IISc [is] not a substitute for IIT.
-- Prof. U.R. Rao
That's the headline of this story on a recent meeting in which a number of public intellectuals in Karnataka spoke in favour of starting an IIT in the state.
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Last year, the Central Government announced a wide range of initiatives in India's higher ed sector; they included setting up of eight new IITs (six of which have already admitted students), 16 Central Universities, 7 IIMs, 20 IIITs, and 14 'World Class' Universities. Despite a Central and a 'World Class' university coming its way, Karnataka is unhappy with not getting an IIT.
Isn't it sad that people -- and people who (should) know better -- whine about not getting a technical institute when they have an opportunity to create a great university? Particularly since a university can have a huge, positive influence on a far larger number of the state's people. Consider an institution that
is configured to be what I call a 'real' university -- a research university that does undergraduate teaching, covers natural and social sciences, humanities and languages, liberal arts and professions, and promotes exciting research in many interdisciplinary areas.
has the kind of autonomy enjoyed by our INIs -- 'Institutions of National Importance' -- the IITs, IISc, IISERs, IIMs, etc.
gets the kind of government grants that flow to the INIs (about 25 to 40 lakhs per faculty member).
has a governance structure that manages to avoid political interference (which plagues many state universities).
that draws faculty (and a large fraction of its students, too) from all of India.
Aren't these the nutrients that explain the stature of the IITs? Shouldn't our intellectuals be arguing for a flow of these nutrients to all our institutions -- INIs, Central and State universities?
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To the list above, I would also add another key nutrient: scale. A 'real' university that graduates, say, ten of thousand students with UG degrees, and several thousands of PG degrees is far better than a technical institution that, almost by design, would not grow to beyond a few thousands of UG degrees. A large size gets the state more graduates at a lower cost, making this model replicable. Even at the State level!