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More varsities make the cut, but challenges ahead: QS vice president

The share of Indian universities in the QS World University Rankings has risen to 2.4 per cent this year, from 1.4 per cent in 2016

Vinay Umarji 

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The share of Indian universities in the QS World University Rankings has risen to 2.4 per cent this year, from 1.4 per cent in 2016. But challenges persist, Ben Sowter, senior vice-president and research director of QS, tells Vinay Umarji. Edited excerpts:

How has Indian institutes’ representation grown in the rankings in the past 5-10 years?

Because of the QS’ steady expansion of the QS World University Rankings over the last decade, it is not possible or desirable to compare raw figures. However, it is possible to compare Indian representation as a percentage of overall institution count. In 2016, India’s contribution to the world’s best universities was only 1.4 per cent. In the past two years, it has increased to well over 2 per cent. However, we would urge some caution in interpreting these results. Most of India’s new entries have occurred in the 801-1,000 category.

What parameters have been the strong points for Indian institutes?

Citations per faculty is relatively the strongest point for Indian institutions, the QS’s measure of research performance. Three of India’s universities are among the top 50 globally for research impact — IISc Bangalore, IIT-Roorkee and IIT-Kanpur. Conversely, Indian institutions are struggling reputationally.

What parameters do Indian institutes fall short in and why?

Indian institutions haven’t shown enough competitiveness in internationalisation metrics. The international faculty ratio of India’s top ten institutions has declined further compared to the global average, while some of the new entrants help recover the loss in this indicator in the two most-recent editions.

What other challenges do Indian institutes face?

Institutions will need to improve teaching provision, and make the country more attractive to international students. India’s scores for our faculty/student ratio — which measures teaching capacity — are among some of the lowest recorded by the 1,000 institutions in the ranking.

What steps by the Indian government are helping institutes?

There are correlations between funding and university performance in our rankings… the tertiary sector in India continues to be troublesomely underfunded, given the nation’s lofty intellectual and economic ambitions.

What could prove detrimental?

Though India’s government has adopted the correct approach in identifying institutions that it wishes to elevate to world-class status, Rs 1,000 crore over five years is unlikely to make India’s universities globally competitive.

The draft National Policy recognises the need to create larger universities dedicated primarily towards teaching, and this is a good thing.

First Published: Thu, August 01 2019. 00:30 IST