Despite about 620 universities in India (as per the University Grants Commission), only 21 participated in the recent survey conducted by Times Higher Education (THE), which ranked Panjab University, Chandigarh, as the leading varsity in the country. Interestingly, PU participated for the first time in the survey, says vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover, and that too after almost declining to do so because of a tight deadline to submit the required data.
But varsity officials rose to the challenge, and managed to compile comprehensive data spanning the past five years in just two weeks. “I think institutes need to have the confidence and enthusiasm to compete in such surveys. The essential question is: can we compete against global universities? And, the survey clearly shows that yes, we can,” says Grover. To PU’s credit, it did so well in citations (score 84.7) — the factor that tipped the scales in its favour — that it surpassed Asia’s top university, University of Tokyo (score 69.8), in this regard.
The sentiment is echoed by THE ranking editor Phil Baty. “It is our hope that more Indian institutions will engage with us in the future, enabling us to paint a true and whole picture of higher education in India, allowing Indian institutions to benchmark themselves against their global counterparts, examining both their strengths but also the main areas for improvement,” he told FE in an email.
However, THE did not divulge the names of the 21 Indian institutes, pleading that it was “important to us that we guard their anonymity, encouraging further participation in the future”.
Ironically, several top Indian institutes stay away from these surveys. Grover adds that had more universities cared to share data for the rankings, many more Indian names would have been on the top 400 list, and maybe even in the top 200.
What participation, and a good ranking, can do to a varsity profile and morale can be gauged from the case of Panjab University itself. The V-C is already talking of not only sustaining this ranking, but enhancing it by better organisation of courses and departments, fellowships for students, and other measures. That the ranking will do wonders to enhance the university’s brand value is obvious. The institute hopes to build on this recognition by attracting better faculty, students and, of course, better funding.
Eyeing more such international rankings, the university says it has got cracking to prepare data banks for prompt submission as and when required.