The India Today "India's Best Colleges" list is a resource that many students, and parents look forward to during admission time. The rankings have been fairly reasonable, with few surprises being thrown up at the top of the list every year.
This year's list, however, seems to have a bias towards some private institutes (who may have also been large advertisers in the magazine) in the Engineering College category.
This survey puts IIT Kanpur at #1, and IIT Kharagpur at #2.
These are definitely very good institutes, and have topped the rankings for many years in the past. What is surprising is that the top 3 colleges according to student perceptions do not even find a mention in the list. This year, 67 of the top 100 students chose IIT Bombay, 28 chose IIT Delhi and 5 chose IIT Madras.
The reason for this anomaly is very simple.
Private institutes have proactive PR teams that work towards ensuring top of mind recall among potential students and their parents. To this end, they focus on achieving good rankings in such surveys, maintaining their 100% placement record, and by showcasing the research efforts of their faculty and students.
Government institutes, on the other hand, are run by government officials (obviously), who do not have too much of an incentive in the public perception of their institute. They barely respond to survey questionnaires (which sometimes run into 20 pages, and ask for all kinds of detail), and do not have to make much effort in attracting recruiters either, who will come there anyway.
Surveys should stop comparing apples with oranges, and go back to making two lists - government institutes and private institutes, at least for high-demand courses like engineering and management. The opening and closing ranks for the 92 institutes that accept the JEE scores are a good measure for their relative grading. And private institutes can continue filling up the detailed questionnaires, so that a perceptual ranking can be prepared based on who can put up a better face.
Is there any other way of preparing a fair rank list?