprehensive answer to your question than a ranking chart can ever provide you with.
The idea of a good institution is subjective and changes from one student to another. None of the ranking methodologies presents you with the quality of sports in the college, the amiable atmosphere, the active/dormant status of its societies or other extra-curricular activities which helps in personality development.
The whole point being that flawed rankings should not determine one of the most important decisions of your life.