Prof. C Raj Kumar, founding Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University, speaks to B Mahesh Sarma on the components of a good ranking to why rankings do not matter in India.
Q. What are the constituents of a good ranking?
A. The qualification of the faculty is the most important thing. Good faculty and good students constitute the core of a great institution. But the most important criterion must be research output. In fact, this must be given very high weightage, say 50 to 60 percent, the way THE or QS rankings do. Research here means refereed publication. One should not give weightage to working papers or conference proceedings or some random report or newspaper columns.
Q. What other parameters should one consider?
A. I would not give more than 10 to 15 percent maximum for infrastructure and quality of life. It is a must for a good school. I would give at least a weightage of 15 to 20 percent on internationalization. This would constitute international faculty presence and collaborative efforts like joint research and other academic work. At least 10 percent marks must go to career options that students enter in after their first degree and I would include their higher studies, litigation, in-house counsel amongst others.
In India you don’t have much competition. You know if you are a NALSAR, NLSIU or NLU you are always there. We need to have a host of great institutions competing fiercely
Q. How important are moot courts?
A. Presence or absence of moot courts should not be the sole criterion. It should be extracurricular and co-curricular activities because there is MUN, it’s a very popular thing among law students, there are debates, which are extremely popular, there are conferences and many more. If you just rate moot courts you are being unfair to a large number of students. So what one evaluates here is the presence of intellectually engaging activities where students’ knowledge, expertise and intellectual creativity is demonstrated through an extracurricular activity. Now if I use that definition the criterion must also include students involved in participating and presenting papers at conferences, students not just invited, but as participants, as well.
Q. What is the most important thing a ranking normally does not capture?
A. How much an institution is doing towards promoting intellectually vibrant environment beyond the classroom? The seminars, the conferences, the lecturers, the workshops amongst others matter, because so much of learning in a university should and does happen outside the classroom, beyond the four walls. For example, every day at Harvard Law School there are many activities happening beyond the classroom. You will find the American Supreme court judge there, you may find the head of Amnesty International speaking about the crisis in Kosovo, you might find the Indian Law minister coming or Ecuador law minister coming, and you may find law firm partners speaking about securities regulation and so on. With all due respect, most of our institutions are found wanting on this respect. Here such events are like the diwali, a once in a 6- month or once in a year offering. This has to change.
Q. Why don’t the institutions care about rankings?
A. ‘US News’ rankings are a big deal because there is real competition between an IOWA and Indiana, a Minnesota and a Minneapolis. Presidents and deans are investing resources all year round to move a place above or fight for retaining their current position. But in India you don’t have much competition. You know if you are a NALSAR, NLSIU or NLU you are always there. We need to have a host of great institutions competing fiercely.
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