Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal took a U-turn on Thursday, praising the faculty of the IITs and IIMs as “worldclass”.
He had earlier agreed with his cabinet colleague Jairam Ramesh, who had said on Monday that students — not faculty or quality of research — at these premier institutes were world class.
Sibal had initially said, “He (Ramesh) is himself an IITian. He might be having inside knowledge. Even otherwise, do we have world-class institutions? As education minister, I am striving towards achieving world-class standards for our institutions.”
But on Thursday, Sibal changed his tune, saying, “I want to place on record the government's complete trust in the faculties of the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management. Almost 25% of the entire IIT faculty comprises ex-students. Surely, if there are world-class students, there must be world- class faculty.”
Without naming Ramesh, Sibal said any minister was entitled to his opinion, but the government wanted to place the facts before the nation.
He said it was true that the IITs had not “gained the critical mass to change the global scientific discourse", but the faculty could not be blamed for this.
“If the United States spends $250 billion (R11.25 lakh crore) on research, and India spends $8 billion (R36,000 crore), you cannot create that critical mass. That's not because of the faculty,” Sibal said.
He said discourses on these premier institutes should be based on “evidence, not perceptions”.
Citing a report on the global index of professional institutions, Sibal said the IITs rank among the top 50 in the world, with IIT-Bombay placed at Number 21, IIT-Delhi at 24, IIT-Kanpur at 37 and IIT-Madras at 39.
He said the IITs were initially set up to produce B Tech graduates, but during the last five-seven years there has been a gradual realisation to engage in path-breaking research.
The HRD ministry is already embarking on the reforms process including initiation of enormous changes in the administrative structure within the IIT system, which will allow the faculty to do the kind of critical mass research and empower the scientific community, Sibal said.