Hype around CUET apart, it’s time to focus the lens on Delhi University’s performance

Hype around CUET apart, it’s time to focus the lens on Delhi University’s performance

Amid all the hype and hoopla surrounding the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) [1], it may be a good idea for stakeholders to take cognizance of the inconsistent performance over the last few years of arguably one of India’s most popular universities – Delhi University [2] – in the Union Ministry of Education's National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) [3].

From recording a high of 6th in the NIRF ranking in 2016 (when the rating framework was introduced), Delhi University has consecutively failed to make it to the top-10 list of domestic ‘Universities’ in the last three yearly NIRF ratings. Delhi University ranked number 12 in NIRF 2021, 11 in 2020, and 13 in 2019.

In 2017 and 2018, it obtained the 8th and 7th positions respectively.

Given its recent performance, it would be presumptuous on one’s part to forecast what Delhi University’s rating would be when the next NIRF rankings for ‘Universities’ are announced later this year. Except to probably state with a fair degree of certainty that it may possibly be nothing short of a huge surprise (‘miracle’ may probably be the right word) if Delhi University can surpass its NIRF 2016 rank.

Incidentally, even as Delhi University itself has been moving up and down the NIRF ladder, it has continuously had several of its affiliated colleges almost consistently figure in the top-10 list of ‘Colleges’ in the NIRF ranking system.

In both 2021 and 2020, 5 colleges affiliated to Delhi University figured in the top-10 list of colleges in the NIRF ratings. The figure stood at 6 in the NIRF 2019 ratings. Significantly, the Delhi University-affiliated Miranda House obtained the No. 1 position in the NIRF ranking for colleges in 2019, 2020, and, also, in 2021.  

These developments naturally beg the question of what it is that leads to Delhi University (to which thousands of students apply each year in the hope that doing so would improve their futures) must do to ensure that it regularly features in the top-10 list of Indian Universities.

In my view, a good starting point for Delhi University to start rediscovering its mojo could possibly be in the form of university authorities and its academic staff introspecting with an open mind on whether their own shortcomings, including any likely refusal to move with the times, are, in any respect, contributing to the inconsistency in the university’s NIRF standing. And, following such a soul-searching exercise, be ready to show the willingness to make the necessary changes in their approach of going about things if such is called for, so that this, in turn, could lead to a consistent betterment in Delhi University’s NIRF performance in future.

The involvement of civil society in a big way can also contribute to the task of re-energizing Delhi University. One of the most effective ways through which top guns of civil society can do their bit for Delhi University is by ensuring that discussions around the university largely remain confined to those around academics.

No purpose is likely to be served by raking up extraneous issues as those may not always have a significant bearing on how Delhi University does on the NIRF scale. It must not be forgotten that all publicly funded Universities operate under some degree of constraint and Delhi University is not unique in that respect.   

At a broader level, Delhi University needs to borrow a few pearls of wisdom from the world’s topmost universities   – the likes of Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, et al. – which, despite their immense international popularity, have never attempted to rest on their laurels and continuously seek to improve their functioning so that they can benefit students and society at large in a bigger way. Learning from the best in the business would not only do Delhi University’s cause a whole lot of good but could also, more significantly, lead to an overall improvement in India’s higher education delivery standards.

For a country like India that is banking on a favourable demographic to make the much-awaited transition from a developing to a developed nation, its educational institutions need to step up in a big way to realize this aspiration. An inconsistently performing Delhi University will simply not do given the magnitude of the task at hand.



About the Author

Sumali Moitra is a current affairs commentator. Twitter: @sumalimoitra

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