Rankings and Parameters: How useful are they?

The Ministry of HRD recently announced a new framework for ranking higher education institutions in India, since many Indian
institutes don’t rank too well in international rankings. The idea is to
generate a set of ranking parameters which are localized and country specific,
unlike the global parameters that other ranking organizations use.

The Wall Street Journal states that one of the reasons that Indian institutions don’t rank that high in
international rankings is because they are severely lacking in international
diversity – they don’t have enough international students, that is.

Some institutes have tried bridging this gap – IIT Bombay
already had a tie-up with Monash University, Australia, which recently expanded into its
own building
on the IIT B campus to provide dual-university PhDs in research.

Just yesterday, IIT Kanpur also announced a similar tie-up with Texas A&M University as well as a larger programme to increase their foreign student intake to boost their rankings.

While some decry rankings as a whole, calling them fake,
flawed, or fixed, others do use them to take decisions. There are no universal
standard parameters that can be used which will be valid for all institutions
across the world and a comparison be drawn from them to rank these
institutions. On one hand, the MHRD’s move can be welcomed, given that they will
supposedly use locally specific parameters. Yet, others can say that they are
finding grapes sour since Indian institutes are absent from the top ranks. They
would prefer that the Indian institutes try improving their quality using the
existing parameters, like student diversity. However, this kind of move is also
fraught with its own tensions – the IITs & their ilk are barely able to
fulfil local requirements, and trying to ape international standards may pull
them further apart from national needs.

In the end, what matters most is how useful any move is to
the end user – the student & society at large. Rankings should not be the
reason for any action taken by the institutes. If any move helps improve the institute’s
rankings, it just is a good by-product – just like molasses, a by-product of the
sugar manufacturing process, are sweeter than the sugar itself.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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