Explained | Here’s why Indian institutes – even IISc -were missing from Top 300 World Universities list

For the first time in seven years, no Indian institute features in the recently-announced Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. The rankings, that list the top 300 institutes in the world, look at academic output and also stress on research capabilities and citations.

Even the venerable Indian Institute of Science (IISc), which made it to the list last year, is missing this time around.

How is it that IISc too couldn’t make it? It may have slipped especially because of the parameters on which the institutes were judged. Read on, to know more.

Parameters

The rankings judge research-intensive universities across all their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Times Higher Education uses 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the comparisons.

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Source: Times Higher Education

Here, the performance indicators are grouped into five areas: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume, income and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff, students and research); and Industry Income (knowledge transfer).

Teaching

With respect to teaching, the WUR 2020 looks at different aspects including the learning environment, reputation, staff-to-student-ratio, doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio and institutional income.

When it comes to reputation, THE takes the help of the Academic Reputation Survey. This was conducted between November 2018 and March 2019. It examined the perceived prestige of institutions in teaching.

WUR 2020 also said that a high proportion of postgraduate research students suggests the provision of teaching at the highest level that is thus attractive to graduates. This indicator is normalised to take account of a university’s unique subject mix, reflecting that the volume of doctoral awards varies by discipline.

Further, the institutional income is scaled against the academic staff numbers and normalised for purchasing-power parity (PPP). This is an indication of an institution’s financial status. It also gives an understanding of the infrastructure and facilities available to students and staff.

Research

This indication looks at the reputation survey, research income and research productivity.

The most prominent indicator in this category looks at a university’s reputation for research excellence among its peers, based on the responses to the annual Academic Reputation Survey.

Further, the research income is scaled against academic staff numbers and adjusted for purchasing-power parity (PPP).

This indicator is also fully normalised to take account of each university’s distinct subject profile. This reflects that the research grants in science subjects are often bigger than those awarded for the highest-quality social science, arts and humanities research.

To measure productivity, the rankings look at the number of publications published in the academic journals indexed by Elsevier’s Scopus database per scholar, scaled for institutional size and normalised for subject. Higher the number of published papers, better it is.

Citations (research influence)

THE has a research influence indicator which looks at universities’ role in spreading new knowledge and ideas.

Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore which dropped out of the Top 300 list had a drop in citations mentioned as a reason for a lower ranking.

THE measures research influence by capturing the average number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally.

The citations help to show them to show much each university is contributing to the sum of human knowledge.

The data is normalised to reflect variations in citation volume between different subject areas. This means that institutions with high levels of research activity in subjects with traditionally high citation counts do not gain an unfair advantage.

International outlook

This criteria looks at the proportion of international students, global staff and global partnerships.

THE said that the ability of a university to attract undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty from all over the planet is key to its success on the world stage.

Industry income (knowledge transfer)

This category seeks to capture such knowledge-transfer activity by looking at how much research income an institution earns from industry (adjusted for PPP), scaled against the number of academic staff it employs.

It looks at how much are businesses ready to pay for research and what is the ability of an institute to attract funding.

Exclusions

Universities can be excluded from the World University Rankings if they do not teach undergraduates, or if their research output amounted to fewer than 1,000 relevant publications between 2014 and 2018 (with a minimum of 150 a year). Universities can also be excluded if 80 per cent or more of their research output is exclusively in one of our 11 subject areas.

Data collection–A grey area?

THE said that institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. It added that on rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, Times Higher Education enters a conservative estimate for the affected metric.

Interestingly, IIT Bombay has been ranked in the 401-500 bracket despite the institute not submitting data.  IIT Bombay has said in a statement that they have not submitted any data this year for WUR 2020. An email sent to the regional director of Times Higher Education did not elicit any response.

The calculation of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 is independently audited by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

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