Friday, March 28, 2008

New IITs, IIMs

Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (Indore) will be the next states to get freshly minted IITs. Take a look (see also the update below):

... [The government] on Friday decided to establish four new IITs and six IIMs in various states besides upgrading some of the state universities to the status of Central Universities.

While the new IITs would be located in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh (Indore), Gujarat and Punjab, the IIMs would come up in Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh (Raipur), Uttarakhand and Haryana.

It would be so much better to create large, "real universities" with a mandate to do research and teach (graduate as well as undergraduate) courses. Engineering, management, law, medicine can be built into these universities in various combinations with natural and social sciences, arts, humanities and languages. Such an environment is particularly important for undergraduate students, a vast majority of whom currently languish in affiliated colleges with poor facilities and non-researchers, or study in elite, but specialized institutions (IITs, NITs, AIIMS, NLSUI, etc).

It's not clear why the government keeps choosing IITs and IIMs, when it can make a much bigger difference in people's lives -- and for the country as a whole -- with real universities.

I don't know about you, I see this news as yet another lost opportunity.


* * *

Update: The official press release (thanks to an e-mail alert from Yogesh Upadhyaya) has a lot more information about the new institutions that are to be set up during the 11th plan. It turns out that 14 'world-class' Central Universities are being planned in the following states:

  1. Pune, Maharashtra
  2. Kolkata, West Bengal
  3. Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
  4. Mysore, Karnataka
  5. Vishakapatanam, Andhra Pradesh
  6. Gandhinagar, Gujarat
  7. Jaipur, Rajasthan
  8. Patna, Bihar
  9. Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
  10. Kochi, Kerala
  11. Amritsar, Punjab
  12. Bhubaneshwar, Orissa
  13. Greater NOIDA, Uttar Padesh
  14. Guwahati, North Eastern Region

Further, 16 more Central Universities will be set up in those states that do not currently have one.

Thus, it would appear that I spoke a little too soon. While I welcome the setting up of a large number of universities, I have a grouse against those as well! Currently, our Central Universities do not do any undergraduate teaching -- the lone, honorable exception being the Banaras Hindu University, which has UG programs in many, many disciplines. Thus, I will wait until I have a better idea about the kind of institutions that are actually set up, before I start celebrating ...

[Interestingly, the official press release says that BHU's Institute of Technology (which is also where I studied) will be converted into an IIT. Its path to IIT-hood has been quite tortuous -- so tortuous, in fact, that I will believe it only when the deed is done. ]


  1. Anonymous said...

    We will have to wait and see what lies behind the term "world-class" universities.

    No university in India at present has any institutional mechanisms to facilitate a broad , wide ranging education of a student across multiple disciplines. Almost all enlightened real universities allow the student to use a 'make your own recipe' model in some form.

    This is completely counter to the present mechanisms in Indian universities.

    If you want places like U. Chicago , Stanford, Harvard , Caltech you need people like Fred Terman , Milikan , Charles Eliot , Robert Hutchins who introduced new ideas such as electives , Great books program , university parks ; ideas which are now part of the mainstream in the US.

    The combination of old ideas and new money will lead to the old result : more mediocrity.

  2. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Where did you get the notion that none of the central universities do undergraduate teaching? Delhi University has huge numbers (albeit via affiliated colleges). So do AMU, Pondicherry, NEHU, and others. University of Hyderabad now has "integrated MSc" courses. I don't know about the rest but I suspect most of them do, too...

  3. Anonymoustache said...

    A general question regarding university teaching at the undergrad level: What is the general trend as far as course selection goes nowadays? I remember that I couldn't take Math when majoring in Microbiology if I wanted to---heck it was impossible to be able to take Chemistry for all 3 years of college when majoring in Botany or Zoo or Micro. At the time, if you majored in a biological science (10+2+3 system) you pretty much entered the world with only a high-school level knowledge of physics, chem, math and pretty much all else. Is it generally better now, in colleges around the nation?

  4. Anonymous said...

    Prof Abi,

    I would take it with a pinch of salt - the term "world class" universities. With the kind of allocations they are talking abt - for infrastructure, faculty compensation, research grants etc. - it just remains to be seen what they mean by "world class". See the ad-hoc manner of decisions regarding IITs - till yesterday they were talking abt 3 IITs in some other states! And finally with the kind of faculty compensation - Rs. 12000 pm at start for Asst. prof in the old scale - Rs. 15600 + 7600 grade pay in the new scale - it is indeed going to be very tall order! Do these bureaucrats have any sense of what is going on in the real world?


  5. Wavefunction said...

    Well, you know our government. In Balaram's words, it wants to sprint...when it can't even stand.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Hmmmm ...

    I remember sometime back Vedanta University was hot news. Anyone got any updates on Vedanta University?

    Are they still on course to start taking in undergrad students from 2009 as stated by them an year back?

  7. Anonymous said...

    Kerala papers are reporting that entry-level salaries will be 60,000, and those working abroad will be lured with Ramanujan fellowships (5 lakhs for 5 years).

    Any idea what would be the entry level salaries after the revised pay scales?

  8. Anonymous said...

  9. Anonymous said...

    Is it 5 lakhs X 5 years = 25 lakhs, or is it 5 lakhs over 5 years?

    5 lakhs over 5 years is of the same order of start up grants in IITs. But the IITs themselves are facing a faculty crunch, with this sort of start-up grants. So, if the government thinks they can lure faculty back with that sort of money, they are simply deluding themselves.


  10. Anonymous said...

    I agree with you abhi - India has enough of professional institutes that can be upgraded to be of the quality of IITs and IIMs. We do need more quality professional institutes to accomodate the burgeoning student population from non-metropolitan areas and also to meet the workforce demands of a growing economy but do we need to start a new central insti from scratch ? how about upgrading the state instis in many places ?

    But at the same time we need more of world class, all-round education imparting ( humanities, sciences, social sciences, law ) universities like so many of the better universities in America.

    Are we going to end up with a educated population of only engineers and managers ? What about quality people in other disciplines ?

  11. Anonymous said...

    Reg a comment abt luring folks from abroad -
    you cannot lure with just the carrot of pay and teaching. nobody is going their comfortable life just for teaching ( there maybe a few) but most will look at concomitant research and career development opportunities.

    And there is another social factor issue with opening new instis which I shamelessly borrow from a comment left in another blog -

    "....Lets assume that more and more women are going to have a career unlike most Indian grand-mothers and many Indian mothers. This means that future spouses of Indian men are going to as interested in career prospects rather than cooking. So if all the new institues ( or the economy of the areas themselves ) that are going to open in rural/semi-urban areas don't cater to the females then they are going to have problems recruiting people from urban areas unless the recruitment also acquires more of a local flavour. In such a scenario raising the profile and standards of these institues will become intimately linked to the growth and development of the surrounding areas. That should make for some real interesting social dynamics in the coming times..."