The fifth edition of the NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) Rankings 2020 released by the Union ministry of human resource development on June 11 has generated considerable excitement in some higher education institutions (HEIs), especially government colleges and universities.
This year, a total of 3,771 institutions (294 universities, 1,071 engineering institutions, 630 business schools, 334 pharmacy and 97 law colleges, 118 medical and 48 architecture colleges and 1,659 general degree colleges) submitted data to the HRD ministry to be ranked in NIRF 2020. In all, 5,805 HEIs submitted data in prescribed formats to become eligible for inclusion in NIRF’s ‘overall’ Top 200 league table and in each category.
They were assessed under five broad parameters — teaching, learning and resources; research and professional practice; graduation outcomes; outreach and inclusivity and public perception — with institutions in each discipline required to submit documentary evidence of academic attainments. The number of participating institutions increased by 644 over last year.
However, although detailed and elaborate, the NIRF league tables have not resonated with the public because the ranks awarded defy not only the perceptions of informed educationists, but all common sense. For instance the Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani, (BITSP, estb.1964) is inexplicably ranked as low as #30 although it is widely acknowledged as an engineering university on a par with the IITs. In the latest EducationWorld India Private Higher Education Rankings 2020-21 (EWIPHER) BITS-P is ranked India’s #2 private university and #1 private engineering college. But in NIRF 2020, the Amrita School of Engineering (20) and the parvenu IIT-Patna are ranked higher than BITS-P.
Ditto in the NIRF B-schools league table. The B-schools of IITKharagpur (#5) and IIT-Delhi (#8) are ranked above the well-reputed S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai (#18) and the B-school of Jamia Millia Islamia (#34) is ranked above IMT-Ghaziabad (#37), although the latter has a national reputation for excellent delhi Education News research and faculty. In EWIPHER, IMT-G is ranked #5 among India’s private B-schools.
The infirmity of the NIRF Rankings is that “participating institutions” — assessment is voluntary — are obliged to submit dozens of data sets in prescribed formats for evaluation of the quality of their teaching, learning and research capabilities. Nor is the identity of assessors specified.
The unique feature of the NIRF Rankings is that these Union HRD ministry rankings are awarded entirely on the basis of data submitted by HEIs themselves with institutions even obliged to assess public perception suo motu. Although participating institutions are warned that the information submitted by them is subject to cross-checking and audit, the process permits a high degree of subjectivity. Unsurprisingly, a large number of top-ranked private HEIs — Ashoka University, Indian School of Business among others — don’t participate in this official annual rankings exercise because the ministry’s anti-private sector bias is self-evident.
“The NIRF Rankings are a joke because it is plainly a self-assessment exercise, with cursory if any audit of the data submitted by HEIs. The world’s most respected university rankings conducted by globally reputed agencies including QS and Times Higher Education are based on the perceptions of several thousand knowledgeable sample respondents including vice chancellors, faculty, and industry leaders mixed with objective data evaluated for research and publications. Given the unique NIRF assessment methodology, it’s unsurprising that many excellent HEIs don’t participate, and the NIRF rankings awarded to some HEIs are absurd,” says Premchand Palety, promoter-CEO of the Delhibased Centre for Forecasting & Research Pvt. Ltd (C fore, estb.2000), one of India’s most respected market research and opinion polls company which also conducts the annual EducationWorld India Higher Education Rankings.
For the EWIHER Rankings 2020- 21, C fore field personnel interviewed 16,054 sample respondents comprising vice chancellors, faculty, industry leaders and senior students.
Autar Nehru (Delhi)