Scientific temper, secularism key parameters of Kerala’s new higher education ranking system

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Thiruvananthapuram: Taking a cue from the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala is adopting a state-level methodology to assess and rank higher education institutions, for which a key parameter used would be ‘Scientific Temper and Secular Outlook (STSO)’.

Higher Education Minister R Bindu will inaugurate the Kerala Institutional Ranking Framework (KIRF) to assess the level of higher education institutions in the state, on Wednesday.

An official said the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) would be the implementing agency and the ranking exercise would be carried out annually.

MS Education Academy

One of the reasons for setting up such a mechanism was to improve the quality of higher education in the state and check the flow of students going outside the state to pursue their studies, he said.

The KSHEC would invite institutions interested in participating in the ranking exercise to register on the KIRF portal on the KSHEC website, the official said.

Institutions under various categories such as universities and colleges as well as engineering, management, teacher education, pharmacological, medical, dental, law, architecture and nursing institutes can participate in the ranking process.

“If they desire to be included in the discipline-specific ranking list, they can register separately and provide data in a specific format,” KSHEC member secretary Dr Rajan Varughese said.

The data will be uploaded to an online facility created for this purpose. KSHEC with the help of suitably identified partner agencies will undertake the authentication of data, wherever necessary and where feasible.

KSHEC will extract the relevant information from this data and, through software, compute the various metrics. Based on this data, the institutions would be ranked.

The quality benchmark of higher education institutions being set by the public agency would help students and parents to select the right institution in the state for higher studies, Varughese told PTI.

Besides “Scientific Temper and Secular Outlook (STSO)”, the performance parameters are organised into four other broad heads including Teaching, Learning & Resources (TLR), Knowledge Dissemination and Research Excellence (KDRE), Graduation Outcome (GO), and Outreach and Inclusivity (OI), officials said.

Under the ‘Scientific Temper and Secular Outlook (STSO)’ head, KIRF will assess the qualitative aspects of the higher education institutions applying for the ranking. Such institutions will have to submit a description in 500 words on the extension activities carried out to impart scientific temper and a secular outlook, and to sensitise students to social issues for their holistic development.

Under the STSO head, the institutions must also submit a description of strategies adopted by it to conserve water and energy, reduce waste and practise effective waste disposal, among other eco-friendly measures.

STSO was included as a criteria for ranking to highlight the importance of scientific temper and secularism in imparting education, a source said. Such a step was taken at a time when discussions are happening at the national level to wind up organisations such as Vigyan Prasar (an autonomous organisation set up by the union government in 1989 for popularising science and promoting scientific temper), the source added.

Officials said the Kerala Institutional Ranking Framework was modelled along the lines of the National Institutional Ranking Framework, a methodology adopted by the union government’s Ministry of Education to rank institutions of higher education in the country.

They said that on the basis of many of the overall quantitative indicators, the higher education scene in Kerala was found to be favourably comparable with the national scene, and in some respects the situation in the state was better than some of the rapidly expanding higher education systems in southern states.

Hailing the Kerala government’s initiative, a higher education expert said the launch of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for higher educational institutions in the country by the Ministry of Education (then MHRD) in 2015 had been a watershed moment in the Indian higher education system.

“Although college and university rankings have been popular in many countries, the introduction of India-specific criteria for a sector that had been witnessing massive growth of institutions and student enrolments during the past decade raised many eyebrows. The NIRF is based on five overall parameters: Teaching, Learning and Resources; Research and Professional Practice; Graduation Outcomes; Outreach and Inclusivity; and Peer Perception.

“Interestingly, by taking a cue from the NIRF, Kerala is going to launch the Kerala Institutional Ranking Framework on May 3. This is the first State-specific ranking initiative for higher education institutions,” the expert told PTI.

Varughese said the state-level institutional ranking framework was formed without altering the core qualities and components of the NIRF. But it also incorporates the socio-cultural heritage and values that the state has sculpted over the period of its democratic era, he said.

He said that the KIRF had been evolved after intense deliberations and collective discussions among scholars of expertise and stakeholders of higher education inside and outside the state of Kerala.

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( With inputs from )

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