Our Honourable Prime Minister, in his address to the nation on May 12, 2020, has set the vision of “self-reliance” for our beloved country to emerge much stronger and much more globally competitive in Post COVID-19 era.  Subsequently, our Honourable Finance Minister has set the road map to achieve “self-reliance” through announcement of reforms in various socio-economic sectors. Appropriate support from the higher education system is obviously a mandatory prerequisite for such preparedness – and this necessitates all round reforms of this sector. This article concentrates on this aspect – with primary focus on technical higher education.

In recent years, AICTE has been doing a great job in providing guidelines for functioning of technical education.  National Board of Accreditation (NBA) has made its presence felt at the national level through its well-structured mechanism of ensuring quality of education.  GATE examination has already evolved as the benchmark to provide standardisation of different Institutes.  National Project Implementation Unit (NPIU), through World Bank assisted project TEQIP (Technical Education Quality Improvement Program) has been in the process of monitoring and auditing the progress of around 200+ technical Institutes.  Finally, our own national ranking framework (NIRF) has been publishing relative ranking of the Institutes on the basis of an extensive set of metrics – thereby creating a huge repository of Institute specific data on important aspects like teaching-learning, research and so on. We do have the heritage (built over many decades) of having large number of alumni (mostly with UG education in our country) doing exceedingly well in academia, industries and corporate sectors all over the world.

Thus, the stage is all set to take up all round bold reforms.

Active and effective participation of at least 100+ Institutes would be required in this process of making our country “self-reliant”.  We do have large number of Institutes of higher education across the length and breadth of country.  Obviously, their performance will vary from below-average to excellent.  But, identification of 100+ Institutes with track record of consistently good performance should not be difficult at all – and, these Institutes may be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the process of reforms in the higher education system.

Process of developing the contours of reforms has to start with critical analysis of the present system and studying the characteristics of peer level systems in countries with a large number of well-performing academic Institutes – and also accepting the strength and limitations of our system with rational and open mindset – without any pre-conceived obsession.

Existing practice of classification (based on nomenclature) of institutes – followed up with policy-framing on the basis of “Tier” based philosophy and placing an Institute on a particular “Tier” on the basis of the family where it belongs, has been a huge deterrent against motivation of the Institutes in general.  Reforms in higher education system has to start with one simple approach – dismantling the idea of such “Tier” oriented policies and rating an Institute purely on the basis of performance of that Institute only without any consideration of the family where it belongs.  Precisely, that is being done by NIRF.  Hence, some comprehensive analysis on NIRF-2018 data is being documented below to understand the present scenario.

Top 30 technical institutes/universities in NIRF 2018 ranking have been classified into five categories: (1) 7 Old IITs, (2) 9 New/converted IITs, (3) 6 CFTIs (Centrally Funded Institutes – NITs, IIESTs, IIITs etc – outside IIT system) (4) 3 State universities/institutes, (5) 5 Private universities/institutes.

Sl. No. Institute/university Category NIRF 2018 Rank
1 IIT Madras Old IIT 1
2 IIT Bombay Old IIT 2
3 IIT Delhi Old IIT 3
4 IIT Kharagpur Old IIT 4
5 IIT Kanpur Old IIT 5
6 IIT Roorke Old IIT 6
7 IIT Guwahati Old IIT 7
8 Anna University State universities/institutes 8
9 IIT Hyderabad New/converted IIT 9
10 ICT Mumbai State universities/institutes 10
11 NIT Trichy CFTI 11
12 Jadavpur University State universities/institutes 12
13 IIT ISM Dhanbad New/converted IIT 13
14 IIT Indore New/converted IIT 14
15 NIT Rourkela CFTI 15
16 VIT Private universities/institutes 16
17 BITS Pilani Private universities/institutes 17
18 IIT Bhubaneswar New/converted IIT 18
19 IIT BHU New/converted IIT 19
20 Thapar Institute Private universities/institutes 20
21 IIEST Shibpur CFTI 21 A
22 NITK Surathkal CFTI 21
23 IIT Ropar New/converted IIT 22
24 IIST Trivandrum CFTI 23
25 IIT Patna New/converted IIT 24
26 NIT Warangal CFTI 25
27 IIT Mandi New/converted IIT 26 A
28 BIT Mesra Private universities/institutes 26
29 IIT Gandhinagar New/converted IIT 27
30 PSG Coimabatore Private universities/institutes 29

The following indicators are being considered for the assessment.

  1. STR – Student-Teacher-Ratio – No. of UG & PG Students per faculty
  2. Expenditure per student in 2016-17
  3. No. of PhD graduated in 2016-17 – (i) per faculty and (ii) per expenditure of Rs 1 crore
  4. No. of publication (Scopus) in the last three years; (i) per faculty and (ii) per expenditure of Rs 1 crore
  5. No. of citation (Scopus) in the last three years; (i) per faculty and (ii) per expenditure of Rs 1 crore
  6. Sponsored projects per faculty in 2016-17

The average values of the above performance indicators were evaluated category-wise – are listed below:

Table 1:

Institution Student (UG+PG)
/ faculty
PhD graduated per faculty PhD graduated per Rs 1 crore
of expenditure
Old IITs – 7 9.97 0.43 0.49
New/converted IIT – 9 10.27 0.24 0.35
CFTIs – 6 12.76 0.21 0.43
State Universities/ Institutes – 3 14.40 0.37 1.23
Private Universities/ Institutes – 5 13.63 0.07 0.19

Table 2:

Institution SCOPUS Publication/
(last 3 yrs)
 SCOPUS Publication
per Rs 1 crore of expenditure 
(last 3 yrs)
SCOPUS Citation/
faculty  (last 3 yrs)
SCOPUS Citation per Rs 1 crore of expenditure  (last 3 yrs)
Old IITs – 7 7.48 8.56 34.95 39.99
New/converted IIT – 9 4.70 7.06 22.85 34.27
CFTIs – 6 4.57 9.58 16.55 34.65
State Universities/ Institutes – 3 6.96 23.14 25.77 85.60
Private Universities/ Institutes – 5 2.93 7.68 8.63 22.66

Table 3:

Institution Total Expenditure (except building) (Rs per student) Sponsored Project per faculty (Rs)
Old IITs – 7 8,77,071 26,55,437
New/converted IIT – 9 6,49,354 8,84,443
CFTIs – 6 3,74,288 3,96,496
State Universities/ Institutes – 3 2,09,080 9,64,509
Private Universities/ Institutes-5 2,79,316 1,43,085


  1. As expected, top 7 positions are occupied by 7 old-IITs – and within that, top 5 positions are occupied by 5 older-IITs.
  2. Higher citation-per-faculty in old-7 IITs shows better quality of publications from these Institutes.  However, this advantage gets nullified when citation per Rs. 1Cr spent is considered.
  3. In terms of value-for-money and research-oriented parameters, State Universities / Institutes have done commendable job.
  4. Private Universities/Institutes need to increase focus on research.  However, present policy of leaving such Institutes out of consideration while distribution of research-project project proposals by various Governmental agencies needs a serious relook.
  5. Disconnect between per-faculty publication and per-faculty sponsored project (as compared between IITs and other Institutes) deserves much more detailed analysis.  For sponsored projects, application per-faculty and approval per-faculty should be a good metric. 
  6. In terms of number of faculty members admitted as Fellows to different academies, differences between IITs (old and new) and other Institutes will reveal whether that is consistent with the values against research-oriented parameters as presented here.
  7. Apart from old-7 IITs, there is no reason to conclude that any particular family has done better or worse than other families even though IIT family members (old as well as new) are in much more advantageous situation in terms of student-teacher-ratio and financial support.  In fact, many ‘Tier-I’ Institutes are well-below ‘Tier-II’ Institutes in Rank.

Schemes like “Make-in-India’ and “Skill-Development” have to play major roles in preparedness for self-reliance.  It is worth discussing some hard facts in the present scenario of research, project and innovation in higher education.

Entry to B.Tech. Programs of old IITs is one amongst the toughest (if not the toughest) in the entire world – and we have reasons to be proud of that.  However, very few of such B.Tech. pass outs join M.Tech./PhD programs of these old IITs.  Naturally, post-graduate and research programs of these IITs are populated by B.Tech. pass outs from remaining three categories of Institutes (as we have mentioned in the tables above).  Some students from new IITs may join old IITs for M.Tech./PhD programs – but, that only reflects the weakness (real of perceived) of the B.Tech. programs of those new IITs.

Most of the scientists in premier organizations like ISRO, DRDO, DAE, ONGC, NTPC, BHEL, SAIL and so on had their B.Tech. done from these so-called “Tier-II” and “Tier-III” Institutes.  In fact, large number faculty members of IITs (including many of those who are now on-lien to Sr. Administrative positions in IITs/NITs etc.) had their B.Tech. from such “lesser” Institutes.  Hence, majority of the workforce engaged in research and innovation had their foundation done in these Institutes – and, these are the people who will build new India. 

Present practice of leaving all members of IIT family out of the purview of AICTE, UGC and NBA is not consistent with the principles of equity and inclusiveness – to which our country is committed.  Similarly, conducting an exclusive examination for entry to BTech programs of any Institute in IIT-family, irrespective of their ranks in NIRF, seems to violate the principles of allowing level playing field to all academic institutes operating in the same domain. This also sends a wrong signal to the society demeaning all other Institutes of our country – irrespective of their performance. It is imperative to immediately implement the principle of classification of institutes only on the basis of the ranks of NIRF.  Policies on academic administration (like student-teacher ratio, mechanism for recruitment and promotion of faculty members, formation of committees for selection of project proposals) and funding per student must be same for every Institute in any group thus formed on the basis of NIRF ranks.

All the students in a particular class follow the same set of rules, read same  books, under the same teachers, use the same library, appear in the same examination with same set of questions and so on  – however, bright students emerge out of this apparently homogenous process.  That is how an academic system works all over the world.  Same approach needs to be followed in the domain of higher education system as well.

Finally, it is worth taking a wholistic view of the enrolment scenario for the students coming out of schools, before framing the contours of proposal for academic reforms.  At the undergraduate level, around 16% enrol for 4-year programs in Engineering/Technology, around 35% for 3-year programs in Humanities, around 17% for 3-year programs in Science, around 17% for 3-year programs in Commerce, 15% for programs in Medicine / Law another courses.  In terms of the entire population of students in higher education system, about 85% are in undergraduate level, around 12% in post graduate level, 1% in PhD programs and 3% in other programs.  Naturally, while concentrating on the reforms for technical education system, this cannot be viewed in isolation to make these reforms truly effective for socio-economic development of our country.  Required reforms of the entire academic system on the basis of this wholistic view will be presented in the next article.

At the end of the day, our goal is to climb as far as possible to the top in the list of great academic institutes of the world.  When reference is made to  great seats of learning in global scenario like Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, M.I.T., and so on – each of them has achieved this level as an individual Institute and none of them gets any preferential treatment in terms of policies in their respective countries.  There is no reason for us not to follow this practice in our country – and, this, in one stroke will provide the foundation for developing a large number of institutions for participation in our national endeavour to build “self-reliant” India.

Professor Swapan Bhattacharya
Former Director, NITK- Surathkal and NIT-Durgapur
Former Sr. Research Associate, National Research Council, USA


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here