What’s wrong with the IITs?

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October 20th, 2011 Kalpana Pathak

The IITs and IIMs are every government’s darling. So it is understandable when a politician such as Mr Jairam Ramesh, an IIT alumnus, for no apparent reason, declares that IITs have world-class students but not world-class teachers.

What comes as a surprise though is when figures like Mr N R Narayana Murthy say the quality of IIT students is sub-standard.

Coming from someone from an industry that knows the pulse of engineering institutes, it is rather disappointing to hear Mr Murthy’s comments. Specially, after knowing how the education sector has suffered at the hands of our revered politicians.

And what are we talking about. Isn’t it true that for the majority of students, an IIT degree is all about getting a big fat pay cheque from an MNC bank or consulting firm? So where does being a “quality engineer” come into play?

Can we explain why 80 per cent of IITians go to IIMs? Why don’t they pursue their masters degree and seek a career in teaching or research?

Also, why do most recruiters go gaga over these not-so-good engineers or managers?

Or better still, why don’t majority of IITians opt to work for Mr Murthy’s company and prefer going to companies like Google instead?

The state that our IITs and IIMs are in today is largely because of the our politicians and their policies.

Can institutes which seek every penny from the government and its permission even to spend it, be expected to compete internationally?

Why do people not question various governments and their MHRD ministers who have always considered it their right to meddle into the business of these institutes (introducing SC/ST and OBC quotas for instance). Stifling their growth.

Can some one explain why a decade old institute like an Indian School of Business finds its place in international rankings but the 50 year old IIMs can’t?

Why the IITs have been slipping the international rankings and today none of them figure in the top 200 engineering schools in the world?

The IIT directors will tell you that most students who can afford to pay better, never come to the IITs. They go international.

Quality is a good word but not thought of when it was decided to admit one half of IIT students via reservation through SC/ST and OBCs; when the student teacher ratio deteriorates from 6:1 to 12:1 and when there are no teachers to teach and still new IITs are set up (taking the numbers from 6 to 15).

Take any corporate czar and you know his children are studying at the prestigious Ivy leagues. Why can’t they study at an IIT or an IIM?

The problem with the IITs and IIMs is that every government loves them so much that they can’t let go of them. And then there are industry heads like Mr Murthy who do nothing much beyond giving public speeches on their quality.

There are hundreds of management and engineering institutes which are in a mess but no one, including the government is bothered. The AICTE gives clearance to new B-schools year after year, without considering the demand factor.

Leave the IITs and IIMs on their own, and you may see another Harvard or MIT in the making.

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5 Responses to “What’s wrong with the IITs?”

  1. Amit Says:

    No doubt any prestigious institution, not only IITs, are being used by politicians as a vote bank of a particular community of people. The eminent Mr. Murthy has raised concern over the quality of IIT students can be stimulated keeping in mind two factors.
    One first Indian HR ministry opening a no. of institutions but not emphasizing on the availability of quality faculty.In absence of quality faculty students get only theorist experience and thus are barred from practical experience.
    Second among 100% students admitted into IITs most of them and preferably cream layer prefer for Management jobs, administrative jobs ;Some of them even undecided about their future as they have struggled much to get into such institution and have faith that IITs brand alone is enough for getting big fat pays and thus are sluggish.Only few among these 100% students enrolls for master degree. This is the latter two classified students which are being affected by the quality of faculty available in IITs and these people prefer to work in technical work areas.
    Government has taken reasonable step in changing the enrollment procedure of IITs so that students shouldn’t get fatigue after successfully qualify the entrance exam but what about this psychological problem that IIT alone is enough to get big fatty salary and the quality of the faculty available affecting a good proportion of people who are sincere enough to be a true engineer.

    In addition to entrance exam the prestigious institutes such as IITs should also implement psychological tests to check the core willingness of the candidate applying for admission as such deployed in civil services.And government should make ensure that before making an new IIT quality of faculty is avail for the institute.

  2. v b sastry Says:

    The exam system as in force induces and encourages students to memorise not only information but even solving of problems, but retention in memory, of course, is only temporary until the students take their exams. Very few remember, and that too very little of what they memorise after their exams.
    The emphasis being on memorising, there is very little attention paid to observation, experimentation, exploration, innovation, invention, analysis, theorising etc. No wonder, the quality of students that come out of institutes of learning are far from the best and rank very poorly in comparison with comparable products if institutes of learning in USA and Europe.

  3. Shanti Rao Says:

    Quality does not deteriorate overnight. The quality of IITs’ research was poor even before students from reserved category were admitted. What could be the reason? Does this mean that students and faculty from the general non-reserved category are incapable of any research? The author must find out how much research was done by IITs before reserved category students were admitted, or how many patents were filed. This figure must be compared with research undertaken and patents filed after reserved category students were admitted. This will give us the real picture of what went on in IITs all these decades.

  4. Aditya Says:

    I don’t agree with the tone of the author and that figures such as Narayana Murthy or Jai Ram Ramesh have no right to make such statements, if they don’t, who will? As a person who has been involved in recruitment from the IITs over the past few years, I understand their frustrations and agree that things are a mess there and the situation will probably deteriorate.

    However, I agree with the solution to deregulate the IITs, IIMs and such institutions. Let them decide what kind of students should enter, where should they get funded from and what the institutions should focus on.

  5. Swapna Says:

    (1) About 10 years back, if I am not mistaken, Govt appointed a high-level committee to look into the research conducted at IITs. Even then, it was reported that the scene is quite dismal. The faculty do have the resources and good pay, too. They manage to go annual sabbaticals courtesy international contacts. But they are too lazy to do good research out here. Or, the wrong ones were taken via ‘old boy networks’.

    (2) “80% of IITians enter IIMs” because of the Indian fascination in becoming a manager rather than an innovator. The latter does not get fat paychecks before they are 25. Well, at least, usually…unless one is Bill Gates or Steve Jobs…but they discontinued studies, didn’t they?

    (3) It is true that the Govt is being crazy in creating new IITs. They could have used the same money to restructure existing universities. But, it is a bit like creating new States…some old goofies get to hang around for longer.

    (4) I am not sure if reservation is the problem. The number of IITs should have remained the same. Reservation is definitely necessary if you want socially or economically backward students to have a fair chance in entering the IITs along with those who got coached from Class 8. Where the Govt bungled is that they should have done more for these students even after entering IITs. Just a bit of effort but that needs a bit of vision on the part of academics.

    So, do you still think Jairam Ramesh and Narayana Murthy are saying such stuff without reason?


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