Brand IIT — whose property?

Govt. of India has recently announced the formation of 8 new IITS, 6 of them are starting this year itself. After the announcement of the new IITs, a debate sparked off on the so called dilution of the brand value of the present IITs and losing the elite tag of so called IITians. But, how far is this fear justified?

By the IIT Acts of 1956 and 1961 and the subsequent amendments in late 1980s and early 2000, 8 IITs were setup. Out of these 8 IITs, IIT Roorkee and IIT Delhi were the converted ones whereas the other 6 IITs started from scratch. Even though the IIT act binds upon all the IITs, yet each IIT is an autonomous society/body having its own set of rules and regulations and working conditions. Over the years, the faculties, students, alumni and staff have worked together relentlessly in order to make individual IITs as forerunners of the education scenario of this country. They have created a brand value and feel good factor of the IITs and to some extent have achieved the vision of 1960s – of being institutions of national importance imparting global outreach.

But, we have moved ahead in time from 1960s to the new millennium. The population of India was hardly 443, 000, 000 in 1960, where as the population has reached 1, 147, 677, 000 mark in 2008 (source – “Census of India”) almost three fold increase. With this rise in the population, the pressure and competition on the existing public education system has increased manifold. To cater this growth, the country definitely needs to increase the number of institutes of higher learning bearing national importance. This is required to sustain the growth of the nation, and compete worldwide.

Coming to the brand value, every product has its own brand value, and if we consider IITs as products then each IIT has its own brand. The brand value of IIT Bombay is different from that of IIT Madras or IIT Kanpur for that matter. By increasing the number of IITs from 7 to 15 (8 new), the brand of existing IITs are said to be diluted. But, how far is it true? With the rise in population, competition has reached to its extreme peak, and hence by increasing the total number of seats just by say some thousand, will not make easier the competition level. Also, the requirement of engineers, researchers, scientists has not only increased but also become crucial for the country at this juncture. This is because, the country it self is in a growing stage and needs more of its own engineers and researchers. We cannot afford to buy brains at this stage.

Many of the IITians are accused of leaving the country for a so called better life, better salary and/or better job profile. The current IITs and other institutions are facing acute faculty crunch at this stage. The reason behind this is mainly low salary and perks associated with it. It is very difficult to attract dynamic and dedicated faculties to even the so called leading institutions, forget about the other institutions. Many of the graduating students prefer to join MNCs and software industries instead of their core branch jobs, citing better salary and non-availability of good core jobs. Other than software sector or service sector, we do not have any full proof mechanism to cater the need of all other sectors. The country is very poor in the production sector. We produce workforce, but we don’t direct and mentor them in the right direction. At this moment we don’t produce or manufacture a single IC Chip on our own. What we use, are only the foreign brands. A nation which produces lakhs of engineers in one year does not produce a small IC chip on its own! Don’t we think that this is a complete failure or misguidance of higher education/research?

With the brand value thing, comes the question of benefactors. Who actually benefits from the Brand IIT? The taxpayer?, The alumni? The students? The faculties?, The corporates? or The Govt? Being national properties, IITs are majorly funded by the taxpayer, the common man. But what are the returns? Many of the graduates go away from the country for better opportunities. We enjoy a life of affluence, lime light as IITians, get the best available resources in India and then we forget the debts that we bear. Interestingly, many IITians themselves do not come back to join their alma mater as faculties after completing their education. We are the investment of the country with minimal returns. Then… how will the country grow?

Don’t we need more institutions of higher learning imparting cutting edge research? With the changing demands, research along with basic education has become very crucial. We can’t envision growth without envisioning research excellence. IITs are supposed to be the first institutions in India to realize this requirement. But, the infrastructures and the intake capacity is limited in the existing IITs. If we need to switch the image of IITs from technical excellence to research excellence, we need not only expand the number of such institutions, but also, encourage the upcoming centers of learning to inculcate research values. Such institutions will also allure dynamic individuals to join as faculties because of the healthy research environments.

With so much requirement for the nation, the Govt. too has to rise above narrow partisan vote bank politics. It has to upgrade the infrastructure of the existing IITs first and then provide equal opportunity to the upcoming institutions. The salary and perks of faculties/researchers working in these institutes of national importance should be at par with the best in the industry. Instead of putting bureaucratic hurdles, the new as well as the old institutes should get more freedom and fund to develop faster.

All said and done. When we boast of the Brand IITs or the Elite Tag, we also have to remember that we carry the hefty luggage of an entire nation’s aspirations. The new IITs are the reality and they are of course the nextgen of the nation. However, it is definitely difficult to negotiate the generation gap between the existing and the new IITs. But, it is the reality of life that new things emerge with time and need. The existing IITs are now the incubators for the new IITs, which at some point of time even were incubated by some foreign institutions (USSR for IIT Bombay, Germany of IIT Madras, USA for IIT Kanpur, etc.).

So? Brand IIT — Whose property aamjunta? ๐Ÿ™‚

3 Responses

  1. A very thoughtful and analytical article. You have made an indepth analysis of the problems with”brand” value. Great job…this is what is called research-journalism. God job sir! Keep the spirits of Aamjunta soaring with such writeups…great going…congrats… great going! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. An interesting article for sure ..gud work hemant:)…. but the whole hue and cry about the dilution of brand value of IIT is only because now, you will see students bearing the IIT tag which they don’t get (or deserve ) as of now…..
    So dilution of brand value is actually a future affair… it is actually a dilution of the quality of students being tagged as IITians… I would not deny that due to increased population govt. should open new institutions but they shouldn’t be named IIT…they should start with some other name and build a brand out of it if they can ….:)

  3. Regarding the dilution of the quality… I agree, but can be managed and can be controlled. Govt does not want to give any other name as they want to sell this before the election. However, the name IIT should not matter. This is because, as I said the brand value of IITB is different from IITG or IITR. It is the IIT Bombay or IIT Delhi that matters not name IIT in general.

    Lets wait and watch for the band value of the new IITs.

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