Indian universities have had the dubious distinction of lagging far behind on global rankings for decades. However, this year marked a significant shift, with a record 31 making the grade in the definitive 'Times Higher Education World University Rankings' for 2016. 'India Global Business' looks into what is behind India being branded the “star” of South Asia this year. The Indian Parliament had recently passed the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill 2016, which is hoped to mark a watershed moment in the country's perception as an education hub. It covers setting up of new IITs at Palakkad, Goa, Dharward and Bhilai as well as substantial funds to fix low international ranking of the IITs. The human resource development minister, Prakash Javadekar, also revealed that the government has formed High Education Financial Agency (HEFA) to upgrade infrastructure and move Indian universities to be counted among the global best. “The government′s credo is ′Sabko Shiksha Acchi Shiksa (Good Education to All)' and has taken a number of efforts in this regards,” Javadekar recently said. And, these efforts seem to be bearing fruit already if the latest 'Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016' are anything to go by. India not only has a record 31 universities in the overall ranking but also has two institutions in the top 400 - the Indian Institute of Science (201-250 group) and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (351-400 cohort). There are 14 new Indian entrants in this year's list, which is topped by University of Oxford followed by California Institute of Technology and Stanford University in second and third place. South Asia as a whole has almost doubled its representation in this year's list of the world's top 980 universities, claiming 39 places, up from 20 last year. Sri Lanka makes its debut in the table with the University of the Colombo in the 801+ band, while Pakistan has five new entries, taking its total to seven. Phil Baty, the editor of the 'Times Higher Education World University Rankings' said: “But the star of the region is India, which has 31 universities in the list. Its leading university - the Indian Institute of Science - is edging closer to the top 200, claiming a spot in the 201-250 band, its highest ever position, and the country has four new entries in the top 800. “India's strong performance is partly thanks to the country recognising the importance of participating in global benchmarking exercises; just last month the government launched a new funding-backed project aimed at catapulting Indian Institutes of Technology to the top of world university rankings.” Baty also described as “encouraging” that the Indian government had displayed an ambition to create world-class universities, witnessed by the country's leading institutions “edging towards the world top 200”. Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice-president of research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education and co-editor of the book 'Asia: The Next Higher Education Superpower ' said the “sharp rise” of Asia's universities is due to three main factors: rapidly growing populations and demand for higher education in the region; governments making “significant investments” in universities; and improvements by individual institutions. On advances at university level, she said that many Asian scholars who studied at Western universities are now academics in their home countries and have “really begun to transform their own higher education sectors”. “They have brought back to [their] home campuses some of the teaching values of critical thinking and liberal education, as well as the idea of promotion based on merit and research outputs,” she said. The other Indian universities on the list include Indian Institutes of Technology Delhi, Kanpur and Madras, all within the 401-500 ranks, and IIT Kharagpur and Roorkee in the 501-600 band. The calculation of the 'Times Higher Education World University Rankings' is subject to an independent audit by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The rankings claim to be the only global performance tables that judge research-intensive universities across all their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. It uses 13 calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons, trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.