NEP 2020: Why Ranking Systems For Higher Education Institutions Need To Be Reinvented

NEP proposes a comprehensive accreditation and ranking system to keep control of the quality of education. Outlook-ICARE India’s Best Colleges ranking is undertaken to recognise the importance of a comprehensive assessment of different parameters for Indian colleges.

NEP 2020: Why Ranking Systems For Higher Education Institutions Need To Be Reinvented

Higher education institutions (HEIs) such as universities and colleges are in the second year of implementing the National Education Policy (NEP). Many discussions and debates are being held on whether a paradigm shift is possible in the decades-old classical system of higher education with the implementation of NEP. But the new policy is likely to cause significant changes in the education system that require academic commitment from all stakeholders.

Indian students make up a sizable proportion of those studying in institutions worldwide. Furthermore, NEP encourages foreign institutions to establish campuses in India. The consequences of this policy are bound to impact both the quality and quantity of students. It also aims to achieve the set goals with spirit and intent by comprehensively prioritising action points, which entails careful planning, monitoring, and collaborative implementation, timely infusion of necessary funds, and careful analyses and reviews at multiple implementation steps.

The policy’s primary goal is to revitalise the education system at all levels (school, college, and university) and disciplines (classical, professional, technical and vocational). It envisions radical changes in educational methodology and provides detailed plans for primary, secondary, and higher education. According to the NEP document, the policy is introduced in various contexts. The most important ones are: (1) keeping up with the dynamic and fast-changing nature of the education space in India and around the world; (2) while liberal education has been shown to have positive outcomes in learning, such a form of education is not practised in India; (3) the government’s vision to leverage the Fourth Industrial Revolution to take India to new heights; and (4) providing education in Indian languages.

Essential Considerations

It is acknowledged that more people will aspire to higher education in the future, and there is a need to increase the number of students who will achieve enlightenment, engagement with and contribution to society, besides economic independence and a fulfilling life. The NEP is int­ended to re-energise and overhaul the higher education system by having at least one HEI in each district that can offer education in the local language, increase multidisciplinary undergraduate education, enhance student experiences by rev­amping pedagogy, mode of assessment and support, and career progression of faculty members based on teaching, research, and service. Furt­hermore, the governing bodies of these HEIs are expected to demonstrate improved institutional leadership and governance.

NEP envisions radical changes in educational methodology and provides detailed plans for primary, secondary, and higher education.

The policy proposes a single higher education regulator for HEIs in a “light but tight” manner, creating more opportunities for performing HEIs, encouraging the provision of scholarships through the philanthropic mode, providing access to learning materials for disabled learners, and increasing access to open distance learning. Because establishing high-quality HEIs is expensive, another option is to establish community colleges that provide graduate and postgraduate education even in remote areas. Multidisc­iplinary education in higher education will shape students with different perspectives.

HEIs consolidation

To avoid fragmentation of higher education, a new approach will be to establish larger multidisciplinary HEIs, each serving more than 3,000 students, as was done in the ancient Indian universities of Takshashila, Nalanda, Vallabhi, and Vikramshila. By 2040, all HEIs in India are expected to have multidisciplinary status and autonomy (academic and administrative), while single-discipline HEIs will be phased out gradually. College affiliation to universities will be discontinued, and these colleges will be given autonomy to achieve multidisciplinary HEI status. With a focus on establishing the majority of HEIs, private participation will be critical. HEIs are expected to provide interdisciplinary education at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including high-quality teaching and research combined with community education, contribution to various fields of practice, the development of future faculty members, and support for school education. Universities and autonomous degree-granting colleges will be classified as teaching-intensive or research-intensive. The gross enrolment ratio (GER), around 26 per cent in 2018, is expected to rise to at least 50 per cent by 2035.

Photo: Sanjay Rawat

Education that is multidisciplinary

According to the NEP, multidisciplinary education is critical for the twenty-first century. Integration of various branches of all forms of knowledge, whether technical, professional, or vocational, is essential for this. At the undergraduate and graduate levels, for example, the integration of humanities with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) provides a holistic type of education. HEIs are expected to move toward a holistic multidisciplinary education system by establishing new departments, developing flexible curricula, giving faculty members more autonomy in setting curricula, practising pedagogy (which focuses on discussion, debate, and cross-thinking), allowing students to enrol in areas of environmental protection, community service, and value-based aspects, and creating internships to allow students to explore in the additional fields. The establishment of multidisciplinary education and research universities and the encouragement of HEIs to establish incubation centres are expected to provide holistic education at all levels.

Ideal learning environment

To ensure quality learning, health, psychosocial, and ethical well-being should be supported. Curriculum, pedagogy, and continuous assessment are also linked to the successful delivery of quality education. An optimal learning environment must be created through the imp­lementation of a choice-based credit system (CBCS), institutional development plans (IDPs), a focus on disadvantaged socio-economic learners, and increased education access through open and distance learning (ODL). Internationalisation of Indian education to achieve vishwaguru (global teacher) status by (a) allowing learners to learn and earn credits from foreign institutions; (b) increasing international student enrolment; (c) encouraging research collaborations between Indian and foreign HEIs; and (d) allowing Indian HEIs to open campuses abroad and vice versa. To encourage faculty output by providing the best teaching facilities, assigning optimal teaching loads, implementing non-transferrable policies, allowing freedom to design curriculum, and promptly incentivising them through promotion and awards for their achievements. It is also strongly advised to hire tenure-track faculty members. It is acknowledged that strong leadership is required to encourage and lead the institution.

Photo: Srikanth Kolari

Creating high-quality teachers

By 2030, all teacher education institutions are expected to be multidisciplinary. HEIs must establish a department of education, offer four-year Bachelor of Education degree programmes, and provide a variety of educational modes. Current HEI teachers will continue their professional development. Notably, a national mentoring mission will be established to provide mentoring assistance to senior or retired faculty.

Equity and inclusion

This must be accomplished by providing adequate funds to support and increase the gross enrolment ratio of socioeconomically disadvantaged learners, maintaining gender balance, establishing HEIs in special zones and providing incentives to HEIs that offer education in the local language or bilingually, organising outreach programmes to raise awareness about educational opportunities, and using technology to relay education to the deserving groups. Fee concessions, inclusive student enrolment, inclusive curriculum, teaching in local languages, disabled-learner-friendly access to all buildings, courses with greater employability, bridge courses for slow learners, emotional counselling and academic support, zero-tolerance for discrimination, and long-term institutional plans to support disadvantaged learners are all offered by HEIs.


Outlook-ICARE ranking is undertaken to recognise the importance of a comprehensive assessment of different parameters for Indian colleges.

Rankings and accreditation

To keep control of the quality of education, NEP proposes a comprehensive accreditation and ranking system. Although the current assessment and ranking processes have helped institutions promote healthy competition amongst HEIs, they have to be reinvented to measure the goals and achievements of current education policy.

Outlook-ICARE India’s Best Colleges

Outlook-ICARE India’s Best Colleges ranking is undertaken to recognise the importance of a comprehensive assessment of different parameters for Indian colleges. Its identity uses the metaphor of a compass, a tool for measurement and assessment, creating a simple icon that stands out in the usually cluttered communication of colleges and universities for student consumption.




The HEIs are measured by five criteria: Academic and Research Excellence, Industry Interface & Placements, Infrastructure & Facilities, Governance & Admissions and Diversity & Outreach. These five broad parameters are then broken down into several sub-parameters/indicators, each leading to an overall weightage. The criteria scores are then normalised; scores for each measure are weighted to arrive at a final overall score of 1,000.

The ranking data is collected from our surveys and then vetted from evidence and reliable third-party sources; In a few cases, we had to rely on trusted data sources such as AISHE, NAAC and NIRF etc. The data used in these rankings pertain to 2016-2021. Nonetheless, accounting for the Covid-19 disruption to higher education, we allowed institutions to submit data in various formats, going beyond the format we had designed to ensure wider participation and ease of data submission. Although the methodology is the product of years of research, we continuously refine our approach based on user feedback, discussions with academic leaders and higher education experts, literature reviews, trends in our own data, availability of new data, and engaging with vice-chancellors, deans, researchers, academicians and prominent educationists. 


Dr Karthick Sridhar, Vice Chairman, ICARE