Friday, July 24, 2015

IIT-Hyderabad draws top rankers

Among the host of new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) that have struggled to attract top rankers, there is an outlier --- IIT Hyderabad. Top rankers are choosing this seven-year-old IIT due to its innovative curriculum, freedom to do research right from the first year, and one of the best student-faculty ratios among all IITs. Above everything else, it offers a better placement ecosystem than most new IITs.

Started at the same time as eight other IITs (2008-09), IIT-Hyderabad is sprinting towards joining the league of old IITs. The number of top 1,000 rank holders joining IIT-Hyderabad has trebled to 20 this year from only seven last year. This is significant, considering the number of top 1,000 JEE rank-holding students has remained more-or less the same for older IITs like Roorkee and Kharagpur with 40 and 110 students, respectively .

Surya Teja (635th JEE advanced rank holder in 2013) and Goutham Veeramachaneni (632nd JEE advanced rank holder in 2014), both pursuing computer science, chose Hyderabad over older IITs like Kharagpur, Guwahati and Roorkee. Both wanted to be in a city --- close to the startup community and home to companies that promise good placement and internship opportunities. “I got through IIT-Bombay and Delhi but did not get computer science. Hence it had to be Hyderabad for me as I wanted to be close to startups,“ said Veeramachaneni, who intends to turn into an entrepreneur soon after graduation.

Being a small institute has helped students at Hyderabad build a close-knit network with peer and faculty. Teja was pulled towards this IIT primarily because of its faculty-student ratio at 1:12, better than almost all the IITs. Comparatively, the ratio at IIT-Delhi and Bombay is about 1:15. “Like most aspiring engineering students, I too did my homework and found that Hyderabad had the best faculty-student ratio. Also, Hyderabad is a bigger urban centre than Roorkee or Guwahati so the chances of getting good placement and internship offers are high,“ said Teja.

There are other factors. IIT-Hyderabad is gaining from proximity to the international airport besides a rise in supply of apartments to fulfil demand from professionals. “New organisations are setting up offices in Hyderabad. The surrounding ecosystem would enable these organisations to hire locally and attract students to settle in Hyderabad,“ said Ruchika Pal, India practice leader, global mobility at Mercer. Availability of housing, schooling and airport connectivity will enable these, she added.

Focused heavily on research, IIT-Hyderabad has been able to draw young faculty to its campus. P Rajalakshmi, who is in her 30s, hails from Tamil Nadu. She has a PhD in communication systems, and joined IIT-H in 2009. She is very clear she does not want move to any of the other IITs --- not even IIT-Madras.

“The research opportunities offered by IIT-Hyderabad are on par with any of the older IITs. Being a smaller IIT, the thrust and freedom in carrying out research is greater than old IITs,“ said Lakshmi. IIT-H has 110 laboratories, of which 50 are exclusively for research. IIT-Hyderabad has close to 150 faculty members (excluding the visiting and emeritus faculty) with a student strength of about 1,800.

“IIT-H has recruited good young faculty at a rapid rate and has started constructing the new campus. They have also innovated with the curriculum,“ said IIT-Madras Director, Bhaskar Ramamurthi, who is the mentor for IIT-H. Nearly 80% of faculty members have at least one sponsored research or consultancy project, added IIT-H Director, UB Desai. Till date, the institute has be en involved in 238 sponsored research and consultancy projects.“We believe we should do new things that older IITs are not doing; simultaneously, do well what the older IITs are doing,“ Desai added.

IIT-H is slowly moving up in terms of ranks too. “The opening rank of top 1,000 students in 2014 was 632 compared to this year opening rank of 534,“ Desai said. This young IIT has also structured its curriculum in such a way that it gives its students more choice. IIT-H offers what is known as `fractal academics' to all its BTech students. They are provided with more choices on topics they want to pursue outside their core area.

Working on the lines of the PM's Make in India initiative, the institute has started the first-of-its-kind DigiFab laboratory for 3D printing. “We are the only institute in India to offer this lab --- perhaps the only institution in the world to offer it to first-year students. The DigFab lab equips students with future manufacturing technology,“ said Desai.

Students at IIT-H can also pursue a double major, wherein they get a BTech degree in two disciplines. It also has a BTech in engineering science with a specialisation in any of its core areas. Under this, a student in the first two years does basic courses in math, physics, chemistry and the different fields of engineering. In the last two years, the student specialises in any field of his or her choice.

By August 2015, IIT-Hyderabad is targeting 500 PhD students, 450 MTech and MPhil students among others, besides approximately 900 BTech students.

Source: The Economic Times, July 24, 2015

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