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During spring, just as flowers bloom, rankings of engineering colleges pop out of national magazines. It is time to rejoice for students of some of the highly ranked colleges; while for others, it is time to worry and introspect.
Why do we need these rankings?
College ranking is a controversial yet a useful guide for many.
Type of rankings
There are basically three types of rankings:
Government rankings: The central government carries out a survey of engineering colleges every few years. The survey, conducted by the World Bank, is used to arrive at a funding formula for financing colleges under United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and to monitor the progress of the colleges receiving funding.
The government survey is highly respectable and includes comments/suggestions for the improvement needed by the colleges. These are generally not available in public domain.
Academic rankings: These is carried out by leading institutions around the world and sometimes by academic and scientific magazines. The survey is authentic and unbiased, but is of limited use. It is used mainly to boost the ego of a college among similar colleges, to attract talented faculty and to keep flow of money from its patrons.
The Asian Technology Information Program, Tokyo, is a prestigious, non-profit think-tank, which monitors research programmes from universities/institutes across Asia and classifies some of the leading universities in a specific research area.
For example, according to ATIP, Indian Institute of Science is among the world leaders in the field of nano-crystal technology research. Similarly, it puts Banaras Hindu University among the leading research universities in the world in the field of application of hydrogen energy to two-wheeler vehicles.
Magazine rankings: Also known as popular rankings, these are the ones that are mostly read by common folk. These are carried out by national magazines as a guide for students and faculty, and for the college themselves.
Dataquest survey results
Following results have been published with the kind permission of Dataquest India for the 2005 engineering college rankings. (Note: IIT-Delhi did not participate in the survey):
Table A: 2005 Overall Rankings
The Top 20
Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology, Patiala
Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (DIT), New Delhi
Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad
Punjab Engineering College, Chandigadh
International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad
Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani
Indian Institute of information Technology, Allahabad
Delhi College of Engineering, New Delhi
Table B: 2005 Top 5 on Parameters
The Top 5 On Parameters
Table C: 2005 The Perception Factor
Table D: 2005 Performance region-wise
How They Stack Up
In India, there are two popular ranking surveys for engineering colleges: one is by India Today magazine and other by Dataquest magazine.
India Today survey
The magazine has been conducting such surveys for the last several years. This year, the survey was carried out in association with A C Nielsen ORG-MARG.
The ranking shows top 10 engineering colleges in the India, along with the rankings in the field of business management, medicine, commerce, science, law and arts.
The survey takes into account institute's infrastructure, research, admitted student quality, placement statistics, perception among academic and industrialists, etc.
The survey, done for technical schools only, was conducted for the first time this year in India by this magazine. It was done in collaboration with International Data Corporation and the National Association of Software and Service Companies.
IDC is a world leader in the market research for information technology and software industries. Nasscom is India's most powerful IT industry association -- which even the country's Planning Commission consults for IT and software-related forecast and planning.
The survey has a no-nonsense approach, as the study claims: "The Dataquest-IDC-Nasscom survey findings are most likely to send some of the Tier-I schools into a tizzy. However, instead of breathing fire down our necks, these institutes would do well to ponder a little on where exactly they have erred."
The survey takes into account the infrastructure of the college, placement scenario, intellectual capital (faculty quality and strength, research, et cetera), interface with industries and perception of recruiters.
How reliable are these surveys?
With different surveys showing different rankings for the same college, the common man asks the question: which of the surveys to believe?
Well, the answer is that there is no clear answer.
Different surveys take different criteria, ask different questions for the same criterion and give different weightage while arriving at a composite score for determining overall rankings.
Hence all these surveys are correct up to some extent in their own way.
A good survey will not be afraid of the public criticism and the most popular colleges need not be the best in the ranking. The list should not be the same year after year and, at the same time, there should not be any drastic changes in rankings at each year. Good examples are college rankings in the United States by magazines such as Business Week and US News & World Report.
Each survey has its own drawbacks of some kind. For example, the India Today survey, although based on acceptable criteria, mostly reserves the top six to seven slots for a group of institutes, while the next three to four ranks fluctuate every year.
It may be advisable for it to publish the expanded list, such as top 20 overall ranks and provide rankings under different criteria/sub-categories.
On the other hand, the Dataquest survey is geared towards requirements of the IT and software industry.
Moreover, students need not depend solely on college rankings for the selection of a college. Other factors beyond rankings are also to be considered. Such as quality of study, selecting proper branch, proximity to home, hostel facilities, etc. They should visit the campus to get first-hand information and also find out from their friends who have studied there.
The surveys have a welcome move of also including colleges which do not have a favourable public perception. Bold surveys give the masses a second chance to know about the good colleges unknown to them so far.
This is an important step since the mass media in India is saturated with success stories of only 1 per cent of the total of 1,200 engineering colleges, giving a distorted vision for many and false pride for some. It is expected that the coming years, the surveys will be more refined.
In such a scenario, beacons of college rankings from the lighthouse of magazines will guide the boatload of applicants to the islands of academic excellence.
Yogesh Upadhyaya is a chemical engineering graduate from IT-BHU and an MS (chemical engineering) from Rutgers University, New Jersey. Arvind Gupta, also an alumnus of IT-BHU, is CEO of e-Enable Technologies, New Delhi.
The Dataquest survey rankings are published by the kind permission of Dataquest , a CyberMedia publication.
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