President Mukherjee Takes Strong Interest in India’s Performance in University Rankings

India1By John O’Leary

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, accepted the first copy of the new QS Asian Rankings when he received a personal briefing on international higher education at his official residence in New Delhi this week. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room where historic decisions on Indian independence were made and Nehru chaired his own government’s meetings until the 1960s. It is thought to be the first time that a head of state has invited representatives of a university ranking organisation to brief him personally.

Dr Mukherjee has taken a strong interest in India’s performance in global university rankings and has asked the leading universities to engage with the compilers. At the briefing, he repeated his determination to see the country’s universities climb the rankings and offered the assistance of his office to acquire the necessary data for more to be assessed.

The briefing was conducted by Dr Karthick Sridhar, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Centre for Assessment and Accreditation (ICAA), and John O’Leary, a member of the QS University Rankings Executive Board. The ICAA acts as an intermediary between Indian universities and the ranking organisations, and organised a Ranking and Excellence Dialogue at The British Council in New Delhi on the day that the new ranking was published.

Six more Indian universities have joined the Asian top 300 in the 2014 ranking: the total of 17 was the highest in the six years of the ranking. But the level of engagement remains well below that in China, Japan and South Korea. The National University of Singapore topped the new ranking, moving up from second place in 2013.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) was second, the highest-placed of six South Korean universities in the top 20. Last year’s leader, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, dropped to fifth place – a victim of the requirement to take a double cohort of students as Hong Kong moved to four-year undergraduate degrees. The results also saw several of Japan’s leading universities slipping slightly in the ranking, although there were still six in the top 20.

The exercise differs from the main QS World University Ranking by including three additional measures and altering the weightings to reflect regional priorities. Instead of measuring citations per academic, the Asian methodology uses the number of papers published per academic and the number of citations per paper.

International activity is measured by inbound and outbound exchanges, as well as the proportions of international staff an d students. Regional rankings for Latin America and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will be published by QS next month.

Others for the Arab World and for Eastern Europe and Central Asia are at the planning stage. Ben Sowter, who is responsible for QS rankings as head of the company’s Intelligence Unit, said regional rankings were a valuable resource that offered more nuanced comparisons of universities that could take account of the distinctive missions in different parts of the world. They also gave recognition to high-quality institutions that did not yet feature in world rankings.