No Indian university made it in an annual list of the world’s top 200 universities. High up in the survey, put together by the Times Higher Education magazine, were many of the much-lauded institutions– including Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. Indian universities don’t prepare students as well as they could. To find your first and only Indian mention, you have to scroll way down. The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, widely regarded as India’s most prestigious engineering and technology school, does appear in the ranking—but not in the top 200. The survey, which reviewed 400 universities world-wide, lumped IIT-Bombay in the generic 301-350 category.
The study ranked schools according to criteria that include the quality of the learning environment as well as the volume and influence of the research produced. After the 200 mark, the survey no longer gave individual rankings for each university but arranged them in groups of 50. There is no comparable data for IIT-Bombay from last year, because the magazine previously only announced rankings up to 200. The disappointing performance of Indian universities in this survey is the latest indication of something we already knew: that despite the country’s economic growth, its education system is lagging. As we already noted, although higher education institutes are churning out a growing number of university graduates, these colleges and universities are not producing enough people who are fit for employment, with companies often struggling to find new recruits. Infosys Ltd.’s co-founder and chairman emeritus Narayana Murthy last week said the quality of education even in the illustrious Indian Institutes of Technology is actually getting worse. Part of the problem is the admission criteria, which Mr. Murthy said isn’t strict enough. As a result, “the quality of students entering IITs has gone lower and lower,” Mr. Murthy said to a gathering of IIT alumni in New York, according to the Press Trust of India. “They somehow get through the joint entrance examination. But their performance in IITs, at jobs or when they come for higher education in institutes in the US is not as good as it used to be,” he said.
This sparked an animated debate on IITs, a sensitive topic in India, where they are often viewed as veritable temples of learning. Chetan Bhagat, whose most famous novel-turned-Bollywood hit is set in an IIT, lashed back at Mr. Murthy. “It is ironic when someone who runs a body shopping company and calls it hi-tech, makes sweeping comments on the quality of IIT students,” he tweeted in response earlier this week. The new global survey, however, adds weight to Mr. Murthy’s criticism. A stifling bureaucracy and an excessive focus on memorizing, rather than on developing analytical skills, are some of the reasons experts say higher educational institutes in India are not as good as they could be. Indian lawmakers are hoping that allowing foreign universities play a bigger role in the country will give students some better options.