Concerned about the Low Ranking of Indian Universities? Ranking of Surrounding Ecosystem

Posted on July 3, 2013


Author: Sanjay Goel,

For the last two years, hardly a week goes without hearing the concern of one of the leaders  or policy makers  about low ranking of Indian Universities in International rankings.     India not appearing well in the top 100 or 200 or 500 universities is an old story.  This is a hard fact.   However, this fact should not be looked in isolation without examining the comprehensive context.  India is a Low Middle Income country.  It is not reasonable to expect it to perform better than High Income and Upper Middle Income countries on a single parameter.

To understand the larger context, we must look at India’s performance on some of the core parameters that define the ecosystem and boundary conditions for the universities.  As per Global Innovation Index (GII) 2013 report, here are India’s international ranks on some such parameters:


India’s international Rank

Expenditure on education as % o GNI


Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) as % of GDP


R&D financed by Business


Gross enrollment ratio


Political environment


Business Environment


Government effectiveness


Knowledge Workers


In fact, it should be satisfying that in spite of such poor ranks on such important  parameters,  India is ranked at a relatively satisfactory position of 27th in terms of the average QS rank of top three universities.     As per the  GII 2013 report, only for following counties, the average  QS rank of top three universities is higher than that of India:

 1.   United Kingdom

2.   United States of America

3.   Canada

 4.   Australia

 5.   Hong Kong (China)

 6.   Switzerland

 7.   Japan

 8.   Germany

 9.   China

 10.  France

 11.   Korea, Rep.

 12.   Netherlands

 13.   Denmark

 14.   Sweden

 15.   Belgium

 16.   Ireland

 17.   New Zealand

 18.   Finland

 19.   Singapore

 20.   Norway

 21.   Israel

 22.   Spain

 23.   Italy

 24.   Brazil

 25.   Russian Federation

 26.   Austria

If we carefully examine this list, we can make some very interesting observations.  Whereas India is a lower middle income country, Brazil, Russian Federation, and China are upper middle income countries, all other countries in the above list belong to high income group countries.  GERD rank of all these countries  is  higher than that of India. Whereas Israel spends 4.39% of its GDP on research, India’s expenditure is only 0.79%.

It is indeed an achievement at least for the best of Indian academia that India’s performance in terms of average QS rank of top three universities is better than that of many high income as well as upper middle income group countries.    Hence, perhaps it is high time for the politicians, governments, and business to reflect about   the overall ecosystem in which the universities have to function.   Talking about Indian universities in isolation is absolutely meaningless.  It really serves no purpose when at some convocation ceremony, the honorable president or minister reminds the academia about its poor performance.   If we want to improve the ranking of our universities, we have to simultaneously improve the overall ecosystem and reset the boundary conditions. We need to broaden our horizon and influence the policies.

Posted in: Uncategorized