National Policy Dialogue on University Rankings

National Policy Dialogue - University Rankings, Research Evaluation and Research Funding
New Delhi
22-23 May 2013

A key strand of British Council’s Internationalising Higher Education (IHE) Programme is Education policy dialogues. The National Policy Dialogue on university rankings, research evaluation and research funding, which included a round table discussion was held in New Delhi on 22 and 23 May 2013. The event was organised by the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, with support from the British Council, Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters.   

The purpose of the dialogue was to  share information with policy makers and heads of institutions  about a) the global rankings metrics and methodology, b) international best practice in research evaluation  and c) models of research funding that are linked or delinked with performance and their implications, and build consensus on the relevance and usefulness for Indian institutions to participate in global rankings and developing similar systems for research evaluation. The round-table was a consultation exercise to engage senior officials from research funding bodies like the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology and University Grants Commission and policy making bodies like the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).. 

It was chaired by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chair Planning Commission with Dr Narendra Jadhav and Mr Shashi Tharoor engaging in discussions with  Phil Baty, Editor THE Rankings, present  an overview of the methodology of the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings, laying bare the four ‘pillars’ on which the rankings stood (teaching, knowledge transfer, global outlook and research outputs). This was followed by Karen Gurney’s (Manager, Bilbliometric Reporting, Thomson Reuters) session on data sources that form the basis for the THE rankings, and John Morgan’s (Policy Specialist and Deputy News Editor, THE) speech on global trends in research evaluation, funding and performance, followed by a general group discussion on issues and hurdles that Indian institutions faced leading to a debate on what institutions should do and how the government can be of assistance.   

The National Policy Dialogue was inaugurated by Shashi Tharoor, India’s Minister of State for Human Resource Development, who delivered the key note address. Over 130 invited participants attended, each one a key decision maker at top Indian higher education institutions representing national institutions, state and central universities. They responded to the initial presentations from THE and Thomson Reuters, engaging intensely with the data presented to them, debating on how to rise to the challenge to make research in Indian HE institutions internationally more competitive, sustainable and accessible. This consultation exercise to build consensus on India’s response to global university rankings and research evaluation had three group discussions debating on the following three questions:-

1. University Rankings metrics – what is missing, what does India need? 

2. Research Evaluation – What kind of institutional arrangements should be put in place to drive research evaluation? 

3. Research Funding – What is the most effective way of funding research to improve research performance in top institutions to be in the global league? 

Key observations:

On the question of University rankings metrics, the group was divided on the relevance and methodology of international ranking but in the end felt that Indian universities cannot be left behind and therefore need to compete and benchmark themselves at a global level. 

On Research evaluation, the consensus was that there was value in evaluating research but the methodology and parameters needs to take into consideration the nuances and the uniqueness of Indian context.  Research Funding linked to performance was a far more contentious issue and it was felt that funding at the moment cannot be linked to performance.  

We will soon be publishing the proceedings and recommendations of this policy dialogue.  

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