The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is a ranking method incorporated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, to rank institutions of higher education in India. Launched by the Minister of Human Resource Development in September 2015, there are separate rankings for different types of institutions depending on their areas of operation like universities and colleges, engineering institutions, management institutions, pharmacy institutions, and architecture institutions. There are 5 parameters that are taken into account for the ranking – ‘Teaching, Learning and Resources’ (TLR), ‘Research and Professional Practices’ (RP), ‘Graduation outcomes’ (GO), ‘Outreach and Inclusivity’ (OI), and ‘Peer Perception’ (PR). 

NIRF ranked NITK in the 13th position for engineering. This is a massive improvement from the 21st rank in 2019. Also, NITK rose 20 ranks in overall ranking from 53 to 33. 

What affects the rankings?

The major factors which affect the ranking have been found to be – number of publications, publication-quality, intellectual property including patents, awards by both faculty and students. 

  1. Number of Ph.D. students

The number of Ph.D. students graduating is also an extremely important trend to understand ranking. This is because Ph.D. students are responsible for a large number of publications and also determine the quality of papers published. Universities that have provisions for research funding through internal sources (seed funding), ultimately gets converted into external research grants. These grants have the provision of hiring research scholars with a stipend, ultimately leading to their Ph.D. degree. And as stated before an increase in Ph.D. scholars helps boost the number of publications. A smaller number of Ph.D. scholars and meager research grants mean less research leading to lesser publications. NITK had 116 students graduating with a Ph.D. last year. This number has been rather high and thus generates great publication output. 

  1. Sponsored and consultancy research projects

A total of 152 sponsored projects were undertaken by NITK last year, a significant rise from the 126 done the year prior to the same. Even the number of funding agencies went up by 7 from 27 to 34. The total funding for sponsored projects last year was Rupees Twenty crores sixty-five lakh forty-five thousand five hundred and ninety-three. As for consultancy projects, the number shot up to 280 from 252 the year prior. 23 more organizations helped increase the number to 243 from 220. The key take away we can notice is an upward trend not just from last year but a continuously rising investment and interest in research which has played a very important role in the ranking

  1. IPR and Patents

It has been observed that the publication metric decreases with rank for both the public as well as private universities. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) metric measures the patents filed, published, awarded & licensed. NITK managed to get 3 patents approved and granted last year.

  1. Awards by Faculty

As I stated before Research and Professional practices are by far one of the most important metrics for ranking. The number of faculty members who have received extremely prestigious awards at both National and International levels is an extremely important metric for ranking. 29 such prestigious awards have been taken into account by NIRF including Prof Satish Dhawan Young Engineer State Award, Sir C V Raman Young Scientist State award, Innovative Technological Research in Thermal Engineering and Dedicated Teaching Professional Award, IBM Faculty Award, The Institution of Engineers Prize, IEEE Best Paper award and more. It is no doubt that these 29 awards were a key contributor to the rise of our rank

  1. Awards by Students

Students are also a key contributor to determining the rank of a college. NIRF recognized 28 accomplishments/awards from NITK students which included the prestigious Google Summer of Code, DAAD WISE, MITACS GRI. There were 15 students who bagged the MITACS offer and 4 students who were eligible for GSoC last year. The IEEE Student Branch also received 2 awards which were recognized by NIRF including Darrel Chong Student Activity Bronze Award and IEEE Regional Exemplary Student Branch Award, the former from the Mangalore subsection and latter from the official IEEE in the USA. All these awards were recognized and appreciated by NIRF which really gave a huge boost to our rankings.

  1. Resources

The NIRF Report has gone on to explain the large investments which the college has made in terms of various learning resources. The key resources mentioned include a library, new equipment, and software for labs, engineering workshops, classes and lecture provisions, seminars, conferences, and lectures. Although these resources play a crucial role in determining the NIRF rank, the amount of weight it has is still unclear. 

  1. Student Strength(SS) and placement

Last but definitely not the least, Student Strength(SS) and placement play a rather important role in determining the rank of the college. It is observed as a trend that as the rank falls, student strength dwindles. NITK has seen consistent growth in the number of students admitted for both undergraduate and graduate programs. There has also been a significant rise in median and average salaries of students for both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Colleges above us vs NITK

Currently, in engineering, there are 12 colleges above us – 11 IITs (Madras, Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Varanasi, Dhanbad) and one NIT(Tiruchirapalli) at rank 9. The college at number 1 position is IIT Madras with a score of 89.93. NITK Surathkal has a score of 61.30.

These colleges have shown a greater research output, greater funding towards resources, and have a larger number of patents and publications. Besides, colleges above us also have a greater number of doctoral students graduating and have also over the years also increased their focus on graduate and Ph.D. studies. This has led to a greater number of publications. For example, the number of Ph.D. students at IIT Madras is 2142, which is significantly higher than 799 Ph.D. students at NITK.

However if one takes a comparison of all colleges above us we do notice that we have fared better than many of the ones above in certain parameters. For example 7 of the colleges above NITK have received a lesser score than NITK in terms of Economically and Socially Challenged Students, which takes into account the number of students from economically poor backgrounds who received a full tuition waiver. In terms of percentage of female students are better than even IIT Madras, surpassed only by NIT Trichy and IIT Delhi. We also have a perfect score of 15/15 in terms of the metric for University examinations. We can say with reasonable confidence that in terms of ‘Graduation outcomes’, ‘Outreach and Inclusivity’, and ‘Peer Perception’. We have done fairly well, rivaling even some of the most established and old IITs.

However, what we seem to trail behind is in terms of the number of patents granted, the footprint of projects, and professional practices that take into account research expenditure and output and quality of publications. In all of these regards, we have come last and have not surpassed any of the colleges put above us. We have also done rather poorly in terms of combined metric for faculty with Ph.D.(which takes the proportion of faculty to Ph.D. students into account), financial resources, and utilization. These factors however can grow organically and we can be sure that they will improve with time. The only conclusion we can draw is that research is the one field we need to actively work on which can surely improve our rank.

One of the most important steps would be to gradually increase our intake  of doctoral students and motivate students to publish a greater number of research articles in reputed journals. This can be facilitated by encouraging a research-driven outlook that can be encouraged in classrooms and projects which are undertaken. Although a major bulk of such publications do come from Ph.D. and graduate students, the same can be encouraged among undergrad students which can help increase the net research output.

Participation in a larger number of competitions and events both national and international will play a crucial role in helping us move up the ranking. As stated before the performance of not just students but also the clubs have a great role in determining our rank. Encouragement and incentives to participate in the same would have a positive impact on the overall rank.

Overall, based on what I have observed regarding the ranking, I believe I can safely conclude that at the end of the day it all comes down to one factor – research, competence and output. Any and every effort to advance ourselves in this regard is of utmost importance. If we wish to see ourselves climb up to the top 10, top 5, top 3, and finally to the number 1 spot, we must take it upon ourselves to do our best in contributing to this regard. If each of us, pitch in and contribute as much as possible to various projects undertaken by professors, graduate, and doctoral students we can help in this regard. As the student community, in the name of our college and research let us strive to discover, innovate and invent to create a better world and achieve a better rank.

Clink on the link below to examine each ranking parametric score and analysis of all the 12 colleges above us vs NITK. Parametric analysis