Yet another world university rankings has been published — The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2014-15 and it’s a familiar story again — no Indian institution in the top 200. Edex caught up with Phil Baty, Editor, THE, for a brief chat.
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, made its debut as the highest placed Indian institution at 276, followed by Panjab University at 300, IIT-Bombay at 351 and IIT-Roorkee at 400. Do you feel Indian institutions would do better if more of them participate in the rankings?
We are delighted that more and more Indian institutions have joined our rankings project in recent years, and that they have been willing to share detailed data to allow us to carry out this important analysis. We will ensure over time that India will be better represented in the rankings, as more join the project and more are able to gain valuable insights into their performance, using the global benchmarking data we offer.
The rankings place Panjab University ahead of some of the IITs, which many feel doesn’t reflect the actual state of affairs, as the IITs are much revered in India.
The THE World University Rankings are unique among the global rankings in that we allow smaller, more focussed universities to thrive. While most of the other big global rankings only really recognise large universities with high volume research, or give too much weight to subjective reputation surveys which tend to favour the large institution, THE ranking scales many of its indicators, so that smaller, specialist institutions can do well. IITs are indeed renowned institutions, and they are increasingly showing up in THE’s rankings — but perhaps the biggest challenge is that we give most weightage to excellence in research, whereas the IITs are best known for outstanding teaching. Panjab University has an excellent score for its research impact. That is why it is doing well in the THE World University Rankings.
Your thoughts on the remarkable debut of IISc?
It is great news that we were able to include IISc in the rankings for the first time this year, as it started to accept undergraduates (and that is a requirement of our rigorous rankings methodology). We have always known that is a world-renowned institution, as it always showed up in our reputation survey as the strongest university in India, so it is great news that it now gets the visibility and recognition it deserves with an appearance in the world rankings.
The strong points of Caltech, Harvard and Oxford, which have taken up the first three places in the rankings?
To reach the very top of the world rankings, you have to be absolutely outstanding, with high scores right across the 13 separate performance indicators the THE uses. These institutions perform well right across the board, for teaching and research and knowledge transfer.
Your comment on Asia’s stature and, in particular, Japan’s performance?
Japan has for a long time been the strongest nation in Asia for higher education — but this dominant position is increasingly under threat. While Japan has perhaps rested on its laurels and has allowed itself to become complacent and inward-looking, and while its universities have suffered from the wider economic problems of the country, other East Asian nations have been, in the past decade, investing vast sums of money in developing world class universities. Now we see China, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong as serious challengers to Japan’s crown.
The rankings say that London has the greatest concentration of world-class universities. How influential is this news going to be for aspirants?
London is the strongest city in the world for higher education — the combination of great traditions of learning and scholarship, great economic strength, and perhaps most importantly a high concentration of top international talent combine to create the perfect environment for world class universities. But the UK must not be complacent — other great powers are also emerging, and the UK must be clear in ensuring that its immigration policies do not force the world’s brightest talents to study or carry out their research in other countries if it wants to remain on top.
American and Canadian universities have slipped down in the rankings. According to you, what has contributed to this fall?
In the United States, while it is still utterly dominant in the rankings and has some of the best universities in the world, there is a clear problem for the great US state institutions – they are more dependent on public funding than their rich, private US counterparts, and they have suffered from serious under-investment in recent years, due to general austerity following the financial crisis. This has led to a brain drain and a dip in performance. Details at www.thewur.com.