The continued dependence of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) on government funds is an open invitation for greater political interference,concludes a paper on premier institutions across several countries. The paper,titled the road to excellence,the making of world-class research universities,is funded by the World Bank.
Comparing IITs with engineering colleges and universities in India would surely reveal IITs to be islands of excellence,far beyond the reach of the universities. But if one compare IITs with high-ranking world-class universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the model on which IITs were based IITs have a long way to go, says the paper on the IIT system by Prof N Jayaram from the Centre for Research Methodology at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The study covers universities from South Asia (India),East and Southeast Asia (China,Hong Kong,Singapore,Korea,Malaysia),Latin America (Chile and Mexico),eastern Europe (Republic of Russia) and Africa (Nigeria).
It analyses how 11 research universities have developed and matured in these countries while grappling with challenges.
For India,the growth of the IIT system,its recognition as a brand internationally and the threats it faces were analysed.
If any institution in India can aspire to world-class status,other than the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore,the original five (IITs) are potential candidates. Degrees awarded by IITs are recognised and respected globally. The success that IIT alumni have achieved in various walks of life and professions have also contributed immensely to the brand IIT, says Jayaram in the paper.
However,while calling IITs institutions of excellence,the paper simultaneously says the extra effort made by IITs may only help it stay where it is.
It questions the capabilities of the new IITs and whether they can replicate achievement of the older IITs.
One fears that the fledgling IITs will hardly take off,and even if they do,it will be several decades before they reach a modicum of what the original five achieved during the quarter century of their existence, it says.
The paper says the IIT system needs to tackle the immense internal and external challenges it currently faces.
Governmental decisions like the starting of new IITs without adequate preparation,the pay packages for the faculty and other options,suggest that the government has begun treating IITs as regional universities,if not as its own departments. The increasing proclivity of politicians to interfere in the IIT system seems to be related to the decline in their pride about the system, it says.
The quota system and attendant political interference it brought into functioning of IITs is also mentioned.