Computer Science, or rather 'Computer Engineering', is quite a buzzword in India. Every Engineering College that has started in India in the past two decades or so, has invariably had Computer Engineering as one of its first course offerings.
This phenomena is not hard to figure out, though. Ever since the "IT-boom" India witnessed, first gaining widespread public attention in the 90s, an inordinately large number of students, those about to take up undergraduate studies, have been influenced by the promises & challenges of this sector. As a result, wanting to reap the benefits of the opportunities offered by this sector & enjoy a lucrative, high-paying professional career [compared to the other sectors in India], one has seen students rush to apply for the course in far greater numbers than other branches of Engineering1.
Such rush is not without complete justification, either. Nearly every major company in the field of Computer & Information Technology has a sizable presence in India, & expanding their operations here. The nature of work done at these centers, too, is said to be rising higher up the value chain. Thus, in order to cater to the increasing demands of qualified professionals required in these industries, newer educational institutes. as well as the older, established ones, therefore, ensure they have a Computer Science department in their portfolio.
However, as with anything else, with a quantitative surge, one tends to witness a qualitative dip. This is no different for these educational institutions either. The variance, quite often vast, in the quality of education imparted in each institutions & the the infrastructure they posses, calls for a need to put them in perspective, assigning rank, in order to visualize a clearer picture of the situation.
A widely-accepted & dependable metric for judging an institution's performance is the amount of research carried out by them. An indicator of these research are the Technical & Research papers published by the participating researchers based on the findings of their work. Thus, an institution which produces a lot of paper can be said to be carrying out a corresponding level of research work. However, as stated earlier, quantity says little of the quality, or rather could imply adversely of the latter. So the metric for judging the quality of research is the number of times those papers have been stated as reference [citations] by other subsequent researchers. Thus, higher the number of citations, superior is the quality of research the institution carries out, would be the conclusion drawn.
Thus, a project, to rank Computer Science institution in India, based on research carried out by them, was undertaken by a team of three, associated with different Indian institutions. The findings of their undertaking was published as a paper in the November edition of DRDO's DESIDOC Journal.
The ranking, in itself, came as no surprise at all. Government patronage enjoying institutions in India that carries out Computer Science research came up trumps in overwhelming numbers, with Research carried out by Technology companies in India, coming a distant second. Privately-run Indian educational institutes were miniscule in number.
This, too, is not without reason. The high degree of investment, in both human capital & physical infrastructure, & funding needed in order to carry out research work & the capacity to absorb any failure means that only these organisations are presently positioned to make that kind of investment & absorb failures. While some, in India's private sector, may have the financial wherewithal, their mandate to pre-dominantly undertake only those activities that guarantee success & profitability, as legitimately demanded by its share-holders, would act as a hindrance from making any substantial investment in large-scale research. Such endeavors often, besides being a long-term pursuit, produce results that may not have any direct practical, commercial application [but critical for any subsequent research], even if the research is completely sound & stands the scrutiny of review.
In light of this, the proposed Foreign University Bill2 could become a game-changer, with the potential to bring up private-sector educational institutions [with whom the foreign universities could collaborate for operation] up to speed with their government-backed counterparts, & possibly, ideally, surpassing them. Reputed Universities from around the world, with their long & illustrious history of undertaking research in their country of origin, would not only lend impetus to Research activity in India, but provisions could be made to ensure that Intellectual Property Rights [IPR] & Patents claimed for research done in their Indian branch must be associated with their Indian operation. Academia-backed & conducted research has long been the hallmark of a developed country & the cornerstone of their Scientific & Technological progress. India must follow suit, & it must do it yesterday.
With computers, in varied forms, making their way into nearly every aspect of our lives, both enriching it & also increasing our dependency on it, it is essential that India mark its position right on top with the leading countries of the world in this field. Any prolonged slip-up in our endeavor to pursue acquisition & assimilation of advanced knowledge of computer science & its offshoot & prolonged dependence on external entities to meet our computing requirements, would be a severe detriment to the countries interest.
1 - It is a different issue that by the time they complete the course, they decide to purse a M.B.A, that launches them into a career, basically selling soaps & soft drinks or, perhaps, doing [P*N*R/100]-type jobs.
2 - The fate of this Bill is, currently, indeterminate, what with the pre-occupations the Central Government is presently embroiled in, as we see it fumbling & stumbling from one crisis to another, most of its own making.
image courtesy ISRO