Pankaj Jalote and B N Jain
The government recently said that it would open more Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). While any move in this direction is welcome, the existing model of wholly state-funded IITs is not amenable to increasing the numbers and enhancing quality.
After the first five IITs which came up three to four decades back, the government has set up only one, in Guwahati. But since the 60s, India's population has doubled and numbers of the educated seeking admission have probably gone up tenfold. Unable to cope, the government started renaming existing institutions as IITs. The key difficulty today in starting an IIT is attracting and retaining good faculty.
To attract quality faculty, we need good students, a vibrant research environment and attractive compensation. Good students are available in plenty in India, at least at the undergraduate level. The challenges lie in the other two areas, and they cannot be met by promoting new IITs exclusively in the government sector due to resource and management constraints in the present model.
In an era of public-private partnerships (PPP), it is worth extending the PPP approach to starting new IITs. Private sector dynamism and long-term social commitment of the government can come together to create quality institutes. A modified BOT (build-operate-transfer) model can be applied here.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Who will man the additional IITs?
M A Pai, [4 May, 2007 l 1530 hrs IST]
In recent months at least two new institutes named as Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) modelled after IISc have been inaugurated. This is justifiable since science education and research badly needs a good boost as the country produces enough PhDs in sciences to staff these new institutions.
In addition, an equally important decision has been taken in recent years, namely to open three more IITs with plans to create 20 more in the next 5-year plan. With regards to this decision, however, several questions need to be raised. Specifically, do we have enough trained and qualified manpower to staff these new IITs as well as the requisite infrastructure in new facilities and services?
In a resource-constrained country like ours, we need to optimise our resources and be effective especially in technical education, an issue addressed in this article.
It is well known from the U R Rao committee report, which unfortunately is still not widely known to the public, that there is a tremendous shortage of PhD’s in engineering to man the existing engineering institutions.
There are more than 1,000 of them in both the public and the private sector. All the seven IITs have PhDs in their faculty in the ranks of Asst Professor and above. The extension of the retirement age in IITs seems to have come at the right time to relieve the teaching load crunch.
Starting a new IIT, from acquiring land to having a full fledged teaching and research institution, however, takes anywhere from 4-6 years. Additionally, recruiting faculty with PhDs in adequate numbers will be a challenging problem in itself. The production of PhDs in engineering in the country is about 900 per year in all disciplines with perhaps the lowest in Computer Science, a scant 50.
With these constraints and challenges in mind, herein is proposed a dual strategy that is called for to deal with the problem of IIT expansion.
The first priority should be for the existing IITs to step up the production of PhD’s in same way as China does. The present student to faculty ratio of about 10 in IITs is very small, and even if we account for about for 20% of Math, Physics, Chemistry and Humanities faculty for the service courses in engineering, the figure is still about 13, which is well below the 20+ figure in a public university in the US.
There is a case for pruning unnecessary courses to optimize faculty time, including the use of internet to be used effectively to communicate with students about problem assignments, solutions, etc. The practice of having tutorials, if it still exists should be done away with. The released time here can be devoted to research and the training of more post-graduate students with proper accountability. There are numerous ways of increasing post graduate enrolment.
In terms of addressing the lack of residential facilities to accommodate an increase in numbers, students must be asked to share rooms up to the level of PhD. The released space can be used to admit more students. The author has always felt from IITK days that space utilization i.e., classrooms, labs, etc., has been consistently very poor.
Since coursewise promotion is the norm more students can be admitted with multiple class sections and also students can be admitted even at the UG level in both semesters. This assures us that classes are run in the morning as well as in the afternoons till 4 PM, which is the norm in all US public universities. Without mentioning any institutions by name one can walk through buildings in the afternoons and find the classrooms empty!
Secondly, elevate selected institutions, such as BHU, Indian School of Mines (both of which admit students via JEE), VJTI, Jadavpur University, Anna University (Guindy campus), etc., and a few NITs to IIT status, along with a reform in their curricula just as University of Roorkee was upgraded with no committee work.
Many of these schools have earned a right to be in the same league as the IITs by sheer quality of their undergraduates. It appears some of them wish to retain their regional identity to serve needs of the state in which case others can be given the IIT status. At least 50% of the faculty must have a PhD and all future faculty members must have PhDs.
As has been argued earlier, this upgrade increases the admission base to IITs by perhaps four to five folds, something that will automatically solve the perennial quota problem by widening the pool of qualified applicants. At the end of the day, one must recognize that that engineering disciplines require hard work in math, chemistry and physics-oriented disciplines, and merit should be the only consideration.
Another aspect to consider is the constitutionally mandated SC/ST student quota that needs to be addressed separately. Over the years, there has been much hype about the IIT brand just as there is hype in this country about the Ivy League schools. The biggest benefit of such brand name schools is networking, and it has worked through the alumni system of investing money in their schools, etc. In a country of over a billion people, there are many things to be done beyond networking such as having more quality schools. Good students and an equally good track record in research is what counts. The tremendous success of ISRO as well as AEC with perhaps a marginal involvement of IITs and no Mandal effect has shown the country how pockets of excellence can be created.
Before we draw grandiose plans in a resource-scarce country like India, let us think of simple solutions at hand first. Money is needed for education at primary level in a big way. Much as we wish, the private sector is not going to enter into the education business on a large scale and perhaps for the right reasons.
(The author is Professor Emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and was on the Faculty of IIT Kanpur 1963-81.)
Monday, April 23, 2007
IIT to be Setup between Bihta and Koilwar
Patna: April 18, 2007
The state government has decided to allot 500 acres of land between Bihta and Koilwar to set up the branch of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur branch, sources in Patna said on Monday.
The area identified for the IIT campus is easily accessible by road and is less than 50 kilometers from Patna airport.
A visit from the Central Human Resources Ministry and IIT Kanpur officials is expected soon and once the area selected is approved by them, the government will initiate steps to acquire the land, sources said.
Officials said that in the beginning, the Bihta campus will be used as a branch of the IIT Kanpur but later will be accorded full autonomy.
Whether this arrangement is sound and in favor of the long term interest of Bihar, only time will tell.
Monday, February 26, 2007
New Delhi, February 26, 2007
The HRD ministry has snowballed the plan of IITs to open new campuses. The first to be hit are the top three IITs of the country at - Delhi, Mumbai and Kharagpur.
In a policy directive, the HRD ministry has rejected the idea of opening satellite campuses in places far off from the main campus, citing huge costs involved. The decision was taken after number of IITs approached the HRD ministry seeking its views on opening new campuses.
While IIT Delhi was formulating a plan for Gurgaon, the proposal of IIT Mumbai for Gujarat and IIT Kharagpur for Bhubaneswar have already been rejected by the HRD ministry. "We are against the concept of opening satellite campuses as it may dilute the standard of education in premier institutes like IITs," a senior ministry official told HT.
IIT Kharagpur, which has a small campus functioning in Bhubaneswar, offering post-graduate diplomas, wanted the ministry’s permission to expand the existing campus and convert it into satellite campus offering undergraduate courses. Even Orissa Chief Minister Navin Pathnaik had written to the HRD minister Arjun Singh requesting a IIT in Orissa or providing full-fledged IIT like facilities in the existing campus to improve higher education in the state.
Rejecting the proposal, the HRD ministry officials say that Orissa as 12 Centrally funded educational institutes and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already announced opening of a National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) at Bhubaneswar.
A similar proposal from IIT Mumbai to open a campus in Ahmedabad to tap huge influx of JEE pass-outs from Gujarat was not approved, although there allegations that the proposal was rejected as IIT Mumbai had selected a BJP ruled state. But, a HRD ministry official gave a different explanation. "Opening a satellite campus requires funds equal to opening a new IIT. So, it is better to open new IITs," he said.
The HRD ministry has got, in principle, approval for opening three new IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. HRD minister Arjun Singh has requested Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy to provide 500-600 acres of land.
The state government has informed the ministry that they are in the process of finalising land with civic amenities and air and rail connectivity, a ministry official said. Similar, requests have also been made to Bihar and Rajasthan governments, he added.
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Sunday, February 25, 2007
Chetan Chauhan, New Delhi, February 23, 2007
What Bangalore is for south India, Mohali would soon be for northern India - a hub for multi-level knowledge base with five educational institutes and a biotechnology park.
An ambitious plan prepared by the government to be implemented in the next five years have HRD ministry, Science and Technology ministry and Punjab government as collaborators. "Entire proposal is in the final stages of approval as the Punjab government has been asked to provide adequate land for the national knowledge project," a senior government official told HT.
The approval process started on Thursday with the Union Cabinet approving setting up of Rs 100 crore Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Mohali. By doing this, the government has fulfilled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s commitment of an IISER in the town.
The PM’s plan has got further boost with ministry of Science and Technology deciding to open National Institute of Nano-Technology and National Institute of Bio-Technology in Mohali. "The proposals in this regard would be forwarded for Cabinet consideration soon," a senior government official said.
The Punjab government has been asked by the Centre to open a management school through public-private partnership model in Mohali. They have also been asked to provide land for developing national biotechnology park. The existing National Institute for Pharmaceutical Education and Research will be part of the new ‘knowledge campus’.
According to a senior government official, all the five institutes will come up in one huge campus with common residential, library, sports, broadband and hostel facilities. To make it a true learning centre and attract best talent, the government has recommended residential facilities, with Internet facilities, for all students and teachers.
A sub-group headed by former education secretary BS Baswan has recommended a flexible recruitment policy for the campus and complete employment opportunities for students.
The report submitted in December 2006 entails that teachers would get salary higher than the government pay scales, extra honorarium for research projects and opportunities for visiting foreign universities, in a bid to attract best teaching talent. The group has also recommended that the new knowledge centre should have tie-ups with foreign universities to hire faculty of Indian origin on semesters basis.
For students, the group had recommended better interaction with industry with emphasis on future employment avenues.
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Thursday, February 15, 2007
IIM Lucknow: Shillong in queue
Shillong, Feb. 13: Dilly-dallying by the Union ministry of human resource development is likely to dampen the chances of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Shillong becoming functional this year. The proposed premier business school will start classes only from the next academic year.
With Common Admission Test (CAT) scores having been announced, the admission process to the six IIMs is currently under way. However, the Centre is yet to issue a notification seeking the appointment of a director and registrar for the proposed Shillong IIM.
The Meghalaya government, however, has completed the required formalities, like providing 50 acres of land at Mawdiangdiang for the construction of a permanent str-ucture to house the institute.
The state has even provided a temporary shelter for the institute at Nongthymmai, so that the institute could start operations from this year.
The total budget for the temporary campus has been estimated at Rs 1.75 crore. The Union government has not released any funds for the project so far. The state has undertaken the construction on reimbursement basis and nearly 70 per cent of construction for residential quarters and student hostels is complete.
“According to the directions issued by the human resource development ministry, we have even sent the list of members for the governing body,” a senior state government official said.
“Most probably classes will not start this year,” the official added.
The human resource development ministry is also not sure whether classes can begin this year. Deputy director of higher education, Kalapana Singh, said the process was on but refused to elaborate.
The decision to set up an IIM was announced after Union minister for human resource development, Arjun Singh, held a meeting in Shillong a few years ago. Earlier, tribal affairs minister P.R. Kyndiah and former deputy chief minister in charge of education, Mukul M. Sangma, had lobbied for an IIM in Shillong.
This proposed seventh IIM in the country will have a two-year post-graduate programme in business management with nearly 150-odd students in the first year.
Shillong, known as the educational capital of the Northeast, had to face stiff competition from neighbouring Assam for the institute. Meghalaya was granted the IIM as Guwahati has an IIT.