IIT Council meeting: Government wants multidisciplinary education, industry-academia links

IIT - Delhi campus (Source: IIT-Delhi)

IIT – Delhi campus (Source: IIT-Delhi)

The education ministry wants the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to move away from being engineering focussed educational institutes to multidisciplinary institutions.

In the meeting of the IIT Council chaired by education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on February 22, it was recommended that the IITs have focus on having courses from across academic genres and lay thrust on collaboration with the industry.

The education ministry said in a statement that these changes are part of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

During the meeting, Nishank said that IITs should be made multi-disciplinary institutions for holistic growth in all disciplines of education, without losing its main focus on Scientific Research and Technology Development.

Under NEP 2020, the IITs have been advised to branch out to offer courses across arts, science, commerce and management streams. This will not only attract a wider diversity of students, but also help expand the research facilities into allied streams of humanities, commerce as well.

A rationalisation plan is also being proposed. This will mean that the number of staff members at the IIT campuses will have to reduced in the near future.

New working groups for technology, autonomy

In the Council meeting, it was decided that four working groups and one taskforce will be constituted.

It was recommended that these institutes constitute a taskforce to review the use of technology. This would include deployment of digital tools and also use of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The working groups include graded autonomy, grooming academics for directorships of IITs, restructuring the academic senate and innovative funding mechanisms.

Graded autonomy would mean that the IITs wouldn’t have to depend on the government and allied bodies for funds or changes in fees, syllabus. The funding could be done through alumni network, industry events among others.

The reports of these groups and also of a new group which will work on faculty development will be presented in a meeting to be chaired by Nishank. It is likely to take 3-6 months to prepare these reports.

Industry-academic partnerships

During the meeting, the education minister said that steps should be taken to develop an Institute Development Plan. This would help improve the mobility of faculty between institution & industry and would also help students get access to top management from leading companies who would come in as guest lecturers.

“The mobility of faculty members & industry experts between technical institutes & industry will promote collaborations between industry & academia,” said Nishank in a statement.

Research-linked education

During the IIT Council meeting, it was recommended that the Indian government research & development (R&D) laboratories such as DRDO, ISRO, CSIR, should be linked with IITs with immediate effect.

This would help in collaborative research efforts between IIT students, faculty and researchers from these bodies.

The Council has also put up for consideration a suggestion to arrange a virtual IIT R&D fair to showcase the research work being done by these institutes to the industry. This could be followed by a physical fair in after normalisation of the Coronavirus situation in India.