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PM opens IIT global meet

Several myths about students passing out of the IITs’ including their contribution to brain-drain stand demolished, as the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurated the 6th ‘PAN IIT Global Conference’ in Chennai, reports MR Venkatesh.

business Updated: Dec 19, 2008 18:45 IST
MR Venkatesh

Several myths about students passing out of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs’) including their contribution to brain-drain stand demolished, as the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurated the 6th ‘PAN IIT Global Conference’ in Chennai.

An overall 63 per cent of the IITians “are in India”, giving a lie to the widely held view that “a majority of them go overseas and do not come back,” says a report titled “IIT Alumni Impact Study- 2008”, Dr. Singh released simultaneously at the IIT-Madras, soon after he opened the Nation’s crème-de-la-crème IIT alumni meet via video conference from New Delhi.

This unique study done for the first time takes stock of the contributions made by IIT Alumni over the last 50 plus years, across professions and geographies, and seeks to create a “fact base” for mobilizing the IITs’ and their students to enable Government of India make pro-active policies in various fields including education and rural development. The first batch of IIT students passed out of IIT-Kharagpur in 1955, it points out.

Though the number of IIT alumni going abroad has been on the increase and the “current geographical location” of 65 per cent of them is outside India with 35 per cent returning from abroad after some kind of experience either in education or work, the study says that for the overall period 1955 to the post-2001, a majority of them on an average (63 per cent) are very much within India and contributing to its growth in one way or the other.

For example, the study has found that for the post-2001 period alone, 30 per cent of the IIT alumni are abroad, while 70 per cent of them are in India . Significantly, since the first batch passed out from IIT-Kharagpur in 1955, the total IIT alumni population has now (2008) reached nearly 1.75 lakh, an amazing feat in India ’s quest for excellence in higher technical education.

Interestingly, the IITs’ are increasingly attracting a higher number of people from the lower economic backgrounds and the smaller cities of India , from over 10 per cent to 15 per cent of their total intake in the post-1976 years, says the report. The percentage of students from the ‘middle economic group’ has steadily been on the rise (nearly 55 per cent in the post-2001 years), while the students from ‘upper economic group’ has sharply dropped from about 38 per cent in 1976 to barely 20 per cent in the post-2001 era.

Other key findings of the study include: 67 per cent of alumni pursue subsequent degrees post-IIT, an increasing number are selecting “services” as their first role post-IIT rather than entrepreneurship and venture capital, 40 per cent of alumni who choose research and education as their first job post-IIT stay in that role, and more than one-third who choose Engineering remain in that role. The current IIT alumni “average annual revenue or in positions responsible for budgets” is about US dollars 1.1 trillion (2007-08).

The investigative study also found that popular views like IIT alumni need to get an MBA/subsequent degree to be successful, that most IITians leave engineering for other professions and that they do not tend to be good leaders in research, have not been substantiated by any empirical evidence. But there is substance to one view that among the IIT alumni, “there has been shift from conventional manufacturing to software,” the study adds.

Earlier inaugurating the conference, being attended by about 3000 IIT alumni, Dr Manmohan Singh said that the figures of the IIT-JEE results show that for every student who got an opportunity to study in the IITs’, there were at least 3 to 4 others equally bright students denied an opportunity due to “intake capacity constraints”.

Terming this as “highly regrettable”, Dr.Singh said that such talent must not go unutilized if India “is to become a global leader in science and technology as well as an economic superpower.” Hence, the Centre decided to create eight new IITs’ in the 11th Five Year Plan, he said. Six of them have been started in the current academic year through temporary campuses.

Apart from these 8 new IITs’, “we are in the process of setting up 30 new Central Universities, 7 new IIMs’, 10 new National Institutes of Technology, 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology, 5 new Indian Institutes of Science Education, 2 new schools of Planning and Architecture, 373 new Colleges in districts with low enrolment and 1000 new Polytechnics,” Dr. Singh told the large gathering.

Hoping that the ‘PAN IIT movement’ still in its infancy would grow stronger in the coming years and “give back handsomely to the society that nurtured it,” Dr Singh urged the IIT fraternity to strengthen their faculty and research capabilities. The contribution of private engineering colleges in making the ‘IT revolution’ in the first decade of the 21st century also need to be recognized, he emphasized.