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India’s first national university rankings – Benchmarking towards international excellence

India’s National Institutional Rankings Framework (NIRF), has produced its first fruits with the Ministry of Human Resource development (HRD) releasing 4. April, its first ever national India Rankings 2016. The ranking encompasses both publicly and privately funded Universities, providing insights and performance indicators on over 3600 institutions, along four categories: research universities, engineering and management institutions, pharmacy colleges.  The NIRF, launched in 2015, is the government’s historically first initiative aiming to tackle one of the biggest challenges in the nation’s higher education sector - establishing transparency and data for a level playing field on which citizens and students could observe and evaluate institutions, empowering them to make informed educational choices. Top-spot holders in the ranking table were: in the category engineering the Indian Institute of technology Madras; in Management the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and in the University category Indian Institute of Science Bangalore. 

Importantly, these rankings will also serve to reach international benchmarks in educational excellence, taking the next step for progressing the country’s institutions on a global platform. India’s universities underperforming in international rankings, NIRF serves “a larger number of Indian institutions to participate in the global rankings, and create a significant impact internationally”, HDR Minister Irani stated. This aligns with a current surge in the government to reposition for world class excellence, displayed in initiatives as the recently established Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, March 2016). The ranking’s methodology embraces both international criteria and an ‘Indian Approach’- incorporating country specific parameters including outreach, regional and international diversity, gender equity and inclusion of marginalised sections of society, reflecting aspirations of the nation’s rising young generation.

Beyond the ambition to set up a reliable and authentic ranking system, the ministry also had to acknowledge that due to the system’s dependence on voluntary participation from universities, reliability and validity is an area that still commands improvements, “many institutions failing to put their best foot forward when it came to supplying quality data”.  

The India Ranking will be an annual affair, also setting out to aid foreign students in assessing Indian higher education. In this light, the success of the NIRF to re-position Indian education on the global stage will be underpinned by remedying current shortcomings - becoming a reliable information source for students and an accurate tool for government in pinpointing performance gaps vis a vis world class institutions.

India Ranking 2016 
Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development, press release