Five IITs feature in the top 400 list of the latest QS world ranking universities. That no other Indian university has found a place in the top 4% of the world’s universities is shocking. India must build human capital to reap the demographic dividend and, more important, compete in a knowledge-intensive global economy. Radical steps are needed to improve the quality of our universities across disciplines and at all levels. The expansion of higher education calls for a massive increase in investment and raising the efficacy of public spending in education. More support is needed for state universities that operate on thin budgets. Industry too should offer generous grants and fund research in universities to expand access and ensure world-class production and delivery of products and services. QS rankings show poor research citations for Indian faculty. Clearly, we need to integrate teaching and research. Poor remuneration turns away talent. Teachers must get better pay and research-active faculty should be offered functional autonomy as well. True, the cost of education would go up when private universities try to bridge the demand-supply gap. So, student loans must become cheaper. Letting the better class of foreign universities enter will help integration with the global knowledge system. Unlike India, some universities in Asia have continued to move up in the rankings. The National University of Singapore, for example, has become the region’s highest-ranked institution. Reforming education has to begin with schools, of course. They need teacher accountability and commitment, investment in facilities and better pedagogy. And all of them call for decentralisation of school administration and active involvement of local communities in school management.