9 premier institutes walk away from higher education ranking system

Close on the heels of seven of the premier Indian Institutes of Technology deciding to boycott the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings, another one of these top institutes, the IIT-BHU said on Monday that it had also decided to walk away from these ratings.

Another of these premier colleges, the IIT Mandi, also said that it was not participating in the THE rankings but said that it had not taken part in these exercises, whether conducted by the THE or QS rankings in the previous years as well. This means that atleast nine of India’s best institutions will not be participating the THE rankings.

However, others like IIT Ropar or IIT Indore, which were the top rankers among Indian institutions in the list, are expected to take part again.

THE, which sees itself in the midst of the controversy over its criteria, meanwhile said that it was set to release its THE Impact Rankings on April 22 and some of the IITs had done “exceptionally well” with one IIT ranked in the world top 100 overall.

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“There are questions over the ranking criteria of the THE. This issue has been discussed for a long time. We have also decided to not participate like some of the other IITs,” IIT BHU director Prof Pramod Kumar Jain told HT.

IIT Mandi Director Timothy Gonsalves confirmed his institute was not participating in the THE or QS rankings. However, according to officials, IIT Mandi has been in recent years participating in the National Institutional Research Framework (NIRF) rankings but not in the THE or QS rankings.

IIT Ropar, which along with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), was placed in the 301 to 350 bracket, the highest among Indian institutes, is again taking a shot. “We are participating in the ranking exercise for both QS and THE,” said Prof S K Das. Some of the other younger IITs are also expected to take part.

“None of the rankings can claim to be perfect. Even in QS, where the perception marks are huge, it may benefit some institutions, it may put others at a disadvantage,” said the senior official of an IIT, who wished not to be named.

Another official, from one of the boycotting IITs, said IIT Delhi official said there were questions about the formula adopted to rank institutions, research criteria of the THE and also the rankings were not consistent.

“One institution would rank very high one year and then sink into oblivion without any clear reason, the next year. There has to be some consistency or some explanation. In a workshop where Institutions of Eminence were represented at IIT Delhi, these concerns were discussed but the answers that have emerged have not convinced us,” the official said.

An HRD ministry official said the issue had come to notice and the ministry would work to attain the best possible solution through discussion.

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Meanwhile, the THE said its World University Rankings were well established as the global gold standard international benchmark for world-class research universities. First published in 2004, our 2020 edition published last September included voluntary submissions from almost 1,400 institutions from 92 countries and regions, it added.

If leading universities in a nation with such a proud heritage of scholarly excellence, and with such huge opportunities for economic growth decline to take part in the gold standard rankings, we believe it would be detrimental to those institutions, and to India as a whole, the THE statement added.

It said transparency was at the heart of everything it did.

“Our chief data officer visited Delhi in November 2019 to specifically engage with the IITs on our methodology, and in January 2020 our chief knowledge officer held a full one-day forum in Delhi for hundreds of guests, where the rankings data and methodology was front and centre. We were also due to share data at the Indian Universities Association annual conference in March, before its cancellation due to the coronavirus,” the ranking agency said.

Our data collection for the 2021 World University Ranking (to be released in September 2020) is still open, and we have seen good initial engagement from thousands of institutions across the world. 46 institutional data submissions have already been received from India for the 2021 ranking and we look forward to celebrating their performance in September, it added.

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