IISc has a bold plan to reverse slide in its global ranking

Indian Institute of Science has a bold plan to reverse slide in its global ranking

 · Sep 7, 2014 · 12:30 pm



The Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is the only Indian university to feature in the Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, though it has fallen close to a hundred places, dropping from just below 300 on the list last year to almost 400 this year.

The ARWU’s ranking criteria includes the number of Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals won by staff and alumni, and their research output. The IISc’s score on one important metric  ‒ highly-cited researchers  ‒ has dropped drastically this year.



A change in the ARWU’s method of selecting highly-cited researchers could be responsible for this drop in score. But the fall in rank is perhaps warranted: there has been a steady decline in the number of papers published by IISc staff in the leading journals Nature and Science over the years.



The university has also fallen in other global rankings, such as the one conducted by independent research organisation Scimago in Spain.

A former associate director of the institute, N Balakrishnan, feels that there has been no drop in quality, and that the IISc’s standing among world universities is taking a hit because of that large number of schools that are suddenly entering the ranking system. Despite this, he says, the IISc’s administration has been concerned about its decline in these rankings, and has been taking corrective steps for more than five years.

The number of students at the institute has risen from 2,000 to 3,600, with a majority of students on the PhD track. “My feeling is that this will soon show up in our ranking as well as publications,” said Balakrishnan. “From input to output there is a delay of about five years.”

Funding has also been pouring in. In January, former Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan donated Rs 220 crore to build a brain research centre close to the IISc campus. A trust run by Gopalakrishnan will fund the centre for 10 years. The brain center conducts brain-computer interface research and studies dementia, a rising threat in India. In addition, Robert Bosch recently gave the institute Rs 110 crore.

The IISc has also received Rs 75 crore from the Tata group for neuroscience research. Earlier this month, the Infosys foundation gave IISc Rs 20 crore for research in mathematics and physics. According to Balakrishnan, Infosys is helping the IISc pay visiting professors salaries comparable to earnings in the US, helping it attract the best teaching talent.

Balakrishnan believes these measure will start showing results by the academic year 2016-'17. He hopes this will power IISc to the top 100 universities in the world, and among the top 10 schools in Asia.

“It is not the lack of resources, it is not the lack of understanding of what has to be done,” he said. “It is simply that the institution needs that much time to grow.”
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