The IIT System
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About the IIT System (courtesy By Derek D'Costa, IIT,P.Eng.,FEC; Jan 26, 2016)
The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur was the first IIT founded in 1951, by India’s first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1947-64). At his behest, under the auspices of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) stepped forward, heading a consortium of 13 international universities, that also included the University of Manchester in England, to help establish the first IIT in Kharagpur, India.
Classes began in August 1951, in an old building located on a campus of 1800 acres donated by the Government of West Bengal, in Hijli, 5 kilometers south of Kharagpur, which had served as a Military/Air Force Base during WW II. In the first Class, there were just 42 teachers and 224 students, with 10 departments. Pandit Nehru laid the foundation stone in March 1952, for the new handsome building, with its majestic tower, designed by the eminent Swiss architect, Dr. M. Moser that began functioning in 1955. On September 15, 1956 the Parliament of India passed the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act, declaring it an Institute of National Importance. At the inaugural convocation of IIT Kharagpur in 1956, Prime Minister Nehru presided over the conferring of the first-ever IIT-Engineering degrees upon the graduating class of 1955. In that Class was Jogendra Singh, the future founder of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur Alumni Association.
For the first seven years, there was only one IIT, until IIT Bombay was founded in 1958, with assistance from Russia (then part of the USSR); IIT Madras in 1959 (German assistance); IIT Kanpur in 1960 (American assistance); and IIT Delhi in 1961 (British assistance). They all used the template provided by IIT Kharagpur, under the guidance of the distinguished 22-member N. R. Sarkar Committee, and directly funded by University Grants Commission (UGC), an agency of the Government of India.
The IITs receive comparatively higher grants than other engineering colleges in India. They are still approximately 80% subsidized by the MHRD (Ministry of Human Resources and Development), which has replaced the UGC. The remaining 20% is made up of student fees, research funding from industry and contributions from the alumni. They have a relatively high faculty-to-student ratio of 1:6 to 1:8, which makes for an exceptionally strong teacher-student bond and greater contact time. This ratio, even when compared to the very best universities in the world, like Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Cambridge and Caltech is exceptionally high and probably accounts for the strength and excellence of IIT graduates, together with the fact that all student selection is only through the JEE (Joint Entrance Exam). Recently, it has been split into two parts: students must first pass the ‘JEE-Main’, to be able to sit for the ‘JEE-Advanced', from which the final cut is made. In the case of M.Tech. and Ph.D. students, they also have to pass the GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering), before they are admitted to graduate programs.
As per the Thacker Committee Report of 1959-61, all M.Tech. students and Research Scholars are provided with scholarships . The medium of instruction in all IITs is English. The Electronic Library in each IIT allows students to access on-line journals and periodicals. There are also free on-line videos of actual lectures of different disciplines under the National Program of Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL). This initiative has been undertaken to make quality education accessible to all students.
The IITs soon established themselves as India's premier educational institutions, providing engineers and other applied scientists to man India's budding industrial sectors, such as steel, fertilizers and chemicals, aerospace, shipbuilding, electronics, computers, information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, telecommunications, etc.
The IIT's also quickly attained international recognition for the excellence of their graduates, many of whom sought higher degrees in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Australia, Russia, Japan, and now even in China. For the year 2006, the 'Times' of London, U.K., in its Higher Educational Supplement, ranked the then 7 IITs (which by now included IIT-Guwahati and IIT-Roorkee) grouped together as a single entity, as #3 in the world in Technology, just after #1 MIT, and #2 Berkeley, but ahead of # 4 Stanford University. Since then, the Times has been ranking the IITs separately, and unfortunately they no longer rank very high individually. In addition, their main shortcoming is in 'Research' which requires a great deal of funding, that as yet the Indian Government/Industry/Alumni cannot supply.
Around 2007, the American TV Network, CBS, in their Documentary '60 Minutes' did a segment on the IIT, with the veteran correspondent Leslie Stahl saying: "If you were to put Harvard, MIT and Princeton together, you would begin to get an idea of the status of this school in India." On July 22, 2011 Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail reported in an article entitled Folio, Making the Grade, Pgs. A 8-9: "The IITs are 16 separate engineering colleges spread across India which, taken together, are perhaps the most elite educational institutions in the world. More than 500,000 students wrote the entrance exam this year. Just 8,000 were admitted. This is an acceptance ratio of less than 2%, lower than that of, for example, Harvard University or Oxford. An IIT degree is a passport to wealth and respect ...."
Advanced Research and Centers of Excellence in Emerging Technologies in the IIT System
Over the past several years, IITs have gone beyond traditional engineering disciplines and started focusing on nano technology, management, and medicine. IIT Kharagpur has seen the inauguration of the Vinod Gupta School of Management, the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property, and a School of Medicine. A number of Centers of Excellence have been opened in IITs dealing with nano technology, biomedical engineering, and wireless telecommunications. A clean technology energy center and advanced health technology center are planned.
Some of Our Distinguished Alumni in North America
IIT Alumni has created a great name and brand image all over the world, particularly in North America. According to a Duke University study, 25% of technology startups in Silicon Valley during the last 10 years had an IIT alumnus as one of its founders. United States Congress recognized the Contribution of IIT Alumni and in 2005 passed a special resolution lauding the contribution of IIT alumni to US industry in developing new technologies and creating tens of thousands of jobs.
Some of the well-known IIT alumni in the USA are Vinod Khosla, well-known Silicon Valley VC; Kanwal Rekhi, founder of Novell; Arun Sarin, former CEO of Vodafone; Arjun Malhotra, CEO of Headstrong; Desh Deshpande, Chairman, Cascade/Sycamore Networks; Victor Menezes, former co-CEO City group; Nandan Nilekani, CEO Infosys; Nikesh Arora, SVP and Chief Business Officer of Google; and others.
The success stories of IIT Alumni in Canada are no different. IIT Alumni in Canada occupy important positions in universities, government and industry. Entrepreneurial IITAC alumni have created thousands of jobs in Canada. Prem Watsa, the chairman of one of the largest insurers in Canada (Fairfax Financial Holdings) is an IIT alumnus. An IIT alumnus Joseph Kurian, heads Alpha Labs in Toronto while another alumnus Madan Bhayana, heads INSCAPE, a furniture manufacturing company listed on the TSX. M. G. Mannar, an alumnus of IIT Chennai, was named "Officer, Order of Canada”. Andy Jasuja, IIT (BHU) Varanasi and Late Vasu Chanchalani, IIT Kanpur, are the Co-Founders of Sigma Group of Companies. Vasu was a well-known Toronto-based philanthropist and founding member of Canada India Foundation.
Today, our alumni represent Canada in international scientific forums like nuclear, as Presidents of professional bodies like the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Other alumni are in important academic positions, such as deans or associate deans of engineering and business schools as also chairpersons of research centers. Still others have set up small and medium size businesses. Indeed IIT alumni have excelled wherever they live and continue to contribute vigorously to the Canadian and global economies.