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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Institute of Eminence Report

In the last one week, a lot has been said about the Institute of Eminence process and report. There are far too many questions about the way this policy has been handled. And my take on this is, that it may have been strategic. Make so many errors, violate your own policy so many times, that different people will comment on different issues and there would not be one single issue on which all the people are united in criticism.

The report that has been made public on UGC website says nothing about how specifically these institutes were decided. There are a lot of general things that they say (but do not seem to follow themselves). When I was reading the report, I was repeatedly asking myself, if this is a competence issue, or is it that they were not willing to spend enough time on such an important assignment (after all, other than the chairperson, members are extremely busy people, but then they should have refused to be a member rather than sign such a poor report).

The report clearly says that the primary goal of the committee was to look for universities which would be in top 500 of any popular world ranking within 10 years. One would have assumed that those universities which are already in top 500 would be automatically selected, unless this committee is convinced that those universities have seen their zenith, and are now on the declining path, and in the next 10 years, they will be out of top 500 list. And if committee is convinced of this, it would actually give reason for the same. So what is the basis of keeping IIT Kanpur out is not clear.

The committee talks about private institutions not doing enough research and hence the possibility of them getting into top 500 is less. And then, it ignores the private university which arguably has the best research output (Amritha University) and because of this research output they already have comparable or better ranking in various lists compared with the two private universities that have indeed been selected. There was certainly a possibility of having the 4th private university in the list.

In the report, they mention that some of the newer universities are so small (less than 3000 students) that they couldn't really become world class, but at the same time recommend a university with 0 students to be in the list. Also, when the goal is to have a university in top 500 in 10 years, how come a university which is claiming to be in top 500 in 13 years has been selected. Jio University seems to have suggested that it will start in 2021 and will be in top 500 by 2031. Based on their only higher education venture (DAIICT) which is nowhere in the world rankings even after 20 years, it seems difficult to believe that they will be in top 500 within 10 years of starting, but in any case, the goal was 10 years from the selection, and they themselves are saying that they will not be in top 500 within 10 years from selection. For a good analysis of this decision, read the following report by Prof. Sandeep Shukla.
Money cannot buy excellence in education, but Jio's 'Eminence' tag is worth crores.

This is not to say that Mr. Ambani cannot be the promoter of a great university. I hope Jio will be one. But as of today, there is no reason to believe that they will be in top 500 within 10 years. Indeed they themselves are saying that they won't be. So the tag is clearly misplaced.

(People are too sensitive. When I say DAIICT is not in world ranking, I am saying only that much. I am not saying that it is a bad institute. It is a good institute, but not in top 500 ranks in the world.)

The committee says that many universities applied only to get autonomy from UGC and they can be dealt with within the graded autonomy regulations. But why should that be an issue. My motivation may be to gain autonomy, but you please look at me from the perspective whether I can get into top 500 ranks in the next 10 years or not.

The committee has recommended 8 public universities. When they had space for 2 more, they have still decided to ignore those universities which are already in top 500 list, the primary goal as stated by the committee. One would have expected an explanation in the report (and not now to the media, even that is not forthcoming on this issue though).

On what basis has government chosen 3 out of 8. There appears to be some feedback from the committee, since the Chairman of the committee has said that IIT Madras was not selected because Chennai has bad weather because of which international students and faculty don't come to Chennai and hence their international ranking is poor.. Gimme a break. Weather in Chennai much different from Mumbai? And other IITs have a large number of international students and faculty members?

IIT Kanpur is a curious case. Not only it is not in the list of 8 universities, it is not even in the list of specialized universities focusing on science and technology. A university which has been consistently in the top 5 of the country in all rankings over the last so many years being ignored without giving any reason as to why the committee believes we will not be in top 500 in the next 10 years. Do they know something that we don't know. Was our presentation so poor. Was our proposal so poor. (I was hoping to work for an Institute of Eminence. I am disappointed though I guess I have the option to work for Jio :-)

Combine all this with what all has happened in the last one year, and the optics is really poor. Reopening of the application submission even though 100 universities had already applied. Changing the shortlisting after the committee had decided to shortlist only 40 institutes and asked them to give presentations.

What is certain is that the four members of the committee have not displayed any eminence in signing this report.

Other articles on IoE saga:

UGC's laziness has led to needless 'Institutions of Eminence' controversies by Prof. Pushkar
Imminent Eminence: Ambani's Egg by Prof. Mukul Kesavan
Institutes of Eminence status given without field visits, rankings by Anubhuti Vishnoi
Jio Institute: Why the Modi government is misguided in giving the eminence tag to a select few by Arihant Pawaria
The 'Institutes of Eminence' falls woefully short of what India needs  by Maheshwer Peri
After UGC, Expert committee too disappointed in selecting Institutions of Eminance by Prof. Pushkar


Arunan said...

Apparently, Swarajya's detailed analysis of this eminent scheme says the following: Why didn't my friend (or I) get it, is not a good criticism! As I mentioned in my comment on your FB posting last week, the Greenfield category itself makes the whole exercise silly. That 8 other institutions have applied for, and no one really objected to it, indicates that there's something seriously missing in our midst. It is comparable to the PMRF which is only available for IIT/IISc/IISER graduates. It is comparable to the monthly honorarium of 15K until retirement for someone getting a Bhatnagar or as one guy without Bhatnagar ensured for someone having two academy fellowship. There was no one that powerful having only one academy fellowship! I wonder if this is the result of our collective psyche which accepts superiority by birth! Those who are entitled can obviously do something and we will have enough around them applauding their silly achievements. When others cannot question it and are condemned for asking 'why am I not eligible', the merit system that has operated in India will flourish!

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Arunan, As I have said in many blogs over the last couple of years, I have supported IoE scheme only because I felt that if we give autonomy to 10 institutions, and they do better, that would make a constituency for autonomy to the next 100 and then the next 1000. I wish the government didn't go through IoE experience to give autonomy to 1000, but I was sure it will not happen and hence I was accepting a less than fair scheme. What Swarajya is saying is that essentially everyone should get autonomy, and I agree with that.

But given that the ideal wasn't going to happen, I expect the government and its bodies like UGC to follow a fair process even to do imperfect things. And what I feel is that the process was far from fair. They are not even following what they say are the goals.

Arunan said...

I was quoting what's on the headlines of the Swarajya's posts on IoE. Unfortunately, the operational rules in India are not changing. You show me the person and I will show you the rules!

sumunthra said...

An excellent unbiased analysis, what makes prof. Dheeraj's analysis unique and uncontroversial.

Saswata said...

As per the Hindu article, the universities that showed the promise to be in the top 500 of the world within the next 10 years and "top 100" eventually have been given the IoE status. Your analysis misses the "top 100" part.

Apart from IISc Bangalore, IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi, I do not think any other public institutes (except possibly IIT Madras) would be able to eventually enter into top 100 of the world; certainly not IIT Kanpur, IIT Kgp (location issues for both) or other institutes in the "list of 8" like Jadavpur University, Anna University or Delhi University (too old to change dramatically). IIT Madras is the only really missing public university which had an outside chance of getting the status, given the target. Hopefully, the committee will add it in the next list.

The interesting question is how BITS and Manipal got the status. Jio University can indeed be "potentially" in the top 100 of the world 50 years from now given its location, fresh start (if done well) and financial backing of Reliance Foundation but BITS and Manipal are old enough to change dramatically and enter into the top 100 of the world at any point of time. At present, they are well below the 500th rank in any reputed world ranking in spite of having 50+ years of existence.

Since we are talking about top 100 of the world (not 500 as that is only the short-term goal), it is difficult to imagine that India will have more than 5 institutes in this list at any point of time given that the already existing universities across the world continue to improve.

Given all that, the only surprising decision is the inclusion of BITS and Manipal in the list!

Pallab said...

First and foremost - it is "Institution of Eminence" not "Institute of Eminence". How did you miss this?

There is no need to create controversy when there is none. If you think that the world is not fair, it is true - get used to it.