Indian universities should invest far more in research

While some universities should focus on skills and training people for the jobs, others should focus on research and competing at the global level

IIT Bombay times ranking
File photo of IIT Bombay, which has been ranked among top 30 in the the TImes Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings for 2016.

“Why emerging economies need world-class universities?” This was the theme of the three-day Times Higher Education (THE) Summit 2015 that was held last week in Delhi where President Pranab Mukherjee described quality of education as a challenge in India. “Higher education sector in India must align itself to the world education sector,” he said. He also asked universities to encourage mobility of individuals across the world.

While along with President Mukherjee, many delegates including OP Jindal University’s founding chancellor Naveen Jindal and THE World University Rankings Editor Phil Baty spoke for world-class universities, New York University Shanghai’s vice-chancellor Jeffrey S Lehman questioned the durability of world-class universities. He said while we are making investments to create world-class universities, we should also think what will happen if the political climate changes, hinting at the interference of external or government’s influence in the education system.

Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings for 2016 were also released at the summit where 16 Indian educational institutes made to top 200 universities. While the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, made its debut in the top 20 and IIT Bombay occupied a space for itself in the top 30, China dominated the rankings by occupying first and second places. In the top 10, China has five of its institutes, followed by two from South Africa and one each from Russia, Taiwan and Brazil.

When asked what makes a university world-class, Phil Baty said that it is components such as teaching excellence, research experts and an environment producing new information. “Universities should have an international outlook,” Baty said. On the rankings, Baty added, “We are putting less emphasis on research and more on industry relations.”

Baty also said that a separate ranking system for BRICS and emerging economies is needed because many good universities generally get crowded out of world rankings because of dominance of other universities.

As far as the Indian education sector is concerned, Baty added that there is room for diversity. “While some universities should focus on skills and training people for the jobs, others should focus on research and competing at the global level. A country like India needs some of its universities to be of the global standards. If you focus only on the national role, you might lose sight on global. If India creates more world-class universities and good opportunities for teachers, the best faculty can be retained and global faculty can also be attracted.”

On the strengths and weaknesses of Indian universities, Baty said, “Indian universities have a very strong reputation of outstanding teaching standards. The weakness is that they do not invest enough in research.”

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First published on: 07-12-2015 at 00:02 IST