Why Indian universities don’t figure among world’s best


By Harshmeet Singh

In the recently released Times Higher Education world university rankings, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore managed to get into the top 100 with a 99th place finish. As expected, it was covered extensively by the Indian media. But just a solitary institute in the top 100 is far from ideal for a country like India. Though Indians have managed to reach top positions at some of the biggest companies across the world, Indian Universities have failed to make their mark at the world stage. Who is at fault then?

To begin with, let us stop blaming our institutes blindly. Most of these rankings are designed in such a way that our institutes don’t perform too well on the selected parameters. For instance, the number of undergraduates in the campus is a major parameter due to which Indian institutes such as IIMs and ISB fail to get high scores. Additionally, the diverse nationalities of the students joining the institute are also considered while ranking the institutes. Indian Universities, due to various restraints, do not admit many students from out of India, which further hurts their rankings.

Another parameter used in these rankings is the research funding received by the institute. In this regard too, the Indian institutes don’t fare too well. Ratan Tata himself has donated large amounts to the Cornell University and the Harvard Business School on more than one occasion. Such rituals of giving back to your alma mater are hard to find in India. In the US, even companies such as Google and Fedex are known to donate generously to top Universities to fund their research efforts.

The factor which makes up for the biggest scoring parameter is the volume of research coming out of the institute. Most of the Indian institutes offer restricted courses, which mean lesser number of students and comparatively lesser research. Until recently, IITs only offered courses in Engineering. It is only now that they have also started offering MBA courses, which would increase their worth on the world stage.

A world class institute requires a heavy financial backing for its operations. While the institutes in USA and Europe receive generous donations and grants from their alumni, such culture is non existence in India. Many individuals also put their alma mater as the heir of their property after they die – a scenario which is unthinkable in India.

The total endowments with Harvard are $32 billion! In comparison, India’s budget for the entire education sector for 2015-16 is close to $10.5 billion!

Oxford came into being in the year 1167! While Harvard was formed in the year 1636. On the other hand, the first IIT was formed only in 1951. In all aspects, it would be extremely harsh on the IITs to compete with institutes of such stature at such an early stage. The infrastructure and robust alumni network that these institutions boast of require centuries.

While our institutions may not stand very tall on the parameters used by these rankings, they are doing a fairly good job in churning out talents that are running the best companies in the world. So the next time you see such rankings and don’t find an Indian institute, don’t be disappointed. There is much more to it that what meets the eye.