The Telegraph | New Delhi, April 5 | Basant Kumar Mohanty |
New Delhi, April 5: The government has decided to rank every university and college from next year in an annual exercise that should help parents and students make an informed choice while applying to institutes of higher learning. A former IIT director, however, said the focus should be on individual departments for a more “realistic picture”, as an overall rank could dilute the performance of an institute’s better departments. The decision to rank every university and college emerged a day after the government released the country’s first-ever ranking of educational institutes that, however, didn’t include general colleges. Only two per cent of such colleges had taken part in the exercise that assessed institutes on parameters like student-teacher ratio, placements and teachers with doctorate degrees. Moreover, reputable institutes like Mumbai University and Bengal’s Calcutta University and Jadavpur University didn’t apply for consideration because they didn’t have the necessary data ready. Today, sources in the human resource development ministry said higher education regulators like the University Grants Commission or the All India Council of Technical Education would ask every university and college to upload data on their websites as a matter of rule. “Once they put the data in the public domain, stakeholders can see and complain in case anything is wrong. This will improve the credibility of the ranking,” said an official.
This year, participation in the ranking exercise was voluntary. Out of 700 universities, only 223 had taken part. The percentage was marginally higher for engineering colleges, with 1,500 out of the 4,000-odd joining the exercise. As for general colleges, only 800 out of 38,000 had applied, so the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), which drew up the lists, and the government decided not to rank them. The decision to ask every institute to upload data takes care of this. The agency compiling the data will take the relevant figures from an institute’s website, saving the time and effort to coordinate with individual institutes, the ministry official said. “If any university or college does not upload data, they would face action from the regulator concerned.” A former tech school director, however, said treating an institute as a unit could be misleading. “Some departments in a particular university may be very good. When a university is treated as a unit, the performance of its best department gets diluted because other departments may not be doing so well. Department-wise rankings should give a realistic picture,” said former IIT Kharagpur director K.L. Chopra.
For example, IIT Kharagpur, which ranked third among engineering institutions this year, has about 40 departments, its mining and architecture departments being the best in the country. But its rank wouldn’t suggest so, since it gives an overall score. Ben Sowter, of London-based ranking agency QS, agreed, pointing out that any ranking, by its nature, was a “simplified aggregate” viewpoint. The “more specifically a given enquirer can query the data according to their own design and priorities, the more useful a ranking might become”, he said in response to an emailed query, explaining the “QS strategy of developing faculty and subject level tables over time”. Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer for Symbiosis University, a private institute, however, felt that a new ranking model wasn’t necessary. Bhardwaj said the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and the NBA, both government agencies, “evaluate institutions on scientific parameters… here comes another parameter… another sort of burden on the higher education system”. It would be more prudent to strengthen the existing system of accreditation, he added. The HRD ministry official disagreed, saying accreditation was a five-year cycle. “The rankings will be yearly and reflect the relative position of an institute so that parents and students can decide where to apply for admission.” But the official agreed that the ranks should reflect the strengths and weaknesses of individual departments. “This is the first year,” he said. “Next year the rankings will be comprehensive and department-wise.”- Courtesy