The Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) may have to thank its own visionary Governing Board and the practice of religiously following its goals towards Strategic Plan 2020, patiently ticking every columns it needs to, as it has been ranked as the best engineering college in the country for the third consecutive year by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The institute also retained its second position in the overall category as the second best institution in the country, next only to Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore.
The ranking, out of the total 906 entries in the engineering category, is with a score of 88.95, while the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay is in the second rank with a score of 84.82 and Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi in the third position with a score of 82.18.
"They (NIRF) are measuring the same parameters which we follow in our strategic plan, regarding teaching, learning, in terms of our faculty strength, graduation outcomes, placement, research publication citations, funded projects, consultancy projects etc. We are having our own Strategic Plan for 2020, every year our board monitors it. With the growth rate, we are maintaining our position. There is no magic to it, and in fact everybody is growing," said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras.
Every year there is a target in hiring faculty, graduate outcomes, funded projects, placement performance among others, which are monitored. The institute makes sure that it is improving in these parameters and this makes its chances of maintaining the position in the ranking higher.
"Still, if somebody improves more than us, they will beat us," he said.
The current Strategic Plan of IIT-M, for the year 2014-20, was implemented from the year Dr Pawan Goenka, managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra, took over as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the institution.
"The vision for IIT Madras laid out by Strategic Plan 2014–2020 is to be in the top 50 in all disciplines, by being a global leader in research and education, which will benefit society around us and the environment. The key pillars that will help IIT Madras achieve this vision are course programmes, research, engagement with industry, internationalisation and entrepreneurial activity," said Goenka during the time.
It outlines steps to increase the quality and quantity of research output through an increase in research intensity, faculty strength, Ph.D. student enrollment, infrastructure, engagement with industry and international collaborations. It also seeks to make the IIT Madras Research Park, which is the first of its kind in the country, a force multiplier in the effort of doubling the sponsored research levels from that of 2014.
It envisages to establish publishing more papers in the top research publications, produce MS and Ph.D. graduates with high employer reputation, set up two to three research centres of excellence each year, offer more than 2,000 courses each year with 700 faculty members by 2020, to offer industry-oriented online courses leading to certification or M Tech degrees, to increase the value of total funded research from around Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 5 billion per year, increase the number of industry-driven projects by 100 per cent, commercialise 5-10 research innovations annually, to have 20 new companies incubated each year, have atleast 10 per cent of the companies becoming blockbuster companies, and to recruit around 30 top-class faculty members each year during 2014-15. It also envisages to have a corpus, including endowments of Rs 5 billion - with options to build it up to Rs 10 billion fund-raising.
Started in 2015, NIRF outlines a methodology to rank educational institutions across the country. The parameters used for ranking broadly cover 'Teaching, Learning and Resources', 'Research and Professional Practices', 'Graduation Outcome', 'Outreach and Inclusivity', and 'Perception'. Although the broad parameters remained the same this year, there were changes in some of the sub-parameters, said the institute. From 2017, besides being ranked under specific disciplines, large institutions were also given a common overall rank. This year, educational institutions across the Country were ranked in nine categories – Overall, Universities, Engineering, Colleges, Management, Pharmacy, Medical, Architecture and Law.
While the institution hopes to maintain the growth every year, as per the plan, it is striving to improve the non-metricised aspects which may not be part of the metrics for ranking. This includes gauging how the students are feeling about the campus, what they like the most and what they don't, among others as part of this plan. It is focusing on all the metrics as per the plan, including that of recruiting adequate faculty, improving placement - recently it has taken steps to improve the internship process considering that it eventually improves the placements - although there are external factors which could affect the plans.
Another area it is focusing on is that after it has increased the Ph.D. capacity rapidly from 2012-15, it needs to take care of their placement now. "The better the places they go to, the better long term impact it will have for us in terms of perception and visibility. We are concerned about the placement of our undergraduates and master students. We are also concerned about what funded projects we get, research we get from the industry, all these growth rates are important. There you will find that our growth is much more rapid than most of the institutions," said Ramamurthi.
This year, it has also started looking at doing large funded projects from other ministries. For instance, last month it has announced setting up of a centre for waterways and coastline, in tie up with the Ministry of Shipping, which is a Rs 700 million project. In another project, a multi institution consortium working on 5G project for Department of Telecommunications, IIT Madras will have a major chunk of the activities and will get Rs 1 billion over a period of time. This will enable the institution from depending solely on the government funding and project from a single ministry now. Till a couple of years ago, the entire fund from the government was around Rs 1.7-2 billion. That has gone up to Rs 3 billion, but these kind of large projects were not there earlier. While such large scale projects may not be possible every year, it would make the institution more responsive.
"Our target is to have 15-20 per cent of the overall funds to come from projects to other ministries, but it may vary year-wise. On a compounded rate you may see 20 per cent per year. That is ahead of the GDP growth," said Ramamurthi.
These developments are despite the challenges in terms of shortage of faculty, infrastructure related constrains, procedural issues related to purchases and other activities, which tend to hold back the growth momentum. The average vacancy in the system is around 34 per cent for faculties, while it is around 30 per cent in IIT-M, which it manages with visiting and guest faculty. While it is constantly trying to recruit more, there are constrains in recruiting more than a certain level of faculty in limited time period, considering the institutions are not in a position to attract the best people from all over the world in terms of payment. These institutions can pay only half or one third of what the world pays and it has to look for people who are coming in for other reasons and are still good. At present, the net recruitment of faculty members is around 25.
"Our Research Park also play a major role in this. It is very important. Having a 1.5 million sq ft next door where companies can set up their own research facilities and co-work with us and where 150 start ups are being incubated, it is very important," he said. The industry-funded projects has also been growing at 15-20 per cent and in 2017-18 IIT-M did Rs 1.5 billion of funded projects as against Rs 1.2 billion during the previous year. The institute is developing a new campus in another part of the city, where the larger projects such as the centre for waterways and coastline would be set up.
IIT-Madras key metrics:
Total number of faculty members- 607
No: of women faculty members- 78
Sponsored Research Projects
2014-15 - Rs 1.08 bn
2015-16 - Rs 1.94 bn
2016-17 - Rs 1.95 bn
2014 -15 - Rs 662.6 mn
2015-16 - Rs 631.52 mn
2016-17 - Rs 852.6 mn
|Institution||Teaching, Learning & Resources (100)||Research & Professional Practice (100)||Graduation Outcomes (100)||Outreach & Inclusivity (100)||Perception (100)|