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Brain drain really isn’t very deep

Several myths about students passing out of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs’) including their contribution to brain-drain stand demolished. A report says that overall 63% IITians 'are in India.' MR Venkatesh reports.

education Updated: Dec 20, 2008 00:41 IST
MR Venkatesh

The ‘brain drain’ that has long been rumoured to lead from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) to foreign shores really isn’t carrying away the majority of IITians. About 63 per cent of the Indian students passing out of the IITs “are working in India”, a study conducted by the Pan-IIT Alumni India has found.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released the IIT Alumni Impact Study, 2008 on Friday, while inaugurating the sixth Pan-IIT Global Conference in IIT-Madras, through video conferencing from Delhi.

The study, the first of its kind, looked at contributions by IIT graduates over the last 50-plus years to create a “fact base”.

Of the batches between 1955 and 2001, 63 per cent are working in India. Of the batches from 2001 till now, only 30 per cent have gone abroad. N Ramesh, ex-IITian from Madras, said, “A majority of IIT alumni are staying back because the opportunities in the Indian economy have expanded rapidly in the last 20 years.”

Ramesh said, “After I passed out in 1977 and then completed my MBA in 1979, I was offered a salary of Rs 1,300. So, the advantage of going abroad was much higher. Now, even starters get huge salaries that we could not even dream of then. So, the desire to go abroad has come down drastically.”

The report found that the number of IITians going abroad had been on the increase – almost 65 per cent of the total IIT population. But 35 per cent of them returned to India after a stint abroad, either for higher education or work.

Ashank Desai, chairman of PAN-IIT Alumni India, said, “It showed more and more IIT alumni were ready to pool their talents to do something for the country. Several of them have even given up lucrative assignments abroad.”

Since the first batch passed out from IIT-Kharagpur in 1955, the total IIT alumni population reached nearly 1.75 lakh. Interestingly, the study found that these top-notch institutes were attracting more students from weaker economic backgrounds and smaller cities — 15 per cent post 1976 against over 10 per cent previously.

The number of students from the middle economic group has also steadily gone up, nearly 55 per cent post 2001. However, the number has dropped for students from the upper economic group from about 38 per cent in 1976 to 20 per cent post 2001.