Top universities are now worrying about student outcomes, including their performance in CAT, GATE, Civil Services, and Banking exams


I had been travelling to IIMs, MDI, IMI, and a bunch of top engineering colleges, as part of our annual effort to recruit bright young talents. During my visit, a sight that caught my attention at MDI’s Gurgaon and IMI-Delhi campus was a display board with year-wise excellence of student performance (in academics and overall). This took me back to my own school days, when such a display around the Principal’s office (a no-go area) certainly made for a good read.

This display board too deserved more than a glance!

As I moved out of the MDI campus, a few thoughts crossed my mind (besides the samosas and Mishra ji ki chai) 😊:

  • We have begun celebrating outcomes in schools and colleges in a manner unlike what it was until a couple of years ago.
  • Student performance, in both academic and non-academic activities, is now the most important parameter that defines the credibility of an institution.
  • The former is an outcome of how awesome the teachers are, and how exciting they make the entire learning process. But, what are the aspects that contribute to non-academic outcomes? Performance of the institute’s sports teams, social initiatives, placements, alumni credential…?
  • The NIRF was introduced in 2015 with much fanfare; and was developed around outcome parameters. But, how is it doing? What are its key components? And, what were the key highlights of Ranking 2017?

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF): An outcome-driven framework

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was approved by the MHRD; and was launched by on September 29, 2015. The NIRF outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. Research outcomes and graduate outcomes make up almost 60 per cent of the ranking weightage.

Government policies linking attractive incentives to outcome-driven performance by universities is propelling the IITs, IIMs, and the central and state universities to wake up and run.  This is going to be a significant enabler for India.

The NIRF provides for ranking of institutions along five broad parameters:

S. No.ParametersMarks Weightage
1Teaching, learning & resources10030%
2Research and professional practice10030%
3Graduate outcome10020%
4Outreach and Inclusivity10010%


All institutes with over 1,000 enrolled students (calculated based on approved intake); or are a centrally funded institute, or a university/deemed-to-be-a-university funded by the Government of India are eligible for a common overall rank, as per the NIRF framework.

Institutes with less than 1,000 enrolled students are considered eligible for only a discipline-specific rank, viz., Engineering, Medical, Law, Management, Pharmacy; or general degree colleges in Arts, Science, Commerce, etc.

Undergraduate teaching institutes (including degree colleges affiliated to a university) are also eligible under the category ‘General Degree colleges’.

However, only those institutes that have graduated at least three batches of students in one or more programs are considered for the ranking.

India Ranking 2017

Over 4100 institutions, centrally funded technical institutes and universities participated in the India Ranking 2017.

A quick glance at the results reveals that the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore topped the ‘overall’ and ‘universities’ category; while Delhi University’s Miranda House was adjudged the best college in the country.

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which was at the third position in the ‘universities’ category last year, has been ranked second this time. However, its rank in the overall category was sixth.

Graduate Outcomes: Nurture talent and score high on NIRF

The Graduate Outcome combines metrics for placements, higher studies, entrepreneurship, performance in university examination, no. of Ph.D. students, and a metric for graduating students admitted into top universities.

What struck me the most about these parameters was the inclusion of attributes like entrepreneurship, a metric for graduating students admitted into top universities, and placements.

The aspiration for a job right off campus is one of the key goals students chase. The placement process comprises an aptitude test, group discussion, and a personal interview. According to experts, the syllabus of placement aptitude tests has a significant overlap with that of CAT, GMAT, GRE, and Civil Services. So, if students are preparing for these exams, they will find it easy to crack the Infosys, TCS, Cognizant, or a Tech Mahindra test as well!

The bottom line is: Institutions can achieve a better rank through performance of students in competitive exams, like CAT, GATE, Civil Services, Banking, SSC, etc.

Key exams targeted by students across universities and colleges:


The IIMs, and over 150 other B-schools, shortlist students for their MBA/post graduate program in management through CAT. An estimated 2 lakh aspirants appeared for CAT 2017. With good placement numbers coming out of B-school campuses year-on-year, MBA remains an evergreen and a much-sought-after career option for students.

Preparing for CAT also enables students to have a crack at other exams, like XAT, IIFT, SNAP, and TISSNET. However, the exception would be the GK section that is part of a few management entrance exams; and will require additional preparation.


Over 500 institutes, including the IISc, IITs, and NITs require GATE score for admission to their ME, MTech, and MS programs. A host of PSUs use GATE scores for jobs. GATE is conducted in multiple sessions from the end of January to mid-Feb; and the score is valid for three years. Over 9.22 lakh students applied for GATE in 2017.

GATE-qualified candidates in the Engineering disciplines are also eligible for the award of junior research fellowship at CSIR laboratories.

The salary packages offered are attractive too. Powergrid (a Govt of India enterprise) has offered a package of INR 14.5 lakh, GAIL: INR 11.7 lakh, and IOCL & BPCL: INR 10.5 lakh.

Civil Services

Civil Services offers jobs not only in the much-coveted IAS (Indian Administrative Service), IFS (Indian Foreign Service), and IPS (Indian Police Service), but also in select departments of the Indian Railways, Revenue Service, Postal Service, Audits, Customs, etc. However, not more than 4% aspirants clear the Civil Services Prelims. An estimated 4.6 lakh aspirants appeared for CSP in 2017, out of which only about 1,000 candidates will make it to the final shortlist.

Banking & SSC

There are over 1.25 lakh vacancies across banking and SSC. SSC Tier I & II, IBPS PO and Clerical, SBI PO and Clerical are some of the key exams students target. The RBI Grade B exam is one of the most sought-after ones for a career in the banking sector.

Over 40 lakh aspirants appear for the various banking and SSC exams.

What needs to be done, and in a hurry!

According to education experts, implementation of the NIRF is one of the most under-celebrated successes of this nation. A good starting point will be to undo that!

Moreover, the focus on student performance in various entrance exams needs to be defined as the key performance area for the Departmental Heads and TPOs. The performance of students in placement examinations needs be bolstered too, through interventions like lectures by industry professionals/experts, interview preparations, and aptitude test preparation.

In a nutshell, it is imperative for universities and colleges to institutionalize the input process; and thereby enable youngsters to realize their career dreams and aspirations.

About the author: Rajeev Ranjan is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship. He anchors The Young Entrepreneurs Program for TiE Delhi/NCR. He heads Marketing at CL Educate; and has over 10 years of professional and teaching experience.

The views expressed in the article above are those of the author. They are not intended, and should not be thought, to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.