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How Panjab University cracked the Times Higher Education list

Citations, international students, presenting data convincingly to Times worked in their favour

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Prime Minister , astronaut and scientist Yash Pal are among its most illustrious alumni. And yet, when Panjab University found itself at the 239th spot on the Higher Education (THE) rankings, ahead of institutions including IIT Delhi and IIT Kharagpur, many eyebrows were raised.

For, Panjab University, established in 1882, had not featured among the top 500 universities in the QS World University rankings published in September this year. Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and THE rankings are considered the benchmark indices for the top universities in the world. In fact, the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) had to face a lot of criticism when the QS rankings were published last month as none of the Indian educational institutions figured in the top 200 rankings.

What seemed to have tilted the scales in favour of Panjab University in the THE rankings is the agency’s stress on citation, which is considered the single biggest and most influential parameter while being considered for ranking.

“Our research influence indicator is the flagship. Weighted at 30 per cent of the overall score, it is the single most influential of the 13 indicators, and looks at the role of universities in spreading new knowledge and ideas,” Times Higher education notes in their methodology.

Panjab University scored 84.7 per cent in its citation parameter, while IIT Kanpur  and IIT Kharagpur could only manage scores of less than 40 in their citation parameter. According to THE, citation is the number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally and contributes 30 per cent of the total scores.

In addition, Panjab University also scored higher than the other institutions in international outlook, which carries a weightage of 7.5 per cent. Panjab University scored 29.3 per cent in its international outlook while IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur and IIT Roorkee scored less than 16 per cent in the segment.

The Times rankings consider parameters such as international students, research volume, citations and teaching reputation, while QS considers a host of parameters, including teaching faculty with PhD, employer reputation, employment rate, internationally recognised accreditations and joint degree programmes with other QS top 500 institutions.

However, veteran academicians at the university are not amazed. They wonder why did it take so long for the university, which has been acknowledged for the excellent performance of its science and humanity departments for years, to obtain such a global recognition.

“It is not that Panjab university has done significantly very well this year. The way we see it is that, they may have been able to present their data and information in a better and convincing way. The vice-chancellor himself is a researcher and he may have taken the effort to logically present the data," said a senior MHRD official.

Narayan Ramaswamy, head of education at KPMG, also echoed the ministry's view. “My sense is that Panjab University spends a lot of time giving details about their work to the ranking agencies. The IITs often do not think that they need to provide data on their work and don’t feel the need to be ranked. But if, a well recognised institution like Cambridge can give their data and feel the need to be ranked, then the IIT’s should also be ready to do so.”

Set up in 1882 in Lahore (now in Pakistan), Panjab University was relocated to Shimla after partition and later set up in Chandigarh in 1956.

The university is spread over 550 acres and has a 700-member teaching faculty in 75 teaching and research departments.

The Panjab University has 188 affiliated colleges with three regional centres and one rural regional centre in Punjab.

Getting admission to the university is a dream come true for students thanks to its colourful campus, beautiful landscapes, water bodies and state-of-the-art buildings, the layouts of which were drawn by French architect Le Corbusier who had also designed the Chandigarh city. However, only meritorious students get admitted due to the stringent admission system followed by the university.

WINNING FORMULA

* What seems to have tilted the scales in favour of Panjab University in the THE rankings is the agency’s stress on citation, considered the single biggest parameter

* Panjab University scored 84.7 per cent in its citation parameter, while IIT Kanpur  and IIT Kharagpur could only manage scores of less than 40

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