Author: Sanjay Goel, http://in.linkedin.com/in/sgoel
It is a well known fact now that Indian universities are not ranking high in any international ranking list. As per the country wise Global Innovation index 2015, on the innovation enabling input parameter of the quality of tertiary (higher) education, India shows an extremely poor rank of 123. Hence, various governments as well as education policy makers have been highly concerned about this issue and subsequent governments seem to have been making many announcements and taking new initiatives to address this concern. However, the overall international rank of Indian higher education does not seem to show significant improvement. Several Indian media houses have been carrying rankings for several years. However, their credibility has always been a matter of concern. In this backdrop, in 2015, MHRD announced the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF, www.nirfindia.org).
This framework attempts to create an “authentic” ranked list based on several parameters, e.g. teacher-student ratio, qualification and experience of faculty, facilities for library, laboratory and sports, student performance, research, collaboration, consultancy, patents, outreach, inclusiveness, perception, etc. The teacher-students ratio is one of the most important parameters in this set of parameters. In fact, most other output/outcome related parameters in this set are also directly dependent upon this input parameter only. World’s top ranking universities and colleges have an excellent teacher-student ratio. A few examples are as follows:
- Stanford University – 1:4
- Columbia University – 1:6
- Princeton University – 1:6
- MIT, USA- 1:8
- Williams College, USA – 1:7
On the other hand, Indian universities have to perform with much inferior teacher-student ratio. A highly respected Indian university like JNU runs with a poor teacher-students ratio of 1:15.5. Even IITs are running with a poor teacher-student ratio varying between 1:13 to 1:20.
NIRF has recommended benchmarks for the teacher-student ratios for different categories of institutions. It suggests a benchmark teacher-student ratio of 1:20 for colleges other than Engineering, Architecture, Management, and Pharmacy. For such general colleges, that include all colleges in Delhi university, if the college can show a teacher-student ratio of merely 1:20, maximum marks will be awarded against this parameter. For universities, the required ideal ratio is a poor 1:15. There are no extra marks under this parameter for the colleges/universities showing better teacher-student ratios.
The government sponsored ranking done using this criterion will only mislead Indian people as it will create a false impression of excellent which will, in reality, be based on far inferior benchmarks when compared to the global standards. As mentioned above, the internationally best colleges and universities have much better teacher-student ratios than NIRF’s ideal recommendation. India specific ranking is surely a good idea, but it must not set so low benchmarks for such a critical parameter as we will see that 95% the top 50 Indian institutes in the NIRF list do not appear anywhere in the global list.
It is difficult to understand that while the same NIRF has chosen to recommend a good benchmark for the teacher-student ratio at 1:10 for engineering, management, architecture, and pharmacy colleges, a much poorer recommendation for other disciplines is beyond any logical reasoning except showing complacency with the current reality. Clearly, the MHRD and its learned panel of eminent experts seem to believe that excellence in higher education in science, humanities, social sciences, law, design, fine arts, performing arts, media, and several other disciplines is possible even without a good teacher-student ratio.
Further, when the government’s criteria will suggest such poor quality teacher-student ratio as the benchmark, the colleges and universities will be discouraged from making further investment and effort to improve this ratio. Hence wrt this parameter, the NIRF has done a poor job in setting the inspirational benchmarks. The future of high quality in Indian higher education continues to be bleak in many sectors.