NIT Rourkela at NIRF 2021: The Downward Spiral

NIT Rourkela at NIRF 2021: The Downward Spiral

NIT Rourkela clinched the 16th and 32nd positions in the engineering and overall category, respectively in 2020. However, the institute now ranks at 20th and 41st positions respectively, according to the 2021 NIRF rankings. The scores have dropped as well. It is essential to know the parameters over which the rankings are decided upon and compare them with last year’s performance.

NIRF India Rankings in depth

The lack of Indian names in global university rankings led the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry launched the NIRF in 2015. The framework outlined a methodology to rank institutions across the country and promised annual rankings for colleges and universities.The purpose of the NIRF is to have parameters that would be more suitable to the Indian context.

NIRF ranks institutions across 11 categories – overall national ranking, universities, engineering, college, medical, management, pharmacy, law, architecture, dental and research. The institution is ranked in an overall list and the category list.

Overall Rankings showcases the annual report as per the institutes' performance, with the institutes competing for irrespective of their categories. At the same time, the discipline wise approach aims to rank the institutions based on their performance in their respective field. The rankings hold a tremendous significance as the methodology serves as an indirect way for students and the general masses to form an image of the university and, at the same time, helps to keep track of the status quo. Further, the NIRF also serves as feedback, helping to identify the scope of improvement.
 

If we compare the scores, we see that apart from an increase in the Outreach and Inclusivity score, there has been a decrease in the rest. 

If we were to see the Teaching, Learning, and Resources parameter which comprises:

  1. Student Strength including Doctoral Students(SS):
  2. Faculty-student ratio with emphasis on permanent faculty (FSR): 
  3. Combined metric for Faculty with PhD (or equivalent) 
  4. Experience (FQE):
  5. Financial Resources and their Utilisation (FRU)

Among the given parameters, we see that despite an increase in Student Strength, the score is lesser than last year’s. This might be because the Faculty-Student Ratio has decreased along with the FQE and FRU scores.

Further in the Research and Professional Practice parameter which has the given sub-parameters:

  1. Combined metric for Publications (PU)
  2. Combined metric for Quality of Publications (QP)
  3. IPR and Patents: Filed, Published, Granted and Licensed (IPR)
  4. Footprint of Projects, Professional Practice and Executive Development Programs (FPPP)

Apart from the QP score, there has been a minute decrease in the other parameters. The Graduation Outcomes Parameter has also decreased. This is calculated with the help of 5 parameters:

  1. Combined metric for Placement, Higher Studies, and Entrepreneurship (GPHE)
  2. Metric for University Examinations(GUE)
  3. Median Salary(GMS)
  4. Metric for Graduating Students Admitted Into Top Universities (GTOP)
  5. Metric for Number of PhD. Students Graduated (GPHD)

Here we see a very slim difference between the scores of last year and this year. There has been an increase in the number of PhD students who have graduated, however owing to the pandemic, the combined metric, median salary and the GUE has decreased.

The Outreach and Inclusivity parameter has seen an increase in the scores. This parameter consists of:

  1. Percent Students from other states/countries (Region Diversity )(RD)
  2. Percentage of Women (Women Diversity) (WD)
  3. Economically and Socially Challenged Students (ESCS)
  4. Facilities for Physically Challenged Students (PCS)

NITR has seen a greater percentage of students from other countries and states and a better score in the ESCS parameter, although the percentage of women has relatively decreased. 

Taking cognizance of the popular perception of an institute, the perception ranking is evaluated by :

  1. Peer Perception: Employers and Research Investors (PREMP): 
  2. Peer Perception: Academic Peers(PRACD)
  3. Public Perception (PRPUB)
  4. Competitiveness (PRCMP)

Inspite of an increase in certain areas, the overall score dipped compared to the previous year. 

Why do Indian universities fail to dominate global rankings?

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is the global performance table that judges research-intensive universities worldwide.

With seven IITs continuing to boycott the THE World University Rankings, flag issues of “transparency” in the ranking parameters, especially the citation metric. 

QS rankings give a very high weightage(40%) to the academic reputation and an additional 10% weightage to the employer reputation. Now, these are subjective parameters and depend on the institution’s impression over the globe. So in QS rankings, the institution’s reputation plays a significant role in deciding its rank. The parameters of International Faculty and Students have been included to account for how globalization has impacted and represent cultural diversity in an institute. Here is where the Indian universities get their deathblow.

Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthy, the honourable Director of IIT-Madras, speaking to media, said,

"...the stark variation in assessment is because of the different matrix used by international and national rankings. The international rankings do not depend upon the data provided by the institutes. For international rankings, if we increase our faculty members in one year, it gives us more marks but also ranks us low in citation done by faculty as it takes time for new faculty to research and submit citations. On the other hand, NIRF asks for data that takes months to compile, and one cannot fake these data points.

The rankings use 13 indicators grouped into five categories: Teaching, Research, Citations, International Outlook and Industry Income. There are other international ranking systems such as the QS World University Rankings and the Shanghai Rankings.

Despite performing remarkably at the global rankings, NIT Rourkela's rank in the engineering and Overall category by the NIRF dropped to 20 and 41 from last year's 16 and 32, respectively.

IITs dominated the NIRF rankings but failed to perform at the international rankings. The Indian Institute Of Technology Madras, which has been ranked as the best Indian institute for the second consecutive year by the NIRF, was nowhere in the list of top 100 institutes released by the Times Higher Education Rankings and in the top 250 of the QS World University Rankings. 

NIT Rourkela closely contests with its peers in all parameters, but the institution falls behind by a large margin when it comes to the Perception part.   

Expectations and the Reality:

There were a lot of expectations this year regarding the perception parameter of rankings due to quite a few major developments within the institute with

  • The honourable President of India visiting the campus earlier this year as the Chief Guest in the Annual Convocation of the class of 2020.
  • The Golden Jubilee building being fully functional and the foundation for the new sports complex was laid down by the President of India.
  • The newly appointed Public Relations Officer last year to increase the footprint of our institute.
  • Improving the research parameters on the global stage to garner the academic reputation with a good performance in the last placement season to attract employer reputation. 

Last year when team Monday Morning took the interview of NIT Rourkela's Hon'ble Director and asked him about NIRF rankings, he had said that NIT Surathkal took over NIT Rourkela by increasing their teaching staff strength from 250 to 370. Furthermore, with the advent of the SII(Study in India) program, they had the edge over NIT Rourkela when the rankings were considered.

After checking out both of the above-mentioned issues - increasing the teaching strength (around 82 new faculty members) and getting included in the SII program, the rankings were expected to improve altogether.

As mentioned above, we saw NIT Rourkela occupying the highest position among NITs as per THE and QS Ranking. However, if we see the rankings of the institute in past years, it has been in a downward spiral, 

Rankings through years

Source: THE ranking, QS ranking

Despite all the measures taken to ensure smooth conduct of academics and the safety of the students during the Covid-19 pandemic, NIT Rourkela dropped four places to number 20 in the Engineering category. 

Conclusion:

Therefore, according to the analysis, there has been a dip in the scores of Teaching, Learning, and Resources; Research and Professional Practice; Graduation Outcome and popular perception parameters from last year.

Despite performing significantly well at the global level, NIT Rourkela failed to perform well at the NIRF rankings as expected. As the parameters are different, institutes that perform better in NIRF may not necessarily perform better in QS and vice versa.

Vision 2025 aims to place NIT Rourkela among the top 10 institutions of India. With rankings on a steep fall, this might seem like a distant dream. A joint effort by the administration and student community to improve these parameters and be responsive will help the institute climb up the rankings ladder. 

Design Credits:- Ashit Kumar Sahu, Cyrus Roy

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