In the ‘About’ section of the Oxford University website, there is a collage of photographs of famous Oxonians. I was able to identify a few. The list is long. A list thatIndian universities can only dream of. Two days ago when Times Higher Education World University Ranking released its 2016-17 report, Oxford came on top. A position well deserved. Of 980 best universities from 70 countries, 31 were Indian. But, none made it to the top 200.
A global comparison of higher education is impractical, because trends in teaching and learning in universities are influenced by the culture of the particular society. Here, the ranking is based on what is valued about in university education. There are 4,140 institutions in the US which provide university level education and almost 150 of them feature in the Times higher education ranking. But, with its 36,671 colleges and 712 universities, India has only 31 universities in the list.
The Times Higher Education used 13 performance indicators, which, in turn, were grouped into five areas:
1 Teaching (the learning environment)
2 Research (volume, income and reputation)
3 Citations (research influence)
4 International outlook (staff, students and research)
5 Industry income (knowledge transfer)
Oxford improved its performance across the four main indicators, that is, the first four. The survey found that the institution’s total income and research income are rising fast, its research is more influential and it has been more successful at maintaining international standards.
The ranking examined the perceived prestige of institutions in teaching. It examined how committed an institution is in nurturing the next generation of academics. Does India have an environment to develop well-nurtured academicians, who can develop a thriving future generation? Unfortunately, rote learning is still controlling our educational system, which aims at marks and cracking entrance exams. Mumbai girl Malvika Raj Joshi is a perfect example. Malvika's mother decided to homeschool her from class seven. She excelled in maths and computer programming and won the International Olympiad of Informatics. But, she could not pursue engineering at IIT because she did not have a class 12 certificate. Her computer programming skills, though, enabled her to get enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Student-staff ratio is considered one of the major contributors in the development of a university. Johns Hopkins University in the US, which has more than 15,000 students, has just over three students for every staff member. But, in India, there is only one teacher for every 23 students (AISHE 2012-13 Provisional report).
The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, was the best Indian university in the list. IISc, with 3,318 students, has a student-staff ratio of 8.2 and a male-female ratio of 81:19. The male-female ratio in Indian universities is low. From IISc to Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the last Indian university in the list, all have low male-female ratio. Only Punjab University and University of Delhi have a better ratios 46:54 and 50:50 respectively.
The number of foreign students in Indian universities, is another indicator. There are 35,178 foreign students in India as of 2012-13 statistics. Nepal sends the most number of students to India. According to World Bank data in 2010, India spends only 3.3 per cent of GDP on education, while the world spends 4.9 per cent.
In Oxford University, there are five major sources of funding, of which government grants constitute only 15 per cent. The major contribution comes from external research bodies such as research councils, charities, trusts, foundations and industry. It covers 43 per cent of the income. Is India listening?