Higher education in India & QS World University Rankings- Explained, pointwise


Recently, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) released their World University Rankings for 2022. In that, no Indian institution figures in the top 100 list in that index. Further, Only three educational institutes from India feature in the top 200 list. This raises the important question regarding the quality of Higher education in India.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Education has released All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 report.

  • As per the report, the situation of higher education in India has improved as compared to the past. But it is still far behind in comparison to countries like China, Israel, etc.

Hence, urgent steps are needed to improve the quality of higher education in India, else the demographic dividend might turn into a demographic disaster.

Key Findings of QS World University Rankings 2022 related to India

QS World University Rankings is released by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). It is an annual publication of university rankings which comprises the global overall and subject rankings.

  • Only three educational institutes from India, the IIT Bombay (177), IIT Delhi (185) and IISc Bengaluru (186) feature in the top 200 list.
    • Except for these three institutes, no other Indian institution has been able to break into the top 200 since 2017.
  • IIT-Bombay continues to be India’s best higher education institution for the fourth consecutive year. Holding 177th position, although it fell five places over the last year
  • There are a total number of 22 Indian higher education institutions placed among the world’s top 1,000 universities.
    • In the 2021 index, there were 21 Indian institutions. This is followed by 23 in 2020, 24 in 2019 and 20 in 2018.
  • IISc Bengaluru remains the world’s top research university, maintaining a perfect score of 100/100 for this metric.
  • Poor performance in the faculty-student ratio: Indian universities have improved their performance on academic reputation metric and research impact, but continue to struggle on the teaching capacity metric.
    • No Indian university ranks among the top 250 for faculty-student ratio.
Other Key Findings
  • The top three institutions globally are: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Oxford and Stanford University
  • Singapore’s National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, and China’s Tsinghua University and Peking University, are the only Asian universities in the global top 20.
The status of Higher Education In India

The recent All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 highlights India’s higher education status as below,

  1. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): The percentage of students belonging to the eligible age group enrolled in Higher Education, in 2019-20 is 27.1% against 26.3% in 2018-19 and 24.3% in 2014-2015.
  2. Gender Parity Index (GPI): In Higher Education, GPI in 2019-20 is 1.01 against 1.00 in 2018-19. This indicates an improvement in the relative access to higher education for females of eligible age group compared to males.
  3. Pupil-Teacher Ratio: In 2019-20 the pupil-teacher ratio is 26.
  4. The number of students pursuing PhD in 2019-20 is 2.03 lakh against 1.17 lakh in 2014-15.
  5. Nearly 3.38 crore Students enrolled in programmes at under-graduate and post-graduate level.  Out of these, nearly 85% of the students (2.85 crores) were enrolled in the six major disciplines. Such as Humanities, Science, Commerce, Engineering & Technology, Medical Science and IT & Computer.
Government initiatives to promote Higher education in India
  1. New Education Policy 2020: The policy contains certain key initiatives towards higher education. They are,
    • HECI(Higher education commission of India)as umbrella regulator except for legal and medical education. It will have four verticals:
      • National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation
      • General Education Council (GEC) for standard-setting
      • Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding
      • National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation
    • Broad-based, multi-disciplinary, holistic UG(Undergraduate) education: With the provision of the flexible curriculum; integration of vocational education; multiple entries and exit points with respective degrees; UG education period between 3-4 years
    • Raising the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to 50% by 2035.
  2. Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP):
    • It is a five-year vision plan(2019-2024) released by Higher Education Department
    • Key Focus of the EQUIP includes
      • To improve access to higher education, especially for underserved communities;
      • Improve the gross enrolment ratio;
      • To improve teaching and learning processes;
      • Build educational infrastructure, etc.
    • It would be funded through extra-budgetary resources and by mobilising money from the marketplace through the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
  3. National Institutional Ranking Framework(NIRF)It was developed in 2015. The rankings are published annually since 2016. It outlines a methodology to rank educational institutions across the country based on five parameters.
  4. Global Initiative Of Academic Networks (GIAN): It aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs, internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India. It seeks to(a)augment the country’s existing academic resources (b)accelerate the pace of quality reform and (c)elevate India’s scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.
Challenges faced by Higher Education In India
  1. Commercial exploitation by Higher Education Institutes: Withdrawal of the public sector has left the space open for private institutions that have turned education into a flourishing business. Most of the teachers in private colleges are underpaid and overworked. There has been a rampant expansion in the number of colleges with scant regard for standards and quality. This phenomenon also shows the lapses in the regulatory structure.
  2. Low level of teaching quality: National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in its assessment report pointed out that 68% of institutions in India are of middle or poor quality. Ad-hoc appointments and low pay scale, inadequate teacher training are all factors that have caused a deterioration in the quality of education.
  3. Low investment in research: 
    • Department of Science and Technology mentions that Indian R&D expenditure has remained constant at around 0.6%-0.7% of its GDP. This is very low compare to countries like China (2%), Israel (4.3%)
    • India has severely under-invested in education over the last 40 years, and today even the top institutions have very poor laboratory facilities.
  4. Two-separate system: In India, there are separate research institutes and universities. This leads to most Indian universities and colleges conducting very little research. Further, Most of the time, the faculty is under pressure to publish a certain number of papers to gain promotion. This often makes them publish in predatory journals as a way out.
  5. Out of sync curriculum: There is a wide gap between industry requirements and the curriculum taught at colleges. This also renders graduates unemployable, lacking in specific skill-sets.
  6. Lack of relevant career opportunities diminishes the appeal of academic education among students. For example, if studying hard and critical thinking doesn’t lead to career improvement, students tend to lose academic ambition.
  7. Lack of High-quality jobs: In India, only a few jobs exist after higher education. The Majority of jobs require lower skills and pay poorly. In such a system the Lower-ranked colleges don’t find any motivation to improve themselves
  8. Prioritizing top colleges and neglect of low ranked colleges: For example, top colleges in India enjoy much state-sponsored support. They attract the best faculty and students. This makes it further difficult for low ranked colleges to make any improvement.
Problems with the Higher education sector in India
Suggestions to improve higher education in India
  1. Suggestion for government:
    • Policymakers, need to promote employment led-growth oriented policies to create enough jobs for 650 million Indian youths under age 25.
    • Increasing the funding for the R&D Sector: The funding for the R&D sector should be increased to improve infrastructure and the funding for research. It would also prevent the brain-drain of talents from the country.
  2. ICT integrated approach towards learning: With the advent of a pandemic, now digital education is not an alternative option but an imperative option. So the government and other stakeholders have to improve the ICT for post pandemic education system in India.
  3. International cooperation: India needs to collaborate with foreign institutes and industries to foster a culture of research, upgrade pedagogy and facilitate industry student connection, etc.
  4. The government has to take steps to improve the pay scale offered to teachers and by putting an end to the system of ad-hoc and temporary appointments. Instead, the government can force the higher educational institutes in India to go for the recruitment process well before a post is vacated. Further, the government can appoint a separate body for a Performance audit of teachers
  5. Distance and online education: The government has to broaden the scope of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to provide access to quality education beyond geographical boundaries.

India’s higher education system is the world’s third-largest higher education system in terms of students (next to China and the United States). The Higher Education sector in India has witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of Universities/University level Institutions & Colleges since independence. Now it is time for India to improve the quality of the education system in India.

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