The young NITs of Northeast

Of the 10 new NITs established in 2010, Meghalaya and Manipur have already made their way to the top 100. Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim to soon catch up.

National Institute of Technology, Nagaland (Image : official website of NIT Nagaland)National Institute of Technology, Nagaland (Image : official website of NIT Nagaland)

Pritha Roy Choudhury | April 18, 2024 | 06:20 PM IST

NEW DELHI: "We are at 72 on the NIRF India ranking in the engineering category despite operating from a temporary campus," said Himanshu Yadav, assistant registrar, academics, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Meghalaya. NIT Meghalaya is one of the 10 new NITs that were created in 2010.

From 1959 to 1967, the union government established Regional Engineering Colleges (REC) at the rate of one in each of the major states. The operations and funding of the RECs were jointly managed by the central and state governments, and admissions to the colleges were based on state-level entrance examinations.

Seventeen high-performing RECs were upgraded to NITs in 2002, the first of the lot. In 2006, three more engineering colleges in Patna, Raipur, and Agartala were granted NIT status. But in 2010, 10 entirely new NITs were established.

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NIRF ranking

NITs are centrally-funded and have autonomy enabling them to frame their own curriculum. They have also been given the Institutes of National Importance (INI) status.

Of the 10 new NITs, six were established in the northeastern states of the country – Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Sikkim. As per the National Institutional Ranking Framework’s 2023 list of top engineering colleges, Meghalaya and Manipur are already in the top 100 engineering institutions, at 72 and 95, respectively. NIT Arunachal Pradesh has been placed in the rank band of 101-150, and NIT Sikkim has been placed in the 151-200 band.

NIT Nagaland and NIT Mizoram are working hard to recruit teachers and change perceptions – a key parameter for NIRF rankings – said officials. "Our institute has to recruit professors, which our director is already working on. The institute is taking every measure to come up in the NIRF ranking," said Nagaraju Baydeti, assistant professor, NIT Nagaland.

Strife, temporary campuses

NIT Manipur performed well despite the ethnic strife that hit the state in 2023. The faculty and administrative staff geared up to keep the students motivated. They shifted to online classes during the peak of violence and have switched back to offline classes. But it still holds online classes for around nine displaced students.

"If there is a disruption in net connection, classes are taken some other time, even on Sundays. Students need to manage these offline classes. The director and the registrar are strictly monitoring the classes," said KH Johnson Singh, professor, NIT Manipur. “There is an MOU between NIT Manipur and Indian Institute of Technology Madras. All the final-year students are eligible to take up this opportunity. We also encourage the displaced students to apply. But the certificates will be issued by NIT Manipur," he added.

Even Scheduled Caste scholarships are delayed. "The University Grants Commission (UGC) is not releasing the money. Every time we have to push for the scholarship, multiple letters to the ministry go unanswered," said Sagolshem Surjit Singh, an administrative staff member of NIT Manipur.

Currently, the institute functions majorly from the permanent campus at Langol, Imphal, but part of it continues to function from their temporary set-up at Takyelpet, close to Langol. The temporary campus mainly houses the administrative buildings, part of the library, and hostels.

NIT Meghalaya is yet to move to its permanent campus in Sohra, also called Cherapunjee, in the east Khasi Hills district. Presently, the institute is functioning from the Laitumkhrah area in Shillong. The hostels are in rented accommodation and are within a radius of 10-15km from where the classes are held; buses help students commute. "The laboratories, especially the ones requiring larger space like that of mechanical engineering, are on the permanent campus in Cherrapunjee. Students visit the permanent campus every week and attend practical classes. By 2025, the institute will start functioning from Cherrapunjee," added Yadav. The distance between Shillong and Cherrapunjee is 57 km, and the time taken to cover the distance is two hours.

NIT Sikkim also functions from its temporary campus at Ravangla in South Sikkim district. The institute has prefabricated hostels and rented accommodations outside the campus. Construction for the permanent campus has begun, said a teacher on condition of anonymity.

The institute witnessed protests in early February this year, with students demanding a students’ council. "The demand was not an issue, but they were proposing a particular structure for the council. We cannot say ‘yes’ to that structure as we function under the ambit of the act and statute of the Ministry of Education guidelines," said the teacher, adding: "The issue was discussed with the students, and the problem was amicably solved. The situation is now normal and peaceful."

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Like the rest of India, most NITs in the northeastern states are struggling with placing their students. Many IT companies are also laying off their employees. These institutes performed very well in terms of student placements last year.

NIT Meghalaya placed 79.6% of the students with the highest package being Rs 32 lakh per annum and an average package of Rs 11.1 lakh per annum. So far, this year, only 50% of the students have been placed.

Similar is the case with NIT Nagaland which has managed to place only 50% of its students so far, compared to 80% in 2023. "We are trying our best; let us wait and see what happens till June," said Baydeti. KH Johnson Singh of NIT Manipur agreed that placement rates were low, saying that the institute could place only 55% of the students in the current academic year, but hopes to place at least 80% by June 2024.

NIT Nagaland director S Venugopal was elated to share that four students from the institute will be doing their post-doctoral studies abroad. "Three of them are female and hail from Nagaland and Meghalaya. They will now study in Japan, Germany, China and Taiwan."

"In NIT Manipur, in 2023, the highest package offered was Rs 47 lakh. But this year, Rs 17 lakh has been the highest offer till now," said Singh.

However, NIT Sikkim is upbeat about its placement records. The academic year 2023 witnessed a placement of 82% and till now the figure has touched 60%. This year, too, I am sure that we will beat our own records. The good thing about placement in NIT Sikkim is that even during the pandemic, no offer letter was revoked, and no company dropped any candidate. All selected candidates got their offers," added the NIT Sikkim teacher.

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