Panjab University, alma mater of two prime ministers, a nobel laureate and an astronaut, now wants to "hit the Top-200 rankings" among world universities, said a top official after it was listed as the top Indian university, even ahead of the IITs, by the Times Higher Education (THE) world university rankings.
"The universities with better rankings than us are good at pushing the frontiers of knowledge. They are good in research. This ranking has made us confident. Now we know what our competitors are doing," Panjab University's (PU) Vice Chancellor Arun Grover told IANS in an interview.
Based out of a 550-acre beautiful campus in Chandigarh, PU has emerged as the highest ranked Indian university in the top 400 institutions of its kind in the world. Having been placed among universities ranked 226-250th by THE, PU is the only Indian institution of higher learning to inch closer to the Top-200 mark.
In the process, PU has surged ahead of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other leading universities in the country. "The forte of the Top-200 universities is in the graduate school programmes and not under-graduate teaching like we do.
We don't have a very rigorous graduate programme and that is one area where we want to concentrate. We have been talking and want to raise resources to run a good graduate programme. We can then hit the Top-200 rankings," Grover said. The VC feels the latest THE ranking will help PU's students and faculty.
"They will get better opportunities in India and abroad," he pointed out. PU's famous alumni include Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral, former president Shankar Dayal Sharma and Nobel Laureate Hargobind Khurana, besides astronaut Kalpana Chawla, several union ministers, CEOs, corporate heads, top bureaucrats, army and police officers.
In the latest rankings, IIT-Kharagpur, which was in the same (226-250th) position last year, slipped to the 351-400 group. IIT-Delhi, IIT-Roorkee and IIT-Kanpur are also in the 351-400 group.
"The expectations from the IITs are very high. People think that the IITs are the best. They get the best of students and faculty. Only a handful make it to these premier institutes. The rest come to universities. We have our constraints. Still we have been able to surge ahead," Grover said, adding that it was not out of nowhere that PU emerged as the top-ranked institution.
Crediting faculty and officials in PU for effective presentations and filling up the required data to compete for the rankings, Grover admitted that the university always had the potential but never competed for the rankings.
"The rankings have provided us self-confidence. It shows that we are not as pathetic as we are made out to be. A negative image is created about PU at times which is unfortunate. The data was there to fill up earlier (for the rankings). Why didn't you have the confidence to fill? This time, our presentations were well done," said Grover who took over as VC in July last year.
He said that the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) "motivated us to fill up the data". "Our own people were reluctant to fill up the data. The credit is to the central government for goading all (universities and institutes) to fill up the data," he said. Promising to "adopt the work culture of the Top-100 universities in the world", Grover said that the effort would now be research focussed.
In the THE parameters for rankings, PU scored 84.7 percent in citations while its score in research was a low 14 percent.
"We want to change that. We want to focus on research. We want to begin a pre-PhD programme. We don't have the full faculty strength. The faculty is forced to take more lectures due to teaching load. Research needs a lot of time. You cannot be giving three lectures a day and then expected to carry out research activities also," he said.
Grover said that students enrolling for research programmes have no access to grants. "The grants from the centre are limited. Students have to depend on these. Eightyseven percent of our funds go to salaries. Due to this, we cannot give research fellowships," he said.