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New IITs aim high from transit camps; lay stress on research

Chitra Unnithan & Vinay Umarji 

It will be at least two years before they get their own campus. Yet, there’s a lot of excitement among the faculty members who will be teaching at the country’s only Indian Institute of Technology, IIT Mandi, to be nestled in the lowermost climatic zone of the serene Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh.

The institute plans to involve its research scholars in teaching to enhance its faculty strength. It will launch doctoral programmes this August and plans to request the ministry to fund research scholars who will be involved with teaching at the institute.

“Research scholars who will join the doctoral programme in August can lend support by teaching students. At present, recruitment of full-time faculty is underway. Nine faculty members have accepted the offers. Additional 10-12 faculty members are expected to do so shortly. Besides, we will have faculty who will keep shifting from other IITs for short durations and with about 10 research scholars, it will make a pretty good faculty staff at IIT Mandi,” says S P Gupta, coordinator and faculty, Electrical Engineering at IIT Mandi.

The institute, which has received 513 acres of land for its main campus from the Punjab government was established at IIT Roorkee campus in July 2009. It will operate from its transit campus, located in the Vallabh Degree College in Mandi town, from July 2010. The main campus will take two years to come up. The institute recently received Rs 20 crore from the government and there’s more to come. For the academic year starting July 2010, IIT Mandi expects around 110 students to join the institute as compared to 98 last year.

IIT Mandi is only a case in point. With most of the new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) entering their third academic year, they are exploring ways to improve the quality of education even as their permanent campuses are yet to take full shape. Right from involving PhD scholars in teaching to tapping research avenues, the new IITs appear to be innovating as well as learning from their established counterparts.

IIT Hyderabad (IIT-H), for instance, is banking on its faculty members to consolidate its research activities. According to U B Desai, director of IIT-H, faculty members have not only begun receiving research grants from DST, MCIT/DIT and other organisations, but have also begun publishing research papers in international journals. In the 2010 academic year, the institute will see admission of around 500 students, including 350 for B Tech programmes, 100 for M Tech programmes and 50 for PhD. Moreover, as against a full-time faculty strength of just over 40 last year, IIT-H is expecting the number to go up to 50 faculty members in its 10 departments.

Talking about the institute’s own campus, Desai says: “About 531 acres of land has been given by the state of Andhra Pradesh. While master planning of the new campus is done, we have called for expression of interest by architects. The new campus should be ready in about two years.”

The Indian Institute of Technology, Indore (IIT-I), mentored by IIT Bombay, expects its permanent campus to be ready by the end of 2011. “At present, the need for independent infrastructure, including lab facilities, is an issue. However, it does not imply that we will compromise on quality,” says Ruchi Sharma, Assistant Professor of Economics, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT-I.

The institute does not plan to start the MTech programme at least for the next three years. As for faculty, the current capacity is 26 while the required capacity is 30 per year at all IITs. The process to recruit more faculty in each discipline is underway. Most IITs (IIT Bombay and IIT Kanpur) do not include research scholars as part of their faculty at least for three years after they finish their programme. “As we have just started the PhD programme there is still time to consider such an option,” adds Sharma.

Apart from its B Tech programme getting its third batch since inception, IIT Rajasthan is also initiating PhD programmes for the first time from this year. Running from MBM Engineering College in Jodhpur, IIT Rajasthan has also been provided 300-odd PWD quarters for offering residential facilities to faculty members, staff and students alike. While IIT Rajasthan has been able to admit 120 students per batch so far, with its own campus coming up on a sprawling 900 acre land, the institute expects the numbers to rise.

Sometime back, IIT Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn), currently functioning from a makeshift campus at Vishwakarma Engineering College near Ahmedabad, saw the latter’s students protesting to shift the temporary campus of IIT-Gn from their college premises. The Gujarat government has now zeroed in on a 385-acre plot for the purpose of building the campus for IIT Gandhinagar.

On the other hand, IIT Bhubaneswar claims to be the first IIT out of the eight new IITs to be operating on its own infrastructure. “This is partially our own campus and we are the only IIT to be operating out of our own campus. Even after we move out to our permanent campus at Arugul, this building will continue to be our city centre. We have also selected project consultants who will design our permanent campus and we expect the construction to begin by the end of this year and to be completed by 2014,” says BK Rai, registrar at IIT Bhubaneswar.

The institute has been allotted 936 acres of land by the Orissa government for its permanent campus designed to have a self contained campus for 10,000 students and 1100 faculty and an estimated amount of Rs 780 crore will be spent in next few years to develop this institute. A science park will be part of this institution. IIT Bhubaneswar will also the first IIT to set up a separate marine campus in 2011 for conducting interdisciplinary research in rising sea levels, ecology, disaster management, marine ecosystems, fishery development, and other areas.

IIT Delhi-mentored IIT Ropar has 10 PhD candidates at present and will add another 15 by January next year. IIT Ropar currently runs BTech and PhD courses. As it faces hostel accommodation constraints, the institute is “not ready” to start MTech courses in the immediate future. This year, 25 faculty members will be joining the institute by July adding strength to the institute which has 27 faculty members at present.

M K Surappa, director, IIT Ropar believes that less stringent guidelines might help go a long way in easing many challenges in the way for the new IITs. “The ministry should relax the stringent guidelines for the IITs. I believe that more flexibility should be given the IITs otherwise it becomes difficult to attract and retain talent. Freedom is crucial to us for the decisions we take if IITs have to maintain their worldclass status. Of course, the accountability on our part will not be absent with freedom as both go hand in hand.”

At present, the IIT is functioning from its Ropar-based transit campus, which was earlier The Polytechnic College for Women. The Government of Punjab has provided 500 acres of land near the banks of Sutlej river which is expected to be ready by the end of 2010 or beginning of 2013.

Similarly, IIT Patna (IIT-P) offers B.Tech programs in three disciplines computer science and engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering besides Ph.D programmes. The institute has recruited 47 faculty so far and has 240 students including 11 PhD students till date. As it readies to welcome its third batch of students, IIT-P has new building ready on the premises of the New Government Polytechnic, from where the institute is currently functioning. As for the labs, IIT-P has hired the building of Software Technology Park of India (STPI), Patna.

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First Published: Mon, June 21 2010. 00:12 IST