Friday, August 01, 2008

To all those who complain ...

... about how the eight new IITs have no teachers, no infrastructure and, heck, no campus: here's something that might interest you:

“I applied after seeing a small news item in The Hindu. My uncle recommended that I apply to this new institute rather than the more established CEG [College of Engineering], Guindy. My mother was so angry with him for sending me off to a jungle,” laughs S. Srinivasan.

The jungle was untouched in those days, with no buildings on campus ready for the first batch of students. “Back then, IIT existed in the minds of the planners and its physical presence was discerned in the borrowed classrooms of AC Tech,” said Mallik Putcha, writing in a campus paper a quarter of a century later. Students lived at the old Presidency College women’s hostel in Saidapet. “We used to cycle from there and cross the Adyar river by boat. I remember the ride used to cost us about 25 paise a week,” remembers R. Mahadevan.

Thanks to Yogesh for the e-mail alert.

* * *

Today, the IITs are to release a lot of information about this year's JEE. So there will be quite a few occasions during the rest of the week to comment on my least favorite entrance exam conducted by my favorite institutions.

I believe the stuff will go on display on IIT-R's JEE website (the site is not loading as of this writing). If you find anything of note (on that site or elsewhere), do please share it with us through comments here, or send me an e-mail.


  1. Vinod Khare said...

    I do wonder if you're trying to say that if the older IITs could be started out without teachers and infrastructure why not now.

    If you are, I would like to point out that there's a difference between then and now. At that time no precedent existed, everything had to be done from scratch. Today we not only have a precedent but also one that has made international name. Second, older IITs were mentored by international universities. Today's IITs aren't. Third, the way the new IITs are being set up shows not only a lack of resources but also a lack of planning. That is the one thing I'm more opposed to. (For example, students for IIT 'Rajasthan' have been admitted even before deciding on the city where the IIT will be set up. I see this as lack of planning.)

    I wholeheartedly welcome new IITs but the lack of planning is appaling.

  2. Abi said...

    Vinod: My take is slightly different. Institution-building will always take a decade or so. During that first decade, every institution will evoke complaints such as 'no faculty' or 'no infrastructure'. All I am saying is that this sort of comlaining is premature.

    Lack of planning is a different issue. If Gujarat, Punjab and Orissa didn't take this opportunity to start an IIT, is there any guarantee that they will still have one next year (under a different government with different priorities)? As I see it, political compulsions are the reason for the 'unplanned-ness' of the new IITs. We just have to learn to live with this reality.

    As for the existing IITs' brand image, I think I have already addressed it. Here's the bottomline: If IIT-M is as different from IIT-Patna as one UC campus is from another, so be it. In other words, brand differentiation is the key, instead of a collective brand identity.

    As for mentoring, well, the current crop of new IITs are also being mentored by the other IITs, aren't they? You aren't questioning the old IITs' commitment to this cause, are you? ;-)

  3. Anonymous said...

    Existing IITs themselves are facing faculty shortage. How is this premature complaining ?

  4. Anonymous said...

    agree with abi that "birth" pangs can't be avoided. as to lack of planning i guess if people recognize and articulate there is a problem somebody will become more active.

  5. Anonymous said...

    faculty shortage will always exist in a society which values jobs, security and pay more than taking up a career for the sheer fun and passion. no doubt basic realities and necessities can't be ignored but is innovation and research such an easy affair ?