In the India’s top-ranked private autonomous colleges 2021-22 survey sample respondents included – 1,823 academics and 2,133 final year college students in 21 states — have awarded six seats at the Top 10 table of private autonomous colleges to Christian minority promoted institutions.
As noted in our commentary in the EducationWorld India league table of the country’s most admired privately-promoted autonomous undergrad colleges last year, these league tables were dominated by institutions promoted by India’s small minority (2.3 percent) Christian community. This year as well, the national Top 10 table is dominated by men and women of cassock and habit. The 2021-22 sample respondents — 1,823 academics and 2,133 final year college students in 21 states — have awarded six seats at the Top 10 table of private autonomous colleges to Christian minority promoted institutions.
At a time in the nation’s history when Hindu majoritarian fever is spreading across the country, it would be apposite to appreciate the beneficial role that higher education institutions promoted by the Christian minority has played in educating and nurturing India’s 300 million-strong middle class — among the largest worldwide — which has powered the growth, even if unsatisfactory, of industry and the economy during the past 70 years.
In the 2021-22 league table of autonomous colleges, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai (SXM, estb. 1869) has retained its last year’s rank as the country’s premier private autonomous arts, science and commerce undergrad college with top scores under four of the six parameters of higher education excellence, viz, faculty competence, faculty welfare and development, industry placement, and leadership/ governance. Dr. Rajendra Shinde, the cooperative principal of SXM, attributes this 151-year-old college’s continuous top ranking to its administration and faculty’s capability to respond to needs of changing times.
“We are fortunate this institution attracts committed and dedicated faculty open to adopting new pedagogies and technologies to ensure that students receive a valuable and enjoyable education experience. We are also fortunate that SXM is the first choice of top-ranked school-leaving students who are receptive to innovative pedagogies and enthusiastic about making the most of their college education. These are the prime factors behind our continuously high ranking in the annual EducationWorld and other media rankings,” says Shinde, himself a graduate of SXM who served on the college faculty for 27 years before he was appointed principal of his alma mater in 2018.
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Shinde admits that the past year during which it was shut down for the entire year was unprecedented for this vintage college whose alumni includes the late outstanding jurist Nani Palkhivala, best-selling author Rohinton Mistry, industrialist Mukesh Ambani and test cricket star Sunil Gavaskar among scores of other luminaries.
“Though we were all — faculty and students — forced to shift to online teaching-learning for the first time, after some initial hiccups, with the help of a massive training drive our faculty mastered several new technologies. After that, through digitally-driven programs such as flipped classroom, giving students thought-provoking assignments, and convening online discussion forums, faculty and students were totally engaged in learning. The switch to online learning also provided us the opportunity to invite numerous special guest speakers and lecturers. Although science students missed hands-on lab experience, they were enabled to access various online projects and experiments. Moreover, regularly administered, innovative online tests have ensured minimal loss of learning,” says Shinde who adds that SXM is the sole college in Mumbai to be included in the NIRF Top 100 league table of the Union education ministry.
Although SXM and St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru at #2 have retained their 2020- 21 rankings, there are three new entrants at top table. St. Xavier’s, Kolkata ranked #6 last year has been voted #3 by this year’s sample respondents, and Loyola College, Chennai is promoted from #8 to #4 (and #1 in Tamil Nadu superseding Madras Christian College) in 2021-22.
Moreover two all-women’s colleges have been promoted to the Top 5 with Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru retaining its #4 rank and the Chennai-based Stella Maris College awarded a big promotion to #5 all-India (and #2 in Tamil Nadu) from a modest #14 last year.
Surprisingly despite — or perhaps because of — their laudable contribution to Indian education many men and women of the cloth who head these top-ranked missionary colleges established in the heyday of the British Raj, are susceptible to pride, often singled out as the deadliest of the seven deadly sins in the Bible and Christian theological literature.
“What the weak head with strongest bias rules, is pride, the never-failing vice of fools”, wrote Alexander Pope the 18th century English poet and satirist. Repeated attempts to convey good tidings by email, telecom etc and elicit reactions and comment from the principals of the St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and Stella Maris, Chennai didn’t merit any acknowledgement or courteous response.
The remaining places at the Top 10 table are allotted to Madras Christian College, Chennai at #6 (cf. #3 in 2020-21), Mithibai College, Mumbai #7 (5); Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kochi #8 (7) and #1 in Kerala jointly with the previously unranked Narsee Monjee College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai which was recently conferred autonomous status; R.A. Podar College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai at #9 (5) and St. Ann’s College for Women, Hyderabad #10 (6). It’s noteworthy that three all-women’s colleges, which are popularly believed to be obsolete, are ranked among the Top 10 nationally and St. Ann’s, Hyderabad #1 in Telangana (pop.40 million).
Beyond the Top 10 table of private autonomous colleges only Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram #11 (13) and Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai which has risen high in esteem of the informed public and is ranked #18 (36) have improved their ranking in 2021-22. The rest have been obliged to cede modest ground because of the promotion of several dark horse undergrad arts, science and commerce colleges.
In the next tier among private autonomous undergrad colleges which have impressed this year’s sample respondents are JSS College for Women, Mysuru ranked #21 (26); Dr. N.G.P Arts & Science College, Coimbatore #24 (28) and the previously unranked Akkineni Nageswara Rao College, Krishna Dist, Andhra Pradesh at #26.
A striking feature of the EW 2021- 22 league table of the country’s Top 230 privately promoted arts, science and commerce colleges is that the overwhelming majority of them are sited in the southern peninsula states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and Telangana. Colleges of the country’s most populous and politically dominant states are a rare and low-ranked minority.
Thus the top-ranked private college granted autonomous status by UGC in Uttar Pradesh (pop.215 million) is the Ewing Christian College, Prayagraj (EWC, formerly Allahabad) at #51. The aggregate score awarded to EWC by this year’s 3,956 respondents is 480 cf. the top-ranked St. Xavier’s, Mumbai’s 612.
Similarly, the premier college in Bihar (pop.127 million) is St. Xavier’s College of Education, Patna ranked #76 with an aggregate score of 452. The top-ranked private autonomous college in Madhya Pradesh (pop.86 million) is the Bhopal School of Social Sciences ranked #38 (494) and in Rajasthan (pop.82 million), it’s S.S. Jain Subodh P.G. College, Jaipur #18 (524).
Clearly there is a substantial north-south collegiate divide within the country that needs to be urgently addressed.