Even though most world university rankings often don’t factor in attributes of varsities that would be valued in the Indian context, the country’s poor showing in most such rankings has always been a sore point. It squarely hints at how far its institutions of higher learning are from meeting global standards. And yet, no one would deny that India contributes a significant chunk of the world’s highly-skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professionals and researchers, especially in information technology—which is why it is heartening that the country has finally found mention in the Times Higher Education Ranking for Engineering and Technology’s top-100, with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) placed 99th. It was clearly Asia’s year, with the US holding 31 positions—down from 34 last year—while Asia holds 25 positions in the top 100, up from 18 last year.
Though India barely scrapes through, the ranking is a testament to the growing culture of a premium being placed on technology research—IISc was ranked 11th in the world and 3rd in Asia by the QS World University Rankings 2014-15 for “citations per faculty.” Given how many of the varsities worldwide making the cut are private institutions, there is perhaps an important lesson to draw here. While most of India’s higher education institutions of renown are government-funded ones—there are many goals apart from academic excellence for such varsities, inclusion being one such—cutting edge research is increasingly becoming private sector-led. Many STEM varsities of global renown, in fact, have assumed a new role—as places where tech-led start-ups germinate. Perhaps, with greater liberalisation of its education sector, more Indian institutes could make the cut.