Thursday, March 09, 2006

Of IITs and IIT-like entities

This is interesting:

A memorandum of understanding between two institutions was signed by director of IIT Ashok Misra and vice-chancellor and president of Monash University Richard Larkins in the presence of Australian Prime Minister John Howard today.

The IIT-Monash Research Academy which is expected to be functional in 2007 will be a centre of excellence in research and clean energy, water, biotechnology, minerals exploration and computer simulation.

The independent research academy will be located in a state-of-the art facility on the IIT campus and a separate governing board will oversee its activities, Larkins told mediapersons. [source: Zee News; you have to scroll down a bit]

We live in a country that considers anything -- really, anything -- that the IITs do as newsworthy, so it's difficult to figure out how big a deal this one is. Usually, such 'agreements' between 'heads of institutions' are really not such a big deal, simply because they don't go far beyond the ceremonial signing of 'agreements', which are a little more than pious statements of intent about 'exploring' possibilities for 'collaboration' in areas of 'mutual interest'. The ceremonies themselves are the thing: the institutions get to enjoy their 15 minutes of PR glory.

Having said that, this agreement -- on the face of it -- seems different. Because, it proposes setting up of something real and tangible, with a governance structure to go with it. In other words, some real money is being put on the table. In any event, I will wait for someone from IIT-Bombay to comment on this agreement with Monash University.

The next story is also interesting:

The government planned to set up premier public health schools on the lines of IITs and IIMs, said Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

These schools are expected to meet the increasing demand for trained public health professionals through a range of academic courses like Bachelors and Masters degree courses in public heath. [...]

The government has proposed a corpus of Rs 100 crore for each school, the minister said, adding that schools will be set up through private-public partnerships. [...]

There will be two schools to start with, one in the north and another in the south. [...]

We are likely to finalise one in Delhi. The other one will be either in Chennai or Hyderabad,� said Ramadoss. [Business Standard]

While interesting, this idea also raises questions about the process of making and implementing science policies in India. Several questions come to mind immediately: Why two Med-IITs? Why Delhi (which already has AIIMS)? Who initiated this idea? Has there been any debate? What does the medical community (in particular, the Medical Council of India) have to say about this idea? Why should they be a stand-alone institutions that specialize only in medicine? Aren't we better off by having them be a part of a larger university?