IoE: Some strike gold, while others cry foul

Abhay Anand | 9th May, 2019 - 10:49 a.m. IST
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The list of Institutions of Eminence seems flawed, not because of the inclusion of some, but exclusion of some equally good ones. Why did they lose out? Read on…

For decades, the education sector remained on the back burner of government policies despite having a direct impact on the nation’s development. When the Government of India announced to help the higher education institutions gain global recognition by granting them the Institutions of Eminence (IoE) status, everyone thought that the nation’s best institutions will get their due recognition. The Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) through a rigorous process took over a year and submitted names of 10 public-funded and 10 private-funded institutions for the status in two parts. As per its recommendations, the selected government institutions will receive a grant of Rs. 1,000 crores; whereas the private institutions will not receive government funds. However, they will have the freedom to decide their fee structure and courses.
Soon after the list was announced, questions were raised over exclusion of some of the top Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), NITs and universities like JNU. It was argued that these prestigious institutions were not only eligible to be selected, but had a far better score than the ones selected. The institutions were selected largely on the basis of documents submitted and presentations made by the institutions before the EEC. They were also adjudged based on their Times Higher Education (THE) 2019, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2019 and NIRF (2018) Ranking.

Missing the bandwagon
The aim behind granting the IoE status is to help an institution achieve excellence and secure a place among the top 500 institutions in the global rankings. Going by the same logic, IIT Kanpur, IIT Guwahati, IIT Roorkee, IIT Hyderabad, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Tiruchirappalli, Institute of Chemical Technology had far better chance as they were already among the top 500 or very near to it.
One of the senior officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on condition of anonymity said that EEC had to leave out institutions like IIT-Kanpur, IIT Roorkee to balance the list dominated by technical institutions. “The IITs in Kanpur, Hyderabad, Guwahati are nowhere behind the ones selected for the IoE status.”

Who stands where in NIRF
The UGC (Declaration of Government Educational institutions as Institutions of Eminence) Guidelines, 2017 states that for an institution to get selected as an IoE it should figure in the top 50 of the ranking in their category under the latest National Institution Ranking Framework (NIRF). The EEC took into consideration the NIRF 2018 Ranking, which is still evolving and has invited more criticism than praise since its inception.
IITs in Kanpur, Roorkee and Guwahati are ranked above Anna University, but it is the latter which has been selected for IoE. Anna University is followed by IIT Hyderabad and is ranked 9. In the area of Graduate Outcomes (GOs), one of the five parameters of ranking, IIT Kanpur and IIT Roorkee have a better score than IIT Bombay. GO is a measurement of combined percentage for placement, higher studies, and entrepreneurship (GPHE), students getting admitted in top universities and the number of PhD students graduated.

IIT Guwahati has almost the same score as that of IIT Bombay which has the locational advantage over the other three IITs mentioned here. The four IITs are way ahead of Anna University in the area of ‘Teaching, Learning & Resources’; which takes into account the institution’s budget and its utilisation, faculty-student ratio and faculty with PhD. Jadavpur University, another institution with IoE status, stands far below the four IITs in the ranking as well as in the five ranking parameters.Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur, speaking about the status of his institute, said, “We will continue to do our good work. We will continue to do good quality research, exploit good things about IIT Kanpur. I think the ideal goal should be that every institution in the country should achieve excellence, at least the ones that have the potential should become ideal.”

THE World University Rankings
The committee while selecting institutions for the IoE status had looked at the positions in international rankings for the year 2019. Times Higher Education (THE), one of the reputed agencies, released its 2019 World University Rankings in September 2018, throwing up some interesting data. For the first time, as many as 49 Indian institutions were ranked among the best universities in the world, led by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.

Relative position of IITs
If one looks at the IITs, the newly established IIT Indore was ranked as the best among the IITs on its debut in the global rankings. It was in the 351-400 best universities group, ahead of older IITs like Madras, Delhi and Mumbai. IIT Bombay with IoE status was ranked in the 401-500 group, slipping 50 places in the ranking compared to previous year. IIT Roorkee jumped 100 places and was ranked in the same group as IIT Bombay.
One also finds that IIT Roorkee and IIT Kanpur have a better score than the IISc in the area of industry income. While IISc scores 50.7, IIT Kanpur has a score of 69.1 and IIT Roorkee has 82.9. IIT Roorkee has a better score than IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi in the area of citation and industry income.

Is the logic flawed?
While speaking to media, the former Chairman of the EEC, N. Gopalaswami, had argued that the EEC found that an institute, which had not improved its accreditation and ranking scores in three cycles, did not inspire trust that it could be able to meet the goal of breaking into top 500 ranks globally in 10 years. Going by the same argument, IIT Indore, which raced ahead of other established IITs in its debut ranking, had a very strong claim for the IoE status. Similarly, IIT Roorkee, which jumped 100 places in a year, equally deserved to get the coveted status.
The fluctuating performance of Indian institutions, especially IITs, one can surmise that looking at the ranking of an institution in a particular year is as good as denying justice to others in the same league.

QS World University Ranking
The top Indian institutions in the QS World University Ranking 2019 are the same which have been awarded IoE status. There were seven IITs among the top 500 universities in the world in this ranking besides the IISc and University of Delhi.
Ranked at 162, IIT Bombay was adjudged the best from India, followed by IISc at 170 and IIT Delhi (172). Others included IIT Madras (264), IIT Kanpur (283), IIT Kharagpur (295), IIT Roorkee (381) and IIT Guwahati (472). The ranks of all the top-ranked Indian institutions were almost same as their previous year’s rank.

Need for better competition
Prof Tarun Khanna, Director of South Asia Institute at Harvard University and one of the members of the EEC, told Careers360 that more competition and cooperation among the top institutes could help them get the IoE status. “We know that some institutions have not been able to get the status, but the best part was the process of application. We have to put together all the documentation, where we want to be in 10 years, we have to get our faculties and students together. There hasn’t been an organisational impetus to do that. People must start competing and copying good ideas. Leading universities in the US compete and cooperate with each other. That is what is needed here.”

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