Overexpansion of IITs – UPSC GS2

Context: UGC has allowed IITs to open branches abroad.
  • The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are India’s premier institutes with world-class quality standards. They are among few Indian higher educational institutions that perform well in the global rankings.
  • However, in the last decade, the IIT institutes have expanded beyond their capacity. This accelerated expansion is likely to affect its quality standards. For example, Currently, there are 23 IITs as compared to 5 IIT’s in the early 1960s.
  • Moreover, recently, the University Grants Commission permitted selected IITs under the ‘Institutions of Eminence’ category to set up campuses abroad. This decision could further weaken the quality standards of IITs.
  • So, we need to rethink the changing role and mandate of IITs in order to ensure that quality and focus are maintained.
How the expansion of IITs is affecting the quality standards of the premier institutions?
In recent years, the government expanded the number of IITs throughout the country. This has the following consequences:
  • Most of the new IITs are located in smaller towns. Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), Palakkad (Kerala), Dharwad (Karnataka), and others.
  • It will be difficult for IITs in small locations to attract top-quality faculty and staff. For example, IIT Dhanbad has been approved to hire 781 instructors, but only 301 positions were filled as of January 2021.
  • Also, it will be difficult to provide world-class facilities and infrastructure for IITs that are located in smaller towns.
  • Thus, inevitably it will lead to quality decline and the dilution of “IIT brand”.
What are the other issues hampering the growth of IIT’s?
  • IIT’s are unable to attract a sufficient number of young faculty to fill vacancies resulting from retirements because the salaries offered by IIT’s are relatively less compared to the salaries offered by the industries. Also, bright minds are getting attracted to universities and industries in other countries.
  • Exclusive focus on technology and engineering and very less importance given to the humanities and social sciences. Recently, the 2020 National Education Policy emphasized that the IITs should focus more on “holistic and multidisciplinary education”.
  • Lack of correlation between the local needs and IITs. Only a few State governments are effectively utilizing the presence of IITs for community outreach programmes through knowledge-sharing networks. An effective approach for local area development through IITs could have prevented the resistance of local groups for setting up new IIT in their region. For example, Goa.
What needs to be done?
  • Rather than creating new IIT’s we need to prioritise limited “IIT system”. It should be funded at “world-class” levels and staffed by “world class” faculty. Only, 10 to 12 “real” IITs located near major cities are practical for India.
  • The recent decision to liberalise the recruitment rules to attract more foreign faculty is a good step in the right direction.
  • IITs need to pay attention to internationalization by collaborating with the best global universities and hiring foreign faculty. Rather than starting overseas branches we need robust policies to attract international students.
  • This move will produce excellent results and build the IIT’s international brand. For instance, IIT Bombay-Monash Research Academy and University of Queensland-IIT Delhi Academy of Research (UQIDAR), are promising examples.
  • Adequate and sustained funding is mandatory from both the government and the philanthropist to ensure high-quality standards.

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