Fake News: No, AMU is NOT the No#1 University (Naved Ashrafi)

Firstly Dainik Jagran popularised AMU as number #1 university in India; The Indian Express used 2017 statistics for 2018 rankings.

Recently, Times Higher Education released its World University Rankings for 2018. In total, forty two (42) academic institutions/ universities of India could find place in different rank cohorts of the ranking. Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore (Bangaluru) is the only institution of India that could only be placed in 251-300 cohort (i.e. highest in India) after being demoted from previous rank cohort of 201-250 in 2017 rankings. IISc has topped the list of forty two institutions. Others find place in cohorts of 351-400 (one), 501-600 (four), 601-800 (eleven), 801-1000 (thirteen) and 1000+ (twelve).

Rank Cohort Institutions
251-300 IISC Bangalore
351-400 IIT Bombay
501-600 IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Roorkee
601-800 AMU, BHU, DU, IIT Guwahati, IIT Madras , ISM Dhanbad, Jadavpur, NIT Rourkela, Punjab University, Savitribai Phule, Tezpur University
801-1000 Amrita University, Andhra University, Annamali University, BITS Pilani, Calcutta University, CUST Cochin, JMI Delhi, Kerala University, Osmania University, Pondicherry Uni., Sri Venkateswara Uni., Thapar Uni., VIT Uni.
1000+ Amity, GB Pant Pantnagar, GITAM, JNTUA, Sayajirao Baroda, Manipal, Mysore University, PSGCT, SASTRA Uni., Sathybama Uni., SRM University, TN Agriculture Uni.

Table: Indian Universities/ Institutions in Times Higher Education Ranking

The Trap that traps all

In the evening of September 06, AMU students, at the Faculty of Arts, mourned and protested against the cold-blooded murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh and lauded her struggle against fake news. I was one of those who were present there. Alas ! I was unaware of something ominous that a day after, all would be in the trap of fake news on AMU ranking.  With the release of Times Higher Education rankings, it was popularized on social media that Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has been ranked at first place in the ranking of Indian Institutions. In print media, firstly Dainik Jagran (Aligarh) publishes on September 08, 2017, on page 04:

The Indian Express, on the other hand, published a news items about 2018 rankings while using statistics of 2017 rankings. For instance, Jadavpur University was shown to have 11, 017 full time equivalent (FTE) students but for 2018 ranking, correct FTE figure is 11, 011. Also on the basis of 2017 ranking, Indian Express wrongly included Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in 2018 ranking ! Latter is excluded from 2018 ranking. Moreover, The Indian Express has wrongly put Jadavpur University in 501-600 rank cohort. This year, in 2018 ranking, Jadavpur is in 601-800 cohort.

Similar news were published by Two Circle, Inquilab Urdu, Southlive etc.

Ironical is that based on Twitter and Facebook furphies, AMU’s top officials and its former Vice-Chancellor Lt. General (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah, as per Jagran news, celebrated it immensely. Before the irrational and fake claims of social media could be busted earnestly, AMU Public Relations Officer, Omar Saleem Peerzada wrote on his Facebook timeline:


Media Consultant of AMU, Jasim Mohammad, while tagging MHRD and Prakash Javdekar tweeted:

In his tweet, to buttress his claim, Jasim shared and cited a news item from the website of India Today in which there is even no mention of words “Aligarh” or “AMU” in the text !

Similar claim was made by the University Librarian on his Facebook. He shared the same link:

Ghazala Ahmad, student leader and one of the cabinet members in previous Students’ Union (AMU) wrote on Facebook:

Ghazala Ahmad is very popular women student leader on the campus and she became more popular when she filed an FIR against Shehla Rashid after more than one month (on February 16, 2017) of what Shehla allegedly wrote blasphemously on January 09, 2017.

AMU’s cohort in the ranking

While IISc and IITs belong to the superior cohort in the list, AMU lies in the middle and fourth cohort of all six cohorts in which Indian institutions fall. But AMU’s success is being celebrated on the basis that unlike IISc and IITs, AMU is a full-fledged university and AMU is number one among those ‘full-fledged’ universities; thus undermining the performances of IISc and IITs.

Not Truly Representative

2018 rankings by National Institutional Ranking Framwork (NIRF) are yet to be released. As compared to NIRF 2017 rankings, Times 2018 ranking does not include institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Anna University, University of Hyderabad, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Visva Bharti etc. While AMU’s former Vice-Chancellor, in quite a politician’s way, is patting his own back saying Waada Pura Ho Gaya (the pledge is accomplished), it must rationally be understood that Times rankings are not truly representative of India’s higher education profile especially when institutions like JNU, University of Hyderabad and Anna University, that were quite above the AMU in NIRF ranking 2017, are out of the Times 2018 list. With this understanding, this is very dubious to claim about any university’s national rank. And it is rather idiotic to claim AMU as number #1 university when Cohort Ranking instead of Absolute Ranking has been employed by the Times. While University of Oxford (UK) has got absolute ranking of #1, India’s universities have been gauged in certain groups or cohorts.

Alphabetic Arrangement

In every cohort, institutions are arranged in alphabetic manner. And this alphabetic sequence is being followed at country level, world level, and discipline level. Dainik Jagran in its fake news claimed that AMU, BHU, Delhi University, Jadavpur University, Punjab University have got 1-5 ranks respectively. While reality is that on the Times website these institutions, in the cohort of 601-800, have been arranged alphabetically at ‘India Level’. If we look at global level, the 601-800 cohort also has other universities that are alphabetically arranged. For instance, University of Algarve (Portugal) in alphabetic order is above the AMU because the third letter ‘g’ in Algarve comes before the ‘i’ of Aligarh.

Comparing Performances on Rank Breakdown

Though Times Higher Education has taken in to the account statistics such as students’ strength, male-female ratio, student-staff ratio etc., it has broken the overall cohort ranking on five major parameters namely Teaching, Research, Citations, Industry Income, and International Outlook. Performances of India’s five so popularized full-fledged universities in 601-800 cohort on point basis is as below:

University Teaching Research Citations Ind. Income Int. Outlook
AMU 29.9 10.1 33.1 31.7 23.9
BHU 24.8 15.5 26.4 31.7 16.0
DU 40.2 17.6 23.1 31.9 18.4
Jadavpur 33.3 18.5 33.3 38.6 14.9
Punjab 27.1 8.6 55.5 31.8 16.0

Overall ranking point of these universities is 30.6 which is very much the cohort ranking point. By analyzing the points in above ranking, it is clear that Jadavpur University has performed far better than the AMU on four parameters and lagged behind only in the fifth parameter i.e. International Outlook. In Research, AMU is only better than the Punjab University while BHU, DU and Jadavpur are performing better than AMU.

BRICS and Emerging Economies 2017 Ranking

If we look at the BRICS and Emerging Economies 2017 Ranking of some institutions/universities available on the website of Times Higher Education, we find as below:

Institution BRICS and Emerging Economies 2017 Ranking
IIT Bombay 26
IIT Delhi 32
IIT Kanpur 32
Jadavpur 99
DU 109
Punjab 135
Tezpur University 140
AMU 157

BRICS ranking clearly supports what has been established by this author in the previous head i.e. Jadavpur University has been performing well in four parameters thus fetching BRICS rank of #99. AMU is at 157 which is far below the Jadavpur University and that of University of Delhi. Even, Tezpur University in the same cohort is above the AMU.

Conclusion and Reflections

Therefore, a rational analysis of the facts and figures clarify that what roamed on social media and later settled in Dainik Jagran and other news papers/portals was a fake news vitalized by furphies and rumours. As an Aligarhite or Alig, this trends seriously rattles my cage because the purpose with which Sir Syed Ahmad Khan founded the Scientific Society at Aligarh, is badly defeated here by none other than Aligs. The fake news was celebrated by university official and a lion’s share of its alumni round the globe. When, this October, Aligarh is poised to celebrate 200th birthday of its founder, an Aligarhite must ponder over what they have contributed to shun shibboleths and to promote scientific temper as enunciated by Sir Syed in his lectures and writings.

Many would be arguing that this rank will help in increasing the government funding of AMU. I am, however, not agreeing with this particular apprehension as government has its own ranking system under NIRF and government will rely on its own findings and not on findings of any private organisation.

Naved Ashrafi

Naved Ashrafi

Naved Ashrafi earned his Botany Honors and was awarded Gold Medal in Masters in Public Administration at the Aligarh Muslim University. He is doctoral fellow in Public Administration at the Department of Political Science, AMU.