Though India embraces remarkably developed higher education system that presents services approximately in all areas of human design, still a question is lurking in the young Indian mind that can India live up to its aims of bringing a world-class higher education system? To meet the futuristic prospects of one of the youngest populated countries, efforts are being made to audit and improve the quality of home-grown institutions.
National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was initiated by MHRD in 2015 on the recommendations of its core committee constituted in 2014. NIRF works to rank higher education institutions of the country on annual basis and its main purpose is to raise the standard of Indian higher education. It also helps to stimulate institutions towards a competitive environment existing in the modern world.
NIRF has sketched out a methodology to rank higher education institutions and has identified five broad measurable parameters as metrics for ranking. These parameters are Teaching, Learning & Resources; Research & Professional Practices; Graduation Outcomes; Outreach & Inclusivity; and Perception. The parameters have been chosen and are evenly applicable for different types of institutions with varied weightage and metrics for category A and B type institutions. Category A institutions (universities) focus more on teaching and research whereas category B type institutions (colleges) are mostly affiliated type with a core focus on teaching.
For the appraisal of ‘Teaching, Learning & Resources’, a university is required to upload the institutional data on student strength, faculty-student ratio (FSR) joint metric for faculty with doctorate degrees & experience, and financial resources utilized. For the assessment, it is expected that intake matches enrolment and no seat in any programme remains vacant. The substantive faculty with doctorate degrees attracts more merit than need-based and FSR should match the standard of 1:15. On experience front, the faculty should equally comprise of juniors and seniors. NIRF has divided faculty into three groups based on experience: less than 08 years; between 08 to 15 years; and more than 15 years of experience with a ratio of 1:1:1. The financial resources utilized are measured by auditing institutional annual capital expenditure per student (excluding expenditure on construction of new buildings) and annual operational or recurring expenditure per student (excluding maintenance of hostels and other services). This parameter has an overall 30% weightage.
The ‘Research & Professional Practice’ is assessed through 04 sub-areas: publications; quality of publications; patents; and footprint of projects & professional practice. Research publications are ascertained by NIRF through third-party sources and only Scopus, Web of Sciences, Indian Citation Index, and likewise publications are considered. The quality is ascertained through citation count in the top-25 percentile journals. The patents granted and published by an institution and the research projects and professional practice in the form of consultancy etc. offered by the institution and the total amount earned through it are also a part of this parameter. This parameter has an overall 30% weightage.
The ‘Graduation Outcomes’ are evaluated based on the number of students admitted and the number graduated within the stipulated time. The placements of graduated students and their annual median salaries are also ascertained and measured. The number of doctorate degrees awarded by the institution in an academic year is also given due credit. This parameter has an overall 20% weightage.
The ‘Outreach and Inclusivity’ is assessed through students admitted to the institution from other states or countries. The percentage of female students and female faculty is also assessed with an expectation of 50% of students and 20% of faculty within the institution. Here, NIRF also analyses an institution, based on an enrolled number of economically and socially challenged students and the number getting reimbursement of tuition fees from the institution. The facilities in proportion to overall facilities for physically challenged students are also given due weightage. This parameter has an overall 10% weightage.
The ‘Perception’ is estimated by NIRF based upon insight about the institution from the large group of employers, professionals from reputed organizations, industry and academicians to determine their choice and preference for the institution. The data is gathered through an online survey conducted. This parameter has an overall 10% weightage.
How NIRF brand perception can be improved? Ample opportunities are available for an institution and following initiatives may help to achieve the cherished target.
A probable student justly deserves an institute that can make integrity with his competence, and it is likewise imperative for an institution to reach out to this potential enthusiast with an accurate approach. To stay germane an institution must espouse different strategies to attract the attention of the target group and make the brand more relevant, responsible and striking.
It is high time for universities to offer more job oriented courses in a variety of fields and link their curriculum with core competencies. The efforts in this regard can become efficient and attractive if curriculum is linked with learning experiences to skills and attitudes. These courses can generate a balance between the corporate world and skilled workforce.
Faculty with their credentials usually consign to the degrees they have earned that provide a base for knowing what students need to learn in a particular field. A teacher comes with, motivation, academic potential and scholarship. An institution should strive to reap the best out of his services.
An institution should offer a high-quality research environment. It should provide motivation and stimulation for ‘food for thought’ on the subject of how to generate and uphold ingenious and thriving research settings within the campus by describing research training in a multidisciplinary framework of credible and conforming ways. This approach automatically leads to generate research projects and publish patents.
Institution in the contemporary era must ensure to maintain special assistive devices and encourage physically challenged students to use them for their development. It should also procure in advance special learning and assessment devices to attract such students. A proactive role of the institution is demanded to install such devices in advance rather to wait for them to get enrolled first.
An Institution should attract research investors to invest in various research projects. Peer perception, public perception and perception of competitiveness of every university need to be broadened. Higher Education institutions are sluggish to expand a well-built alumni. Alumni network works enormously in support of the institution and helps to build connections across sections. Therefore, the development of alumni serves commendable value to the institution which we should think very seriously.
An improved NIRF ranking gives a better status to an institution especially to newly established one. A better standing is a clear sign that it has improved on various fronts especially on infrastructure, teaching-learning process, resources, research, and facilities to its stakeholders. An institution can use NIRF as a brand with a better standing in perception in the society. The merits of improving the brand perception are to get more attraction from better learners & researchers and more funding can also be generated. Thus, a better NIRF standing has manifold advantages for the institution. It is in our best interest that we together must strive for a better rank and launch our institutions at global level.
Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor and Nodal Officer NIRF, Central University of Kashmir