Boom in India's young universities seeking out global rankings

More academic institutions are requesting to be included to increase international visibility

Anna University in Chennai, India, which has been ranked among the top 100 young universities. Photo: Anna University
Powered by automated translation

More Indian universities than ever before are now considered among the best new institutions in the world, with 55 ranking in the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2024, which features 673 establishments.

Increased participation in the voluntary survey, education reforms, and greater investment in research led to the increase in India's tally, which is up from 45 last year and 26 in 2020.

The Young University Rankings focuses on institutions that are 50 years old or younger, with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore topping the list for the second year in a row.

We have seen more focus on internationalisation and more awareness of international visibility
Phil Baty, Times Higher Education’s chief global affairs officer

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education’s chief global affairs officer, said: "What we can see very clearly this year is that the stunning rise of Asia in global rankings is not just restricted to its older, established universities.

"The continent is highly dynamic, with a wide range of young, rising star universities emerging in places like India, Pakistan and Turkey."

There has been a resurgence particularly among Indian institutions, Mr Baty said.

"We've seen a significant increase in Indian universities wanting to be ranked," he added.

“In the last decade, we've seen a very significant shift of Indian universities wanting to join the international benchmarking system, and wanting to compare themselves globally. That is a major phenomenon.

“From the New Education Policy reforms and a commitment to reform in India, we've seen improvements in performance. The NEP reforms did, and have, put a focus on building research capacity."

Breaking new ground

India's New Education Policy was announced in 2020 and took effect in the 2023-2024 academic year.

It included syllabus updates, a restructuring of the grade system and removing the concept of rote learning, a traditional method of education focusing on memorisation skills and repetition instead of understanding a subject.

The reforms also focused on removing boundaries between academic disciplines and encouraged universities to offer multi-disciplinary courses.

"We have seen more focus on internationalisation and more awareness of international visibility, international reputation and brand and international networks. Also, some of the smaller younger universities are able to concentrate on niche strengths," Mr Baty said.

"The kind of investment we've seen in China and in east Asia is much greater than in southern Asia, I think China has had more than 30 years of very, very strong investment in top universities."

Two universities in the top 100

Indian universities such as Mahatma Gandhi University, established in 1983, ranked among the top 100 in the world, higher than Auckland University of Technology, Middlesex University, Bournemouth University and University of California, Merced.

Mahatma Gandhi University ranked 81st, a drop from 77th last year, and was the highest-ranked higher education institution in the country.

Anna University, set up in 1978, entered the top 100 with a ranking of 96, after placing among the best 250 universities worldwide last year.

Mr Baty said the list was a dynamic one looking at younger universities, with an interesting mix of different types of institutions including those in the private sector.

"India, I think needs to improve on internationalisation,” said Mr Baty.

"I think we're seeing that happening more. We're seeing the NEP reforms are starting to help Indian universities be a bit more connected internationally.

"This list is inherently very dynamic because it looks at universities under the age of 50. That means that every single year, we have universities dropping out because they reached the age of 51.

"In the overall World Rankings analysis last year, we did make some methodological changes and this ranking is a subset of the world rankings."

The latest Times Higher Education Arab University Rankings ranked universities based on indicators such as teaching, research quality, research environment, international outlook and industry.

Early days to determine progress

Senthil Nathan, managing director and co-founder of Edu Alliance, a higher education consultancy based in the UAE and US, said that while universities were consistently improving, it was still early days to determine whether they had really made progress.

“As these universities have been in the Times Higher Education ranking process only for a few years, it is not clear whether these progressive jumps are indicative of authentic progress in research efforts or due to these universities submitting data and evidence with a better understanding of the ranking requirements,” said Mr Nathan.

“In another five years of consistent submissions, the picture could become clearer."

Six Indian Institutes of Technology, India’s premier engineering institutes, have boycotted the Times Higher Education ranking since 2020 over issues of transparency.

Mr Nathan said voluntary participation in the rankings can lead to a lack of consistency.

“There is no consistency in the ranking because many leading universities are boycotting the ranking process,” he said.

"The current world ranking models are too biased towards research output that demands very high investments in research, which most of the universities in the developing world cannot afford – and do not need to do.

"High-research investments are to be underwritten by the governments and eventually the costs cascade down to students and society that can ill-afford such high costs for higher education when these young people really need affordable but skill-developing higher education for productive career and life."

He said India now had its own national ranking framework which was not voluntary and any university that was part of India's University Grants Commission needed to participate in it.

Asian universities dominate young university rankings

Asian universities dominated the rankings as their tally nearly doubled in five years, climbing from 165 in 2020 to 327 in 2024.

Turkey has 58 universities represented, up from 47 last year and just 23 in 2020, while Iran has 46 universities, up from 39 last year and 20 in 2020, and Pakistan has 33 universities this year up from 22 last year.

Overall, in second place was Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris, which moved up one place from last year.

The collegiate university was formed in 2010 with the aim of becoming one of the world’s leading research universities.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which was second last year, has moved down one place this year to third. The university, established in 1991, is one of the best in Hong Kong and focuses on science and technology education.

Asian universities overtaking top US Ivy League colleges - in pictures

Updated: May 15, 2024, 2:25 PM