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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.