It has also emerged that it was one of Panjab University’s most high-profile alumni — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — who urged his alma mater to participate in the rankings.
Prof Arun K Grover, vice chancellor of Panjab University, said that while the university has been scoring high on research for a few years now, it was coaxed into participating in the rankings this time.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, higher education secretary in the union HRD ministry, Ashok Thakur, and higher education advisor in the Planning Commission, Pawan Agarwal, particularly wanted us to take part and so we did,” Grover told The Indian Express.
“The fact is that if the other universities in the country had the courage to pick up the proforma and send it to the rankings, we would have had at least 8-9 Indian institutes among the top 400.”
Citation record or citation impact refers to how widely the university’s research is being used and valued by the academic community around the world. Here, PU had a citation score of 84.7 while IIT-Kharagpur scored just 35.3, IIT-Kanpur 41.8, IIT-Delhi 38.5 and IIT-Roorkee 53.6.
Panjab University also did much better than the IITs on the ‘international outlook’ parameter, scoring 29.3 while the IITs had scores between 14.7 and 15.6.
That IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Delhi did not share their data on ‘industry outcome’ also hit their rankings. On teaching though, the three IITs in Delhi, Kharagpur and Kanpur did better than Panjab University.
Citation impact (normalized average citations per paper), research and international outlook together hold over 67 per cent weightage in determining the rankings. Teaching and industry outcome have 30 per cent and 2.5 per cent weightage respectively. In all, 21 Indian institutes participated in the THE rankings and only five of them made it, with Panjab University at the top.
Panjab University, incidentally, is no dark horse. While PU has not captured public imagination the way the universities of Delhi, Hyderabad or Pune have, it is a clear frontrunner when it comes to research.
“In the case of Panjab University - a new entrant to the tables this year thanks to it providing data to us for the first time - it has received an extremely impressive score for citation impact,” said Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings.
“Panjab also outperforms the IITs in its score for international outlook, which means it is attracting international students and staff, and collaborating with academics from across the globe more so than the IITs. All of this has contributed to Panjab University’s fantastic ranking position as number 1 in India - an achievement in real terms,” Baty told The Indian Express by email.
Baty also brushed aside the contention that IITs being smaller, specialist institutes may have suffered in the ranking process. He said the rankings are designed specifically to recognise excellence at all levels, regardless of the size of an institution.
Vice Chancellor Grover, however, is quick to set aside any comparison with the IITs.
“This is a futile comparison. Panjab University cannot compete with IITs in science & technology just as IITs cannot be compared with say Indian Institute of Science,” Grover said.
Nevertheless, PU overtaking the IITs, has come as a surprise.
Prof Pradipta Banerjee, director of IIT-Roorkee, said he was also ‘quite surprised’ and added that the IIT has been scoring high on research and citations.
“Having said that, it must be considered that in terms of research funding, perception management and so on, we do lag behind. While the IITs will possibly do much better if you compare hard data, on softer criteria like reputation/perception, we usually fall behind and this may need to be corrected,” Banerjee said.