Is the ranking system of colleges flawed?


  • In a country as diverse as India, ranking universities and institutions is not an easy task. The Ministry of Education established the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in 2016 to determine the critical indicators in which institutions’ performance could be measured. Since then, institutions nationwide, including universities and colleges, eagerly await their standings in this nationally recognised system every year.

Ranking by NIRF

  • NIRF ranks institutes by their total score and it uses five indicators to determine this score — ‘Teaching, Learning & Resources’ (30% weightage); ‘Research and Professional Practice’ (30%); ‘Graduation Outcomes’ (20%); ‘Outreach and Inclusivity’ (10%); and ‘Perception’ (10%).
  • Academic communities have had concerns about the construction of these indicators, the transparency of the methods used, and the overall framework.
  • An important part of it is focused on the research and professional practices part of the evaluation because they pay a lot of attention to bibliometric measures.
  • Currently, the NIRF releases rankings across various categories: ‘Overall’, ‘Research Institutions’, ‘Universities’, and ‘Colleges’, and specific disciplines like engineering, management, pharmacy, law, etc.
  • The rankings are an important resource for prospective students navigating the labyrinth of higher education institutions in India.


  • Bibliometrics refers to the measurable aspects of research, such as the number of papers published, the number of times they are cited, and the impact factors of journals.
  • The allure of bibliometrics as a tool for assessing research output lies in its efficiency and convenience compared to qualitative assessments performed by subject experts, which are more resource-intensive and require time.
  • However, science policy experts have cautioned authorities against relying too much on bibliometrics as a complete assessment.
  • They argued that bibliometric indicators don’t fully capture the intricacies of scientific performance, and that we need a more comprehensive evaluation methodology.

Issue with overly relying on bibliometrics

  • This criticism has been levelled against the NIRF vis-a-vis the efficacy and fairness of its approach to ranking universities.
  • For example, the NIRF uses commercial databases, such as ‘Scopus’ and ‘Web of Science’, to get bibliometric data. But these entities aren’t impervious to inaccuracies or misuse.
  • The NIRF’s publication-metrics indicator solely considers research articles, sidelining other forms of intellectual contributions, such as books, book chapters, monographs, non-traditional outputs like popular articles, workshop reports, and other forms of grey literature.
  • As a result, the NIRF passively encourages researchers to focus on work that is likelier to be published in journals, especially international journals, at the cost of work that the NIRF isn’t likely to pay attention to.
  • This in turn disprivileges work that focuses on national and local issues, as international journals prefer work on topics of global significance.

Transparency of NIRF

  • University rankings are controversial. NIRF, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the QS World University Rankings all have flaws.
  • Experts have emphasised that they ought to be transparent about the data they collect, the sources and how they collect it, and how that data becomes the basis for the total score.
  • The NIRF is partly transparent as it publicly shares its methodology, but it doesn’t provide a detailed view.
  • The framework for assessment and scoring are based on bibliometric data. However, there is a potential discrepancy in how they label research quantity and quality. The labels in question are imprecise and potentially misleading.


  • No matter how rigorous the methods, university rankings invariably involve some level of ambiguity. The NIRF’s emphasis on rankings can lead to unhealthy competition between universities, fostering a culture that puts metrics in front of the thing they are trying to measure: excellence in education and research.

Editorial 2: Jumpstarting the next phase of U.S.-India defence ties


  • Over the last few years, there has been incredible momentum in U.S.-India ties, driven primarily by their defence relationship.


  • United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin travelled to India from June 4-5 to reinforce the major defence partnership and advance cooperation in critical domains.
  • Noticeably, his visit secured an agreement on a road map for defence industrial cooperation, announced as part of the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) agreement  and which had its inaugural meeting in January this year.
  • The road map envisages boosting defence manufacturing in India through greater technological cooperation.
  • While the objectives complement India’s own self-reliance mission and its desire to lessen import dependence, it potentially repositions the U.S. in the broader context of the U.S.-India strategic relationship.

The objectives

  • The visit’s objective had two important legs: technological innovation and growing military cooperation.
  • One of the most important steps taken during the visit was towards strengthening the bilateral defence relationship by creating a road map to promote collaboration in the defence industry.
  •  The road map aims to expedite crucial co-development and co-production initiatives, fostering stronger connections between the defence sectors of the two countries.

The initiatives

  • There was the launch of a new initiative, Indus-X, which is to provide a new impetus to the defence innovation engagement between the two countries.
  • This builds on the U.S.-India bilateral Space Situational Awareness arrangement signed in 2022, which promises to enhance information-sharing and cooperation in the space sector.
  • India’s ‘Major Defence Partner’ (MDP) status along with the four foundational agreements signed with the U.S. now allow for the sharing of technology and more frequent cooperation.
  • These have not only allowed the sharing of sensitive technologies without India having to become an ally but have also proved to be effective mechanisms to prevent backsliding due to procedural difficulties or structural differences.

The Indo-US mandates

  • During the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in April 2022, the U.S. Defence Secretary referred to the U.S.-India defence partnership as the cornerstone of their engagement in the Indo-Pacific.
  • He outlined broad aspects in the Indo-Pacific including coercive actions by the People’s Republic of China; the aggressive actions of Russia towards Ukraine aimed at forcibly redrawing borders and undermining national sovereignty; transnational issues such as terrorism and climate change.
  • Beyond the Indo-Pacific, a strong rationale for projecting broader industrial cooperation between Indian and U.S. companies in the defence sector is the existing scale of American investments in India.
  • American companies led by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Honeywell Aerospace, Raytheon, Textron and others partner across a range of manufacturing activities related to the defence sector with Indian companies, most prominently with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Tata group.
  • These are likely to be supplemented by linking defence start-ups from both countries through an ‘innovation bridge’ that was announced in the iCET agreement.
  • Recent steps promise to jump start the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)  by providing specific momentum to co-production and co-development in the defence sector.


  • The visit of the U.S. Defence Secretary has prepared the ground for the official state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.S. on June 22 which could see a few big ticket announcements, especially in the area of defence cooperation. The sky, it seems, is the limit in the emerging defence partnership between two of the world’s leading democracies.


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