Four new winners. Never have there been so many upsets in the nine years of the India Today survey of academic excellence. Arts, science, engineering and, incredibly, in law, where the seemingly invincible National Law School of India University (NLSIU) was finally vanquished. None of this year's new toppers is a fresher in the business. Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) that took pride of place among arts colleges has a history that dates back close to 50 years.
As does IIT Delhi which beat its brethren in other centres for the best engineering college slot. Chennai's Loyola College, the science topper, is even older-80 years. Pune's ILS Law College, which dethroned NLSIU, is a year older. They all have pedigree and something even more: an unceasing quest for excellence.
The survey has always been a keenly fought contest. To figure in India Today's top 10 lists is credit enough. After all, there are over 200 universities and 12,600 colleges across the country and the toppers are undoubtedly the crème de la crème of higher education in India. Singling out the best has always been a taxing exercise. There are no official surveys or rating agencies that assess superiority among colleges. So the five million students that make a beeline to college offices for admission forms around this time of the year have no benchmarks to go by. Especially in an age where getting 85 per cent in the higher secondary board examinations doesn't seem good enough.
Given that the curriculum is usually fixed by the university boards, what makes a great college? Is it reputation for academic achievement? Or faculty? Is it the way it treats its students, the counselling it provides them, the canteen services? Is it the college's ability to be flexible and adaptable and to keep abreast of a world moving at superfast forward? Is it the value systems it upholds or the zeal and dedication with which it pursues its mission?
|How the Ranking was Done |
AC Nielsen-ORG-MARG partnered with India Today to conduct the annual survey of the top 10 colleges in India in the arts, science, commerce, law, engineering and medicine streams. To determine the ranking a formula based on a perception score (from an opinion poll conducted among academic experts) and an objective score (factual data furnished by colleges and collected from their websites) was evolved.
Desk research was conducted to add on to the list of colleges that had featured in our past surveys, and secondary data sources like the Association of India Universities Handbook were used. Suggestions from experts were also included. A comprehensive list of around 400 colleges was drawn up by the AC Nielsen-ORG-MARG team headed by Anuj Narain. To calculate the perception score, 358 experts at the level of principals, heads of departments and deans in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and Lucknow were contacted in March and April.
After working out the familiarity quotient, the respondents were asked to distribute 100 points across seven vital parameters: reputation of colleges, curriculum, quality of academic input, student care, admission procedure, infrastructure and job prospects. The most important parameter got the maximum points and the least the minimum. Each expert rated colleges in his field only. The overall perceptual score was calculated through a complex but logical statistical equation. Responses of experts rating their own colleges were excluded from the scores to minimise bias.
Factual data was then collected for colleges that had received top perceptual ratings. For the factual ranking, all the parameters were rescaled to get a single score. To calculate the overall composite score, a 70:30 weightage was assigned to perception and factual scores respectively. The rationale was to provide consistency with the previous year's study. This methodology of ranking, based on both perception and factual data, provides a comprehensive picture of each college rated.
Some of these answers come from those who head the winning colleges. Meenakshi Gopinath, LSR's principal, believes that the learning process should be "a unique blend of intellectual rigour and aesthetic and spiritual engagement. It is a liberating pedagogy as opposed to a domesticating one." At AIIMS, which topped the medical colleges again this year, P. Venugopal, its director, says that "the institute's ability to keep students well versed with the latest developments in their field and provide world class facilities" is what distinguishes it from others.
|Step 1 |
A comprehensive list of around 400 colleges was prepared. Factual information like number of applicants, admission procedure, pass percentage of students, faculty, infrastructure and campus placement was collected.
Over 350 academic experts across eight cities rated the colleges according to seven parameters: reputation, curriculum, quality of academic input, student care, admission procedure, infrastructure and job prospects.
These predetermined factors were then ranked according to the descending order of importance based on the average number of points allocated across all the experts whose opinion was taken in Step 2.
The overall perceptual score of each college was computed through a complex statistical calculation which involved the multiplication of the scores of factors with those of awareness levels.
|Step 5 |
The factual data for colleges that had received top perceptual rankings was then rescaled to arrive at a single factual score. The perceptual and factual data were given 70:30 weightage respectively to get the final ranks.
There is, though, a more fundamental question: What is the purpose of education? Some say that it is a system by which each generation passes on its learning to the next. Otherwise the wheel would have to be constantly reinvented. Others believe that the quality of a nation's educational system will be a chief determinant of its success in the 21st century and beyond. Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard University and an eminent educationist, postulates that the "two major goals of education across time and space could be called the modelling of adult roles and the transmission of cultural values. Every society must ensure that the most important adult roles-leader, teacher, parent, priest-are properly filled by members of the next generation."
The new century has brought with it a big shift to the information society, the knowledge society and the learning society. Teenagers now have access to a bewildering range of media and tend to learn more outside the walls of colleges than inside the classrooms. Parents have never been as confused as now. Most belong to the handbook generation that looks for answers to bringing up children as they would look up a guide to running their washing machines. They are trying to arrive at a certainty when there really isn't. The problem too is that Indian universities are collapsing under the combined weight of years of neglect and massive financial cutbacks. The choices for good colleges are fewer and rating them is even tougher. Yet, as Plato once said: "The purpose of education is to make the individual want to do what he has to do." The top ten colleges epitomise this quest.