NIRF-2017: A few Observations and Conclusions

Posted on May 21, 2017


Authored  by:   Sanjay Goel


In early April, the Minister of MHRD released this ranking of top 100 Indian universities and colleges in different categories. An analysis of NIRF 2017 shows that there is much more information in this data that is being missed in the over-emphasis on the ranks. Here are some interesting factual observations and conclusions extracted from this data.


OBSERVATION#1: Many universities are proudly advertising their NIRF-2017 ranks these days. In fact, the ranks are deceptive. The actual NIRF scores out of 100 tell the real story of Indian higher education. Here is a summary:

Under all the 5 different ranking lists released this year under the categories of- Overall, University, Engineering, Pharmacy, and Colleges, only 9 institutions have scored more than 75 marks out of 100 – IISc, The 5 old IITs (Chennai, Mumbai, Kharagpur, Delhi and Kanpur), and 3 old IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, and Kolkata).

Under the Colleges and Pharmacy rankings lists, no institution has scored more than 75 marks.

CONCLUSION: Most of our Best institutions are not excellent.   NIRF, A govt administered India specific ranking must find ways to avoid creating a deceptive impression of excellence by declaring relative ranks when the  absolute scores are so poor.  A cut-off of 60 marks on the absolute scores can be used  for including the institutes in the ranking list, even if the number of qualifying institutions turns out to be very small to begin with.


OBSERVATION#2: The most popularly believed Indian stars, except IISc and JNCASR, are not much better than some others when it comes to their research publications per faculty.

Here is the summary of the average number of indexed papers (Avg of WoS and Scopus) published in the last 3 years per faculty:

1. Amrita U, DTU, JIIT, BITS Pilani, BIT Mesra, Thapar U: 1.1, 1.4, 1.7, 2, 2.3, 2.9 respectively
2. NITs: ranging from 0.3 (NIT Manipur) to 4.6 (NIT Durgapur) {only 2 NITs have >=4}
3. JNU, BHU, Pune U, DU: 2.8, 3.4, 4.5, 4.7 respectively
4. IIIT Delhi, Hyderabad, Jabalpur: 3.8, 4.5, 5.3 respectively
5. IITs: ranging from 1.8 (IIT BHU) to 6.5 (IIT Roorkee) {only 7 IITs have >=4}
6. Anna U, Univ of Hyderabad, Jadavpur U: 5.9, 6.1, 6.5 respectively (all better than most IITs)
7. IISc, Bengaluru: 15.7 (much better than all IITs)
8. JNCASR, Bengaluru: 28.1 (the real research star of the country)

CONCLUSION:  The main reason behind the lack of excellence even in our best institutions, except for IISc and JNCASR, is poor research productivity.   The government and corporate world  have to more aggressively support and facilitate research at the institutions.   The teaching loads must be reduced to give faculty more time for research.


OBSERVATION#3: Collectively looking at the top 100 engineering institutions, the fractions of the PG (including integrated masters) and the PhD students in India are very poor. This situation at the remaining thousands of institutions is likely to be far worse.

The total number of engineering students (all levels) at top 100 engineering institutions is 4.8 lakh. This is perhaps, only around 8-10% of the total engineering student population of India.  The overall situation in most of these so-called top 100 engineering institutes itself is far from being rosy and most of these are very poor in many parameters. The Big concern here is that the remaining around 90-92% engineering students are getting an extremely poor educational experience. 

Further, out of these 4.8 lakh students in the top 100 institutions, about 77.5% are UG, 17.6% are PG and integrated PG and only 6% are PhD students. The student distribution in the remaining thousands of colleges is almost completely skewed towards UG.


CONCLUSION:  The PG and PhD education has to be viewed separately by the policy makers and education administrators. Mixing it with the UG education under the broader category of higher education is diluting the attention on these.

OBSERVATION#4: There are huge differences within the so called group of top 100 engineering institutions. Fund availability is the major reason for this difference.

Unlike the international rankings, the NIRF Top 100 engineering institutions, is not a  guarantee for high quality educational experience for the students. There are huge differences in various parameters among these institutions.Let me just compare a few critical parameters here in the 3 categories:
(a)  The 16 IITs Vs (b) the top 25 institutions Vs (c) last 25 institutions in this list of top 100 engg. institutions.

1. Overall fraction of faculty having a PhD: 99% Vs 82% Vs 28%
2. Overall fraction of PG+PhD student population: 46% Vs 37% Vs 12%
3. Research Grants (mostly by Govt agencies) in 2015 out of the total research grant of Rs.1409.3 crore:
Rs. 1013.5 crore Vs Rs. 1148.6 crore Vs Rs. 50 crore.
4. Total fund spent per student in 2015 (including research grants and consultancy): Rs.7 Lakh Vs Rs. 4.3 Lakh Vs Rs. 1.1 Lakh

One can easily extend the trend and imagine the quality in the remaining thousands of engg institutions.

CONCLUSION:  The central govt needs to urgently do something to address this disparity. The govt agencies must start supporting many more of the top 100 engg. institutions with reasonable amount of research grants.  On one hand the IITs and a few others get funds even  without asking, most other institutions actually starve for the research grants.  Peak  excellence by a few can not be achieved and sustained by starving all others of basic necessities.  The budget share for research funding must be significantly increased with a special focus on institution other than IITs.   IITs and a few others should have a reasonable (upto 20-30%)  but not an overwhelming share in the country’s research funding at the universities.  All institutions (govt or private)  listed in the NIRF top 100 should get a reasonable share in the research grants.

Also See:  NIRF 2018: Urgency of a Reform in Higher Education and also NIRF  (

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