New IITs are coming up speedily

Written by Prachi Karnik Pradhan | Sudipta Datta | Ruchi Kapoor | Updated: Jun 24 2008, 05:01am hrs
Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi called the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) brain banks. Indias exclusive engineering club is now being expanded. The Union HRD ministry is opening six new IITs instead of just the three that were supposed to begin operations this year in Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. This includes the fourth one that has been announced in Himachal Pradesh. There will now be 13 IITs with a total of 6,872 seats. More than 700 seats will be added thanks to the six new IITs. Classes for IITs in Punjab, Orissa and Rajasthan will function out of the IITs in Delhi, Kanpur and Kharagpur respectively. IIT Mumbai will mentor the IIT at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Each IIT is expected to have 120 seats and three courses will be offered in the first year. The first set of admissions for the new IITs will take place in June 2008. In the new IITs, 27% reservations will be implemented on day one of the academic session.

Meanwhile, IIT Kharagpur, which is going to mentor the new institute of technology coming up in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, 321 km and 5 hours away, for three years, has offered to recruit students and start classes too till a proper infrastructure is in place. Asked whether 120 students seeking admission in IIT Orissa will be accommodated in Kharagpur for the 2008-09 session, Madhusudhan Chakraborty, acting director of IIT Kharagpur, says, As of now, I really cannot comment. But IIT Kharagpur will give whatever support is possible, he adds.

As it turns out, it will not be easy for IIT Kharagpur to lend its faculty to the new institute. Like all other institutes of excellence, IIT Kharagpur has been facing a huge crunch in teaching staff. We have more than 200 positions vacant in IIT Kharagpur itself, says Chakraborty. Its essential to have a very good faculty, passionate about teaching, because we take students of such merit and have a responsibility towards them, he points out. We move minds, not matter, Chakraborty adds, philosophically.

The Orissa government is scouting for 600 acres to set up the institute of technology. IIT Kharagpur too is adding to its infrastructurebuilding more classrooms and hostelsto take on additional students. It has already taken in 9% of OBC students, as part of the HRD ministrys directive to implement 27% reservation in IITs and IIMs in three years.

According to HRD ministry officials, the new campuses have been opened to accommodate additional OBC students. Six of the seven older IITs are implementing 9% OBC quota this year, while the seventh, Roorkee, is implementing 12%. The new IITs are implementing 27% OBC quota. The states of Punjab and Gujarat have been asking for their own IITs for a while now, as they feel the need of these institutions deeply. According to an AICTE report (2006), from the current annual intake of nearly 5,00,000 for engineering, the magnitude of intake will be about 15,00,000, which is three-fold by the year 2011-12. The IITs, of course, do not come under the ambit of AICTE. The outlay for IITs in the current Budget is Rs 1,171 crore, whereas the outlay for the new IITs in the current Budget is Rs 50 crore.

Meanwhile, the director of IIT, Delhi, Surendra Prasad says, We have always been expanding. In the late 1990s there were about 2,700-3,000 students in the IITs and today we have about 5,000 students. Says BN Jain, deputy director (faculty), IIT Delhi, IIT Delhi shall play the role of mentor for IIT Punjab. Till the time everything is put in place, we have to take care of the creation process and sustain it for a certain period of time. Currently, there is no board of governors. We have to make sure that necessary work is done. We are working with the ministry to have the director appointed, formation of a society for IIT Punjab. Till the time IIT Punjab starts we need to admit the students on their behalf. A senate will be constructed for professors. Meanwhile, an academic council will be set up till the senate is established. He adds, The students will come here for classes until IIT Punjab is set up. By June-July 2009, IIT Punjab will be in place.

The IIT system being autonomous is amenable to change faster than several other institutions. Says Prasad, Our system is such that it is self-contained and not like a big university where to make a small change in the curriculum, you have to run through a huge cycle of red-tapism and it takes years to make that change. But we can do it in months because our seniors just have to approve it and there is a very simple procedure where it progresses into the senate and if the senate is reasonable, it just approves it.

The IITs have produced some of the best brains in the globe and still continue to be cost-effective. The B Tech students pay about Rs 27,000 fees annually, which is about one-fourth of what private institutions charge. M Tech at the IITs costs lowerRs 5,000 yearly and the IITs pay the students a fellowship of Rs 8,000 per month because the percentage of students willing to do M Tech is very small.

(The fee structure is under revision and is likely to be hiked after the approval of IIT board of governors).

Says Prasad, If the student is deserving, we try to make sure that financial constraints do not come in the way. If he or she comes from a weaker section (SC or ST) then his/her hostel needs are taken care of. Nobody is deprived of education because of financial constraints. There is no tuition fee for them although a few marginal payments are there and in addition we give scholarships.

The IITs have about 5,315 students and 435 faculty. Therefore, going by 1:10 ratio, there is already a shortage of around 100 faculty members. The IITs hope to make this ratio 1:9. However, due to faculty-sharing because of expansion plans of the institutes, this may prove to be difficult. In fact, shortage of qualified faculty is a major issue faced by IITs.

The situation will further become grave with the establishment of eight new IITs, says JM Vasi, deputy director of IIT Mumbai. In total during the 11th Five-Year Plan in all eight new IITs will be opened.According to an IIT Mumbai official, the IIT Gandhinagar would offer chemical engineering. The curriculum, syllabus, fee structure and other rules for the new IITs would broadly remain the same as in the respective mentor IITs, the official added. To deal with the problem of the shortage of faculty members, IIT Mumbai has already begun the process of recruitment of faculty members. Vasi says, We have already placed advertisements for recruiting faculty members and very shortly we propose to fill in the vacancies.

IIT Mumbai also proposes to rope in retired faculty members for the new IIT. We are exploring the possibility of recruiting faculty from research institutions in Gandhinagar and industry experts ad-junct, he adds. This would help resolve the shortage of faculty issue.

But how are the existing IITs coping with the infrastructure Infrastructure is not an issue at all. New IITs would gradually set up a campus, college building, and hostel premises. To begin with, the IIT Gandhinagar would be started at one of the existing engineering colleges or in a rented building. Similarly, students hostel, faculty residences would come up in rented premises. The process of identifying a large plot for the new IIT has also begun, Vasi says.

On the reservation issue, the IIT Mumbai has begun processing the 9% OBC quota for post-graduate and doctoral courses from the current academic year. The institute will be implementing the 27% OBC quota in three phases following the Supreme Court order in April.

In addition to the 9% OBC quota, there would be an additional 4% intake in 2008. With this, there would be an increase in the overall intake by 13% during the first year. As far as funding of the new IITs is concerned, the funding from the government should flow smoothly and liberally and not just on paper, feel the institute officials.