Government releases first Indian university rankings

The Indian government last week released its first ever ranking of publicly funded and private higher education institutions even though it acknowledged that some data from universities was incomplete during its evaluation of more than 3,500 institutions under four categories – research universities, engineering institutions, management institutions and pharmacy colleges.

Indian Institutes of Technology, or IITs, and Indian Institutes of Management, or IIMs, dominated the engineering and management rankings drawn up by the National Institutional Ranking Framework under the Human Resource Development, or HRD, Ministry.

Under the universities category, the list was headed by the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, with the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai second.

Several comprehensive multi-faculty universities also scored highly. Jawaharlal Nehru University, a postgraduate and research university in New Delhi, was ranked third, while the University of Hyderabad, also known as Hyderabad Central University, in Telangana state was fourth. The University of Delhi was sixth followed by Banaras Hindu University in seventh place – all have highly regarded social science and humanities as well as science faculties.

Biggest study

Releasing the rankings on Monday at a press conference in New Delhi, HRD Minister Smriti Irani described the India Rankings 2016 report as the country’s first exercise in ranking institutions based on objective, identifiable parameters, and described it as “the biggest study of its kind in the history of the nation”.

The lack of transparency of data from institutions had meant citizens felt there was no level playing field in assessing institutions’ strengths and weaknesses, Irani said.

But HRD ministry officials also acknowledged that the rankings exercise was designed as a first step in identifying gaps between Indian and international world class institutions, with Indian universities performing poorly in international rankings. Irani said Indian rankings would also help in “reaching benchmarks of international excellence”.

Some of the Indian ranking parameters are similar to international rankings criteria but the weightings and additional criteria were designed to be more relevant to the country’s higher education landscape.

“These rankings follow an Indian approach, where academic institutes will be assessed on parameters, including teaching and learning; research; collaborative practice and professional performance, graduation outcomes; placements; outreach and inclusive action and peer group perception,” the HRD ministry said in a statement.

Irani said a mechanism to assess reputation based on peer assessment had been set up. “The perception that a certain institute has among people was a parameter. Around 150,000 votes were cast, which helped us to arrive at this conclusion,” she said.

She said that this data had been verified by “third parties” that included the Netherlands-based research publisher Elsevier.

Ranking criteria

For universities the ranking framework also included the ratio of students to permanent faculty, the number of faculty with PhDs, as well as their weighted experience, library and laboratory facilities and sport and other extra-curricular facilities.

The graduation outcomes metric included performance in university and public examinations, but did not include any employment indicators.

Outreach and inclusivity included continuing education and other services to the community, the percentage of students from other states as an indicator of regional diversity, as well as foreign students; the percentage of women students and faculty, and the percentage of economically and socially disadvantaged students.

However, the ministry acknowledged the rankings were based on voluntary participation from universities using data directly provided by the university administrations.

“Some of the institutions were definitely casual in supplying the data sought,” the India Rankings 2016 report said. “Reliability of an exercise like this depends entirely on the reliability of data. This is clearly an area in which further work is needed.”

The problem with data collection is evident throughout the report with many data fields either left blank or marked zero, indicating lack of verifiable data. For example, highly ranked Hyderabad University showed no data on the teaching experience of its faculty, annual expenditure on co-curricular activities and number of visiting faculty.

An additional category for architectural institutions was not released due to “non-representative participation”, according to the ministry, even though parameters for assessing them had been drawn up.

A ranking for institutions mainly engaged in teaching was also not released. These institutions were too numerous and “continued to exhibit major inconsistencies, despite efforts to remove these”, the report said.

Irani said the ministry would try to make the rankings system an annual affair, released every April before the start of the admissions season, so that students can know more about an institution before applying. "Each year, these rankings will serve as a performance benchmark for education institutes to improve their standing in the educational arena."

She added that the rankings would also help foreign students aspiring to pursue higher education in India.


Top ranked universities Jawaharlal Nehru University, or JNU, and Hyderabad University have been wracked by huge student protests in recent months and have come under attack from members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who have accused JNU of being a fortress of “anti-national activities”.

JNU’s administration released a statement on Monday saying “it is exciting news to know JNU finds a place in the top echelons of Indian universities despite the broad-based nature of research and teaching”.

Recent reports indicated that applications had dropped off at the university after the protests on campus and charges of sedition against student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, currently out on bail.

However, a JNU spokesperson said with 28 applicants for each JNU place, the academic standing of the university was not affected.

JNU student leaders were quick to seize on the universities top billing: “This has not come as a surprise to us because JNU has always been ranked a top institution. What is ironical is that the university has been awarded this top ranking for its autonomy by the ministry which has been trying to attack us for months,” JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar said.

“When it comes to social sciences, JNU has always been ranked the best.”