Seven select engineering colleges, that are soon to attain the coveted IIT status, are back in the news.
The seriousness of their march towards achieving the status of an Indian Institute of Technology can be gauged from the fact that the Union ministry of human development resources has called them for discussions for a third time in less than four months.
The seven colleges are:
Aligarh Muslim University-Zakir Hussain College of Engineering and Technology, Aligarh, UP.
- Andhra University -College of Engineering, Vishakhapatnam, AP.
- Banaras Hindu University-Institute of Technology (IT-BHU), Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
- Bengal Engineering College, Howrah, West Bengal.
- Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Kochi, Kerala.
- Jadavpur University's Engineering and Technology Departments, Calcutta, West Bengal.
Osmania University-College of Engineering and College of Technology (both participated), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
The first meeting, which took place on May 3 this year at Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi, was a little more than an exploratory meeting. It was called to exchange views, develop a strategy needed to bring the quality of these colleges at par with that of the IITs, develop infrastructure in a planned way, et cetera. The government asked them to develop a 10-year vision document (Vision 2015) that showed where the colleges would be by that year.
The colleges were also asked to prepare a detailed project report, identifying the areas needing improvement and the means to achieve this progress. They were also asked to provide a ballpark figure for the funding needed to achieve their goal.
The second meeting: Encouraged by the government's response, the colleges worked on the details that were asked of them. They were invited again on July 27 by the HRD ministry. All the seven colleges participated in the discussions.
A frank exchange of information and views took place among the participants at the meeting, chaired by additional secretary of higher education Sudeep Banerjee.
The strong points and the areas of deficiency of all the colleges were discussed. The government listened to the plans of the colleges to achieve a higher goal of education and their funding requirements.
Funding requirements: All the colleges submitted their budgetary proposals. While five of the colleges asked for amounts ranging from Rs 225 crore to Rs 400 crore (Rs 2.25-4 billion), CUSAT asked for Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion). Bengal Engineering College submitted a proposal for Rs 1,100 crore (Rs 11 billion).
(Please note that these figures and the actual figures agreed upon finally might differ).
Irrespective of what the colleges asked for, they will each receive nearly the same amount of funding: about Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion). This amount is much higher than the Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) announced by the government earlier this year, and it matches with the amount agreed upon by the erstwhile National Democratic Alliance government.
Apart from this one-time grant, the colleges will also receive Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) per year, if and when they attain IIT status. This will be a big help, as most of the colleges receive only Rs 10-20 crore (Rs 100-200 million) per year.
Vision Document: All the colleges presented their own vision of acquiring a higher level of educational status in the shortest possible time. For faculty resources -- in the detailed vision document -- the colleges gave a break-up of department-wise faculty strength, number of doctorates, teaching and non-teaching staff, vacancy unfilled so far, future requirements, category of faculty, et cetera.
The colleges also submitted research and allied statistics such as: number of research papers published in national and international publications, patents applied for, number of conferences/seminars attended, awards/prizes received, participation in QIP (Quality Improvement Programme by All India Council of Technical Education), etc.
As regards student quality, the colleges indicated batch-wise and department-wise strength, the entrance exams for admitting B Tech and M Tech students, number of PhDs produced in the last three to five years, etc.
The ministry made following comments:
There should not be any restriction on hiring of faculty from any quarter (including the state government). No fund will be released till all the vacancies are filled. Faculty recruitment should be on a national basis. Faculty upgrade programme should be vigorously pursued.
State governments should grant more autonomy to colleges under their control, so that reforms can be implemented.
There is a need for application of management techniques to achieve the desired goal. The colleges should carry out Gap Analysis (to identify and narrow the gap between the desired goal and the projected goal); to apply SWOT analysis (a tool for identifying the Strengths and Weaknesses and of examining the Opportunities and Threats).
The colleges need to rationalise their departments, i.e. increase the intake for branches in demand, and to reduce intake in some branches with less demand. They should follow a 10-year plan to meet their objectives. The colleges must form a peer group among themselves and improve by mutual criticism.
A technical team will visit campuses at the end of the year to assess the situation and advise.
Students' quality: One of the most important factors to be considered for becoming IITs is the overall student quality and the ways of improvement. All the six colleges were asked to take at least 50 per cent of the students from the All Indian Engineering Entrance Exam. (IT-BHU takes students exclusively through IIT-JEE since 1972.)
About 400,000 students appeared for this popular exam, twice the number that write the IIT-JEE exam. This will be a great relief for AIEEE students, as 1,500 more seats will be created (3,000 if six colleges take all students exclusively through that exam).
This will improve the quality of incoming students. Currently, all the six colleges take students through their own exams or from the state they are situated in. The selection ratio (number of candidates selected against the number of candidates who appeared for the exam) varies from 5 per cent to 15 per cent, while that for IIT-JEE and AIEEE (for National Institutes of Technology) is 2-3 per cent.
Which colleges will become IITs?
The government has made it clear that not all colleges will be granted IIT status. The states with existing IITs, i.e. West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, will likely get only one more IIT. For West Bengal, since both the colleges are under state control, the opinion of state government will carry significance.
For Uttar Pradesh, both AMU and BHU are under the control of central government and the college will be chosen by the HRD ministry itself.
In southern India, Kerala is very conscious about higher education. In fact, the debate over new IITs and NITs was started three years ago by the IIT demand made by this state. It is most likely to get an IIT.
For Andhra Pradesh, the state government and the Members of Parliament from the state favour both the colleges, Osmania University and Andhra University. Thus, overall there will be four or five IITs created. The colleges will be declared as 'IITs' depending upon the progress achieved, as certified by the quality conscious IIT board (an apex council of all seven IITs).
No time frame has been set yet, but it is expected that the future announcements about new IITs shall be made between mid-2007 to mid-2010. I must confess that these are my views, as government decision on this subject is a closely guarded secret.
The remaining two or three colleges shall be designated as INIs or Institutes of National Importance. It will be done through an Act of Parliament. They will be similar to other INIs, such as National Institute for Training in Industrial Engineering (NITIE), National Institute of Design, Indian School of Mines, etc.
These are schools with specialisation in a nationally important field. They will enjoy national importance, shall be able to enter into collaboration with foreign universities and will be able to set and develop their own programmes. Each INI engineering college will receive about Rs 40 to 60 crore (Rs 400 to 600 million) as annual funding.
The only thing missing will be an IIT tag.
The author is chemical engineering graduate from IT-BHU and an MS (chemical engineering) from Rutgers University, New Jersey. He has deeply interacted with the HRD ministry, state ministers, IIT board, IIT Selection Committee. The views expressed here are personal.