IITs and IIMs: Demand to Dilute

During my school days in Birlapur, I had heard of how Dr. BC Roy, the then chief minister, who was also a very reputed physician wrested the first IIT to get established at Kharagpur in West Bengal that was going to Bihar. People in those days could have hardly imagined that IIT, Kharagpur and then IITs as brand would go so famous. During our time even Shibpur Engineering College, Engineering college of Jadavpur was equally famous. My friend Ashoke had preferred Shibpur for his civil engineering. Indian School of Mines was also a very highly preferred institute in eastern India.

Today every state craves for getting an IIT and IIM. Political parties are making the demand of setting up an IIT and IIM in the state as part of its manifesto. Assam got one on political ground.

And appreciating its importance, the FM in his every budget speech includes the plan or progress on setting up of IITs or IIMs. “An IIM at Shillong; three IISERs at Mohali, Pune and Kolkata; and an IIIT at Kanchipuram have started functioning. In the process of establishing one Central University in each of the hitherto uncovered States, the FM proposed ‘to make a beginning in 2008-09 by establishing 16 Central Universities’. Besides, we propose to set up three IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan; two IISERs at Bhopal and Tiruvananthapuram; and two Schools of Planning and Architecture at Bhopal and Vijayawada.”

While Andhra has cleared the location of IITs, the selection of the sites for IITs in Rajasthan and Bihar is still not zeroed. Beside the state, the choice of sites in the state is causing political chaos.

In his Independence Day speech last August, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised of eight IITs in the pipeline. As reported, the government has also given the go-ahead to set up Indian Institutes of Technology in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh. 15 states are also vying for them.

Even Shashi Tharoor thinks that India by now would have established more number of IITs by now. “When I left India for post-graduate studies in 1975, there were perhaps 600 million people in India, and we had five IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology). Today, we are nearly double that population, and we have seven IITs. To keep up with demand – and the needs of the marketplace – shouldn’t we have had 20 IITs by now of the same standard as the original five? Or even 30?”
As it appears, crave for IITs will not stop till every state will have one IIT and IIM. But perhaps before that IIT and IIM will get its brand image diluted down where the demand will be meaningless.

I agree that more of engineering colleges providing technical education of the quality standard of IITs are essential for the country, but that doesn’t require setting up of IITs. Two other avenues can help meeting the demand of industry for good technical manpower. However, IITs are not the only answer.

Each of the IITs can become a hub for imparting education and get into a network of affiliation of six other state or private colleges of the region and with help of e-teaching and virtual laboratory already created by IITs for different branches of engineering and improve the quality of education to IIT level. An effective interchange of teachers and students can further the quality of education of the affiliated colleges.

More of the corporate houses must get into the business of engineering education, as in good old days Birlas did with BITS, Pilani and Ranchi that are no way inferior to IITs. Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, and Great Lake Institute of Management, Chennai have already set examples of world-class institutes of management education outside the government control. Vedanta, Jindal, Ambanis are already going ahead. Thrust must also be on upgrading the facilities and quality of education at the existing facilities at both, the state and private colleges. Industry must play an active role in getting them affiliated more effectively with the reputed foreign universities of developed countries.

Instead IITs must further get into specialized and contemporary branches of technologies for its M.Tech levels to cater to various requirements of different sectors of the industry. Why can’t one IIT set up a School of Automotive Design or School of Tooling Design with help of experts in the sector? It is unfortunate that many of the sector-related knowledge remains with some pioneer companies and gets lost once the companies get into red and close its door. Some such areas for instance are gear design, machine tool design, and bearing design out of many in the industry.

It may sound a little trivial. However, whenever I visited mechanical or production engineering departments of IIT, Kharagpur; Jadavpur University; Pantnagar University, Institute of Technology of BHU, Varanasi or NIT, Kurukshetra, I got shock of my life about the gap between what were being taught and what are or going to be the need of the industry. Lack of knowledge and information about the industry even among the best of the teachers is dismal.

Can’t the academician sit with some knowledgeable people of the industry to narrow the gap? Unfortunately, there are psychological barriers among the people on both the sides that don’t allow them to interact freely for mutual benefits.

Further, the politicians with inferiority complex are damaging the great institutes by interference in the name of democracy and inclusive growth. Is it not the case with Presidency College, Bengal Engineering College, and Jadavpur University?

PS: Read
!. ‘Instant IITs no growth recipe‘ by P. V. INDIRESAN former Director, IIT Madras
2. Online Education Takes Off in India in Business Week by Nandini Lakshman<

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