On Campus

Do university rankings matter?

Ruma Dubey | Updated on November 13, 2013

Yes, but there’s more to universities and education

Not a single Indian university in the top 200 global list screamed almost all the newspapers. But the question is — should it be a cause for concern? For us Indians, the IIMs and IITs are the irrefutable hallmarks of a superlative quality of education. When we look at colleges or universities, we look at the employment opportunities which can come by post graduation. If the IITs and IIMs did not have such fantastic success stories to tell, if huge pay packets ceased to make news, would we continue to rate these institutes so highly?

Practical concerns

Education, apart from a pursuit of knowledge is also about getting the right job with good pay. Do we look at faculty, infrastructure, campus life and clubs, food facilities with excessive interest while considering colleges? If your child gets admitted into an IIT, wouldn’t you want them to jump into it? If tomorrow, there came a very mediocre college, with an unimpressive faculty, located in a Tier III town but guaranteed jobs in some of the best companies of India, would you need too much convincing?

As the world gets flatter, it does matter that products, which we consider the best in India, get recognised as reputed brands worldwide too. The quality of products made in the US are always considered superior, and experience has proven this fact. Ditto for education; if given a choice between an Ivy League university in the US and an IIT or IIM, the majority would opt for the Ivy League as it ensures a global education — its value recognised world over.

Yet some of the best brains world over come from Indian universities which do not figure in the top 200 list. Raghuram Rajan is a case in point — he is an IIT Delhi and IIM alumni, with a PhD from MIT. And world over, he has been recognised as India’s brightest.

Studying in a reputed university is also about the experience of living away from home, studying on campus, learning from a diverse student body and being surrounded by a faculty to draw inspiration from. Another very important aspect is that these universities encourage research and publish papers, which adds to the knowledge pool.

Sadly in India, despite producing some of the brightest minds, the best always migrate to foreign lands; we then take pride by stating that ‘Indian-born scientist/economist/author wins….’ The question is not as much about rankings as it is about India’s inability to nurture and retain some of the best brains in the country?

Marketing tool?

The truth is that college rankings have become more of a marketing tool and less about quality of education. In the US itself there is a growing dissent against rating systems, which most of the time, concentrate on infrastructure, campus life, student retention, faculty resources, exclusivity, alumni donations etc. They leave out the most important and pertinent questions – job placement rates, loan repayment rates, etc. The current ranking, which did not include any Indian university in the top 200, rated colleges based on six criteria — academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international students and international faculty.

Thus rankings cannot tarnish the quality of some of the best institutions of India but at the same time, international recognition helps.

(The writer is a graduate of Podar College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai, and an active blogger)

Published on November 13, 2013

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