The IITs are overcommitted, in crisis – Looming Crisis in India’s IIT System | 4 November 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the various issues with India's present IIT System.


  • GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation; Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources


  • The Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) are highly regarded as the crown jewels in India's higher education system, producing leaders in high tech and related fields in India and abroad. However, the IIT system is facing a looming crisis, with serious challenges both at home and abroad.


  • Foreign Adventures:
    • Some IITs are building campuses abroad as part of India's soft power efforts. For example, a branch campus of IIT-Madras has just opened in Zanzibar, and IIT Delhi will be launching programmes from its Abu Dhabi campus in 2024.
    • However, the admission standards are not like those at home, and the admission process is based on the IIT Madras Zanzibar Selection Test (IITMZST) 2023 screening test followed by an interview.
    • Reports say that the rules and regulations of the IITM Zanzibar campus will be based on the existing norms of IIT Madras. However, it is unclear whether the campus has appropriate laboratories, access to IT, and related amenities.
  • Overexpansion at Home:
    • After 2015, the government expanded the IIT system, adding seven institutions in the following decade, most located away from major metropolitan centres.
    • These new IITs have struggled to meet the high standards of the traditional institutes. Some were created by upgrading existing institutions such as the Indian School of Mines Dhanbad, while others were “greenfield” start-ups.
    • Top professors are often unwilling to work in isolated places, and the best students are also hesitant to enroll. In 2021-22, 361 undergraduate, 3,083 postgraduate and 1,852 PhD seats were empty in the new IITs.
    • There should not be several tiers of IITs, with varying standards and levels of prestige.
  • Faculty Challenges, Future Prospects:
    • Attracting the best and the brightest professors is increasingly difficult. Salaries are dramatically below international standards, and foreign-trained Indians are generally reluctant to return to uncompetitive salaries, often inferior work environments, and more academic bureaucracy.
    • Top Indian talent is increasingly attracted to the burgeoning IT sector, emerging biotech, and related fields, and not to academe, both within India and abroad.
    • There is now a severe shortage of academics in the IIT system. In 2021, out of the 10,881 of the sanctioned posts, 4,370 were vacant.
    • Building quality in the new IITs is a significant challenge, and in the long run, if this is not done, the prestige of the entire system will suffer.
    • Maintaining faculty quality and attracting young professors committed to the IIT idea and to India's development are both serious tasks.

Way Forward:

  • The IIT system is in crisis, facing serious challenges both at home and abroad. Expanding the system domestically may not have been a wise idea, and building overseas branch campuses is highly problematical. The IITs need to address the challenges of attracting and retaining top faculty, building quality in the new IITs, and maintaining the prestige of the entire system.

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