Deciphering the QS Rankings

Rankings have always been a matter of major discussions and debates. They have become a reference point for students while choosing an institute for their higher studies, but just a prima facie view of these rankings can be tremendously misleading. With a large amount of data available online, making sense out of it is far from an easy task, even more so for a prospective student.

To delve deeper into the ranking methodologies, two rankings: the Quadrelli Simmons or QS Rankings and the Indian Government initiative, the NIRF rankings were analyzed by Vox and the curious insights derived. The first part of it, derived from the QS rankings is presented here.

QS Ranking system consists of various different rankings, the most prominent ones of which are the  World University Rankings, Graduate Employability Rankings, University Rankings by Region and World University Rankings by Faculty.

First  look at the World University Rankings and the mere numbers paint a truly grim picture. None of the IITs come in the top 100 or even the top 150. IITD, the best of the IITs comes in at 185 with a score of 48.6/100 whereas IITK ranks at 302 scoring just 36.7/100.

The most notable thing is the score of IITs in the faculty-student Ratio and International students and faculty. 

                                                               Comparing IITs with National University of Singapore (NUS), the top Asian University it can clearly be seen that the ratio of international students and faculty for NUS is much higher than all the IITs, with more than half of the NUS faculty being from abroad. These parameters have a separate weight age of 5% each in world rankings.

Similarly IITs have less than half the Faculty-Student ratio as that of NUS. This parameter having 10% weight-age in the world rankings.

Another point to note is that the quality of papers of IITD is much better than any other IIT with 93.2/100 in CPP, whereas IITK performing moderately at 64.2. The score of IITB was much lower at 48.5, more on this later.

In the Asian Rankings, a somewhat different picture is seen. IITB tops all the other IITs, coming in at 35, scoring 76 points out of 100, whereas IITK ranks 48 scoring 68.1 points.  

[The score of NUS is 100 in all parameters except Papers per faculty (Edit)]

The most surprising thing is that IITB tops this ranking even when IITD tops the world university rankings with quite a large margin, owing to the fact that these rankings have a different weight ages than the world rankings.

Another thing evident from the above graph is that in addition to the quantity of papers published, the quality of papers is also extremely important. NUS lags way behind in terms of the number of papers (60.1/100) in contrast to IITs, which average 94.5 between them but NUS has 100/100 in terms of Citation per Papaer, whereas IITs do poorly on this parameter.

Here we also see an queer thing in the rankings, IITK ranks below IITB in terms of citations per papers whereas the contrary was true in the World Rankings.

IITs have a favourable employer reputation which is echoed by the fact that IITians occupy several high posts worldwide in both industry and academia.

IITs are engineering institutes for a fact with much lower emphasis on arts and medicine and this is a major cause for IITs suffering in terms of ranks. This means that the reality is not as bad as it might seem in terms of rankings. As a matter of fact, all top 5 IITs rank under 150 in core engineering topics, with most departments ranking in top 100. This can be seen when we take a more subject wise perspective.  

As it can be seen above, IITK does not fare too well when compared to the IITs in most subjects. Although one standout is Mathematics, lagging behind only IITB in terms of the overall score.

The better quality of papers was the deciding factor with IITK bagging the highest score in H Index Citations and the second best in Citations Per Paper from amongst the IITs. Now at the other end of the spectrum, Civil Engineering department lags behind the other IITs with the lowest score in Citations per paper as well as H-Index citations.

Having a look at the renowned and pioneering CSE Department of IITK, we see a similar story as in Civil Engineering Department. It is tied on the overall score with IITKgp at 4th position.

Arguably the best performing field for indian institutes, Electrical Engineering department  of all the top 5 IITs and the IISc ranked in the top 100. EE department of IITK has a competitive score in the category of Employer Reputation and H-Index Citations, which wasn’t the case in other disciplines, but is again ranked lower than other IITs due to the a poor score in Citations Per Paper which is also the least of all Indian institutes.

IITK’s standing  can be summarised by the following two graphs, they highlight the fact that we lack in terms of quality of papers in almost all the subjects except for Department of Maths and Chemistry, which translates into a better rank for these departments.      

The above problem is also evident in the faculty rankings. The faculty rankings of 2015 revolve

chiefly around academic reputation of the faculty members, their reputation in the eyes of the employers and the quantitative estimation of the quality of the their research papers, which is further split into two: Citations per Paper and H-Index Citations.

As is evident from the above chart, the main reason for IITK’s poor score , vis-a-vis the other IITs , are the Employer Reputation and the H-Index Citation. The sole reason IITB pulls ahead of IITD is also theH-Index Citation, with a whopping 9.1 point difference.

On an aside, we also looked at subjects like economics and arts but IITs were nowhere in site, other than IITB that surprisingly stood in top 100 in arts and designs. Similarly IITs do very poorly in biological fields, with IITB and IITD being the only ranked IITs coming in the range of 300-400

The subject wise rankings data show that IITs suffer a lot in terms of world ranks due to lower scores in subjects like business, management, art and design. This leads to the most striking revelation of all: the average scores (as calculated using all UG courses except BSBE which comes under Biological Sciences  in QS and Economics ) and those of the world rankings have a wide gap in between them as shown below.

What is even more surprising is that the same is not true for all universities, Consider the scores in Academic Reputation for University of Science and Technology (China), ranked at 104 in QS World Ranking . It is 64.1 on average on the subjects offered by it and 63.1 in the World Rankings. Similar is true for the other IITs and many institutes, which dampens the credibility of the World Rankings. 

The article shall be continued via its second part, focusing on the NIRF rankings.

All analysis done here is on the basis of the data provided by the QS . We are only considering the 5 oldest IITs, namely IIT Kharagpur (IITKgp), IIT Madras (IITM), IIT Kanpur (IITK), IIT Bombay (IITB) and IIT Delhi (IITD)

Written by Siddhartha Saxena, Rahul Agrawal and Siraj Singh Sindhu