Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

It’s not common knowledge that there are 355 private universities, 2,775 engineering colleges and 2,400 B-schools, and other privately-promoted professional education institutions which provide education to over 60 percent of the 27 million youth enrolled in the country’s floundering higher education system. Because of post-independence India’s disastrous romance with socialism, private initiatives in higher education in particular, were officially unwelcome, and dedicated private educationists had to run the gauntlet of discretionary licences, permits, controls and quotas before they were grudgingly allowed to establish greenfield universities and colleges. For this reason, politicians, bureaucrats, crooks and charlatans who could game the system had an edge over genuine educationists and promoted a substantial number of professional education, especially engineering, medical, and business management institutes. Consequently a large number of them — perhaps even a majority — are shell institutions lacking basic infrastructure and sufficiently learned faculty.

Although the overwhelming majority of Indian academics disoriented by gobbledegook Marxist economics tend to be disparaging and contemptuous of private higher education institutions (HEIs), the fact that an estimated 15 million youth are currently enrolled in private HEIs means they are perceived to provide better education than government universities and colleges, barring a handful of heavily-subsidised Central government institutions which demand near-impossible cut-offs for admission. And although comfortably tenured academics are loath to admit it, the gap between the top-ranked government-funded higher and best private universities and colleges is closing. 

Against this backdrop, we commissioned C fore, the well-known Delhi-based market research and opinion polls company, to rate and rank India’s Top 100 private universities, engineering colleges and Top 50 private B-schools. This is a departure from the beaten path and our own past practice of ranking top public and private universities and professional education colleges inter se without distinction. Accordingly, in keeping with international practice, C fore constituted a database of 4,465 sample respondents comprising faculty, final year students and industry leaders. These individuals were interviewed by 200 field researchers and asked to rate and rank over 500 institutions of higher education on seven parameters of education excellence.

For the growing number of students/parents disenchanted with public institutions of higher education, the EW summer league tables with their exclusive focus on the country’s private universities and colleges which tend to be overshadowed in most media surveys, will prove a useful guide for shortlisting, even if not for selection, purposes.

The unprecedented cover story apart, there are other nuggets in this hot summer issue of EW. Check out the interview with Dr. Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University and our Eyewitness feature on Barefoot College, Tilonia which is acclaimed and honoured, save in its own country.