Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

The NIRF’s ranking of education institutions on a common scale is problematic


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NIRF

Mains level: Paper 2- Issues in ranking HEI based on common framework


The ranking of State-run higher education institutions (HEIs) together with centrally funded institutions using the National Institutional Ranking Framework, or the NIRF, is akin to comparing apples and oranges.

Institute data

  • According to an All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 report, there are 1,043 HEIs.
  • Of these, 48 are central universities.
  • 135 are institutions of national importance,
  • 1 is a central open university,
  • 386 are State public universities,
  • 5 are institutions under the State legislature act,
  • 14 are State open universities,
  • 327 are State private universities,
  • 1 is a State private open university,
  • 36 are government deemed universities,
  • 10 are government aided deemed universities.
  • 80 are private deemed universities.

Comparison of financial health of State HEI with Central HEIs

  • A close study of the above data shows that 184 are centrally funded institutions (out of 1,043 HEIs in the country) to which the Government of India generously allocates its financial resources in contrast to inadequate financial support provided by State governments to their respective State public universities and colleges.
  • The Central government earmarked the sums, ₹7,686 crore and ₹7,643.26 crore to the IITs and central universities, respectively, in the Union Budget 2021.
  • Ironically, out of the total student enrolment, the number of undergraduate students is the largest (13,97,527) in State public universities followed by State open universities (9,22,944).

How NIRF ranks the education institutions?

  • Parameters set by the core committee of experts: The NIRF outlines a methodology to rank HEIs across the country, which is based on a set of metrics for the ranking of HEIs as agreed upon by a core committee of experts set up by the then Ministry of Human Resources Development (now the Ministry of Education), Government of India
  • The NIRF ranks HEIs on five parameters: teaching, learning and resources; research and professional practice; graduation outcome; outreach and inclusivity, and perception.

Where do State HEIs lag on NIRF parameters?

  • Teaching, learning and resources include metrics viz. student strength including doctoral students, the faculty-student ratio with an emphasis on permanent faculty, a combined metric for faculty with the qualification of PhD (or equivalent) and experience, and financial resources and their utilisation.
  • Low faculty strength in State HEIs: In the absence of adequate faculty strength, most State HEIs lag behind in this crucial NIRF parameter for ranking.
  • The depleting strength of teachers has further weakened the faculty-student ratio with an emphasis on permanent faculty in HEIs.
  • Research and professional practise encompasses a combined metric for publications, a combined metric for quality of publications, intellectual property rights/patents and the footprint of projects, professional practice and executive development programmes.
  • Need for modernisation of laboratories: As most laboratories need drastic modernisation in keeping pace with today’s market demand, it is no wonder that State HEIs fare miserably in this parameter as well while pitted against central institutions.

Issues with comparing State HEIs with Central HEIs

  • The difference in financial allocations diregarded: The financial health of State-sponsored HEIs is an open secret with salary and pension liabilities barely being managed.
  • Hence, rating such institutions vis-à-vis centrally funded institutions does not make any sense.
  • No cost-benefit analysis carried out: No agency carries out a cost-benefit analysis of State versus centrally funded HEIs on economic indicators such as return on investment the Government made into them vis-à-vis the contribution of their students in nation building parameters such as the number of students who passed out serving in rural areas, and bringing relief to common man.
  • While students who pass out of elite institutions generally prefer to move abroad in search of higher studies and better career prospects, a majority of State HEIs contribute immensely in building the local economy.
  • Issues in embracing technologies: State HEIs are struggling to embrace emerging technologies involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, block chains, smart boards, handheld computing devices, adaptive computer testing for student development.

Consider the question “What are the challenges in the ranking of Higher Education Institutions in India? What are the issues faced by State HEI?”


Ranking HEIs on a common scale purely based on strengths without taking note of the challenges and the weaknesses they face is not justified. It is time the NIRF plans an appropriate mechanism to rate the output and the performance of institutes in light of their constraints and the resources available to them.

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