University World Rankings: Punjab University does it again

Rajiv Lochan

Punjab University does it again. Outranks the other great universities of India. For such consistently great performance we need to notice that Punjab University is the quintessential old fashioned university, made up of a variety of characters, ideas and behaviour patterns, each jostling with each other for space within the campus and hopefully enriching student lives far beyond they would have experienced on any other Indian university except perhaps the IITs.

Gandhi Bhawan, an architectural landmark, from the days when PU had enough money to fill the pond with water.
Gandhi Bhawan, an architectural landmark, from the days when PU had enough money to fill the pond with water.

In India two universities have featured in the university world rankings and been placed in the top slot of 500-601: one is Panjab University and the other is Jadavpur University.

After that, in the 601-800 slot come Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University and Pune University. The other universities of India are so far behind that they don’t even get counted.

The performance of Panjab University is doubly commendable since it has been able to maintain this position despite most of the high end research being done at PU being not counted ‘because it involved far too intense a collaboration across nations’. So the efforts of the faculty members from the High Energy Lab at PU were not counted at all.

Furthermore, Panjab University has been consistently tied up for funds– with the UGC refusing to release funds on time, siphoning off funds that are allotted to PU to other heads.

Punjab University’s performance is even more commendable considering that

  • PU has maintained a top position for over six years now
  • PU has refused to increase student fee for over twenty years despite the UGC continuously pressing for doubling or trebling of the fee– a diktat that was quickly followed by all other universities (except perhaps some central universities)
  • PU pays even its adjunct faculty proper salaries rather than exploit them like almost all other universities and colleges do on a point to point basis,
  • PU produces at least three times better results per rupee spent than any other university in India.

However, instead of promoting the PU model of work and performance, the government of India has consistently tried to throttle the university in various ways for over three decades.

How does PU do so? Because of its mixed up character. It is a mixed up campus. And that makes for its creativity and productivity.

The university should always be so mixed up: there is a bunch that spends time at Students’ Common, another bunch just does geris, yet another picks up guns and fires a few shots at perceived enemies, some join the government as officers, others as ministers, some as office assistants. Some are happy teaching in a school. Some go into banks and businesses and make millions. A few try to overthrow the government through rebellions, armed or otherwise. There are yet others who try to catch the rebellious ones and put them in jail. While some others provide legal support to one side, there are others who provide legal support to the opposite. Yet others sit in judgement over everyone. A handful even get into the library and labs and produce results that (as yet) are not great prize winning but sufficient to win accolades.

Rajiv Lochan
Rajiv Lochan

The Author, a Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus, is a renowned historian.

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