Message from the NIRF rankings

Source: The post is based on the article “Message from the NIRF rankings” published in “The Indian Express” on 1st July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Education.

News: The Department of Higher Education released the India Rankings 2023, also known as the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). This year over 5,000 institutions were ranked and the top 100 institutions (in some cases up to 200) were declared in each category.

Why is there a debate surrounding NIRF rankings?

The NIRF rankings have generated considerable debate mainly about accuracy and reliability of data and the relevance of the data to the rankings.

But there has been a lack of discourse on the significance of these rankings for the Indian higher education ecosystem and the resulting policy implications.

What do the NIRF findings suggest regarding the status of higher education institutions?

The rankings highlight a disparity in the research and academic output across Indian higher education institutions. A small number of top-ranked higher education institutions (HEIs) produce a significant proportion (between 60 percent and 70 percent) of highly cited publications (HCPs).

The surveyed institutions represent only a fraction of the Indian HEI ecosystem, with over 35,000 institutions (around 90%) remaining unexplored. This indicates that a vast majority of HEIs may not be contributing significantly to knowledge or skills development.

Most graduates from Indian HEIs lack employability skills and require extensive retraining to become employable

With the exception of a few prominent HEIs, the majority of top-tier institutions in the country have little international standing.

How can NIRF rankings be used to inform policy decisions for higher education system?

Recruitment: The current interview-based selection process, opaque, biased and delayed, should be replaced with a more objective and transparent evaluation method. Additionally, HEIs should establish a system of incentives and disincentives to encourage excellence in faculty performance.

Accountability: To address the lack of accountability in public-funded universities and institutions, regulators and funders need to enforce strict accountability by linking funding to performance. Leading universities should be subjected to higher standards of accountability.

Other policy measures: It is necessary to implement an exit or consolidation policy for HEIs, allow the entry of for-profit HEIs, including foreign universities, and grant colleges the flexibility to affiliate with any university without geographical constraints.

What should be done?

According to a World Economic Forum report, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately work in completely new job types that do not even exist today. Therefore, knowledge creation and dissemination should be participatory and forward-looking.

Current policies in higher education create artificial constraints and barriers to entry. To promote innovation in teaching practices and flexibility in learning, it is essential to encourage lateral entry of practitioners and other experts to HEIs.

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