Why Don’t Indian Institutes Rank in World Ranking Forums

The Invisible Flipside of Indian Institutes

There are two sides to the coin to each problem. Understanding both showcases the maturity of the individual.

The first side of the coin is the problem with the World Ranking Forums.

They ignore any institution that does not have enough undergraduates. That means institutions such as IIMs, ISB IISc and IISERs are out of contention. Given various impediments, our universities don’t admit a lot of overseas students. Indian institutes don’t have a big culture of research grants and corporate funding for research. US universities get copious grants from NSF, NIH, DoD, etc apart from corporations such as Google, GE, IBM and FedEx.

The volume of citations and research volume is 60% of the score. Unlike the Universities in US and Europe with all academic disciplines, India emphasises more on the specialised institutions built around a single theme such as technology, management, sciences or medicine. That means the volume of research will be small, given that Indian institutions are way smaller in terms of staff & students. For instance, IIT Kanpur has about 5000 students, compared to Iowa State University’s 32000 students. When it comes to faculty, the ratio could be close to 1:10.

The Crushing Reality

The second side of the coin is the problem with the Indian institutions themselves. In the US and Europe, alumni give back to their university in the form of grants, donations and sometimes their entire property after death (if they are a loner). This money is harvested in hedge funds, startups and other investment avenues making it constantly grow. Harvard alone has $32 Billion in its endowments. Stanford has about $16 billion, and Yale has about $19 billion.

This money funds new infrastructure, research and faculty. In contrast, the entire expenditure on higher education in India by the government is about $3 billion/per year and all expenses on all education are about $10 billion. Almost all reputed universities in the UK and US are over a century old. Oxford was founded in 1167 AD, Cambridge in 1209, Harvard in 1636, Yale in 1701, etc.

Why Don't Indian Institutes Rank in World Ranking Forums
Image – DNA India

That means they have an accumulated benefit of centuries of wisdom, alumni, infrastructure and international reputation. It takes time to build a name and alumni. India’s top institutions are only decades old. The first IIT came only in 1951.

India’s top priority when it comes to higher education is to educate enough engineers, doctors and managers. This is because India needs enough nation builders given our state of the economy. At this stage of development (with a per-capita income hovering around $1200/person/year) it is wise to put money into educating professionals rather than research (can be a super-expensive game in many fields that needs a more significant chunk of India’s meagre budget).

Indian-educated students are a core part of the research elsewhere and they could be the conduits of tech transfer in the future. Also, given a better schooling system, undergraduate students in good US universities come better prepared and get better resources. Indian institutions often get unprepared students from poorer schools and it takes a lot of effort for Indian professors to make many undergraduate students realise the importance of computing.

In India, being a professor is not that attractive a job. A good software engineer could earn 4 times what a faculty at IIT earns. Given the poor pay and horrible politics, people tend to assume that teaching is the last option as a profession. This self-fulfilling vicious cycle provides us with poor faculty (both in pay and quality).

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