India University Rankings Serve Little Academic Purpose: C N R Rao

11/05/2016 8:23 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 30: Students fill up forms after 2nd cut off list was declared for the admission in Delhi University at Miranda House College on June 30, 2015 in New Delhi, India. In the second list released by the University arts and commerce saw dip of 1 percent while for science courses it got reduced upto 3 percent. (Photo by Chinmaya Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In the first week of April, the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) released "India Rankings 2016", the first-ever effort by the government to rank and assess higher education institutions in the country. Included in the government's list were the country's top 100 universities and institutes of management, engineering and pharmacy. The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, was credited with the tag of best university in the country, while IIM Bangalore and IIT Madras came on top in management and engineering respectively.

But what does this kind of a ranking mean to one of the nation's foremost scientist who has been lamenting on the quality of higher education in the country for several years? For Bharat Ratna C N R Rao, honorary president and Linus Pauling research professor, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, the first-ever government ranking is not an antidote to the quality issues in higher education.

The government of India should increase investment in science to 1.5% GDP immediately and reach 2-3% in the next 4-5 years...

"I am not taken by the recent rankings. We have to compare ourselves to the best in the world. Internal rankings may be useful to the government and planners, but they serve little academic purpose. Furthermore, I find that some important institutions such as TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) have not been included in the evaluation," Rao told me.

India's eminent scientist is not at all upbeat about the existing educational eco-system in the country. For him the educational scenario is depressing and the need is to improve quality, institutional structure and infrastructure at all levels. Earlier Rao expressed serious concerns about the quality of teaching and ability of teachers in the country.

"It is high time that the government invests 6% of GDP in higher education. The government of India should increase investment in science to 1.5% GDP immediately and reach 2-3% in the next 4-5 years," Rao said. Criticizing the corporate world, he said that industry does little for higher education or scientific research. "Around 25-30% of support for science should come from industry."

He is of the opinion that India is very weak when it comes to International Property Rights (IPR). "We have been slow in IPR and we have to improve much. This requires a better climate for innovation."

The innovativeness of a country is interlinked with its patent rights and patent applications. It should be noted that international patent applications filed from India went down slightly from the previous year to 1,423 in 2015. According to the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization, Japan, China, and South Korea filed 44,235, 29,846, 14,626 patent applications respectively in the same period. The US tops the list with 57,385 international patent applications. This needs to be viewed in the backdrop of over 250,000 pending patent applications and 532,000 trademark registrations with the government due to shortage of manpower.

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