- Intro – state the dismal picture of India’s higher education system.
- Briefly state about NIRF and its parameters.
- Pointwise bring out the shortcomings of the NIRF.
India lags on the indicator of educational attainment and literacy both in terms of quality and quantity, even after almost 75 years of independence. There are handful institutions that have in recent years outperformed others to reserve places in national and international ranks.
Only three universities in India could shine in the recent QS World Rankings, 2022 published by global higher education think-tank QS Quacquarelli Symonds. These are : Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
At the national level, the Union Education ministry publishes the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). This framework ranks 100 institutions under different categories over a comprehensive list of parameters divided into the following : (a) Teaching, (b) Learning and Resources, (c) Research and Professional Practice, (d) Graduation Outcomes, (d) Outreach and Inclusivity, (e) Peer Perception.
The institutes ranked well in this framework presents a reality that the Indian academic mass may hesitate to accept. This is because :
- Exclusive representation: An analysis of the inclusivity of the framework can be done based on its representativeness in quantity and quality terms.
- In quantity terms, contrasting the number of participating institutions with that of the existing number of institutions presents a worrying figure. There are 1,043 universities, 42,343 colleges and 11,779 stand-alone institutions, according to India Survey on Higher Education.
- In NIRF 2022 ranking for colleges, however, only 2,270 entries were made. This roughly accounts for 5% of the total colleges in India. Similar is the case for NIRF 2022 ranking in the “overall” category: 1,875 entries are made, which accounts for 3% of all the institutions in India.
- Flawed framework of assessment : The national metric presented by the different parameters of the NIRF is flawed in itself.
- NIRF ranks institutes in different categories to take into account the heterogeneity across disciplines. But it is also important to ensure equity in the assessment rather than just equality.
- In simpler terms, a mediocre college in the rural areas of India might have outperformed the top-ranked institutions in a framework that assesses the expected outcomes based on the resources, infrastructure and exposure available to it. Within the framework representation, there exists a huge performance gap.
- This significant difference creates serious policy questions of inequality in the performance of institutes.
- Skewedness: The report also highlighted that not only academic excellence (indicated by NIRF score) is concentrated in few institutions, but also in few states and cities. The major disadvantage of this unequal spread of quality academic opportunities also creates huge inequality in quality educational attainment and equity in rendering higher education services.
The above arguments shows the precarity of the scenario that this NIRF also needs immediate consideration and effective action.