NIRF
Representative image.

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), under the Ministry of Education, published its latest NIRF rankings on September 9, 2021, show that varsities from Northeast India are facing downswing troubles on their trajectories to forward.

The NIRF rankings 2021, released by Dharmendra Pradhan, is the sixth annual ranking report of higher educational institutions since its inception in 2015 and its first release in 2016.

The rankings for all Indian universities and colleges, this year have been made under eleven categories, such as university, college, engineering, management, pharmacy, medical, law, architecture, dental, research, and overall.

The rankings 2021 are based on five parameters, namely, teaching, learning, and resources (TLR), research and professional practices (RP), graduation outcomes (GO), outreach and inclusivity (OI), and peer perception.

In the rankings 2021, under the university category, top ranks are ruled by India’s premier universities like Indian Institute of Science (1st rank), Jawaharlal Nehru University (2nd rank), Banaras Hindu University (3rd rank), and Calcutta University (4th rank) while among NE Indian varsities, only four universities grasped positions among the top 100 universities include, Gauhati University (45th rank), Tezpur University (46th rank), North-Eastern Hill University (59th rank), and Assam University (93rd rank).

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Nevertheless, this is unfortunate to say, despite bag spots among the top 100 universities these varsities from NE India did not perform well while comparing their accomplishments in prior years.

Two giant varsities from the region like Tezpur University and North-Eastern Hill University surprisingly step down to 46th and 59th ranks from their prior 39th and 49th rank, secured respectively in 2020.

Gauhati University which secured 47th rank and Assam University which even failed to bag a spot in the top 100 varsities in 2020 have performed relatively better in NIRF rankings 2021 but not symmetric to their achievements in 2016 when they secured 22nd and 77th rank respectively.

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For the first time, surprisingly, the universities like, Mizoram University and Dibrugarh University which secured 67th and 84th rank respectively in NIRF, 2020 rankings are ousted from the top 100 varsities in NIRF 2021 rankings.

Further, this year, with no surprises, the universities like, Rajiv Gandhi University which got the 99th rank in 2019, and Sikkim University which secured 61st rank in 2016 could not guard their position among the top 100 varsities.

Universities from this region are in a critical condition, struggle with multiple problems that cause an abysmal decline in performance outcomes. It was 2016 when Tezpur University grasped its rank among India’s top ten universities (5th rank), North-Eastern Hill University was among India’s top twenty universities (15th rank), and Gauhati University was India’s top thirty universities (22nd rank).

But since 2017, the performance of these universities is outrageously fallen off a cliff and today they even slipped to make their names in India’s top forty universities in NIRF rankings 2021.

NIRF 2021 rankings revealed that NE Indian varsities secured fewer scores especially in research activities and professional practice parameter (RP) and was followed by peer perception, and outreach and inclusivity (OI), while protected significant scores in graduation outcomes (GO) parameter.

For instance, in research and professional practice parameter (RP), out of 100 scores, Assam University secured the least score (13.32) and was preceded by North-Eastern Hill University (16.31), Gauhati University (19.05), and Tezpur University (30.02). While in the peer perception parameter, out of 100 scores, Assam University again bags least score (18.51) and was preceded by Gauhati University (25.34), North-Eastern Hill University (26.14), and Tezpur University (32.14).

Further, in the outreach and inclusivity aspect, the performance of NE varsities is plus-minus average, wherein among NE varsities, Tezpur University secured spotlight (52.17) and was followed by North-Eastern Hill University (51.63), Gauhati University (50.40), and Assam University (48.04).

Shortage of infrastructural support for research activities and drained as well as unhygienic relationships include, among faculties, between faculties and administrators, between teachers and students, and want of scholarly campus atmosphere are the potential causes for the consistent slip down in the rankings.

Inadequate funding and lack of multi-stage strategies, include, bridging rural students to higher education, and developmental initiatives, enhancing teachers’ training facilities cause a failure in ensuring accessibility and digital outreach, and sufficing competent educators in many remote parts of the Northeast.

Regional instability, irregularities in the recruitment process, lack of transparent administrations, and academic freedom as well as integrity- are among the other significant potential detriments.

The NIRF rankings 2021, herewith, is an urgent call to restrain such consistent fall down, and thereby, it is high time for planners, administrators, policymakers, and others responsible stakeholders of the region to look into these issues seriously and find structural as well as institution-specific holistic strategies to make a way forward to uplift Northeast varsities in parameters of NIRF rankings, especially, in research and professional practices (RP), peer perception, outreach, and inclusivity (OI), and teaching, learning, and resources (TLR).

(Author Nawaz Sarif is a senior research fellow and a former member of the Academic Council (AC) at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. He can be reached at nawazsarif@nehu.ac.in)

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