Race for Ranking in Higher Educational Institutes

Dr. S S Verma
Government plans are to streamline the education system of the country based on ranking system through creating environment for accountability, motivation, competitiveness, resource generation, innovation, better graduate outcomes etc. in the temples of higher learning. Rankings bring a lot of buzz, attention and potential to prospective institutes. The ranking is an important tool to make institutions aware of quality issues and according to the human resource development ministry, “the educational institutions performing well in the annual ranking will be awarded with more funding or grants, enhanced autonomy and freedom of functioning and various benefits”. There are no doubt rankings have their place on the higher education stage, but they do have their limitations. These rankings of institutions in higher education are done on the basis of various combinations of various factors. These factors or so called evaluation parameters may be different for different rankings. There are a number of ranking systems prevailing all over the world sometimes taking into consideration all world level higher educational institutes or sometimes these are country specific. From google, some of higher education institution learning rankings all over the world are like:
Major international rankings: QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities
Other global rankings: Center for World University Rankings, Leiden Ranking, Eduniversal, G-factor, Global University Ranking, HEEACT-Ranking of Scientific Papers, Human Resources & Labor Review, High Impact Universities: Research Performance Index, Nature Index, Newsweek, Professional Ranking of World Universities, Reuters World’s Top 100 Innovative Universities, Round University Ranking, SCImago Institutions Rankings, U-Multirank, University Ranking by Academic Performance, U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities Rankings, Webometrics, Wuhan University etc.
In India, The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is initiated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India, to rank all institutions of higher education in India. Similarly, Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) is an initiative of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Govt. of India to systematically rank all major higher educational institutions and universities in India on indicators related to “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development” amongst students and faculties. Besides these rankings by the Govt. of India, Magazines such as India Today, Outlook, Mint, The Week, Dataquest, Careers360 and Electronics for You conduct annual rankings for the major disciplines. Along with rankings, many more compulsory schemes like National Board of Accreditation (NBA), IFST degree accreditation scheme, National Accreditation Board for Testing and calibration Laboratories (NABL), Accreditation Scheme for Safety Health and Environment (SHE) Training, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) for ascertaining the quality of educational courses are also running concurrently for all higher educational institutes.
Recently, there were the results out for NIRF (National Institute Ranking Framework) and now one more ranking ARIIA (Atal Ranking of Intuitions on innovation Achievements) results are out. Of course, rankings can help to reform and modernise higher education, encouraging universities to professionalise services and management, and improve the quality of their programmes and facilities for students and faculty. But, ranking of higher education institutions/universities/colleges have become a big exercise to organizations responsible for ranking as well as to authorities of the educational institutes. Temples of higher education like Universities/Institutes/colleges in the country at present are heavily engrossed in the ranking syndrome. Institutes faring well will be boasting and feeling proud of their achievements and others will fall in the trap of manipulating data for next time to come up with better rankings. Earlier we used to listen something about ranking once upon a time but with continuous competition to attract the attention of the stake holders like: prospective students at the first place, public in general, sponsors, recruiter and fund allocators specifically, such type of ranking exercises have become an integral part of higher educational institutes. Not everyone is happy with the ranking criteria or the idea of ranking itself. According to critics of rankings, once quantification and ranking take over higher education and research, the quality of thinking and social concern suffer. Quantification came into this domain from the business and media sectors.
Private and self-sponsored higher educational institutes are regularly faring well in the rankings system due to their competition to survive in the market of imparting education. They are much ahead in rankings to many governments funded educational institutes which however does not mean that all the evaluation parameters are satisfied and fulfilled but they find ways to manipulate the things to do so. It is well known that private institutes make hand in glove deals with recruiters to recruit pass outs from these institutes and after few months they are free to dispense with such recruitments. These institutes make the faculty work overtime to prepare the data required to complete ranking application documents even at the cost of teaching and learning. Different parameters required for ranking like: institute perception, graduate outcome, patenting, book writing, research publications can be easily manipulated.
It is not only with private and self-sponsored higher educational institutes that institute administration, faculty and staff spend enough time on ranking activities throughout the year just to show case their achievement in rankings instead of making teaching and learning process more effective. Thus, neglect education process and work to focus on ranking and non-transparency through the manipulation of results in order to obtain a high ranking is one the major problems of ranking system. Moreover, rankings have placed a new premium on status and reputation, with a strong bias towards long-established and well-endowed institutions and institutes with geographical hindrances and specific institutional visions are the big losers. The gap between elite and mass education provider higher educational institutes is likely to widen.