Role of NIRF in Improving the Quality of Higher Education in India – Objectives & Learning
FORE School of Management, New Delhi in association with MBA Rendezvous hosted the Roundtable Conference on ‘Role of NIRF rankings in improving higher education in India’ on 16 May 2019. The conference brought together 15 leading academics, including directors of B-Schools and senior faculty members, to discuss different aspects of the prestigious NIRF rankings. The idea was to take a closer look at the positives and the negatives of the rankings and present it to the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) body.
The framework outlines a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India to rank higher education institutes in the country. FORE has fared well in this year’s rankings. The B-School has been ranked 28th based on Teaching and Learning Resources, ahead of institutes like IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, and IIM Ranchi. The management school also beat IIT Madras and IIT Roorkee along with other renowned institutes by getting ranked 31st based on Graduation Outcome. But how can the rankings evolve to reflect a clear picture? The Roundtable Conference addressed this crucial question.
Proceedings began with Mr. A.S. Oberoi, Founder President of MBA Rendezvous welcoming the gathering and introducing the theme for discussion. Dr. Jitendra K. Das, Director, FORE School of Management, New Delhi was the convener cum moderator for the round-table discussion. He familiarized the members with the idea, motive, and end goal(s) of the discussion. All the members of this round table discussion have looked at various issues that affect the results of NIRF rankings, and the measures that can be taken to improve transparency and, thereby, credibility.
Dr. Jitendra K. Das, the convener cum moderator for the roundtable, highlighted the purpose of the discussion, which included weighing the pros and cons of the ranking and possibly sharing the learning from the discussion with NIRF through a comprehensive report. He set the ball rolling by observing that the rankings are based on perception, which builds on the level of output. Since the definition of output is different for each institute, he proposed, ‘There can be some ranking method that is stable for all institutes, and then an additional parameter which is subjective and based on output.’ He also shared his concern about the dwindling NIRF rankings year after year, which many other institutions have also experienced and the possible reasons.
Professor Manoj Pant, Director, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade highlighted a crucial parameter: ‘Placement package numbers are subjective. Some include CTC, while others include bonus.’ But he also asserted that NIRF rankings can serve as a reliable internal accreditation system which will help management institutions to grow and improve based on the five parameters outlined by NIRF: Teaching and Learning Resources; Research and Professional Practice; Graduation Outcome; Outreach and Inclusivity; and Perception.
Mr. Thothathri Raman, International Accreditation Advisor & Chairman, Standards for Educational Advancement & Accreditation (SEAA) Trust, New Delhi, highlighted the ambiguity around the parameters around which the rankings were already released. He questioned if there was a need for a separate body like NIRF to give rankings or the already existing bodies like AICTE, NBA and NAAC should have been strengthened. Sharing the positive of NIRF, he mentioned that because of specific fixed parameters in place, institutes are making conscious efforts to improve their relative scores and perform better. NIRF is still evolving, and there is a disparity between the rankings it provides vis-a-vis magazines like Outlook and Business Today. So, work around the credibility of these rankings need to be done.
Ms. Puja Aggarwal, Associate Professor, IMT Ghaziabad, talked about the importance of NIRF rankings from the standpoint of PSUs and other corporate bodies which look into these rankings when it comes to participating in MDPs. She also spoke about the alleged “genuineness” that can be associated with the NIRF rankings from a student’s perspective. She raised her concern regarding the non-accessibility, lack of answerability, and the ignorance of internationalization (global linkages) from NIRF.
Dr. DN Pandey, Director, Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida, steered the conversation to an interesting side highlighting that NIRF rankings are relative while NAAC and NBA give an absolute score. Thus, a student will use the NIRF ranking while making the final call. He brought about two vital points– NIRF has brought about a sense of credibility when compared to the private agencies, which can easily have a conflict of interest. Hence, there should be a proper audit mechanism in place for NIRF. Secondly, there should be a minimum threshold for each of the five parameters identified by NIRF to be eligible for ranking.
Dr. Meena Bhatia, Associate Professor, BIMTECH Noida, recommended that NIRF should work to overcome the flaws around the citation capturing that is done to calculate the Research & Professional Practice parameter. She also mentioned the many aspects that NIRF should focus on while ranking the institutes like – Leadership & Governance, Alumni Connectedness, Accreditations & Global Linkages, Corporate Connectedness, and Future Orientation. She put forth that parameters must do justice to the quality.
Dr. Neetika Batra, Associate Dean & Program Chair at SOIL (School of Inspired Leadership) added on by highlighting that the quality of education is what needs focus. It should be looked from the perspective of all the stakeholders - students, institute, faculty, recruiters, and the nation (or country) as a whole. Parameters that touch upon the aspects like multiple intelligence, social entrepreneurship, socially relevant curriculum content, and cutting-edge learning design – should be touched upon by a government regulatory body like NIRF.
Supporting Dr. Neetika Batra, Mr. Swapan Das Gupta, Faculty, New Delhi Institute of Management, stressed that the quality of education has to be holistic and should ensure that it helps in building a better country and human beings.
Dr. Urvashi Makkar, Director General, GL Bajaj Institute of Management & Research, in support of Prof. Pant’s earlier point stated that NIRF ranking process could work as an excellent self-introspection and self-development tool for B-schools, even if they have not featured in the rankings.
Mr. A S Oberoi, Founder president MBA Rendezvous opined that perception of the perception parameter is on tricky wicket and one can’t run away with the accountability of the loopholes of getting connected with commercialization in this regard hence, perception parameter should either be dropped or improved in processed way.
Mr. Vishwanthan, Professor & Program Chair, Shiv Nadar School of Management & Entrepreneurship accentuated that improvement of the ecosystem of B-schools and management education from a national and global perspective should be the larger goal.
Dr. Vishal Talwar, Dean, School of Management, BML Munjal University, raised the question if NIRF would help the institutes become world-class and whether all the parameters are captured diligently.
Dr. AK Sinha, Faculty, Fortune Institute of International Business also stressed on the fact that the parameters on which rankings are provided need better coverage and the overall process should be transparent.
Dr Hitesh Arora, Professor, FORE School of Management, New Delhi presented Vote of Thanks while highlighting the major points of Round table discussion and appreciated the panelists for their candid approach on the subject with clarity on NIRF ranking.
After a lot of pondering, it was a common consensus that NIRF rankings are important, but the process requires fine-tuning. The important learning from the discussion were:
- The current set of parameters is not enough, and the scope of assessment needs to be widened. Efforts should be made to focus on aspects like:
- Curriculum Design & Relevance
- Leadership & Governance
- Alumni Connectedness
- Accreditations & Global Linkages
- Corporate Connectedness
- Future Orientation
- Social Relevance
- NIRF should make efforts to increase the credibility of the rankings by having a proper audit mechanism in place.
- Relative weightage and minimum threshold should be given to the different parameters for a B-school to rank.
- Rankings should be relevant from all stakeholders – Students, Institute, Faculty, Recruiters & Society.
- Emphasize on having a parity while assessment amongst various types of institutes in India.
- Ensure a transparent system.
- Seek accountability from NIRF.
The panel aims to share these learning with NIRF as a sincere attempt to make the ranking process more robust and effective.
Dr. Jitendra K. Das concluded that time is opportune for all Institutes to process the parameters infernally & revert to NIRF to strengthen them with feedback needed beyond data.
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