How Calcutta University rose in university rankings in just a few years

Calcutta University (CU) was the only state university in the top 5 in NIRF rankings and the top Indian institution in THE Impact Rankings 2022.

Calcutta University was ranked the number one institution in the country in the latest THE Impact Rankings (source: Wikimedia Commons)Calcutta University was ranked the number one institution in the country in the latest THE Impact Rankings (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Atul Krishna | May 17, 2022 | 03:14 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Calcutta University has had many firsts in its 175 years of existence. In Bethune College, Calcutta University got the first women’s college in India. The Calcutta Medical College, which was under the university, was the first medical school. It is also associated with three of India’s nobel laureates including the very first one, Rabindranath Tagore.

Recently, the university got another first, It was ranked as the top university in India in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2022. The institute has also done well in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) by the education ministry. It was ranked fourth in India in the NIRF university rankings, the only state-run institution in the top five, and ranked higher than Delhi University, University of Hyderabad, and Jamia Millia Islamia University.

Academics, though, did not see much change on the ground. Most did not talk as they were unaware of the parameters but those that did chalked the university’s rise in rankings to its heritage and an improvement in organising data rather than sudden, dramatic improvement in teaching, learning or research. Teachers’ recruitment has frozen in the past few years, they pointed out. Plus, they worry about the fund-crunch public institutions, including CU, are facing. They also argue that records of the university’s achievement are still poorly organised.

Calcutta University ranking

Calcutta University has done very well in the global and domestic rankings over the past few years. The university was ranked number one in the country in the THE Impact Rankings 2022 despite it not featuring even in the top ten in THE Impact Rankings 2020 and reaching sixth in the THE Impact Rankings 2021. The university also grabbed 14th position globally in the ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ sub-category of the THE Impact Rankings 2022.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee congratulated Calcutta University on social media writing: “Glad to learn that Calcutta University has been ranked 1st in India among all Central and State aided public Universities and Institutes by Times Higher Education Impact Ranking 2022.”

The university has also shown consistent improvement in other global and domestic rankings.

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In the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), popularly known as the Shanghai Ranking, the university was ranked among three to four best universities in India in 2019 and two to four best universities in India in 2020. In the ARWU 2022 rankings, it was ranked second in the country.

In the QS World University Rankings, the university was ranked 22 in 2019, 20 in 2020, and 22 again in 2022, for the best universities in India.

In the domestic NIRF Rankings, the university rose substantially from Rank 14 in 2018 to Rank 4 in the latest NIRF 2021 Rankings.

calcutta university exam news, calcutta university result, kolkata universityCalcutta University jumped up to Rank 4 in the latest NIRF Rankings (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Calcutta University: Heritage

Set up in 1857 by the British East India Company, along with Madras University and Bombay University (now, Mumbai University), Calcutta University is one of the oldest institutions in India. Some attribute the university’s performance in the international and domestic rankings to its heritage.

“It is a very old university. So, already we have so many unique things in the university. In West Bengal, there is no museum in most universities. But Calcutta University has a museum and a manuscript library which contain very old collections. Maybe this creates a difference [in the rankings],” said Sankhayan Choudhury, general secretary of Calcutta University Teachers Association.

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The university has multiple departments across streams that are among the most respected ones in the country, academics said.

“As far as conventional aspects, yes, we are doing good but there are some unique things that have been here traditionally. We have departments in Tamil, Buddhist studies, Pali, linguistics. The Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur, was under CU which was one of the oldest engineering colleges along with IIT Roorkee. At present it is not there. But such things may create a difference. We have a very strong heritage,” said Choudhury. Although it became an Indian Institute of Technology only in 2001, IIT Roorkee started as College of Civil Engineering in 1847.

The Bengal Engineering College is now the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) Shibpur and part of the network of National Institutes of Technology (NIT).

kolkata university, calcutta university exam news, calcutta university, calcutta university resultIIEST Shibpur, which was under Calcutta University, is now part of the NIT network (source: Wikimedia Commons)

University of Calcutta: Research

Academics also believe that Calcutta University has fared very well in research, especially in the science discipline.

“Research is very strong in Calcutta University, mainly in the science discipline. In the last seven, eight years, we are doing very well in nanotechnology, where interdisciplinary research is going on in collaboration with various departments,” said Choudhury.

“In terms of research, we have done a lot in fundamental research. There was an increase in the quantity of research, the number of projects, the quantity and quality of the publications,” said Gautam Kumar Saha, professor at the department of zoology.

Calcutta University was ranked 33 in the NIRF Rankings 2021 for research category.

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Teachers also said that Calcutta University’s rankings are not anything to be surprised by, as it has been consistently ranked in the top universities in India in different rankings.

“The idea that CU has improved its rankings in recent years is contestable because NIRF is a recent ranking system but in the other ranking systems including the QS Rankings, Shanghai rankings, CU, from the very beginning, has appeared in the top five universities in India. Barring the IISCs, IITs, the university’s ranking has been really high from the very beginning,” said Aditi Ghosh, department of linguistics, Calcutta University.

In the recent NIRF rankings, Calcutta University rose from rank 14 in 2018 to rank four in NIRF ranking 2021. According to the NIRF data, the university has shown an increase in the number of sponsored research from 602 in 2017-18 to 683 in 2019-20; the number of funding agencies increased from 67 to 76 over the same period; plus, the total number of consultancy projects grew from 37 to 63 in just one year, from 2018-19 to 2019-20.

Some, however, felt that the rankings simply reflect a better organisation of data on the university’s part..

“I feel that now the authority is organising the data in a better way. It was one of the major drawbacks of CU that we are doing things but not documenting them properly. I think we have improved in terms of presenting our work through documentation. As a result, what we are doing is reflected better. That could be a reason,” said Chowdhury.

Scope for improvement

But despite the rise in ranks and a stellar record, there are concerns.

Calcutta University needs more teachers. “I guess the one thing that we are lagging behind is that we need more teachers. In our department, we have almost 150 students and 13 teachers. We have PhD programmes and a large number of PhD scholars. I think we need to focus on recruitment,” said Sukanta Bhattacharya, professor in the department of economics.

“There has been a freeze on recruitment, I don’t know whether it is the government or the university, we don't have as much recruitment. We need young blood. When you have people teaching, participating in research will enhance the quality of the department.”

The university is also facing a funding crunch. “It is difficult to say what is enough but we don’t get much funds,” said Bhattacharya.

It did not help that the University Grants Commission (UGC), the highest regulator for universities, has reduced its funding to universities, they said.

“Earlier there were research centres, UGC used to give money for establishing research centres which had done extremely well. But the funds were short so we had to wrap it up,” said Bhattacharya. “Nobody is serious about improving the quality of education in public institutions. That is very unfortunate. Without enhancing the quality of education in public institutions, you can’t really achieve excellence.”

Even the work done isn’t always properly recorded and there is scope for improvement in the organisation of data, academics felt.

“I think the information is not properly kept. If a software or something is installed to record the information. Then, the actual efforts taken by the faculty members will be reflected properly,” said Choudhury. “The policy they’re following is an old one. They’re collecting the data from the faculty members and stakeholders. Sometimes, there will be gaps and then we have to check. Sometimes we have to send the same data again and again, that is not acceptable and the faculty members also feel reluctant to send the data.”

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