Sparking a controversy, some Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) directors and chairman Board of Governors of IITs have indicated that financial considerations may play a role in deciding an institute’s position in international academic rankings. The view was aired at a meeting of the IIT Council in New Delhi, sources said.
With India’s premier technology institutes lagging behind on global rankings, the issue was discussed at the meeting chaired by HRD minister Pallam Raju.
Ministry officials said some people expressed reservations about the credibility of global rankings and said these seemed to be linked to an institute’s paying power — its willingness to buy advertisements and consultancy projects from the ranking operators. IITs also complained that incomplete information was often picked up from their website to determine rankings without verification.
IIT Kanpur director Prof Indranil Manna said he was not hinting at corruption, but pointing out “hard facts”. “Some of these ranking agencies quoted a cost of $1,50,000 per annum per IIT to conduct a detailed analysis of the institute and its performance. They also offered a $75,000 deal for a three-page advertisement,” Manna told The Indian Express. Prof Gautam Barua, who was until recently the director of IIT Guwahati, said, “There is a definite commercial angle to it. They bombard you with mails on events across the world, they seek expensive advertising for their ranking magazines and so on. An institute’s ‘reputation’ holds high weightage on these rankings — this is targeted to show down institutes in third world countries.”
But Prof M K Surappa, director IIT Ropar, said such rankings “cannot be ignored”. “While I may disagree with weightage accorded to certain ranking parameters, I do not believe advertising and consultancy alone can fetch an institute a higher ranking,” he said.
Prof S G Dhande, former director of IIT Kanpur, also said achieving high ranks would ultimately benefit IITs.
When contacted, Phil Baty, editor, Times Higher Education Rankings, said, “These allegations have absolutely nothing to do with Times Higher Education — participation in our rankings is voluntary and free of charge.”
Dr Karthick Sridhar, director, India Operations, QS-Asia Quacquarelli Symonds also denied the allegations: “Under no circumstances do any commercial engagements with QS for other services have any direct influence on position or inclusion in QS rankings.”
Sridhar also said data from websites is used as a ‘last resort’.