THE rankings 2023: Why are prominent IITs continuing to avoid world university rankings?

Though India is the 6th most represented nation on Times Higher Education's World University Rankings 2023, the boycott by significant branches of the premier technical institutions continues to court controversy. But some IITs aim to look at the bright side.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Thursday, October 13, 2022, 02:18 AM IST
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New Delhi: Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bengaluru has bagged the top spot again as the highest-ranked Indian institution in the 2023 edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The public institution, which remains the only Indian university in the top 300 list, remains an outlier as most premier technical institutions in the form of the Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) have entered into their third consecutive year of the boycott of the rankings.

Several IITs, including Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, Kharagpur, and Roorkee have avoided participating in THE University rankings since releasing a joint statement back in June 2020 which cited a lack of transparency in the parameters used by THE.

“IITs will reconsider their decision next year if Times Higher Education is able to convince them about the parameters and transparency in their ranking process,” the institutions had said in a joint statement when THE released its annual rankings in 2020, which had IISC securing the tag of topmost Indian institution followed by IIT Ropar and IIT Indore.

IIT Guwahati in but other IITs remain adamant on boycott

Though IIT Guwahati, which originally joined the calls for boycott, has featured in this year’s rankings on the 1001-1200 band, its counterparts in Mumbai and Chennai have remained adamant on their decision to not entertain the same unless reforms are made.

“We have had meetings with the THE team in the past wherein we raised some queries regarding the methodologies in which they function but we didn’t quite agree on the same,” said a spokesperson from IIT Bombay, who highlighted the use of ‘Perception-based’ indicators in THE rankings which the institutes had an issue with. “We also took the decision on our own and are not aware of decisions taken by other IITs on the matter,” added the spokesperson while denying earlier reports of being a party to a joint statement regarding THE rankings.

On the contrary, IIT Madras, which has stood tall among Indian institutions in QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities, told the Free Press Journal that they stand by the joint statement made in 2020 and refused to provide further comments on the matter. IIT-M's reasoning was further seconded by IIT Delhi which cited continued lack of transparency over the lack of participation.

IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi were placed in the 401–500 overall band, below the Ropar and Indore campuses, in the 2020 report (published as THE 2020 list), which was the last time significant IITs participated in THE rankings.

Newer IITs prefer other University Ranking leaders

Institutions, which have been designated as an IIT just a few years prior, also expressed their reservations about THE concerning lack of clarity on ‘procedure’.

IIT (BHU) Varanasi, located inside the Banaras Hindu University Campus, was ranked 11 in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) among engineering colleges by the Ministry of Education but when it comes to international rankings the institute prefers QS World University Rankings rather than THE.

“QS rankings provide us more details on how the rankings are assessed which is not the same case with THE. But there’s always a chance of revisiting our participation in THE in the near future,” said Prof. Vikas Dubey, Dean of Research and Development at IIT BHU.

What THE has said about the boycott

THE, which took note of the lack of participation from IITs when the boycott first started, had mentioned that such a move will be detrimental to India. “If leading nations universities in a nation with such a proud heritage of scholarly excellence and with such huge opportunities for economic growth decline to take part in the gold standard ranking, we believe it will be detrimental to those nations and to India as a whole,” read the official statement by THE when the controversy over transparency erupted. In an email interview with the Free Press Journal, THE said that it hopes and expects IITs to take part in the 'vital exercise of benchmarking against rigorous, trusted and globally accepted performance data.'

7 IITs take part as India remains 6th most represented

Though older and known IIT institutions might not stop giving the rankings a slip in the near future, IIT Ropar 501-600), IIT Indore (601-800), IIT Gandhinagar ((801-1000), IIT Patna (801-1000), IIT Bhubaneswar (1001-1200, IIT Mandi (1001-1200) have continued with the tradition of taking part in the controversial rankings.

Apart from 7 IITs, 75 institutes featured in THE’s 2023 ranking with India becoming the 6th most represented country in the list. In 2020, 56 universities participated, and just 31 in 2017, thus 2023 rankings saw a comparative rise.

JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research, Mysore, Karnataka; Shoolini University of Biotechnology and Management Sciences, Solan, Himachal Pradesh; Alagappa University, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu, and Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU), Kottayam, Kerala, are the other four Indian universities, apart from IISC, that made the list of the top 500 universities in the world. Nine Indian colleges are now ranked in the top 600 worldwide, compared to only six the year before, while 22 universities made it below rank 800.

Global leaders from the UK, US continue to dominate

Globally, the University of Oxford maintained its top position for the eighth year in a row, while the University of Cambridge moved up from joint fifth place to joint third. With 177 institutions included in the overall ranking list, the US is the nation with the greatest representation. A record 1,799 universities from 104 nations and regions are ranked, which is an increase of 137 over the previous year.

The parameters on which the institutes are ranked are teaching (30%), research (30%), citations (30%), international outlook (7.5%), and industry outcome (2.5%). In teaching and research, 15% weightage each depends on a “reputational survey”.

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