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segunda-feira, 25 de novembro de 2013

BRICS: nossos aliados, universidades precarias (India)

Indian Universities Still Lag in World Rankings
The New York Times, November 24, 2013

MUMBAI — India produces some of the world’s brightest students and academics, yet none of its universities appear in the top-200 lists of the leading world university ranking surveys, compiled by Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli Symonds and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Indian institutions fare worse than their counterparts in South Korea, Turkey and Israel, not to mention those in Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, its companions among the so-called BRICS economies.
The results have caused dismay at the highest levels of government. India’s president, Pranab Mukherjee, speaking at Puducherry University’s convocation in September, said, “It is a sad reflection on us when the universal rankings of universities comes out.” Earlier this year, at a conference of academic heads of state-run universities, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rued that “it is a sobering thought that not one Indian university figures in the top-200 universities of the world today.”
At 25.9 million, India has the world’s second-highest number of students enrolled in higher education, according to Ernst & Young. Yet although 58.9 percent of these students are enrolled in private colleges and universities, the smartest applicants are drawn to publicly funded ones, including the 17 much-lauded Indian Institutes of Technology (I.I.T.s) and the 13 Indian Institutes of Management (I.I.M.s). In the 2013 global rankings, only publicly funded institutions featured anywhere at all.
Competition to get into elite state-run colleges is fierce. Last year, 512,000 applicants sought admission for 9,647 spots in the 15 technology institutes and the Indian School of Mines. Indian news media regularly report on the exorbitant percentages required of graduating high school students to gain a spot at state-run institutions like Delhi University or Bombay University, sometimes upward of 99 percent in certain colleges for degrees in commerce or technology.
Although publicly funded colleges and universities are meant to be autonomous, in reality the government has a degree of control. “Our education sector is, in some respects, overregulated and undergoverned,” said Shashi Tharoor, head of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which oversees higher education, in a telephone interview. “We need to be less regulated and better governed.”
The three ranking surveys use methodologies that emphasize academic research and faculty citation in journals, followed by other measures like employer reputation, academic reputation, faculty-student ratio, and the international composition of faculty and students. Indian universities lose out on many of these fronts. In addition to lack of research citations, they perform badly on other metrics like faculty-to-student ratios and lack of internationalism.
To be sure, there is a debate around rankings methodology and whether it is fair to rate Indian universities against older and richer Western institutions.
“India has domestic priorities to educate more young people,” said Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Still, he said, “there should be an elite group of institutions that focus on global competitiveness.”
Ben Sowter, head of research at QS World University Rankings, also said that “with an economy the size of India’s, it’s a fundamental need for Indian higher education to be more globally competitive.”
Extensive conversations with policy makers and academics point to systemic flaws that prevent Indian universities from performing better. “The truth is, our universities are really way behind,” said Pramath Raj Sinha, a former partner at the consulting firm McKinsey who was founding dean at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.
While some Indian universities had excellent researchers, Mr. Sinha said, many higher education institutions were under pressure to teach increasingly large numbers of students, which took the focus away from research. At the same time, universities lacked resources, both in terms of infrastructure and faculty, he added, noting that bright college graduates, in search of careers in academia and research, tended to go abroad, where resources for research — and pay — were better than in India.
Meenakshi Gopinath, the principal of the elite all-women’s Lady Shri Ram College at Delhi University, said, “It is a decisive moment in Indian higher education. A lot of practices that are the norm within universities abroad are only now coming into effect here. If we can tackle issues of curriculum redesign, student services, unfilled teacher vacancies, attrition, recruitment processes and infrastructure, with imagination and sensitivity, we could be poised for a major takeoff.”
One way to improve higher education is to attract good faculty. Rishikesha T. Krishnan, a professor of corporate strategy and policy at the I.I.M. in Bangalore, and a former visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, said that in its quest to expand higher education capacity, the government had prioritized quantity above quality. Faculty recruitment was difficult, he said, because academic pay scales at publicly funded institutions were pegged to civil service rates. Mr. Krishnan said that a starting professor made up to 60,000 rupees a month, or about $950, while an established professor made about 115,000 rupees a month: His wife, who obtained a Ph.D. at the same time as he did, made many times his salary in the private sector, he said.
Indian universities also have focused on teaching at the expense of research, although that is slowly  changing.
“In the area of high-quality research there’s a big gap we need to br idge. For us, research is a key focus area,” said Subhasis Chaudhuri, deputy director of I.I.T. Bombay. “Today we  have 2,000 students in our Ph.D. program,” he added.
Dheeraj Sanghi, who teaches computer science and engineering at I.I.T. Kanpur, said that compared with a decade ago, his institution was now highly focused on research.
“We’ve had 20 percent growth every year in research papers,” he said. “We are doing high-quality work in science and the humanities, but no one knows about it.”
In fact, the Indian government is demonstrating renewed interest in higher education. The 12th Five Year Plan, the government’s main policy document for the next five years, has specific initiatives outlined for education, such as improvements in academic quality, better and more autonomous governance and enhanced financing for research and infrastructure.

Commenting on the role of the global rankings in shaping the Indian education debate, Mr. Tharoor, the minister, said: “The real answer lies in doing the things we need to do anyway, such as support more research in the universities, which will also reflect in the rankings. India has the brains; it simply lacks steering.”

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