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A different take on engineering

At IIIT Delhi, a two-year old, state-run university, budding engineers are instructed using an interdisciplinary curriculum, which comprises community service and compulsory courses in social sciences, apart from engineering subjects reports Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Apr 28, 2010 09:25 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Gaurav Saluja, a second-year BTech student, had experienced the unsatisfying teaching styles of three engineering colleges for short durations while hunting for a good college. Thoroughly disappointed, it was then that he got to know about the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Delhi, a newly opened state university that promised to take a completely different approach to engineering education by using a unique curriculum and propagating a research-led environment.

“The faculty is of superior quality. We don’t have a single teacher who is non-PhD. Such standards are not followed even at the national institutes of technology,” says Saluja.

Supreet Arora, another student of the same batch, also found the university distinct. “We have a host of non-engineering electives to choose from, making the study of engineering a wholesome experience. Though we are studying BTech, we can take subjects like finance, biology, and life sciences, among others,” says Arora.

This unique choice of subjects and instruction is the result of a conscious effort taken by the university board, which understands the important role of information technology in non-engineering disciplines. “We are poised to evolve inter-disciplinary courses, considering the ever-changing demand of markets. Soon, one would be able to study subjects like computational biology – which is the application of IT techniques in biology,” says Professor Pankaj Jalote, director, IIIT.

Known for: A distinct curriculum that lays great emphasis on non-engineering subjects, such as humanities.

Programmes: A BTech programme in information technology and a PhD programme in computer science are currently being run. The director told HT Horizons that the university plans to introduce MTech in information security from this session (2010-11) wherein 30 students would be offered seats.

Extra curricular: Sharing its campus with Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT) works to IIIT’s advantage, in some ways. The students share the sports grounds and also participate in NSIT’s festivals whenever they take place. “We have cultural societies for sports, quizzes and music, which regularly take part in the inter-college festivals at other colleges. Last year, we participated in the festivals at IIT Roorkee and IIT Guwahati,” says Ishita, a second-year student.
“We are also planning to organise our own tech-festival next year,” says Himank Lamba, a second-year student.

IIIT is strikingly different from other engineering colleges in one aspect. The course curriculum requires students to devote at least 50 hours to community work and some time in extra-curricular activities to ensure the students’ overall development. “They can pick any thing – be it music or literature. Though we don’t police them, they do have to show record of their participation. They get involved in varied fields of their interest. For example, last year one student learnt French in the summer months, while another did body building,” says Professor Jalote.

Infrastructure: This is one of the major constraints of the university. It is currently operating out of a transit campus in Dwarka. According to the university’s director, the university will move to its permanent campus in Okhla spread over an area of 25-acres within 12-18 months.

Found on campus: “This is probably the only university where students are encouraged to collaborate in research right from the first year. This is the only reason that I managed to write a research paper in Lecture Notes in Computer Science, a science journal, while I was still a fresher. The curriculum is also very different from other universities. We have compulsory humanities subjects, which include technology and society, perspective of knowledge etc,” says Kanika Narang, a second-year BTech student.

Wishlist
“We have to study humanities subjects. I wonder if that is right or if it works for engineering students,” says Hemank Lamba, a second-year BTech student

Factfile
The university was created by an act of the Delhi government in 2008. It’s a state university, not a deemed university. It is a research-led institution and faculty members are recruited primarily for research. Only PhDs from reputed institutes are considered. Currently, the university has 14 full-time faculty members to maintain the student-teacher ratio of 20:1. As most of the university’s income comes from tuition fee and R&D activities, it puts a lot of financial burden on the students.