I just can’t bring myself to trust the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It is clearly wrong. Any ranking which puts UC Berkeley below that junior university is obviously suspect, in my considered o-pee-nee-awhn.
OK, now that I have dispensed with the mandatory dig at the “Leland Stanford Junior University” aka Stanford University, the arch enemy of my alma mater UC Berkeley, let’s see what the list says.
In the top 20 of this list, the US has 15, UK has 3, and one each from Canada and Singapore.
In the top 200, the US appears 72 times, UK appears 29 times, Germany 14, Netherlands 10, Canada 9, Australia 7, China 6 (including Hong Kong, the total is 10), Sweden 6, Taiwan 5, Japan 5, France 4, South Korea 4, Denmark 3, Singapore 2, Spain 2, Belgium 2, Turkey 2, . . .
Where on earth is India? Isn’t India an IT superpower? What about the IIT’s? Where on earth are the IITs? Why isn’t Chacha Nehru’s great experiment in socialism working as advertised?
In fact, the page listing the top Asian Universities in the Times Higher Ed rankings lists 27 universities: India 0 out of 27.
India not showing in rankings is not new. Here’s something from Dec 2006, “Desperately Seeking India’s Google“:
The Silicon Valley in California is an incubator for world class innovative technology companies. Why is that? Perhaps it has something to do with the presence of world class universities. The August 21/28th issue of Newsweek has an article titled “World of Knowledge” which focuses on education and global universities. Newsweek’s ranking which shows “that the world’s top 10 includes eight American universities plus Oxford and Cambridge.” It goes on to note that “of the next 40, 22 are American, five are British, five are Swiss, three are Canadian, two are Japanese, two are Australian, and one is Singaporean.”
Curiously, the combined populations of the countries that account for the top 50 global universities in the Newsweek ranking approximate the population of India. Not one of the 272 universities in India figures in that list, however. Four of the top 10 universities are in California. Stanford (established 1885) ranks 2nd, California Institute of Technology (est. 1891) is 4th, UC Berkeley (my alma mater, est. 1868) is 5th, and UC San Francisco (est. 1873) is 9th.
Of the top 50 universities, 30 are American. Is it any wonder that the US leads the world in innovation and technology? And of the top 10, four are in California. Is it any wonder that within the US, California is the home of the Silicon Valley? Not just that, Yahoo!, Google, SUN, and a whole host of lesser known global firms have been born at Stanford University. Something in the water in northern California? Or does it have something to do with the universities?
In June 2008, I noted in “Ranking Universities on Web Visibility”
In the final 5,000 rankings, there were 30 Indian institutions. The top ranked Indian university was IIT Bombay (ranked 559 of 5000) and last to make it into that list was IIIT Allahabad (ranked 4723 of 5000). In the top 1000, US had 369, India had 4, and China had 17.
Unsurprisingly, 44 US institutions were ranked in the top 50. After all, the web and the internet were not only born in the US but the midwives were US universities.
(I am especially pleased to note these rankings: IIT Kanpur (995th in the world), Rutgers (28th), Berkeley (5th), and Stanford (2nd) — schools that I attended.)
As India is around a sixth of the world population, to be at par, India should have had around 600 universities in the top 5000 instead of the 30 it has. We do hear all the time that “India is an IT superpower.” Well, that claim will be more credible if its educational institutions actually did have something to do with the use of IT.
Wakey, wakey, Mr Sibal. It is time to think for a bit instead of wasting time doing stupid things like announcing $10 “laptops” and $35 “tablets.”
Post Script: Here’s a wonderful short introduction to the history of Stanford University. The urban legend mentioned in it is one of the best that I have ever heard.