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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The ranking framework

So, finally we have the ranking framework, not for all types of institutions, but that too will happen soon. I find this obsession with numbers very interesting. But the framework has disappointed me. I was looking forward to a framework that would make it possible for all of us to claim that the top five engineering universities in the world are Ayee Ayee Tees at Kalyanpur, Guindy, Hijli, Hauz Khas and Powai, ahead of MIT, Princeton and Harvard. Alas, the framework is not sufficiently Indian, and may not yet result in top five slots coming to India. But if we follow the implementation strategy given in this article, we may still have a chance.

The framework has got a few things right. We should look for geographical diversity in terms of people from different states, and not judge them by the color of their passports alone. You see the US universities invariably have a lot of students from within the state they are located in, while in our Ayee Ayee Tees, everyone is from Kota or Hyderabad. Hauz Khas is an exception, as many students come from Delhi. They will have a reason to crib about their 5th rank. May be they should bribe all coaching centers to set up their teaching shops in Gurgaon and Noida. Working harder on teaching and research would not be as effective in improving the rank. But the old five should not be complacent about their ranks. Once we have the 40th institute in Daman fully functional, they will have 99% of their students from out of state, and their ranking will go higher.

In terms of graduation outcomes, we must insist on GATE performance as the only criteria of quality of graduates. Let Stanford graduates get 0 unless they can take the new Air India flight to Delhi and perform well in GATE. This will also ensure that Air India starts making profits. Even then, they will not be able to compete with Ayee Ayee Tees, unless we transfer the technology of impersonating in such exams to them. I can see a lot of business opportunities here. (Of course, we will have to figure out how to incentivize our own students to apply for GATE.)

The placement should be considered six months to a year in advance of graduation. No other place in the world would have such a crazy system of placement before the graduation, and we will win hands down. For further cementing our position, we should convert the offered salary into USD based on a flawed but useful PPP model. So a Rs. 10 lakh offer becomes US$ 1 lakh salary.

The inclusiveness must be checked only through reservations. If you don't have reservations for your local minorities, you get a zero on this factor too. But we got to think seriously about these marks for women share in the student population. These yankees you know are not family persons, send their women to college, not take care of family. Bad culture. May be we should give more marks if there are less women on campus. Promote Indian culture through these rankings.

The minor issue of student faculty ratio can be resolved by collaboration. The faculty of two institutes can be shown as recruited by both (and they can actually travel to the institute if there is any inspection). And remember, there are marks for collaborations too. In terms of lab infrastructure, we must insist on having a minimum number of PCs for each 100 students. Rest of the world has moved to bring your own device. We should also insist on all the AICTE guidelines being followed, including having an English language lab.

So, as you can see, there is enough scope for working out the detailed implementation in a way that the top five slots are occupied by Indian universities.

And, if by chance, some foreign entity shows up in the top five ranks, we can always give them a zero in perception. Hey, these are our rankings and we will decide who gets what.

On a more serious note, I think the problems with the higher education are far too obvious and the solutions are also far too obvious. Having an Indian framework for ranking does not help us claim that we are better in the world than what QS, THE, etc. are claiming. This whole business of Indian ranking system started off by saying that these foreigners do not understand our issues and our strengths are not given adequate weight. But would having an Indian ranking enable our universities to jump into top 100 of QS.

It would be of some help to students and parents during the admission time, but shouldn't we let the private sector come up with those rankings, instead of government controlling this. Yes, I am not happy with the private sector rankings like those of India Today. But the solution is not for the Government to compete with India Todays of the country, but to encourage them to improve their processes.


L said...

I think it is sad.
"Mummy, the big boys won't allow me to play cricket with them"
Maybe we can ask for developing nation reservation quota in the Shanghai ranking system and get to be in the top 50. But it is all of one piece. Do we not do work good enough to present at international conferences? Let's organize our own "international" conference. Let's start our own "international" journal and publish in that. Random people start random journals and ask random people to edit them (I get spammed asking me to edit Chem journals and I haven't done an ounce of research in 35 years).
Where is a plan at least to improve enough to get into the top 100?

iitmsriram said...

Dheeraj, have you read the framework document? This has been in the works for more than a year now, Prof. Surendra Prasad has been driving this. Drafts have been circulated, suggestions sought etc etc. I think you should read the document and then comment on the framework instead of commenting based on press reports.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Sriram, I read about 30-40 pages of it earlier. Will read it fully soon. The point is not that this is a better way of ranking than India Today. Of course, it is. But my point is really whether any India-specific proposal will solve the problem of our not being in top 100 of QS/THE, etc. and whether, government should go beyond accreditation to actually create a ranking. Accreditation is putting colleges in groups, A, A+, B, etc. If you want you can put a finer distinction, create 10 groups, but a linear ordering by the government is problematic. Just to give an example, on one hand you are saying that having more out of state students is great, and at the same time, you saying that NITs are forced to have 50% students in-state. These are contradictions that a linear ordering can not resolve. When private sector does ranking, the population has doubts about the ranks, and the information that a ranking provides is only one parameter to decision making. But when Government of India declares a rank, a lot more people are going to use that as the only parameter to take an admission decision, which does not seem like a good thing to me.

So, it is not how good the proposal is. I am sure anything done by people of the caliber of Surendra Prasad and PPC will be far superior to what a business house will do, but I am not commenting on the quality of ranking, but the existence of ranking.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Sriram, Just to add one more point, which I had mentioned on FB. I think Government of India has enough resources, influence, power to nudge universities in the right direction. Why can't they link monetary incentives to performance parameters, and have the same structure - if you want incentives, you need to share all your data which will be on a common portal. If you want accreditation, you need to have all your data on a common portal. If you want large research projects, you need to have all your data on a common portal. Allow citizens to search, based on whatever they consider important. What is important in all this is that reliable data is shared with stake holders and there is a mechanism to challenge that data. The mandatory disclosures of AICTE did that to a small extent initially. But without participation of IITs and several good institutes, it did not gain traction and without a mechanism of challenging that data, colleges started playing games. But Government wants a system where they don't have to make any quality judgments, don't have to make any further investments, but somehow magically the quality should improve.

Ashish Sureka said...

I am curious – does the ranking system measures “Percentage of Faculty with PhD” or does it go deeper “Percentage of Faculty with PhD from Top ‘N’ Universities in the world”. To measure research productivity – does the system “Counts the number of publications” or does it go deeper “Number of publications in A/A+ [or even B or Tier 2] conferences/Journals”. Productivity & Impact measurement needs to be based on both quantity and quality. If it is hard to perfectly define and measure quality – at-least some decent heuristic [good enough] is better than nothing.