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India Makes Strides in the QS BRICS Ranking

Twenty Indian institutions feature in the latest BRICS ranking. As in the first BRICS exercise, compiled in 2013, five Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) win places in the top 20.

IITs are again by far the most successful representatives of the country’s higher education system. IIT Delhi has the highest position, at 13th, and the Bombay, Kanpur, Madras and Kharagpur IITs are also in the top 20 for the BRICS nations.

The University of Delhi has overtaken the University of Calcutta to become India’s highest-ranked generalist institution in the BRICS ranking. Improvements in staffing levels and citations helped Delhi to jump 14 places since 2013.

Martin Ince, editor of the QS Higher Education World points out that “The first thing to note is that all five of the BRICS nations are represented in the upper reaches of this ranking. China has the top two places and Russia’s highest-placed institution is third. Brazil and South Africa’s top entrants are at 7 and 9, and India at 13. This shows that these nations all have top-quality higher education systems, and validates the idea of ranking them alongside each other.”

Only 11 of the 200 institutions in the new ranking are from South Africa, but they account for almost half of the country’s universities.  Alongside the huge populations of China, India and Brazil in particular, South Africa must hope for quality, rather than quantity, to make its mark. The University of Cape Town (UCT) has moved into the BRICS top ten, with the highest ratio of citations per academic paper of any university throughout the five countries.

“China’s big Asian rival, India, has little reason to draw comfort from these rankings. It has only 20 universities and institutions among the 200 we list here, compared to 71 in China, 53 in Russia, 45 in Brazil and 11 in South Africa, with less than 5 per cent of India’s population.”, said Mr. Ince, “The Indian university system is a strong on a national scale, but our data shows that it holds little attraction for globally mobile students and academics. However it seems that the well-liked universities of Brazil are good at attracting international faculty, perhaps because of its fast-growing research budgets, but poor at bringing in overseas students. The Brazilian government is keen to send many more students abroad. One effect of their presence on campuses around the world may be growing visibility for Brazil as a place to study.”

According to Ben Sowter, head of QS Intelligence Unit: “There have been notable improvements, too, from Manipal University, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, and Amity University, all of which have risen more than ten places since the first BRICS ranking. The biggest fall was at Panjab University, which was close to the top 100 in 2013.”

“The methodology employed in the BRICS ranking  plays to India’s strengths, in the indicator of proportion of faculty with PhDs, in the leading universities at least”, affirms Ben Sowter.  The Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur has the higher proportion of PhDs among its staff than any university in the five countries, while another three Indian institutions feature in the top five on this measure.

On overall staffing levels, by contrast, only Manipal University appears in the top 100 among the universities of the BRICS countries. The figures for international students and staff tell a similar story.

Indian universities have been struggling to keep pace with the demand from the country’s vast young population: between 2007-08 and 2010-11, post-secondary student numbers grew by almost 5 million students. In the same five-year period, almost 10,000 new colleges and universities opened, but even this did not meet the government’s expansion targets.


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