It has become a leitmotif of sorts—whether it is OECD’s PISA university rankings or, as it is the latest instance, the Times Higher Education rankings—no Indian university seems to make it to the top 100 worldwide year after year. The 2015 Times rankings place the US’s Harvard University at the top, followed by the UK’s University of Cambridge and University of Oxford.
The poor showing shames India’s rich institutional intellectual history—think Nalanda, the oldest university in the world. What makes matters worse is comparator economies like Brazil, China and Russia each have at least one varsity placed in the top 100. Of course, there have been claims that the international ranking systems often fail to contextualise their parameters to the the form of varsity education in India. But the fact remains, even for basic criteria, like research, infrastructure and student-teacher ratios, Indian universities don’t inspire much cheer. The only solace, in the case of the Times ranking, is that given the survey methodology and sample, it is possible that Indian varsities not receiving enough nominations from academics elsewhere could be a matter of being marketed at top-grade educational institutions, rather than a question of quality itself. Till an improved showing comes its way, India must remain content with the fact that its premier technological education institutions, the IITs, still find some mention, though in the lower ranks of the lists.