National importance status will bring IIITs at the levels of IITs, NITs

The institutes can now frame their own syllabi and recruit faculty.
The institutes can now frame their own syllabi and recruit faculty.(iSTOCK)

For IIITs (Indian Institute of Information Technology) an upgrade is on the cards. They will soon be given the tag of Institute of National Importance. This puts them in the league of elite entities like the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and NITs (National Institute of Technology). It also means more funds for research from government organisations and PSUs, a more updated syllabus and an autonomous board that will have more freedom to appoint teachers.

The change will come to effect in a month or two, as soon as the Indian Institute of Information Technology Public Private Partnership (IIIT-PPP) Bill 2017 gets the President’s assent and the bill gets notified in the official gazette of the government. It will affect the 15 of the 20 institutes started after 2013. The prominent amongst them are IIIT Sri City (Chittoor), IIIT Guwahati and IIIT Vadodara.

“This status which was long due,” says Ajay Sharma, director, IIIT Una, Himachal Pradesh. “We can now expect industry oriented courses like business analytics and data analytics in the IIIT syllabus. Similar to IITs, IIITs could also start dual-degree courses, under which a student enters the institute after college and comes out with an M-tech degree.”

More autonomy

With the new tag the institutes can now hope to improvise and update courses independently. “We can customise suitable lesson plans and curricula, and appoint professors on our own,” explains AK Das, director IIIT Senapati (Manipur). “This will help in accomplishing the primary motive of the IIITs, which his to generate highly competent manpower of global standards for the information technology industry.”

The new status will also enhance job prospects of graduating students, believes Gautam Barua, director, IIIT Guwahati. “If the Bill had not cleared, we could have only provided provisional certificates and not degrees to the students who graduated this year,” he says. “While students joining private companies may not have had problems, those who got jobs in government organisations or those going for higher studies in India or abroad would have lost job opportunities.”

Barua adds that giving IIIT’s the tag of an Institute of National Importance will give legitimacy to their brand value and make them eligible for research grants from PSUs and PhD scholarships from the government.

The IIITs will now also have greater autonomy in appointing faculty. “The chairman of the board of each IIIT will be appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of the HRD ministry,” says Srini Raju, member secretary, IIIT Sri City (Chittoor). “Once these two board members are appointed, they will run the Institute.”

The enforcement of this bill will further develop India’s IT sector. “The foundation of IIITs was laid when the IT was booming in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai,” says Barua. “The government seemed keen to spread its reach and set up the institutes to develop new knowledge in Information Technology.”

Das also points out that boosting the importance of educational institutes away from the metros will benefit the location and the student. “The college gets a larger area for its premises and the cost of operation is also less,” he says. “Students get good environment to study at these smaller towns, outside of the urban hubbub.”

New takers

Students hope that the elevated status will mean better job opportunities. “We are now qualified for more research funds,” believes Kaushik Gampala, a final year CSE student from IIIT, Sricity, Chittoor. “Our labs will be upgraded with better machines, making scope for better research. We hope bigger companies like Amazon hire from here.”

Himanshu Goyal, alumni of IIIT Kota, CSE batch of 2017, currently working in a start-up in Jaipur, says that the IIITs were previously the option for those who didn’t do well enough to get into better institutions, like the IITs. “Students were not attracted to the degree or its prospects. This bill will improve national rankings of the institutes and lure quality students,” he believes.

Arsh Sharma, an engineering aspirant from Bhopal, believes that “more computer engineering aspirants will aim for IIITs along with IITs and NITs.”

An upgraded tag or elite status is hardly the shortcut to success. IITs, which have been Institutes of National Importance for about half a century, are not short on challenges. “They are struggling with their post-graduation programmes,” points out Sanjay Dhande. He was the former director of IIT Kanpur and now serves as the chairman of the board of governors at NIT Delhi. “They need to shift their focus from under-graduate courses to post-graduate ones. It is the PG that defines the quality of an institute.”

Prasad Deshmukh, vice-president of recruitment at Assort staffing says that IIITs become more industry ready. This would mean collaborating with the corporate world to stay relevant. “The institutes will take time to match up to the brand value of IITs in the job market. The new bill makes good scope for employment of the students from these institute


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