‘Seriously considering’ campus abroad : IIT Delhi director

IIT Delhi will also review curricula of all BTech, MTech and other programmes, said its director.


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Rangan Banerjee, director, IIT DelhiRangan Banerjee, director, IIT Delhi

Pritha Roy Choudhury | April 25, 2022 | 01:19 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi will do a complete review of its curriculum for all its programmes. In a conversation with Careers360, Rangan Banerjee, the new director of the institute, spoke about plans for a new engineering college in Ladakh, and how a cross-IIT committee is “seriously exploring” the possibility of setting up an IIT abroad. Edited excerpts below.

Q. It has been two months since you took charge as director of IIT Delhi. What are your plans for the institute?

A. IIT Delhi is a vibrant place and the institute is doing very well. I look forward to introducing many things here. Professor Ram Gopal Rao had taken a lot of initiatives. I will see to it that there is continuity to that. I will focus on excellence in teaching, excellence in research, societal impact and leadership of thought.

Q. Do you have any specific goal in mind?

A. I have many goals but all these are going through a process of [being accepted by] the faculty. I believe that we need to work with stakeholders like students, faculty, staff and alumni. One of the things that we are doing is a complete curriculum review, across all the programmes specific to IIT Delhi. We have just set up the committee at the institute level with inputs from students, faculty and alumni. Then we are going to create an overall template and detail each academic unit within that template. This is the process that we initiated. It is being initiated across all programmes –undergraduate, MTech, PhD.

As a part of that, we are benchmarking and looking at other curricula in other IITs. We want to enhance the student experience. Some faculty have a lot of innovative ideas. They are trying to see what can be replicated institutionally. We are looking at things that we learn by doing. We are also looking at ways by which faculty and students have more interaction outside the class. We have a mechanism called STIC (Student Teacher Interaction Council) where the students interact with faculty. This happens hostel-wise. Another thing I am working on is reducing the administrative load on the faculty so that they can concentrate on teaching and research.

We are also looking at ways in which we can get groups of faculty together in different thematic areas like healthcare, energy, climate, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence. For each of these areas, there are already projects and centres of excellence. We are also trying to specifically see what we can do for the NCR region. We have linkages with most of the academic and research institutes in the NCR region. That is a good resource and we are trying to enhance that.

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Q. How do you propose to implement the National Education Policy? You already offer interdisciplinary subjects, what about the credit transfers?

A. Credit banks, in theory, it is easy but in practice, not. The Academic credit bank needs to be worked on. Allowing people to take courses is easy. Each institution has to figure out how to give credits and we will work on that. All the details need to be worked out and are subject to each department and the senates of individual institutes. The goal is to provide flexibility and a better educational experience.

Q. IIT Delhi and IIT Madras are in conversation with the government about setting up the Central Digital University. Can you throw some light on that?

A. The UGC [University Grants Commission] chairman will be able to talk about Central digital university. We are aware of what is happening and we are being involved in the discussions. We have some online offerings and depending on what is required, we will support them. We are not directly involved. What we as an institution will do is provide the support of faculty and be there for any quality checks whenever needed. We are not quite sure about the way it is being done but we are happy to be a part of it.

Also, I would like to say that three IITs – IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur and IIT Bombay – are planning to do something for the union territory of Ladakh. We are looking at coming up with an engineering college or an IIT, it is yet to be decided. There also we may do some kind of hybrid mode of teaching – both offline and online.

Also Read |‘Where in the world can you see such a course?’: IIT Madras director on MTech degrees, new courses

Q. The second-generation IITs have been criticised recently and appear to be facing a funds-crunch. How do you see that?

A. If you look at the IIT system, specifically undergraduate education, the percentage of people getting into the IITs is still very small. The selectivity is two percent. Now, the number of people wanting higher education is increasing. The whole idea is we have a framework and an academic system that has been shown to have quality and that works. Expansion in the existing IITs is tricky. There are constraints in terms of resources etc. so you cannot grow these.

It is very natural from a societal or government point-of-view to have more institutions. You also want to have a spread of these institutions. You look at any institution; they have a time frame for setting up. Even 20 or 30 years is a very short time in an academic institution. I think sufficient resources must be given. We did handhold some of the second-generation IITs initially. Now maybe the second generation IITs will handhold third-generation IITs.

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Q. What is the institute doing to attract international students?

A. We have one international programme supported by the International Solar Alliance. In it 20 students come at the master’s level from Asian and African countries. We are coordinating for the Asian countries and encouraging people to come for the PhD programme. Also, we work with UQIDAR which is the academy with the University of Queensland. We have a joint PhD programme. With all our international collaborations, we want to work on a two-way flow. We have a few international faculty and we are thinking of ways in which an international faculty can come and spend a few months. Some of the other initiatives are going through internal processes and will talk about that once we are internally aligned.

Q. Will there be IIT campuses abroad? Is a UK campus in the works?

A. There is a committee across IITs that is looking at international collaboration. The committee is supposed to give its report by March 31. IIT Bombay is leading that committee and all IITs are part of that committee. There are several countries that through the ministry of external affairs have shown interest. The shape of these things is still to be decided but in principle the government is likely to encourage IITs to engage with potential countries. These things get misrepresented and misquoted. Yes, something about the UK is also there – 19 countries have expressed interest – but let’s just wait. Many of these things get hyped up. I discourage hype but to tell you frankly there are risks involved. If you look at overall education, there are very few examples of countries that have gone beyond their borders and become successful in coming up with high quality higher education. So one needs to be aware of that. But we are seriously exploring this.

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