Rankings that make no sense

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Rankings that make no sense

  • National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)’s ranking of higher education institutions (HEIs), released in July, has received considerable criticism.


  • National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, to rank institutions of higher education (HEIs) in India.
  • It is the first-ever effort by the government to rank HEIs in the country.
  • Participation in NIRF was made compulsory for all government-run educational institutions in 2018

Reason for Launch

  • The subjectivity in the ranking methodology developed by QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Ranking led India to start its own ranking system for Indian HEIs on the line of Shanghai Rankings.
  • The long-term plan of NIRF is to make it an international league table.

NIRF ranking of HEIs

NIRF is evaluated as per 5 different parameters

  1. Teaching, Learning & Resources: This parameter checks the core activities in the education institutions.
  2. Research and Professional Practice: Excellence in teaching and learning is closely associated with the scholarship
  3. Graduation Outcome: Tests the effectiveness of learning/core teaching
  4. Outreach & Exclusivity: Lays special emphasis on the representation of women
  5. Perception: Importance is also given to the perception of an institution

Highlights of the NIRF Ranking 2022

  • Overall: IIT-Madras, IISc-Bangalore, and IIT-Bombay the country’s top three higher education institutions
  • University: IISc, Bengaluru tops the category.
  • Colleges: Miranda College retains 1st position amongst colleges for the 6th consecutive year
  • Research Institution: IISc, Bengaluru is ranked the best research institution followed by IIT Madras.
  • Engineering: IIT-Madras remained number one.
  • Management: Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad was ranked one followed by IIM Bengaluru.
  • Medical: All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi occupies the top slot in Medical for the fifth consecutive year.
  • Law: National Law School of India University, Bengaluru retains its first position in Law for the fifth consecutive year.

Criticisms of NIRF

  1. Public vs private institutions
  • The NIRF places some private multi-discipline institutions higher than many prestigious public universities.
  • Students who cannot secure a seat in public colleges and universities are admitted to private institutions.
  • However, the NIRF ranking shows that a private law university scored 100% in perception.
  1. Data Fudging
  • An analysis of the data submitted by some multi-discipline private universities participating in various disciplines under the NIRF provides evidence of data fudging.
  • There seems to be a lack of a rigorous system of verification by the NIRF of the data submitted by HEIs.
  • For instance, the faculty-student ratio (FSR) is an important criterion for ranking. Some private multi-discipline universities have claimed the same faculty in more than one discipline. Faculty in liberal arts have been claimed as faculty in law too, to claim an improved FSR.
  • This manipulation defeats the purpose of ranking, especially in the case of single-discipline institutions like the NLUs.
  1. Financial resources utilisation
  • There are similar instances of data fudging for parameters like financial resources utilisation (spending on library, academic facilities, etc.) by multi-discipline institutions.
  • Enormous funds have been claimed as expenditure on equipment for laboratories by some private multi-discipline institutions which offer law as a subject. But labs are not required for law.
  • Equipment purchased for one department has also been claimed in more than one department.
  • Research funding for research projects and consultancy is an essential parameter for ranking.
  • Data show that research grants and consultancy charges received in other disciplines appear to have been claimed as those in law.
  • Another sub-parameter where data fudging by certain universities is discernible is procurement of books for the library and spending on the library
  1. Access to information
  • The NIRF requires the data submitted to it be published by all the participating HEIs on their website so that such data can be scrutinised.
  • Some private multi-discipline universities have not granted free access to such data on their website; instead, they require an online form to be filled along with the details of the person seeking access. Such non-transparency is antithetical to the ranking exercise.
  • There is also discrepancy in the data submitted to the NIRF and the data on the websites of these institutions.
  1. Methodological issues
  • With respect to NIRF parameters on research and professional practice, data on publications and the quality of publications is taken from the Scopus and Web of Science databases.
  • While these may be suitable for medical and engineering, they are unsuitable for law.
  • There is a gap between the methodology employed for accreditation purposes and for ranking purposes. While the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) gives due weightage to publications in UGC-Care listed journals, the NIRF uses publication data only from Scopus and Web of Science.

Way forward

  1. NIRF parameters must allow an India-specific and flexible methodological framework, different for different disciplines.
  2. The data submitted by HEIs must be independently verified by other agencies and finally checked by the Ministry of Education itself. Data fudging must be punished, for instance, by downgrading the NAAC rating of the institution.
  3. All HEIs must be mandated to provide easy online access to public on information regarding its faculty, students, infrastructures etc. Transparency in data must be encouraged.
  4. HEIs must be held accountable for the proper utilisation of their funds received.


  • Only by adhering to a high standard can NIRF hope to achieve its long-term goal of making the ranking an international league table in line with QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Ranking.

Prelims Take Away

  • NIRF
  • NAAc
  • UGC
  • HEIs