By Anshika Juneja, Symbiosis Law College, Pune.

Higher Education is defined as, ‘education at universities or similar educational establishments, especially upto the degree level’. The government has unveiled an indigenous ranking framework for higher educational institutions that it believes will give Indian institutions a competitive platform free of any international bias. The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry Tuesday unveiled a first-of-its-kind indigenous ranking framework for higher education institutions, in response to global rankings in which Indian universities and colleges usually do not fare too well. The framework is different from global rankings in that it will judge institutions based on country-specific parameters.


An official note stated that the framework which would be used for ranking is “teaching, learning and resources, research, consulting and collaborative performance, graduation outcome, outreach and inclusivity (through reservations) and perception.” Each of these has been further subdivided into nearly 20 sub criteria to comprehensively assess an institute. The rankings will cover all institutes offering courses on engineering, law, management and humanities and the first ranking list is expected by January-February 2016. A core committee comprised National Board of Accreditation Chairman (NBA) Surendra Prasad, IIT-Kharagpur Director P.P. Chakraborty, IIT-Madras Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi, besides the higher education secretary and HRD ministry officials.

The National Institutional Ranking Framework marks a paradigm shift by including perceptions of students and parents in the ranking.

  • Initially, it will be voluntary for institutions to sign up for the ranking.
  • The ranking will be done by an independent and autonomous body and the exercise will be an annual affair.
  • It provides a transparent means for institutions to engage with students.
  • The ranking framework is designed in such a manner that institutions, belonging to different fields like engineering and management, would be compared separately in their own respective peer groups.
  • Demands to make Sanskrit compulsory have been rejected.
  • Choice-based credit system in govt universities set to become a reality.

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. The methodology had been prepared by a core committee set up by the ministry to identify the broad parameters for ranking. The HRD minister Smriti Irani credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for encouraging an India-specific ranking framework since no Indian institute had found place in the global ranking list by international agencies.


  1. teaching, learning and resources (TLR)
  2. research, professional practice and collaborative performance (RPC)
  3. graduation outcome (GO)
  4. outreach and inclusivity (OI)
  5. perception (PR) of end users

The HRD ministry will rank institutions vertically—engineering, management, universities, etc. Besides, it will also create two categories. Category A: those focusing on research and teaching; and Category B: those focusing primarily on teaching.

Justifying the division of the framework into two categories, Professor Surendra Prasad, chairman of the National Board of Accreditation, said this would enable “an apple-to-apple” comparison.

Institutions will have to provide data online by 31st December, and the final ranking will be unveiled in the first week of April before the new academic session begins. The framework for pharmacy, architecture and universities would be released within the next one month.


  • International ranking agencies only consider research work done in English, the body of work in regional languages is not considered.
  • Social inclusion or the reservation system is often not considered by international ranking agencies.

“We are working as per the reservation policy. We are not altering it. India is one of the few countries that provides for affirmative action and institutions must be socially relevant,” said secretary higher education V S Oberoi.

  • This framework gives new institutions a level playing field with older institutions.
  • The framework lays special emphasis on representation of women and socially challenged persons among students as well as faculty, apart from regional diversity and representation of physically challenged students.


  • Indian universities, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have failed to garner a respectable ranking year after year in the World University Rankings, done by various international agencies like Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds or QS.
  • Recently, British ranking agency Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranked the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, at 147 and 179, respectively, in the QS World University Rankings for 2015-16. This is the first time in years that two Indian institutes have been placed in the Top 200 of global education.

Global rankings conducted internationally have been heavily criticised by experts in India. Professor M Anandakrishnan, Chairman of IIT Kanpur, termed rankings a “scam” not to be trusted. Many from the smaller but internationally acclaimed institutes of technology and science in India felt that global rankings often missed out on their kind of institutions because they were small.
India’s poor showing is often blamed on the sudden expansion of the education sector, as well as poor government investment in high-quality institutions.
Dr PB Sharma, vice-chancellor of Delhi Technological University, said: “We have ignored the necessary connect to the world of learning and the world of industries” thus bypassing quality. According to Professor R Natarajan, former director at IIT Madras: “It is equally important to maintain global standards and ensure substantial quality, in fact at all levels of education.”


HRD Minister Smriti Irani said that the new ranking framework has been drafted to provide “an Indian context to educational aspirations and needs”. This will, she added, help institutions that conduct research in languages other than English and are focused on inclusive education, two factors that are overlooked by international agencies. The initiative is open to both private and public institutions across all disciplines and is not mandatory.

The ranking will be done by an independent and autonomous body and the exercise will be an annual affair. Keeping in mind the diversity of institutions, both in terms of type and quality, the idea of a single overall ranking was abandoned in favour of separate rankings based on education verticals.

“It is a revolutionary step. Before the next academic year, we will manage to give our students a plethora of choices on the basis of the national framework, which is very transparent, which engages not only the institutes, regulators but the citizens at large,” Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani said while releasing the framework.

A ranking system for Indian institutions of higher learning is significant as it would empower students as well as parents to make a conscious choice, based on the rankings, removed from the hubris surrounding these institutions.  The system itself would put pressure on educational institutions to perform well and provide what they promise in their prospectus.”This is the first time that a reliable, transparent and authentic ranking system is being implemented in the country for Higher Education. The primary purpose of this framework is to galvanize Indian institutions towards a competitive environment that exists in the world today. I sincerely hope that institutions will use this ranking framework to introspect and make sincere efforts to improve their standing,” Irani said in the framework’s document.