Make in India – Building a truly world-class Indian University

Down the ledgers of time, forty years and it seems like just a few days for me! I still remember the long and eventful journey that began in a 2-bedroom residential house in 1976, with just 4 students and the many highs and lows that I experienced in scaling up the Presidency Group of Institutions (PGI).

Looking back, it gives me immense satisfaction to see that PGI has emerged as a brand that offers quality education and encourages holistic development of its students. Today, we have a solid presence from Kindergarten to higher education at the University level and I am excited about the tremendous possibilities ahead for further consolidation and growth.

We commenced operations in Presidency University less than a year back and I’m delighted with the positive feedback that we have received from various stakeholders – students, their parents, the faculty and our peers in higher education. Of course, I realize that it is early days yet, and the next 2-3 years are going to be crucial for us, as we continue to nurture and provide resources for Presidency University to realize its true potential – to be ranked as the No. 1 Private University in India by 2020!

So, what was the reason for setting this ambitious goal? Let me share my thought process with you…Like everyone involved in higher education, I too keenly follow the ‘Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ every year. Here are some interesting highlights in the latest report:

“17 Indian Universities find place in the list of top 800 Rankings in 2015-16. The top spots from the India perspective were taken up by the expected names – Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) Bengaluru (the only one from India among the top 300 World Universities/Institutions), followed by the various IITs (ranked from 351 – 600), and other worthies like Jadavpur University, Punjab University, Aligarh Muslim University, Amrita University, Andhra University, BITS Pilani, University of Calcutta, University of Delhi and Savitribai Phule Pune University.

When we look at the top 100 Asia University Rankings 2015, again IISc. has managed to break into the club with a rank of 39, while IIT Bombay makes the cut on Rank 57. Interestingly institutions like IIT Kanpur, IIT Guwahati and Jadavpur University which were ranked 55, 74 and 76, respectively last year, could not secure a position this year”. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which is one of the most sought after University for Higher Education in India, could not secure a position in the latest list of top 800 World Universities, but was ranked at 96 in the Asia University Rankings 2015.

This prompted me to ask the question which my fellow edupreneurs may have posed over the years, “why can’t an Indian University break into the top 100 list of the World University rankings? What does it take for an Indian University to make the debut? How can we make this happen? Why do just 17 Universities from India feature in the long list of 800 top World Universities?”

Then came the next big question – “what exactly is a world-class university”?

In the words of Jun Li, Associate Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “the very concept of a world-class university is still ambiguous, uncertain, and contested, varying from once context to the next”. Another report that revealed the key characteristics of the average top 200 universities in its World University Rankings cited that the top 200 represents the top 1 per cent of the world’s higher education institutions!

In this context, let me share my thoughts on what I believe are the characteristics of a ‘world-class university’. Thanks to technology and the power of social networks, students today have high expectations about- the infrastructure & facilities that provide the right learning environment & a passionate talented faculty, that guide them in this learning process.

Striking the delicate balance between a right fee structure and providing value-for-money education, while keeping the university operations viable calls for careful planning and prudent financial management practices.

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: – the whole world is one family, is an integral part of the Indian ethos. In keeping with this belief, a world-class university must be truly international. It must bring together the most talented people – staff and students from all parts of the world; across different cultures and backgrounds. Harnessing the collective power of their intellect, perspectives, and new ideas at the University, will enable them to make the world a better place to live in.

In essence, student-centric policies and environment, a team that believes in the higher purpose, infrastructure and facilities that help to bring out the best in the students and faculty, and the right support from management are all vital ingredients to build a truly’World -Class University’

In the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings for 2015 – for the first time, two Indian universities are ranked among the World’s Top 200. IISc Bengaluru ranked at 147 while IIT Delhi was able to bag the 179th rank. In the next few years’ time, I expect to see many more Indian universities ascending on this path to the top 200 global ranks by QS

We are laying the foundation to ensure that Presidency University is one of them.