India’s top private engineering & technology universities 2023-24

EducationWorld May 2023 | Cover Story Magazine

In this issue we have rated and ranked 36 private engineering and technology universities which provide superior quality education and have been awarded deemed university status

BITS-Pilani's Prof. Ramgopal Rao (centre): IITs parity

BITS-Pilani’s Prof. Ramgopal Rao (centre): IITs parity

In all assessments about the growth and development potential of Indian industry and emergence of India as a superpower of the 21st century, the country’s Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) are given pride of place. But the reality is that the country’s 23 IITs and 31 NITs admit only 32,000 school-leavers per year, i.e, 2 percent of the 1.6 million who write their JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) followed by the IIT Advance exams — widely regarded the world’s toughest higher education entrance exams. The remaining 1.28 million school-leavers who opt for engineering and technology education are absorbed by the country’s 3,415 other government and private engineering colleges — some of the latter grudgingly designated ‘deemed’ universities for the superior education they provide. And of these other engineering and technology higher education institutions (HEIs), the privately promoted constitute a clear majority.

That’s why when the sui generis EducationWorld India Higher Education Rankings (EWIHER) were conceptualised and introduced in 2013, we have awarded pride of place to private engineering colleges and universities which are separately rated and ranked. Indeed, IITs and NITs are deliberately excluded from our league tables. Firstly, because they admit a very small and top-ranked minority of school leavers, and secondly because they routinely top the league tables of all media publications as also rankings published by government. Therefore right from the start we have omitted the IITs and NITs from the annual EWIHER. Our prime objective is to aid and enable the remainder 98 percent who don’t make it into the prized IITs and NITs to make an informed choice of an engineering HEI.

In our previous issue (April) we ranked the country’s most respected engineering colleges which admit school-leavers into undergraduate study programmes. In this issue, we have rated and ranked 36 private engineering universities. These institutions provide superior quality engineering and technology education and have been awarded ‘deemed-to-be-university’ aka deemed university status, empowered to award their own degrees and diplomas.

On the other hand, undergrad colleges are obliged to award degrees of the universities to which they are affiliated, although autonomous public and private colleges are also permitted to inscribe their names on university degrees. However unlike public (government) universities, deemed universities are not permitted to affiliate any colleges. Nor are they permitted to describe themselves as universities simpliciter. They are obligated to use the word ‘deemed’ and until recently the elongated ‘deemed-to-be-university’ in their titles.

Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology, Patiala: retained ranking

Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology, Patiala: retained ranking

These petty slights dictated by UGC babus rankle. For instance, for a brief while when the often top-ranked Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE, estb.1953), conferred deemed university status in 1993, started describing itself as Manipal University without proclaiming its deemed status, it was censured by UGC. Since then it has reverted to describing itself as MAHE although to all intents and purposes it functions as an autonomous private university.

Perhaps aware of the petty-mindedness of UGC and official educracy, the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS-Pilani), established by the legendary India Inc pioneer G.D. Birla, which was conferred university status way back in 1964, has never attempted to proclaim itself a university. And over the past almost hundred years, it has built itself a formidable reputation as the private sector response to the IITs and IISc (Indian Institute of Science).

In the annual EWIHER, BITS-Pilani has been consistently ranked India’s #1 private engineering and technology university. This year as well it is ranked #1 with top scores under eight of the 12 parameters of higher education excellence devised by EducationWorld/C fore. This despite maintaining a determinedly low public and media profile during the reign of Dr. Souvik Bhattacharrya (2016-2023).

Institutional image projection policy is likely to change under Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao, an alum of IIT-Bombay and Universitat der Bundeswehr, Munich, Germany with a long service record in IIT-Bombay and hitherto Director of IIT-Delhi, who was appointed vice chancellor of BITS-Pilani on March 1 this year. That’s because almost imperceptibly this private university has transformed into a sprawling academic transnational with campuses in Goa, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Dubai with an aggregate 18,000 students mentored by 900 faculty. The 3,600 school-leavers of 200,000 aspirants who pass its rigorous online entrance examination have the option to select a campus of their choice.

Yet despite almost all knowledgeable academics readily conceding that BITS-Pilani is on a par with the premier IITs and IISc, Bangalore, in the Union education ministry’s National Institutional Ranking Framework of India’s Top 100 Engineering HEIs dominated by IITs and NITs, BITS-Pilani is ranked a lowly #29, below Jadavpur, Kolkata and Shiksha ‘O’ Anusandhan, Odisha, a phenomenon Prof. Rao attributes to “low public profile.”

However, the carefully constituted EducationWorld sample respondents database comprising 4,223 knowledgeable university faculty, final year students and industry leaders have had no hesitation about voting BITS-Pilani India’s #1 Private Engineering & Technology University last year and again in 2023-24.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that BITS-Pilani is a globally benchmarked engineering and technology HEI on a par with the best IITs. This is because of the very high quality of meritorious students we admit every year and our rigorous faculty search and selection process. This university is also quickly moving with the temper of the times. With the national focus on research and innovation, right now we have 1,800 research students reading for their Ph Ds. Moreover with the NEP 2020 having mandated all HEIs to transform into multi-disciplinary universities, we have already introduced business management, law and science and biology schools on our campuses. Even before NEP 2020 smoothed the way for foreign universities to enter India, we entered into a comprehensive collaboration, twinning and joint degree programmes all the way up to Ph Ds with the high-ranked RMIT University, Australia, and are negotiating more collaboration agreements with several American universities. Moreover we have drawn up a plan to recruit a substantial number of South Asian academics from the US and UK to return and serve with us. All this will require raising our public profile. BITS-Pilani is at an inflection point,” says Ramgopal Rao.

With BITS-Pilani continuing to chair the top table of private engineering and tech universities, there’s been minor rearrangement of seating at top table. Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology, Patiala has retained its #2 ranking which it is obliged to share with the Vellore Institute of Technology promoted from #3 in 2022-23. The Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar (Gujarat) is given a big promotion to #3 (5), a rank it shares with the highly-rated IIIT, Hyderabad (4). SRM Institute of Science & Technology, Chennai is ranked #4 and the (independent) Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra (Ranchi) and SASTRA Deemed University jointly ranked #5 complete the Top 5.

Further down the Top 10 table, BML Munjal University, Gurugram ranked #6 shows steady progress and PES University, Bengaluru at #7 (11), Lovely Professional University at #8 (21) have risen sharply in the esteem of the informed public. Ditto Saveetha Institute of Medical and Technical Sciences, Chennai #8 (12) and Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida #10 (13) who complete the Top 10.

Dr. Aman Mittal, vice president of the high-profile and well-advertised Lovely Professional University, Phagwara (Punjab), is cheered by LPU’s zooming advance up the EW league table, from #52 in 2020-21 to #21 in 2022-23 to #8 this year.

LPU's Mittal (centre right): infrastructure investment

LPU’s Mittal (centre right): infrastructure investment

“This is the outcome of recruiting highly qualified faculty; establishing strong bonds with leading companies to provide students internships and hands-on training; signing collaborations with several foreign universities to promote academic exchanges, joint research, and cross-cultural learning, and substantial investment in various student support services such as career counseling, mentoring, and financial aid. Moreover, we have made significant investments in building world-class infrastructure — modern classrooms, labs, libraries, and sports facilities — to enrich the overall learning experience of our students,” says Mittal, an alum of the Thapar Institute of Engineering, Patiala and Southampton University, appointed VP of this fast-track institute which has an aggregate enrolment of 35,000 students, in 2021.

According to Mittal, following NEP 2020 mandating all engineering and tech universities to transform into multidisciplinary institutions, LPU is “well-prepared” to make this transition. “We have already started offering interdisciplinary programs that combine multiple fields of study and promote cross-disciplinary research. We have also established centres of excellence that focus on specific research areas and collaborate with other academic institutions and industry partners,” he says.

Nor is Mittal fazed by the prospect of foreign universities establishing campuses in India. “I believe we are well-prepared to meet this challenge as LPU has already signed collaboration agreements with several foreign universities. We have also developed our internationalisation strategy to expand our global outreach, enhance our cross-cultural competencies, and build partnerships with leading universities and organisations worldwide. We are prepared for foreign competition,” adds Mittal.

Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida: UP #1

Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida: UP #1

The number of private engineering and technology HEIs conferred deemed university status is small. A mere 36 HEIs awarded university status by UGC are sufficiently well-known to be included in the EW national league table this year. However, it should be borne in mind that private HEIs awarded university status which are modestly ranked nationally, may well be heavyweights in their host states. For instance, the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida ranked #10 nationally is the #1 private technology varsity of Uttar Pradesh (pop.215 million), and University of Engineering & Management, Kolkata #21 is the premier engineering and technology private university of West Bengal (pop.91 million).


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