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Issues with the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) Rankings


The National Institution Ranking Framework (NIRF), established by the Ministry of Education, recently announced its national rankings for universities which have been found flawed by various experts.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How does the NIRF ranking of institutes work and what are the issues associated with it?
  2. What are the consequences of flawed rankings?
  3. What measures can be taken to enhance the NIRF Ranking system?

How does the NIRF ranking of institutes work and what are the issues associated with it?

The NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) ranks institutes in India based on various categories and disciplines. However, there are certain issues associated with the ranking methodology. Here’s an overview:

Ranking Methodology:
  • The NIRF ranks institutes based on their total score, which is determined using five indicators with different weightages: Teaching, Learning & Resources, Research and Professional Practice, Graduation Outcomes, Outreach and Inclusivity, and Perception.
  • These indicators focus heavily on research and professional practices, primarily utilizing bibliometric measures such as the number of papers published and citations received. Other forms of intellectual contributions, like books, monographs, and non-traditional outputs, are often sidelined.
Issues with NIRF Ranking:
  • Research Bias: The evaluation methodology places significant emphasis on research output, primarily measured through bibliometric indicators. This approach may not fully capture the diverse range of intellectual contributions, including non-research forms, and can lead to a bias towards certain types of research.
  • Inadequate Evaluation: Some argue that a more comprehensive evaluation methodology is needed to assess institutes. Solely relying on bibliometrics might overlook important aspects like the quality and impact of research, collaborative efforts, and contributions to society beyond academia.
  • Lack of Subject Expertise: The reliance on bibliometric indicators is driven by their efficiency and convenience, as they can be easily quantified. However, this approach may neglect the expertise and nuanced assessments that subject experts can provide, resulting in a limited evaluation of an institute’s overall performance.
  • Resource and Time Constraints: Qualitative assessments performed by subject experts require more resources and time compared to bibliometrics. The allure of using bibliometrics lies in its efficiency, but it may not provide a comprehensive understanding of an institute’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is important to note that bibliometrics can be valuable tools for assessing research output, but when used as the primary evaluation method, they may not capture the full range of an institute’s intellectual contributions and performance. There is a need for a balanced and inclusive evaluation methodology that considers multiple dimensions of an institute’s achievements.

What are the consequences of flawed rankings?

  • Misleading Prospective Students and Parents: Flawed rankings can misrepresent the quality and reputation of institutions. This can mislead prospective students and parents in their decision-making process, leading them to choose institutions based on inaccurate or incomplete information.
  • Unfair Competition and Incentives: Rankings can create a competitive environment where institutions feel pressured to manipulate data or focus on specific indicators to improve their ranking. This can lead to unhealthy competition and a diversion of resources away from areas that are crucial for institutional growth and development.
  • Undermining Credibility: Flawed rankings undermine the credibility and usefulness of the ranking framework itself. If rankings are not perceived as accurate and reliable, they lose their value as a tool for assessing and comparing institutions. This can erode trust in the ranking system and make it less effective in providing meaningful insights.
  • Neglecting Comprehensive Excellence: Rankings that heavily emphasize certain indicators or overlook important aspects of institutional excellence, such as innovation, diversity, social impact, and community engagement, fail to provide a holistic view of an institution’s strengths and contributions. This limits the understanding of an institution’s overall performance and its impact beyond traditional metrics.
  • Impact on Foreign Institutions: Flawed rankings can also affect the perception, reputation, and competitiveness of foreign educational institutions that establish campuses or collaborations in a country. If the ranking framework is flawed or biased, it may unfairly disadvantage foreign institutions, hindering their ability to attract students and partnerships.

What measures can be taken to enhance the NIRF Ranking system?

Nurturing Faculty Research:

  • Institutions should provide adequate resources, incentives, and recognition to support faculty research output.
  • This includes funding for research projects, access to research facilities and equipment, opportunities for collaborations, and recognition of research achievements through awards and promotions.

Balanced Evaluation Criteria:

  • Bibliometrics should not be used as the sole criteria for evaluation.
  • Instead, a combination of metrics and qualitative assessments, such as peer review, should be employed to make informed decisions about the quality and impact of research output.

Institutional Repository:

  • Establishing an institutional repository can serve as a platform to showcase and disseminate research publications and their impact.
  • This can enhance the visibility and accessibility of the institution’s research output, contributing to its reputation and influence in the academic community.

Improving Teaching-Learning Process:

  • Institutions should focus on enhancing the teaching-learning process by developing outcome-based curricula, incorporating innovative pedagogies, and actively seeking student feedback.
  • This can ensure that students receive a high-quality education and have a positive learning experience.

Enhancing Graduation Outcomes:

  • Institutions should strive to improve graduation outcomes by enhancing placement services, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, and providing opportunities for higher education and skill development.
  • This can enhance the employability and future prospects of students.

Promoting Outreach and Inclusivity:

  • Institutions should actively work towards increasing diversity among students, faculty, and staff.
  • Engaging with local and global communities through collaborative initiatives, community service, and research partnerships can promote inclusivity and broaden the institution’s impact beyond its campus.

Transparency in Rankings:

  • NIRF Rankings, or any ranking system, should be transparent about the data they collect, the methodology used, and how that data is utilized to calculate the total score.
  • This transparency can help institutions understand the ranking process and identify areas for improvement.

-Source: Indian express

December 2023