The much-touted ‘Vishwaguru’ tag will remain elusive for India if the country’s universities continue to fare poorly in the global rankings. No Indian university figures in the global top 100 institutions and only three institutions find a place among the top 200. The QS World University Rankings 2023, released recently, comes as yet another reminder of the ills plaguing India’s higher education sector. This is for the sixth year straight that IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, the only three Indian universities, bagged a spot among the top 200. The report shows that India’s presence in the top 500 category is largely IIT-driven. Apart from IISc, eight IITs (Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati, Indore) are ranked among the top 500 globally. The rankings were based on a string of parameters, including academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international students ratio. This year’s QS World University Rankings is the largest ever, with 1,418 institutions across one hundred locations, up from 1,300 last year. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is at world number one for the 11th consecutive year, University of Cambridge has risen to the second place, while Stanford University remains in the third position. Prominent universities in India like the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia have slipped in the coveted ranking. Indian universities continue to struggle with QS’ measure of institutional teaching capacity.
As many as 30 of India’s 41 ranked universities have suffered declines in QS’ Faculty and Student Ratio indicator. With hardly any improvement in the country’s standing over the years, it is time policymakers did some serious introspection on the initiatives needed to improve academic and research standards in our universities. The fact that no Indian university finds a place among the top 250 list in terms of faculty-student ratio illustrates one of the fundamental problems confronting our higher education sector. This is despite the claims about the strength and vastness of human resources in the country. Though India has over 1,000 universities, including Central, State, deemed, private universities and Institutes of National Importance, the academic and research standards are not up to the international standards. While the desired levels of research and internationalisation of Indian campuses remain weak points, the higher education sector also suffers from a funds crunch, and its largely linear model with little focus on specialisation and innovation. It must find ways of increasing teaching capacity and attracting more talented students and faculty from across the world to study in India to improve its global standing. Educational experts have been calling for a drastic overhaul of the system to bring it on a par with global standards. There are a few pockets of excellence that need to be nurtured.