QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) Rankings known for its transparent and accurate method for giving ranks to universities worldwide, released its 2015 list recently in which MIT University has been ranked as no. 1 worldwide, followed by Harvard, institutes in India have finally made their first step forward towards global appreciation and recognition, being in top 200 for the first time in its history.
A total of 14 Indian institutions have been included in the QS World University rankings, with IISc Bangalore at 147, IIT Delhi at 179 and IIT Bombay at 202 globally. 2015 proved to be a harbinger of good news making IITD break its decreasing monotony and finally show a positive change as last year we faced severe criticism for continuously sliding down in the rankings from 212 in 2012 to 222 in 2013 and to 235 in 2014. On the other hand, IISc Bangalore is a new entry in the ranking list largely due to the fact that their first undergraduate batch is graduating this year. Before any further discussion we would like to throw some light on the not so obvious parameters used in the evaluation.
First being Academic Reputation (40%), academic reputation is measured using a global survey, in which academics are asked to identify the institutions where they believe the best work is currently taking place within their own field of expertise. The aim is to give prospective students a sense of the consensus of opinion within the international academic community. Only participants’ most recent responses are used, and they cannot vote for their own institution. Regional weightings are applied to counter any discrepancies in response rates.
Second being Employer reputation (10%), this indicator is also based on a global survey. The purpose of this is to give students a better sense of how universities are viewed in the graduate jobs market. A higher weighting is given to votes for universities that come from outside of their own country, so this indicator is especially useful for prospective students seeking to identify universities with a reputation that extends beyond their national borders. We would like to draw your attention to this particular parameter because as mentioned in one of our last year’s report that IIT Delhi is receiving negative employer feedback because of, display of poor work ethics by students while sitting for interviews and during internships. Complaints like misbehaving with colleagues have also been reported. Therefore, if we improve upon this parameter itself which should not be a hard thing to do, than we can go for another jump in the coming rankings. Negative Employer feedback is a major threat for our reputation and should be taken seriously by student community.
We also have a poor student-to-faculty ratio and low International faculty ratio, with only 6 international faculty members out of a total of 444 faculty members. We definitely need better research labs and more funding to attract the international faculty. It is important for us because it is the first step to increase our international reputation and also because we represent India’s engineering excellence.
Moreover, on comparing the scores for IISc and IITD we found that both the universities had a neck-to-neck score in Academic Reputation and Citations per Faculty but there was large difference in the score of Faculty Reputation (10% weightage), with IIT possessing the better. But Faculty-to-Student Ratio (20% weightage) is where IITD failed having a total of 444 faculty members for the large group of 7500 students it caters to, contrasting with IISc Bangalore that hosts a total of 500 faculty members for its mere 3500 students. It is a matter of subjectivity rather than simple right and wrong or black and white, the issue of quality vs. quantity. IIT has lesser faculty (almost half) albeit better. We could always afford to employ more people but the high faculty reputation score tells us, not at the cost of quality. We could explain not being ahead of them by stating that we do not compromise with the quality of faculty we have to serve our students the best, but the numbers reflect that the faculty of IITD has had fewer citations than them, largely owing to the greater burden of work for our faculty. IIT Bombay had fallen behind IIT Delhi this year due to much lesser citations per faculty, as the data reflects.
Now talking about the reliability of these rankings. While QS people claim that their method eliminates most response bias and they have controlled their sample, to be broadly representative by discipline and region. With a 2% sample response yielding 9,500 responses, the margin of error is only 0.98% at the 95% confidence level. This margin of error is as good as or better than most political polls conducted around the world today. There are many others who criticize these systems because they measure only a narrow slice of what quality higher education is about. QS’s methodology seems to be particularly controversial, however, due in large part to its greater reliance on reputational surveys than other rankers. Combined with a survey of employers, which counts for 10 percent of the overall ranking, reputational indicators account for half of a university’s QS ranking.
In nutshell, although these rankings are widely accepted to be accurate but one should not forget that no system is neutral and is influenced by politico-ideological technologies. Therefore, one should not take these rankings too seriously but yes, we cannot ignore them because they affect our image and also help us compare ourselves to other institutes to a fair extent.