Why our obsession with ranking universities does more harm than good

Source– The post is based on the article “Why our obsession with ranking universities does more harm than good” published in The Indian Express on 18th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Issue related to development and management of education

Relevance: Higher education

News- The article explains the issue related to our continued obsession with ranking universities.

What are the issues related to ranking universities?

The universities that occupy no significant place in the list suffer from chronic anxiety. They are compelled to feel a sense of “lagging behind”. It leads to their stigmatisation by people.

We are preoccupied with the “value-neutral” scale of ranking. In this process, most of us will lose the moral courage to problematize this scale and reimagine the relationship between the university and the world.

Universities become more concerned about showcasing their products through the numbers, calculations, tables. These numbers include citations per paper, papers per faculty, proportion of international students, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio or international research network.

While the statisticians can quantify the papers per faculty, they are incapable of understanding the relevance of these papers, even if published in “international” journals. It is difficult to tell whether these tools are really contributing to the development of refreshingly new ideas in natural and social sciences, and simultaneously enhancing the ethical conscience of the world.

In this academic race for publications, citations and international networking, professors have mastered the technique of indulging themselves in the practice of  manufacturing papers. They are capable of managing the cleverly developed circuits of networking for enhancing the citations.

What is the way forward?

Good universities need to equate knowledge with awakened intelligence. It should aim at uniting engaged pedagogy and meaningful research.

It must nurture sensitive and compassionate learners. These learners should sharpen their academic skills in the process of eradicating social evils like caste, patriarchy, racism and religious bigotry; and

It should equate knowledge with wisdom. The wisdom needs to redefine the meaning of research in science, technology, economics and sociology to strive for an egalitarian, ecologically sensitive and spiritually elevated world.

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