7 Reasons why the New National Institutional Ranking Framework is a Good Idea

The Ranking Hullabaloo

We regularly receive requests from parents and students enquiring about how an institution is ranked compared to its peers. And this is one question we always try and avoid answering. Simple reason - in our view there is no ranking system that we can confidently put our faith in and advise people based on that. The UGC and MHRD did not have any ranking mechanism for colleges or institutes until now. However, every year, we are bombarded with college / institutional rankings by different publishing houses. The wide variations among these rankings further compounds the problem. Many times this leaves the gullible students and their parents utterly confused. It has been felt that the existing ranking and assessment systems do not necessarily represent the practicalities of a complex education system as in India.

UGC's Approach Until Now – NAAC And Its Dismal Success

In 1994, UGC started National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body to assess and accredit institutions of higher education in the country. NAAC's mission is "To make quality the defining element of higher education in India through a combination of self and external quality evaluation, promotion and sustenance initiatives." NAAC facilitates the volunteering institutions to assess their performance vis-a-vis set parameters through introspection and a process that provides space for participation of the institution. Accreditation Grades awarded are A, B, C, D denoting Very Good, Good, Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory respectively. This is a voluntary activity. And the uptake has been rather dismal. As per NAAC report, there were only 134 Universities (18.2%) out of 736 having accreditation as on 14th Sep 2015. After 21 years of NAAC being formed, if this is the uptake, it leaves a lot to ponder over.

The New Initiative – NIRF

Ministry of Human resource Development, Govt of India, has now launched National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) on 29 Sep 2015. To start with, this framework has been defined for Engineering and Management institutions and is likely to be devised for other domains as well.

  • Specifically developed for and by Indian institutions
  • Outlines the methodology for ranking institutes across the country (divided in Category A and Category B). Cat A is for institutions which are engaged in both Research and Teaching, and Cat B for those primarily engaged in Teaching
  • Covers 5 broad parameters (with sub components having different weightages)

  1. Teaching, Learning and Resources

  2. Focus : Numbers and quality of faculty, library and lab resources and general facilities for development of young persons
    Sub parameters : (a) Faculty Student Ratio (b) Faculty Qualifications and Experience (c) Library and Laboratory Facilities (d) Facilities for Sports and Extra-Curricular Activities
  3. Research and Professional Practices

  4. Focus : Quantity and quality of research output as seen through international data bases, IPR generation and interface with industry and fellow professionals
    Sub parameters : (a) Peer-Reviewed Publications (b) Citations of Research (c) IPR and Patents (d) Collaborative Work (e) Research Funding and Consulting.
  5. Graduation Outcomes

  6. Focus : Student graduation rate and their success in finding appropriate placement in industry and Government or taking up higher studies.
    Sub parameters : (a) Public and University Examinations (b) Placement, Higher Studies and Entrepreneurship (c) Mean Compensation Package.
  7. Outreach and Inclusivity

  8. Focus : Representation of women and socially challenged persons in student and/or faculty populations, and also on outreach activities of the institution.
    Sub parameters : (a) Outreach (b) Region Diversity (c) Representation of Women (d) Socially Challenged Students (e) Facilities for Physically Challenged Students
  9. Perception

  10. Focus : Perception of the institution by its stakeholders

    Our Take

    This is a very welcome step. First and foremost, it focuses on outcomes based approach – not just on physical infrastructure.
    Second, it divides institutions in categories and assesses/ranks them within their league, thus ensuring a level playing field.
    Third, there are clearly spelt out evaluation parameters. And not just the parameters but also the methodology to be adopted for assessment against those. Opacity and subjectivity are therefore done away with.
    Fourth, key inclusiveness parameters are included. These are important for India, given our complex and diverse socio-economic-cultural setup.
    Fifth, non-academic aspects (sports and extra curricular activities) are also given a consideration. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. And India does not want dull boys.
    Sixth, this being a system by India for India, it may sensitize a lot of institutions to do an introspection and thereby take measure for quality improvement. This will further enable them go for global ranking benchmarks as the next step.
    Seventh, and extremely important, it will lay to rest the tall and confusing ranking used by many institutions, thereby helping students and their parents.

    Will It Succeed?

    Having said the above, its success will depend upon cooperation of institutions and facilitation by the Govt bodies involved. Any good initiative can only be as good as the people running those and their genuine intent at making t succeed. Given the complexity and diversity prevalent, challenges are immense but where there is a will, there is a way. Hope this marks the beginning of a new large scale qualitative reforms chapter in higher education sector in India.

    About the blogger: Neelesh is the Co-Founder at MyExamPlan.com. He can be reached at neelesh@myexamplan.com

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