Hyderabad: When an outsider walks into the sprawling campus of the University of Hyderabad, they would be greeted by a perfect symphony of greenery and buildings. But that symphony ceases to exist in the varsity’s space among other universities in the country, NIRF rankings show.
Five years ago, UoH grabbed the 4th spot in the Universities rankings released by NIRF. Only behind other eminent institutes like the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Banaras Hindu University.
In the same year, the varsity was also awarded the Institute of Eminence status. An IoE grant was supposed to mean that the Central University enjoys more autonomy in administrative and academic matters.
2019, therefore, seemed like a good year for the University.
Like many others at the time, Athul S, a five-year-Integrated MA student of anthropology at the University, told Siasat.com that he had applied to UoH after seeing this ranking.
In NIRF’s most recent rankings, released on Monday, the institution figures at number 10, a steep fall from what students like Athul had expected. “As the UG (Undergraduate) part of my degree is done, we have fallen to the 10th rank. This decline concerns me a lot about the future of this great campus,” he adds.
Other universities improve, UoH remains stagnant
Many universities that were below UoH in the 2019 rankings have since gone on to improve their standing over the years.
Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) is one of them. In the 2019 list, Jamia was in the 12th spot. Steadily, the minority institution started climbing up the ranks.
In the 2023 rankings, Jamia holds the 3rd spot. The university seems to have made a major improvement in NIRF’s perception parameter, with its 2019 marks of 14.26 jumping to 48.48 in 2023, despite being caught in controversies over the years. The parameter is marked out of 100.
Vellore Institute of Technology, a private university, took the number 8 spot in 2023, an 11 rank jump, from the 19th spot in 2019.
Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), another minority institution that lagged behind UoH in 2019 at rank 11, has now risen to rank 9, one spot above the Central university.
The blame falls on fund cuts
General secretary of the UoH Students’ Union, Kripa Maria George, said that the varsity has seen no infrastructural improvements in the last two to three years. “The condition of hostels is deplorable with the maintenance of departments going down the drains with massive cuts in maintenance funds,” Kripa told Siasat.com.
Mohit, the secretary of the Students’ Federation of India blames the Central government for the drop in UoH’s performance.
“On the one hand, the Central government and the UGC are not releasing funds, on the other hand, existing funds are going towards projects of elite faculties. Until and unless the university provides basic facilities like good library access, good mess food, and adequate fellowship, things won’t change,” he said.
According to Mohit, the Non-NET fellowship for PhD holders in the University has remained the same for the last few years. “How can the University expect the students to do research with just Rs 8000 per month?” he questioned.
A faculty perspective
According to the Head of the Centre for Comparative Literature, Sowmya Dechamma, the University has been receiving IoE grants, but its regular funding has seen a drastic dip in the last five years. In almost a decade, new faculty posts haven’t been sanctioned, the professor added. “Without funding and sanction of new posts, there can never be progress,” she said.
Dechamma added that the Centre for Comparative Literature runs with just four permanent faculty. “This barely enables the centre to teach MA and PhD programs with the help of Guest faculty.”
There is a huge cut in administration staff at the University, contributing to the added burden on professors for handling administrative work. This has left faculty with little or no time for research, a huge factor in the rankings.
The professor, however, is not a fan of rankings that pit universities against each other.
“The market-oriented courses offered by institutions like IITs provide them an advantage,” she said. Their peer-perception and placements are often better than varsities like UoH which also provide an education in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Dechamma states that UoH and many other Central universities charge a nominal fee, therefore, the mobility that students from difficult backgrounds get in such varsities cannot be measure by rankings.
“Rankings have to consider equal-footed institutions,” she told Siasat.com.