Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Suggestion of Separate University Rankings for Research Excellence and Teaching Excellence

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Suggestion of Separate University Rankings for Research Excellence and Teaching Excellence

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Last updated on December 13th, 2013

I sent an email to Mr. Phil Baty of Times Higher Education Rankings,, with similar content to what is given below. The mail was copied to the editor of the Hindu.

I read your interview in The Hindu today, "Indian varsities lag behind in research",

While I believe the Times Higher Education Rankings may take into account teaching excellence in some way, in this interview you said, "The single best indicator in the rankings is the research impact, and here Peking performs pretty well — one of the strongest performances of any university."

In my humble opinion, such rankings as that of your esteemed institution, may result in academic administrators and the academics who are administered by them, giving less importance to teaching and more to research.

The summary of a January 2011 article of Science magazine, "Changing the Culture of Science Education at Research Universities",, has 13 authors from 11 different USA universities including MIT, Harvard and Yale, stating that "teaching load" is viewed as a derogatory label in STEM disciplines in many research universities, that "reward systems at research universities heavily weight efforts of many professors toward research at the expense of teaching" and that some institutions even reward research accomplishments and "raising outside research funds" by giving the concerned professors “teaching release”!

Please note that the above article is by 13 authors (academics presumably) affiliated to 11 different USA universities including MIT, Harvard and Yale.

Given this situation, I wonder whether your esteemed rankings institution can consider having two separate university rankings, one for research excellence and one for teaching excellence.

The teaching excellence ranking may be of great utility to the majority of students (and their parents) worldwide who go to (send their children to) universities primarily for an education and not necessarily research. BTW I have great appreciation for university research and am not against it in any way. But teaching should also be given its rightful place in a university.

--- end mail similar-content ---

I also forwarded the above mentioned mail to appropriate persons in Indian higher education.


Here's a short video, "Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013-2014 results",, 6 min. 37 secs, giving a good overview of the importance and impact of these rankings. In the later part of the video the presenter, Mishal Husain (BBC news presenter), speaks to Phil Baty.

Some highlights of the video from my perspective (picked up using the transcript):

*) 2013-14 is the tenth year of these rankings.

*) Global research industry is bigger than ever; 7 million people doing academic research and 1000 billion US dollars spent on this research work.

*) The rankings are used by academics to decide on partnerships and career decisions; industry and philanthropists for investment decisions; 170 million people in higher education; students may be using it to choose where to study.

*) Top universities in these rankings are US and UK based with universities from European countries like Germany and Netherlands coming after them.

*) Asian universities from China, Singapore and South Korea are marching up the ranks.

*) Phil Baty says the reason for these Asian universities rising up is "pretty basic, I think it's about money".

*) These countries (East Asian) have recognized the power of universities to drive the knowledge economy and so are investing money "at incredible levels" in their universities.

*) In the West austerity has hit the universities and the effect of these austerities are seen in the rankings.

*) The rankings have emerged as a geopolitical indicator. Success in the rankings is important to governments of some countries like India, Japan and Russia.


Update made on December 13th, 2013

I received the following mail response from Phil Baty of Times Higher Education Rankings:

Thanks for your suggestions – believe me that developing new and additional teaching indicators is high on our agenda.

I welcome your thoughts and your contribution to the discussions.

--- end mail response extract ---

I have given below relevant extracts of my response to him:

Thank you so much for your response.

It is very heartening for me to note that "developing new and additional teaching indicators is high" on your esteemed organization's agenda. I am also very encouraged by your acknowledging and responding to my mail.

In this context you may find the following two blog posts of mine to be of some interest:

a) Concrete Suggestions for Measuring Teaching Quality in Practice-Oriented Computer Science/Information Technology streams

b) Discussion on Concrete Suggestions for Measuring Teaching Quality …

Thanks again and I wish Times Higher Education Rankings all the very best in its efforts to improve measurement of teaching excellence in its rankings.

--- end mail extracts ---

I would also like to mention that Phil Baty was fine with his response being shared/put up on this blog.

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, December 11, 2013 at 3:56 PM

A distinguished US academic to whom I had sent a mail with content similar to the post above, sent me this link, Peter Higgs: I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system.

I was stunned to read the article. I mean, a Nobel prize winner in science saying that he wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system was just mind-blowing.

But, as I think about it, I guess the fundamental science work that he has done would need a very different environment from a paper-churning and somewhat noisy collaborative research environment which seems to the norm for academic research environments today. [I really don't know much about his work but with my Physics graduate background I can get some idea of what an intellectual and perhaps imaginative feat it would have been to propose existence of a new elementary particle, which eventually got confirmed by experiments.]

I admire the honesty of Prof. Higgs that is clearly seen from this article. I find this honesty and truthfulness of leading scientists to be kind-of liberating. It is a privilege to read such honest words.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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