The QS World University Rankings 2018 is out. This is a ranking of the highest education centres – universities – carried out annually with utmost rigour and precision across the world and informs the intertiol students-teachers-researchers-public intellectuals community of the standards set by universities right from America to Asia to Australia through Europe and Africa in their endeavour to contribute to their respective countries’ sustaible development and the welfare of the world at large in its stride towards a better realm of human existence. So what is the QS information? A very heartening one for the US and Europe as usual, but more heartening for the soaring Asian giant, Chi, now poised to take the scientific-technological world by surprise. But first news first. The 10 top universities are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Harvard University, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University College London (UCL), Imperial College of London, University of Chicago, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or ETH Zurich – in that order. That five out of the 10 best universities in the world are in its soil must not have taken the US by any astonishment, given its earlier records and the ability of its academia to help the records sustain in a remarkable fashion. After all, the likes of MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Caltech and Chicago, along with other giants like Princeton, Columbia and Cornell, have always shown the way as far as both the sciences-technologies and humanities domains go. They are world leaders in that sense, proven not just by their exceptiolly ingenious teaching methodologies and research expertise but also by the sheer number of Nobels they have earned. (How can one forget that it was the University of Chicago that opened up to India-born physicist S Chandrasekhar to undertake groundbreaking astrophysics research that helped him win the Nobel in Physics in 1983?) But what is indeed remarkable is that Chinese universities should steal the show. This is itself a story – in the making – nonetheless.
Our Varsity Shame
What is that story? First the mes of some starry Chinese universities in the top 100 global list: Tsinghua University (25), Peking University (38), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (62), tiol Taiwan University (68), Zhejiang University (87), and some others. The six metrics used in the QS Rankings along with weightage are academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty-student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), intertiol faculty ratio (5%) and intertiol students ratio (5%). Maximum weightage has been given to academic reputation, which, from the QS Rankings point of view, and very rightly so, is teaching and research expertise. The next weightages are for faculty-student ratio and citations per faculty. All of this points to what a university should essentially be: 1) an excellent and proven track record of both innovative teaching methodologies and ingenious research paradigms, all of which go into the making of a real knowledge society ultimately; 2) availability of a faculty member to a small group of students, averaging 10 or so at best, so that the burden of teaching is reduced and teaching becomes both focussed and entertaining; and 3) research papers brought out by faculty members along with their PhD students in intertiol jourls of repute, all of which, in one way or the other, contribute meaningfully to the generation of greater and deeper knowledge and insight into the mysteries of life, existence, and the universe of matter and energy. In all of these, the Chinese universities in question have proven themselves – that, of all, they are mes to reckon with in the theatre of intertiol intellectualism. And now we have this news, too, that Chi has outsmarted Britain as one of the top education destitions of Indian students! As of now, there are reportedly 18,171 Indian students in Chi pursuing higher education, mostly in medicine followed by engineering, against 18,015 in the UK. In 2015, India was among the top 10 tions sending the highest number of students to Chi. Today Chi is the third most favoured tion among Indian students, next only to the US and the UK.
And where do we stand in the intertiol university education scerio? As the world’s second most populous country where there is no dearth of pompous politicians trumpeting our knowledge society march and eloquent about our rivalry with Chi in the economic sphere, and where we boastfully talk of the IITs and the IIMs, India does not have any of its universities even in the top 150 list. There are just three between ranks 150 and 200: IIT-Delhi (172), IIT-Bombay (179) and IISc-Bangalore (190). How shameful is this when a tiny state like Singapore boasts of two of its universities in the top 20 list: nyang Technological University (11) and the tiol University of Singapore (15)! Want more shame, despite our sham of being a knowledge power in the making? Here is another fact of life then: even the tiny Hong Kong boasts of at least three in the top 50 list. These are the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the City University of Hong Kong. What a pity for our higher education ‘specialists’ that even institutions, famous and adored otherwise by one and all here, such as Bares Hindu University and Delhi University are ranked below 450! Our engineering aspirants toil so hard, coughing up astronomical amounts in coaching institutes, for berths in the otherwise ‘prestigious’ BITS, Pilani if they have doubts about making it to the IITs. But what is BITS’s intertiol rank? It is below 800! And what about the universities that adorn our Northeast – where it is higher education that must be the topmost priority in any development discourse? They stand virtually nowhere. This is a very, very serious food for thought for at least Gauhati University – the oldest in Northeast India, whose first VC was the intertiolly acclaimed Indologist Prof KK Handique. Think hard. It is not difficult to realize what has gone so terribly wrong. We shall follow the issue up in our future commentaries in this column.