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New IITs announced
The government on March 28 decided to set up eight more Indian Institutes of Technology. Never before in the history of India has such large expansion been planned in a go. It is definitely a good news, provided the educational standards are met.
Introduction


THE DAY of March 28, 2008 was the red-letter day in the history of higher education in India. On that day, our human resource development (HRD) minister, Arjun Singh announced at a press conference in New Delhi that the government planned to establish more Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Central Universities across the country. The plan included setting up a total of eight IITs (including four already announced) and converting Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IT-BHU) into an IIT. The decision was taken at the highest level in a cabinet meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.


The plan for new IITs


Never before in the history of higher education in India, such a large expansion has been planned in one go. For example, three new IITs (in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan) will start functioning from the next academic year (2008-2009), which itself is a record. Other IITs (IIT at Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh) will start functioning from the year 2009-2010, depending upon the progress on site-selection, carrying out necessary government and legal formalities, etc.


The new IITs are being set up under the 11th five-year plan (March 2007-February 2012). It is expected that all new IITs shall be fully functional within next five-six years.


Academic programs


Each new IIT will have 3,000 students on the campus, as per plan. This will include 2,000 undergraduates, 500 postgraduates, 400 doctorates and 100 post-doctorates. Each new IIT will admit 500 students for BTech programme, 250 for MTech, 100 for PhD and about 10 for post-doctorate fellowship programme each year, making a total of 860 students each year.


Each of the three new IITs (IITs at Hyderabad, Patna and Jaipur) shall have total intake of 120 students this year, with 40 students each in computer science, electrical and mechanical streams. For IIT Hyderabad, the classes will start from the available vacant buildings of the ordnance factory. For IITs in Bihar and Rajasthan, it will take at least two years to build the necessary infrastructure (buildings, lecture halls, labs, hostels, etc) and students of the respective institutes will study at IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Delhi during that time.


Funding


The funding is an essential part of achieving success for any institute. The new IITs shall receive capital funding of Rs 2,500 crores to Rs 4,000 crores (Rs 25-40 billion or US $625 million to $1 billion) per IIT, spread over a period of five-six years. This generous funding will help new IITs in becoming world-class as the existing ones. The funding need is based on the amount spent on the last brand-new IIT at Guwahati, in the state of Assam, which was set up in 1994 (under Assam Accord) at a total cost of Rs 1,500 crores (Rs 15 billion).


IIT-Guwahati was established with a planned intake for 300 undergraduate (B Tech) students per year, bringing capital cost at the rate of Rs 5 crores (Rs 50 million) per admitted student. Based on the same formula, the new IITs’ capital expenditure has been fixed to at least Rs 2,500 crores per IIT for the planned intake of 500 undergraduate students per year. Actual cost will be more to account for inflation, more programs to offer, etc. The total amount and means of funding is not finalised yet. Of the total funding needs, Rs 750 crores shall be provided by the central government as plan expenditure from 11th five-year plan. Rest will be contributed by non-plan expenditure, periodic grants, capitalised annual operating expenses, plan expenditure from 12th five-year plan, etc.


Implementation plan


The locations for new institutes have been carefully selected keeping in mind the ease of access. The central government has sent directives to state governments to select the site with available rail access and near a major airport. This is highly desirable, as some of the existing IITs located near metros benefited partly from their locations. For example, hiring of faculty becomes easier as they tend to settle in metro area due to easy access to the children’s education, better social life, etc. A major airport near the campus makes planning of international conferences/seminars possible. It is also convenient for campus recruitment, as hiring managers can fly in and out on the same day.


Each new IIT will be mentored by an existing IIT (patron) nearby. The respective state governments are also planning to get foreign collaborations for the new IITs, similar to what was done to the existing IITs before. Among the possibilities is collaboration with Japan for the IIT in Andhra Pradesh and with South Korea for IIT in Orissa.


The Central government is aware of the fact that after the general election of May 2009, the list of new IITs may get changed if another political party comes into the power at the Centre. Then, it may bring its own agenda, and allocate new IITs to the states of its choice. To avoid such scenario, the new IITs will be implemented with a speed.


As a first step, a bill will be introduced in the coming monsoon session (July/August) of the Parliament this year. The IIT Act shall be amended to include new IITs. Other formalities include, notifying state governments, forming academic and executive council for each IIT, publishing news in government gazette (Gazette Extraordinary), and finally issuing official letter to the institute to start the academic programs. In case of IT-BHU, it requires approval of BHU executive council to grant autonomy to the institute and the modification BHU Act by the Parliament.


Demand for more IITs


Setting up an IIT is a complex political issue. It requires forceful representation and continuous lobbying efforts by the state governments and individuals. Never before in the history of IITs have state governments lobbied hard and made getting an IIT a prestige issue. Take for example, the race for new IITs started in 2003 when the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state, Chandrababu Naidu demanded brand-new IIT for his education-conscious state. This compelled former government of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to announce the plan for setting up of five IITs across the country.


Two years ago, the states of Gujarat, Kerala and Orissa signed agreements with the nearby IITs to set up IIT extension centers, without waiting for the permission from the central government. Orissa state chief minister, Naveen Patnaik and state members of Parliament (MPs), along with Chitta Baral and other writers successfully campaigned for an IIT for the state. Planned conversion of IT-BHU into IIT would not have been possible without initiative shown by Dr Panjab Singh, vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University. After conversion, there will be two IITs (IIT-Kanpur and IIT-BHU) in the same state, which will be first of its kind.


This time, the demand for setting up premier technical institutions has also come from Indian business and industry groups, as well as from multinationals, which plan to set up or expand their businesses in India.


HRD ministry has also announced a plan for the conversion of IT BHU, Varanasi into an IIT. The decision was based on long-standing ties of the institute with IIT-JEE (since 1972) and the academic standard comparable to IITs. The institute shall be known as IIT-BHU, Varanasi after conversion.
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