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IITs strategise for more PhD scholars

Pradipta Mukherjee  |  Kolkata 

Efforts include joint MTech and PhD degrees and streamlining policies so that thesis papers are cleared within two months

With research becoming a clear focus area at all Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and with the 20-30 per cent growth in sponsored research, the premier technology institutes are now targeting a 10-30 per cent increase in PhD scholars.

Globally, China produces the maximum number of research scholars per year. It is widely recognised that there will be substantially more PhD engineers and scientists in China in 2010 than in the United States, as China produces three times the number of engineers per year. Smalley, a nobel prize-winning scientist from Rice University, recently concluded that by 2010, 90 per cent of all PhD physical scientists and engineers in the world will be Asians living in Asia, and among Asian PhD engineers and scientists, most will be produced by China.

India, therefore, is in a hurry to catch up. IIT-Kharagpur (IIT-KGP), for instance, awarded 212 PhDs this year, of which nearly 70 per cent had studied engineering. Last year, the institute had awarded 167 PhDs.

“We want at least 30 per cent of our students to be research scholars, double of what it is right now. We are making several enticements for that, like joint MTech and PhD degrees and streamlining policies so that thesis papers are cleared within two months instead of one year which is usually the norm,” said Damodar Acharya, director of IIT-KGP.

The institute has also introduced joint degree programmes with other reputed universities in India and abroad. A student admitted to such joint degree programmes has to spend upto two years in the partnering university and would have a joint guide. Through this programme, the institute aims at producing high quality faculty who will have exposure to at least two different environments.

The institute from its own fund supports written airfare up to two visits of the students to the partnering university. The local expenses of the student are taken care of by the partnering university.

At IIT-Bombay, 140 PhDs graduated in 2007, 200 in 2008 and around 175 in 2009. "We are incubating our PhD students using their intellectual properties. This should encourage students and make them feel more secure about their research findings," said Rangan Banerjee, dean of research and development at IIT Bombay.

At IIT Madras, from 2006 to 2009 there has been a 50 per cent increase in PhD intake. Currently the institute has around 1100 PhD scholars, informed Job Kurian, dean of sponsored research at IIT Madras. IIT Madras aims to have a 1:1 ratio between research scholars and undergraduates, from 1:5 ratio currently, said Kurian.

IIT-Delhi has seen a 23 per cent increase in the number of PhD degrees given out this year. A total number of 181 PhD degrees was awarded as compared to 147 last year. "This is a phenomenal achievement and is contrary to belief that we are very poor on research output," said M Balakrishnan, dean of post-graduate studies at IIT-Delhi.

IIT Bhubaneswar, one of the newest IITs in India, is encouraging faculty to join the institute with their own research scholars. M Chakraborty, director of IIT Bhubaneswar, said that the institute is also making provision for upto Rs 5 lakh research grant to a faculty. This would help them to invest in necessary infrastructure they require to carry out their research, like softwares, hardwares, books and journals, etc.

Student researchers get a grant of Rs 15,000 per month. International exposure for faculty and student researchers and presenting their research papers at international conferences is another priority area for IIT Bhubaneswar.

IIT Gandhinagar (IIT-G), another new IIT, has also started focusing on establishing the institute as a preferred destination for research students by initiating quality research activities on the campus.

The institute, which was established in 2008, has just received its second batch of undergraduate students, but is already working on lines of creating a centre for research.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal had recently said the country's premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) must focus on quality research and act as a catalyst to boost technical education in India.

"This is not only necessary for the economic growth of the country but also for the IITs to make the transition as creator of knowledge. Without a large base of well educated undergraduates in the country it is difficult to imagine any significant growth in research output from these institutions," Sibal said.

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First Published: Mon, September 07 2009. 00:35 IST