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NIRF: Good First Step That Needs Repair and Review

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The New Indian Express |   By S Vaidhyasubramaniam |  30th April 2016 | Magazine, Voices |

During November 2015, I wrote about the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) heralding it as a national move for a global purpose. Kudos to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for the launch of NIRF ranking report. Even before the critical external stakeholders have begun to use the NIRF, a new ranking byproduct has hit the market to the gastronomical delight of fast-foot academics. The derivative rank list prepared by the institutions themselves claim that they are ranked fifth in a region, third in a state, second in a rotary district and first in one stretch of a particular national highway. My fear of modern marketing to fire further promotional missiles in today’s competitive landscape is now mellowed. Thanks to the MHRD’s recent constitution of a nine-member committee to review NIRF parameters and suggest improvements. Here are a few to begin with. In the parameter of teaching-learning resources, with regard to faculty experience, the maximum possible score for a particular faculty is 15, denying full benefit for an institution having senior faculty members with over 15 years of experience. Likewise, young faculty members with fresh PhD under the age of 30 are ignored in this metric and those institutions having young eligible faculty members are disadvantaged. This is contrary to certain career advancement schemes of the government such as AICTE’s EFIP, which is targeted to attract young graduates to the profession of teaching.

In the scoring for library and laboratory facilities, institutions that are favourably positioned because of policy decisions earn high scores due to higher expenditure, which are not necessary in the first place. Such over-the-required academic expenditure results in higher research output, which is already factored. The benchmark may be linked to desirable norms of the statutory authorities and not the absolute expenditure, and those that are exceptional alone may be scored. The investments in laboratory facilities are only for the last three years. Any new institution will obviously spend more and will have less number of students. It is suggested that previous ten/five years’ investment in laboratory be included with a prescribed minimum student enrolment. In the metric for outreach footprint, there is an inherent policy limitation that constraints many progressive private institutions to participate in the various e-content creation programmes of the government. Private institutions’ own initiatives must be reflected in the ranking as they are also sharing the vision of the MHRD in creating a robust e-content ecosystem and scoring such initiatives will be an inspirational source of encouragement.

In the metric for perception, the application to seat ratio carries 50 marks. The ratio is a valid indicator in a uniform admission system. For admissions to institutions based on national examination system like JEE, students with relatively lesser scores in JEE and Class XII marks decide not to apply to renowned institutions. Many institutions, however, conduct their own entrance examinations, forcing students to buy application forms leveraging as the applicant does not know the chances to secure an admission. Moreover, application deadlines are unreasonably set even before the Class XII examination begins, resulting in inflated application sales which lead to revenue models that are built on such artificial student hope. When there are a lot of deficiencies in measurable data available in public domain for other parameters like publication, etc., the scores of perception of people whose identity is not shared provide a lot of room for subjectivity.  While complimenting MHRD for taking the right first step, I end with a hope that the new NIRF review committee not only makes 2017 ranking deficiency-free but also repairs the 2016 report. –  Courtesy


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