While Higher Education Institutions from Tamil Nadu have performed well, they must look to improving further
India has been witnessing an unprecedented increase both in the number of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the volume of students entering them. This is bound to impact the quality of education. The Government of India’s emphasis on access, equity, expansion and excellence has led to notable achievements in the first three aspects. Despite the efforts of both Central and State Governments, quality enhancement has been a difficult task. Various statutory bodies such as UGC, AICTE, and MCI have made periodic prescriptions to improve quality of education.
Apart from the mandatory accreditations, in 2016, the Government of India instituted the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), an annual report card on the performance of the HEIs. The most recent edition saw the participation of over 3,700 institutions across different categories.
The NIRF ranks institutions based on five parameters: Teaching Learning and Resources (TLR), Research and Professional Practice (RP), Graduation Outcome (GO), Outreach and Inclusivity (OI)and Perception. This year there was a 20% increase in the number of participating institutions compared to last year.
According to the 2020 rankings, 18 universities from Tamil Nadu figured in the top 100 in the University category. Of these, eight — Anna University, Bharathiar University, University of Madras, Alagappa University, Bharathidasan University, Madurai Kamaraj University, Periyar University and Gandhigram Rural Institute — are government institutions while the rest are private.
The University of Madras, the oldest in the state, was ranked 22 nationally while Bharathiar University was 13th. Alagappa University, which was ranked 20th last year, dropped to 36th this year, despite an increase in public perception score. Madurai Kamaraj University, which was in the 45th position in 2019, slipped to 60th this year. Bharathidasan University improved its ranking from 60th place to 53rd with the perception score increasing from 24.1 to 40.9. However, despite the perception score increasing has Periyar University slipped from 68th rank to 83rd this year. The same thing happened to Gandhigram Rural Institute, which dropped from 74th position to 91st.
The results indicate that public universities fare better in research, professional practice, and graduation outcome and perception. While the scores in TLR and OI do not vary much among government universities, the variation in ranks is mainly due to scores in RPC and perception parameters.
Rising to the top
Among the colleges in Tamil Nadu, 32 fall in the top 100. Among these are four Government Arts colleges and nine women’s colleges. Presidency College, Chennai, has been ranked fifth nationally.
In the Engineering category, 17 institutions, including prestigious ones like IIT Madras and NIT Trichy and seven private deemed-to-be universities, are in the top 100. Last year, the number was 20. Among the 400+ self-financing colleges in the state, only three found a place in the top 100; a reflection of the trend in admission to engineering programmes in recent years.
Eight management institutes made it to the list compared to 10 in the last edition of NIRF. Seven medical institutions are listed, with Christian Medical College Vellore being ranked third at the All India level.
No law institution from the state found a place in the topper’s list in 2019 or 2020. Three architecture institutions, four dental institutions and nine pharmacy institutions were in the top institutes list in their respective categories.
The dominance of institutions from Tamil Nadu in the NIRF is mainly due to the awareness of the latest educational trends, timely and proper conduct of exams, fruits of reservation percolating down and the perception of employers.
For institutions to improve their ranking, they should ensure cent per cent enrolment of students, adequate experienced and qualified faculty (with a faculty:student ratio of 1 : 15), enrolment of students from other states and countries, increased number of women students and faculty, scholarships, more quality research publications and funded research projects, higher pass percentage in the exams, facilities for physically-challenged and good reputation among employees and academic peers.
Another point to note is that only 14% of the top ranked institutions are from the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. It is time that institutions in Tamil Nadu focus on employability of students, quality research and augmentation of infrastructure in government institutions so that the state can reap the benefits in the coming years. Institutions in the state should further improve their standards to get into the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings (QS) so that they can be recognised globally.
The writer is a professor of Chemistry and Director, R&D, Gandhigram Rural Institute, Gandhigram. firstname.lastname@example.org