In its 20th year of world university rankings, UK-based Times Higher Education (THE) has seen participation from 1,904 universities up from 1799 last year. Among these 91 Indian universities have been ranked by THE, making the country the fourth-most represented nation. In an exclusive interview with The Free Press Journal, THE’s Chief Global Affairs Officer Phil Baty discussed IISc’s tag as the best Indian institute, lack of major IITs, India’s performance in internationalisation, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
What are some factors behind IISc being ranked the best from India?
We have set up a comprehensive ranking system which takes into account 18 different metrics for THE Rankings 2024. We are looking at Research Excellence, wherein we assess millions of publications from an institute, Reputation, Teaching, and a wide range of other aspects. THE has looked at IISc’s performance based on those same indicators and has given a high score for industry links and patents at the institute. The quality of Research at IISc has also played a factor in it being ranked in 201-250 band.
Some major IITs are still reluctant to participate in THE Rankings. How would you address it?
It is important to note that this year, this year we have 91 Indian universities in the rankings which is a major jump from 49 in 2019. More and more universities are embracing THE 2024 rankings. It is true that certain IITs expressed concerns about methodology but we met the representatives of the institutes in person to showcase the process and how transparent it is. Though we made robust, comprehensive adjustments to the methodology, participated in by 2600 universities, it is voluntary. We hope that the IITs join us in the next cycle and become part of the global conversation.
Is Internationalisation a challenge to Indian universities moving up in rankings?
This time around we did country normalisation for internationalisation. Earlier we weren't taking into account how huge a country is. Countries like Luxembourg and Switzerland have more international students in their institutions and boarding schools due to the nature of those countries, while there are challenges when a county is big. India is certainly way behind in attracting international students and faculty but with a visionary National Education Policy, it will move up the rankings, and be more visible to international partners
How do you see rise in Indian students abroad despite universities here doing well?
India has a growing middle class and has traditionally sent students abroad with huge numbers of them going to the UK, USA, and many other countries. But once Indian varsities strengthen themselves we can see more transnational campuses in India in the future.
With countries planning curbs on international students, does this put them at risk?
International students are an asset, especially Indian students. Imposing any restrictions on them in the UK or other countries would be self-defeating as countries like India contribute a lot. Countries would be making a big mistake if they go ahead with the restrictions.
How can universities improve their standings in coming years?
What we have understood is that there are certain core drivers which universities have to take into account. Research access, collaboration between institutions, are just a few aspects along with a university’s ability to work on powerful outcomes, fulfil sustainable development goals, and find solutions to big challenges that can help in their standings in the future.