Sunday 5 October 2008

The engineering craze in India and college rankings


This is partly in response to an earlier post I wrote about engineering college rankings.


Something offtopic before I get to the point: Outlook's ratings are out this time and it agrees with even Mint's engineering college rankings in stating that BITS Pilani ranks as the #1 private engineering college in India. Being a Bitsian, this comes as a relief to me (not as joy though, mainly because its common knowledge that these rankings lack credibility).

Anyways getting back to the point, this is about the engineering college rankings (or the so called perception among people, of ranking). To get into perspective, these are few of the most widely popular rankings that majority of the public go by:
  1. India Today, college rankings: http://www.india-today.com/itoday/20010521/cover-engineering.shtml
  2. Outlook, college rankings (methodology here): http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20060717&fname=Cover+Story&sid=5
  3. Dataquest college rankings: http://admissionsync.com/2007/07/13/data-quest-top-schools-in-india-2007/
What is the fuss about?
In my opinion, all the fuss is about confusion and misinformation. Half the students who get into engineering dont know what it is about, or what they want to do in life. A great majority of them are pushed in by their parents, who know little about other alternatives and are ignorant or indifferent to suggestions of alternative options.

Whatever may be the reason, engineering is considered by a vast majority of people as a gateway to good jobs and a means to earn a good living. In this pursuit there is a mad rush for engineering all around India. This is evident by the number of students who sit for engineering entrance examinations such as JEE or AIEEE. And this number is only increasing year after year. No proportional growth in the colleges results in a very visible rat race for the few colleges that have earned a respectable reputation among the masses.

In this wild rush, there is a great deal of chaos and confusion which is the reason why people seek these so called rankings, so that they may get a sense of direction and information out of the confusing mess that they are in.
But they do not know that the rankings they depend on, are not dependable at all. They are at best attempts to judge the colleges. And different agencies, magazines, judge colleges differently and not always correctly. The criteria for comparison also varies and often it is misreported (as had happened in the case of bits pilani and india today). For example, in the case of anna university, I quote (From T.R. Muralidharan's article in Outlook):
Anna University (to which TN engineering colleges are affiliated) is still finding it difficult to ensure that infrastructure and facilities at the colleges conform to standards. The quality of education rendered too is often substandard. There is a shortage of good professors in areas like IT and communications where developments happen rapidly.

The rankings are widely accepted to be futile, but however they do seem to have a following among the masses because of lack of other information.


Rankings:
When we try to analyze all potential rankings, there could be 3 kinds (source of information detailed below is rediff.com):
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

So what we do require is a blend of government and agency rankings (pure government rankings could make the system corrupt, agency rankings coupled with openness of the ranking methods and information used, could be more transparent and a better system).


The craze?

A third point to ponder upon is the mad craze after engineering in India.
The mushrooming of coaching classes for engineering and private tutors and the conditions of teaching etc clearly indicate that students are trying too hard to satisfy this 'craze' or 'rat race' of getting into a good engineering college no matter what it takes. Heres an article that discusses one such region: Kota, where 40000 students join annually in hopes of entering an elite engineering college.

The craze is maddening, and will end only when either or both of two things happen:
  • People get wiser to the availability of other options for a good career; and students going after their passions and interest to chart out a future career that is both satisfying and monetarily rewarding
  • The number of colleges (not just any colleges, quality colleges) increase in the country, without useless fuss of quotas and locality rules spoiling the merit-based-admission criteria.
Thats as far as my mind goes, lets see how the future unfurls itself. Either the rat race ends, or we just wait for a Pied Piper to come along and lead us to our own disaster.
Or probably we dont even need him, we are enroute already...

11 comments:

Akash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Akash said...

Wonderful post. That is the exact problem: The seriousness with which people take these rankings. And it is one of the reasons that we as students of colleges also have to cite these rankings to show the credibility of our college (Which is simply sad, but can't be helped)
Since you are a BITSian:
http://bitsianwings.blogspot.com/2008/07/bits-pilani-in-rankings.html
Also a little about DQ rankings:
http://bitsianwings.blogspot.com/2008/06/bits-pilani-iit-bombay-nit-trichy-nitk.html (I believe you will find the last paragraph in the post interesting!)
Cheers!

Abhishek Kumar said...

Great!
I didnt know so many other colleges opted out of the rankings. It only puts a bigger question mark on their credibility.
Nice blog, nice points. Any comments on the US News based rankings of the US colleges (thats got a massive following among ppl going 4 MS)?

Anonymous said...

Are you another one of us?

(Us being the ones that realised we erred greatly by joining an engineering college but were too chicken to drop out?)

LMAO...

control valves said...

Very Nice! Engineering in India is really great!

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J J Complex, Above Chemmannur Jewellers,
Marthahalli - P O,
Bangalore - 560037
Karnataka
e-mail :jojishpaily@gmail.com
Contact: +91 9448516637
+91 9886089896, +91 9449009983
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University Ranking said...

Great information. There are many top ranking engineering colleges in India.

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