Are Institutes' Rank Claims Misleading ?

I have been inundated lately by parents and students seeking clarity on choosing institutes and universities for Undergrad admissions. What intrigued me was how strongly they were influenced by the Ranks claimed by institutes. This drove me to analyze and put forth some of my findings.

Consider the following statements made by some institutes and universities very recently.  Most of these refer to NIRF Ranking 2017 released by National Institutional Ranking Framework, Govt of India.

Institute 1 : No. 1 not-for-profit Private University (Amity University)

Fact

a) All private universities in India are mandatorily not-for-profit. These have to be established by non- profit organizations / trusts.

b) NIRF has no ranking category called “not-for-profit Private University”.

c) NIRF ranks all types (State, Central, Deemed, Private) universities together in a single category named “University”.

d) The University that makes this claim does not appear even in the top 50 in NIRF’s “University” category ranks.

Institute 2 : No. 1 Private Engineering college in UP (GL Bajaj Institute of Technology and Management, Greater Noida)

Fact

a) The college claiming this does not appear anywhere even in top 100 in “College” category, nor even in “Engineering” category. And as per my knowledge, there is no other rank category where it could fit. I wonder what this claim is all about !

b) Secondly, there is no state level ranking – the very name itself is “National Institutional Ranking Framework” !

Institute 3 : Best Private University in Haryana (Maharishi Markandeshwar University, Mullana, Ambala, Haryana)

Fact

a) Firstly, as stated above, there is no state level ranking done under NIRF

b) Again, all types of universities (whether Private or Deemed or State or Central) are ranked together in a single category named “University”. There is no separate ranking for Private Universities.

Institute 4 : India’s Top Innovation University (Dayanand Sagar Univesrity, Bengaluru)

Fact

a) This claim was made by the University as a general statement, without specifying how it arrived at this “India’s top” rank and what does it signify !

b) It does not appear anywhere in top 100 in “University” category, nor in “Overall” category as far as NIRF rankings are concerned. And there is no other relevant NIRF category where it could possibly fit.

Our take

Why is this happening : While it’s tough for students to get into a good college after finishing schooling, it’s equally difficult for colleges and universities , especially Private  and Deemed,  to get good students and fill all their seats. This has driven many institutes to run huge advertisement campaigns wherein they claim “No. 1” status in something, howsoever flimsy or immaterial it may be.

Result - given our human nature, our mind retains the “No. 1” impression.

What do we parents or students need to do : Would you get excited if someone claimed, “I stood first among all the backbenchers in my class?” I am sure you will ignore such a claim before you even blink your eye.  Thus, as parents and students, we must :

    - use our common sense

    - verify the claims from appropriate sources and

    - seek written clarifications from the institutes before taking any decision.

Expectation from Govt : While the NIRF is an excellent initiative (read our earlier blog “7 Reasons why the New National Institutional Ranking Framework is a Good Idea” Published on 31-10-2015), the student community needs to be advised how the rankings are to be interpreted. Hence it would be good if NIRF runs a campaign (or releases 2 or 3 advertisements) during the admission season for educating the public at large. This will go a long way in ensuring that students are not mislead by twisted representation of facts.

Disclaimer:  This article is not written with the intention to favour or discredit any particular entity, institute or university.  The intention is rather to highlight certain marketing practices of institutes and universities wherein they use data sources to interpret and derive favourable rankings to their own benefit.

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