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Indian Institutes of Technology


On the recommendations of the Sarkar Committee, the government established four campuses at Mumbai (1958), Chennai (1959), Kanpur (1959), and Delhi (1961). The government chose the locations of the campuses scattered throughout India to prevent regional imbalance.9 The Indian Institutes of Technology Act was amended to reflect the addition of new IITs.10 Student agitations in the state of Assam made Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi promise the creation of a new IIT in Assam. That led to a sixth campus at Guwahati under the Assam Accord in 1994. The University of Roorkee, India's oldest engineering college, received IIT status in 2001.

Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University) is a candidate to become an IIT.

Over the past few years, a number of developments toward establishing new IITs have appeared. On October 1 2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced plans to create more IITs "by upgrading existing academic institutions that have the necessary promise and potential".11 Subsequent developments led to the formation of the S K Joshi Committee in November 2003 to guide the selection of the five institutions which would become the five new IITs.

Based on the initial recommendations of the Sarkar Committee, the government decided that additional IITs should be established throughout the country. When the government expressed its willingness to correct that regional imbalance, sixteen states demanded IITs. Since the S K Joshi Committee prescribed strict guidelines for institutions aspiring to be IITs,12 only seven colleges were selected for final consideration.13 Plans to open IITs outside India have been reporte, though perceptible progress has yet to appear.14 The Indian Union Human Resources Development ministry has planned to set up three more Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)-one each in the states of Andhra Pradesh (Medak district), Bihar (Gaya), and Rajasthan.

Organizational structure

File:IIT-Organizational-structure.svgOrganizational Structure of IITs

The President of India stands as the most powerful person in the organisational structure of IITs, being the ex officio Visitor,15 and having residual powers. Directly under the President sits the IIT Council, which comprises the minister-in-charge of technical education in the Union Government, the Chairmen of all IITs, the Directors of all IITs, the Chairman of the University Grants Commission, the Director General of CSIR, the Chairman of IISc, the Director of IISc, three members of Parliament, the Joint Council Secretary of Ministry of Human Resource and Development, and three appointees each of the Union Government, AICTE, and the Visitor.16

Under the IIT Council stands the Board of Governors of each IIT. Under the Board of Governors serves the Director, the chief academic and executive officer of the IIT.17 Under the Director, in the organisational structure, comes the Deputy Director. Under the Director and the Deputy Director, come the Deans, Heads of Departments, Registrar, President of the Students' Council, and Chairman of the Hall Management Committee. The Registrar serves as the chief administrative officer of the IIT and overviews the day-to-day operations.17 Below the Heads of Department (HOD) stand the faculty members (Professors, Associate Professors, and Assistant Professors). The Wardens come under the Chairman of the Hall Management Committee.18


Students gain admission to undergraduate B.Tech and integrated M.Tech programs through IIT-JEE (the Joint Entrance Examination) in which approximately 300,000 students appear annually out of which only 5,000 win a seat. The colleges grant admission to most postgraduate courses in IITs through various written entrance examinations. Admission to M.S. by way of through GATE and Ph.D. program primarily based on a personal interview, though candidates may also have to appear for written tests. The IITs have earned renown for their special reservation policy, which stands out in contrast with the rest of India.

Entrance examinations

Entrance of IIT Madras

Admission to undergraduate programs in all IITs depends on scores in the Joint Entrance Examination, popularly known as IIT-JEE. Candidates who qualify admission via IIT-JEE can apply for admission in B.Tech. (Bachelor of Technology), Dual Degree (Integrated Bachelor of Technology and Master of Technology) and Integrated M.Sc. (Master of Sciences) courses in IITs. IIT-JEE, a science-oriented entrance exam, tests candidate's knowledge of mathematics, physics and chemistry, conducted by an IIT chosen by a policy of rotation. Given the huge population of India, the undergraduate acceptance rate through JEE has a low ratio, around 1 in 55, with about 300,00019 annual test takers for about 5,500 seats.20 IITs offer only about 4,000 of those seats, the rest belonging to other institutes that use IIT-JEE. Only students who have completed (or will complete at the end of the current academic session) their higher secondary studies from a recognized educational board may sit for IIT-JEE. The IIT-JEE has earned a reputation for frequently changing the types of questions asked to discourage study by rote. Since IIT-JEE 2006, the format of the question paper changed to a single objective test-based paper, replacing the earlier system that employed two tests. The candidates belonging to the general category must secure a minimum aggregate of 60% marks in the qualifying examination of the XIIth standard organized by various educational boards of India. Candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Physically Disabled (PD) categories must secure a minimum aggregate of 55% in the qualifying examination.21 An upper age limit for appearing for the IIT-JEE has been set at 25 years old. The age limit relaxes to 30 years for candidates classified in the SC, ST and PD categories. Starting with IIT-JEE 2007, a candidate can take IIT-JEE a maximum of two times; once selected for an IIT, rules prohibit the student from attempting the examination again.21 Students select their institute and department of study based on availability at the time of their counseling and interview that follows the IIT-JEE result. The interviews usually spread over five days.

Students gain admissions into the postgraduate programmes primarily the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) for M.Tech and some MS programs. That exam, one of the most difficult in the country, tests the conceptual clarity in technical subjects. Other prominent entrance exams include JAM (Joint Admission to M.Sc.) for M.Sc., and JMET (Joint Management Entrance Test) for Management Studies.

Reservation policy

India practices a form of affirmative action (known by critics as reverse discrimination) on caste-based reserved quotas. As per the provisions in the Indian constitution, the IITs have been reserving seats for Scheduled Castes of society since 1973. The IITs follow a reservation policy notably different from the quota policy elsewhere in India.

As per the rules of admission to IITs, 15 percent of the admitted students must be of the Scheduled Castes, with 7.5 percent of the seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes.22 As of 2006, no separate reservation exists for the Other Backward Classes in spite of the Mandal commission recommendations. The IITs have liberty to leave quota seats unfilled if qualified experiencing a dearth of qualified candidates; many seats remain vacant annually. In 2004, 112 out of 279 seats reserved for ST candidates, and 11 out of 556 seats reserved for SC candidates, went unfilled.

As per the rules, all the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates must take the IIT-JEE with the rest of the students. Based on the results of IIT-JEE, those SC/ST candidates who score more than two-third of the marks scored by the General Category student admitted with the lowest score earn direct admittance to IITs.22 Another group of candidates who fail to meet that relaxed admission criteria receive offers of a "Preparatory Course" comprising of English, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics at the IIT concerned. After one year of study, those candidates who secure a grade higher than the prescribed cut-off mark during end-of-semester exams may continue regular studies. All students must meet criteria for passing the exams or graduating a course. The candidates admitted through the reservation policy face the criteria as the general candidates for graduation.

In 1989, Prime Minister V. P. Singh accepted and implemented the proposals of the Mandal Commission that recommended provisions of reservations for OBCs in private unaided institutions as well as high-end government jobs for minority communities. No changes took place in the IITs because of the legislation, but in 2005, based on the recommendations of a political panel, the UPA government proposed to implement the reserved-quota system for the OBCs in IITs and IIMs. It received critical objections by many scholars and critics, who described the proposal as "dangerous and divisive" and based solely on political (vote-bank) purposes. Many argued that the OBCs constitutes a competitive community, enjoying good economic and social status and thus a reservation for OBCs becomes a mere strategy to gain votes. Though, the issue has simmered down as of now, it still remains a very hotly argued one.23 When the government planned to implement the quota system, anti-reservation protests erupted throughout India against the proposal. Student agitations also took place in the IITs, with many students opposed caste-based reservations resorting to hunger strikes. They labeled the quota system as a government tactic to earn cheap votes, creating a system would lead to increased casteism and a severe compromise on merit and talent.

The additional procedures for admission into the IITs (the preparatory course and the qualifying end-of-semester exams that follow) have also been criticized as unnecessary and counter-productive. An argument opposing the modified policy of reservation and favoring direct admission points to a large number of seats remain vacant under the present scheme.24


PK Kelkar Library, IIT Kanpur

The IITs receive disproportionately high number of grants compared to other engineering colleges in India. While the total government funding to most other engineering colleges stands around Rs. 100-200 million per year, the amount varies between Rs. 900-1,300 million per year for each IIT.13 Other sources of funds include student fees and research funding from industry. That has translated into superior infrastructure and better faculty in the IITs and consequently higher competition among students to gain admissions into the IITs. The faculty-to-student ratio in the IITs is between 1:6 and 1:8. The Standing Committee of IIT Council (SCIC) prescribes the lower limit for faculty-to-student ratio as 1:9, applied department wise. The IITs subsidize undergraduate student fees by approximately 80 percent and provide scholarships to all Master of Technology students and Research Scholars to encourage students for higher studies, per the recommendations of the Thacker Committee (1959-1961).

The various IITs function autonomously, and their special status as Institutes of National Importance facilitates the smooth running of IITs, virtually free from both regional as well as student politics. Such autonomy means that IITs can create their own curricula and adapt rapidly to the changes in educational requirements, free from bureaucratic hurdles. The government lacks direct control over internal policy decisions of IITs (like faculty recruitment and curricula) but has representation on the IIT Council. All IITs use only English for course work. All the IITs have libraries for the use of their students. In addition to a collection of prescribed books, the libraries have sections for fiction and other literary genres. The electronic libraries allow students to access on-line journals and periodicals.

Each IIT has a Senate, comprised of all professors of the IIT and student representatives, that decides academic policies. Unlike many western universities that have an elected senate, the IITs have an academic senate that controls and approves the curriculum, courses, examinations and results, as well as appointing committees to look into specific academic matters. The Senate periodically reviews the teaching, training and research activities of the institute to maintain educational standards.25 The Director of an IIT is the ex-officio Chairman of the Senate.

All the IITs follow the credits system of performance evaluation, with proportional weighting of courses based on their importance. The total marks (usually out of 100) form the basis of grades, with a grade value (out of ten) assigned to a range of marks. Sometimes, professors use relative grading considering the overall performance of the whole class. For each semester, students receive grades on a scale of 0 to 10 based on their performance, by taking a weighted average of the grade points from all the courses, with their respective credit points. Each semester, students receive an evaluation, which combines as a weighted average with all semesters used to calculate the cumulative grade point average (known as CGPA or CPI-Cumulative Performance Index).

Undergraduate education

IIT Madras Library

The B.Tech. degree constitutes the most common undergraduate degree in the IITs in terms of student enrolment, although the colleges also offer Dual Degrees and Integrated (five-year) Master of Science degrees. The B.Tech course has a four-year program with eight semesters, while the Dual Degree course follows a 5-year program with ten semesters. In all IITs, all the students follow a common course structure for the first year of B.Tech. and Dual Degree programs, though some IITs include a single department introduction related course. The common courses include the basics from most of the departments like Electronics, Mechanics, Chemistry, and Physics. At the end of first year (the end of first semester at IIT Madras), students who have performed with merit during the first two semesters receive an option to change departments. Few such changes ultimately take place due to the unusually strict criteria, limited to the most meritorious students.

From the second year onwards, the students study subjects exclusively in their respective departments. In addition to those, the students have to take compulsory advanced courses from other departments to broaden their education. Students must take compulsory courses from humanities and social sciences department, and sometimes management courses. At the end of third year, the undergraduate students have to undertake a summer project at an industry or reputed academic institute as part of the curriculum. In the last year of their studies, most of the students find internships in industries and organisations via the placement process of the respective IIT, though some students opt out of that either when going for higher studies or when they take up jobs by applying to the companies directly.

Postgraduate and doctoral education

The IITs offer a number of postgraduate programs including Master of Technology (M.Tech.), Master of Business Administration (MBA) (only for engineers and post graduates in science), and Master of Science (M.Sc.). Some IITs offer specialized graduate programmes such as the Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology (PGDIT), Master in Medical Science and Technology (MMST), Master of City Planning (MCP), Postgraduate Diploma in Intellectual Property Law (PGDIPL), Master of Design (M.Des), and the Postgraduate Diploma in Maritime Operation & Management (PGDMOM). The IITs also offer the Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) as part of their doctoral education programme in which candidates receive a topic of academic interest from the professor or work on a consultancy project given by the industries. The program usually has an unspecified duration, depending on the specific discipline. Ph.D. candidates have to submit a dissertation as well as provide an oral defense for their thesis. They often acceptTeaching Assistantships (TA) and Research Assistantships (RA). Some of the IITs offer an M.S. (by research) program; the M.Tech. and M.S. bare similarity to the US universities' non-thesis (course based) and thesis (research based) masters programs respectively. The IITs, along with NITs and IISc, account for nearly 80 percent of all PhDs in engineering.

The IITs also offer an unconventional B.Tech. and M.Tech. integrated educational program called "Dual Degree." Integrating undergraduate and postgraduate studies in selected areas of specialization, students complete the program in five years26 as against six years in conventional B.Tech. (four years) followed by an M.Tech. (two years). The programme permits IITians to complete postgraduate studies from IIT rather than having to go to another institute. All IITs (except IIT Guwahati) have schools of management offering degrees in management or business administration.

Culture and student life

Open-air theatre in IIT Madras, used to host technical and cultural events.

All the IITs provide on-campus residential facilities to the students, research scholars and faculty. The students live in hostels (sometimes referred to as halls) throughout their stay in the IIT. Students in all IITs must choose between National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Service Scheme (NSS) and National Sports Organisation (NSO) in their first years.27 All the IITs have sports grounds for cricket, football(soccer), hockey, volleyball, lawn tennis, badminton, and athletics; and swimming pools for aquatic events. Usually the hostels also have their own sports grounds.

Technical and cultural festivals

All IITs organize annual technical festivals, typically lasting three or four days, including Cognizance (IIT Roorkee), Shaastra (IIT Madras), Techkriti (IIT Kanpur), Kshitij (IIT Kharagpur), Techfest (IIT Bombay), Tryst (IIT Delhi), and Techniche (IIT Guwahati), mostly held in the months of February or March. While Techfest represents the most popular in terms of participants and visitors involved and variety of events, Shaastra holds the distinction of being the first student-managed event in the world to implement a formal Quality Management System, earning the ISO 9001:2000 certification.28

The IITs also organize annual cultural festivals, lasting three to four days. Those include Thomso (IIT Roorkee), Mood Indigo (IIT Bombay) (also known as Mood-I), Spring Fest (IIT Kharagpur) (also known as SF), Saarang (IIT Madras) (previously Mardi Gras), Antaragni (IIT Kanpur), Alcheringa (IIT Guwahati), and Rendezvous (IIT Delhi).

Illumination festival in IIT Kharagpur. Earthen lamps made the outlines.

In addition to those cultural festivals, IIT Kharagpur and IIT Bombay celebrate unique festivals. IIT Kharagpur celebrates the Illumination festival on the eve of Diwali. Students post large bamboo structures (called chatais) as high as 6 metres (20 feet), placing earthen lamps (diyas) on them to form outlines of people, monuments, or an event. Although mainly competition between hostels, colleges receive entries by outside visitors. The Rangoli festival couples with the Illumination festival. In Rangoli, fine powder, and sometimes even by crushed bangles made on the ground, create large panels showing an event or a concept.

The Performing Arts Festival (popularly known as PAF) refers to a festival unique to IIT Bombay. Technically a drama, each PAF includes drama, literature, music, fine arts, debating, and dance, held in the Open Air Theater (OAT) on the main campus of IIT Bombay. Typically two or three hostels (of fourteen) group together by random draw for each PAF. Performers deliver all dialogues as voice overs, mainly due to the structure and the huge size of the OAT.

A volleyball event at Inter IIT Sports Meet-2004

Inter-IIT sports meet

The IITs compete among themselves in a number of sports events held under the aegis of the Annual Inter-IIT Sports Meet. Started in 1961, the competition runs every December at an IIT chosen by rotation. The award consists of a running shield passed over annually to the winning IIT. The weighted sum of the points earned in various events held over a period of five days determines the winners. Men and women compete separately with points tallied separately to determine the final winner of the General Championship.29

The 12 events in the Inter-IIT Sports include athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket, football, hockey, swimming, lawn and squash tennis, table tennis, volleyball, water polo and weightlifting. Athletes compete in outdoor swimming and water polo, due to winter weather, in the first week of October, calling the competition Inter-IIT Aquatics Meet.


The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and hence all institutions in India, recognize IITs degrees. Even outside India, IIT degrees have earned respect, largely due to the prestige of alumnae. IITs special status as Institutes of National Importance under the Indian Institute of Technology Act ensures that the IITs have special privileges and lays the foundation for them to evolve as world-class institutes. The autonomy ensured by the Act enables the IITs to implement changes quickly, to keep up with changing scenarios in both the educational world, and society in general. Strict vigilance over student body elections has kept student politics under control. The IIT-JEE constitutes another important factor behind the success of IITs, enabling the IITs to accept only a select group of meritorious students. That combination of success factors has led to the concept of the IIT Brand.30 Other factors that have contributed to the success of IITs include stringent faculty recruitment procedures and industry collaboration. The strict procedure for selection of faculty in IITs surpasses other colleges offering similar degrees. All regular faculty appointments must have a Ph.D. degree. The IITs have better interaction with various industries as compared to most other Indian colleges. A number of educational surveys indicate that IITs have earned a reputation as a highly successful institutions compared to other engineering colleges in India.

The view of IIT graduates as intelligent and hardworking people has been established by the success of IITians. Former IIT students tend to get greater respect from their peers, academia and industry in general. The IIT brand earned international recognition when the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Indian Americans, and especially graduates of IIT, for their contributions to the American society.1 Similarly, China also recognized the value of IITs and planned to replicate the model.31

Educational rankings

Most IITs consistently rank above other engineering colleges in India in engineering education surveys, with regard to quality of faculty, teaching standards, research facilities and campus placements. In international surveys, the IITs fail to achieve top rankings. The Times Higher Education Supplement (2006) ranked the IITs the 57th best overall universities in their World University Rankings and gave IITs the 33rd position globally for science. The IITs received the third-best worldwide for technology, after MIT and University of California, Berkeley. In the Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, only one IIT (IIT Kharagpur) made the list for the top 500 universities worldwide. In another criterion, the Social Science Citation Index, the rank of IITs suffers as they have small departments of liberal arts and social sciences. As the IITs have only a few international faculty and students (except those by exchange programs), the rankings of IITs in many international surveys have suffered. IITs better scores than other Indian colleges and universities in educational ranking criteria put the colleges in top positions in nationwide surveys.


The IITs have faced criticism from within and outside academia. Major concerns include allegations that they encourage a brain drain and that their stringent entrance examinations encourage coaching colleges and skew the socio-economic profile of the student body. Other critics express concern at the insufficient representation of women and the disadvantaged.

Brain drain

Sharpest criticism among the media, academia and the people in general, comes from the charge that IITs encourage brain drain. Until the process of liberalization started in early 1990s, India failed to provide good job opportunities to the graduates of IITs. That resulted in large scale emigration of IITians to western countries, especially to the United States. Since 1953, nearly 25 thousand IITians have settled in the USA.32 Since the USA benefited from subsidized education in IITs at the cost of Indian taxpayers' money, critics consider subsidizing education in IITs useless. Others support the emigration of graduates, arguing that the capital sent home by the IITians has been a major source of the expansion of foreign exchange reserves for India, which, until the 1990s, had a substantial trade deficit.

The extent of intellectual loss has receded substantially over the past decade, with the percentage of students going abroad dropping from as high as 70 percent to around 30 percent today.33 The liberalization of the Indian economy, and the opening of previously closed markets, have been credited with the reverse. Government initiatives have been encouraging IIT students to enter entrepreneurship programs while increasing foreign investment. Emerging scientific and manufacturing industries, and outsourcing of technical jobs from North America and Western Europe, have created opportunities for aspiring graduates in India. Many undergraduates go abroad to pursue further studies, such as the Master of Science degree and Ph.D.

Entrance competition

The highly competitive examination in the form of IIT-JEE has led to establishment of a large number of coaching institutes throughout the country that provide intensive, and specific preparation for the IIT-JEE for substantial fees. Some argue that favors students from specific regions and richer backgrounds. Some coaching institutes say that they have individually coached nearly 800 successful candidates year after year.34 According to some estimates, nearly 95 percent of all students who clear the IIT-JEE had joined coaching classes.35 The psychological stress and emotional trauma faced by candidates unable to pass the examination and their families has been considered a serious problem, leading to criticism of the examinations altogether. That led to a restructuring of the IIT-JEE format restructured in 2006.36

After the change to the objective pattern of questioning, even the students who initially considered themselves unfit for subjective pattern of IIT-JEE decided to take the examination. Though the restructuring intended to reduce the dependence of students on coaching classes, it led to an increase in students registering for coaching classes. Some people (mostly IITians) have criticized the changed pattern of the IIT-JEE. They reason that, while IIT-JEE traditionally tested students understanding of fundamentals and their ability to apply them to solve large unseen problems, the current pattern diminished stress on the application part.


Vinod Gupta School of Management in IIT Kharagpur

The IITians have a reputation for their loyalty to their alma mater with many active IIT Alumni Associations in India and abroad. The IIT alumni either help their alma mater in the form of donations, or by preferential job opportunities extended to students from the IITs. Alumni donations have largely established the Vinod Gupta School of Management at IIT Kharagpur and Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management at IIT Bombay management schools; those schools took the names of their benefactors.

Many IIT alumni have become entrepreneurs, including N.R. Narayana Murthy (co-founder and chairman of Infosys), Vinod Khosla (co-founder, Sun Microsystems), and Suhas S. Patil (founder and Chairman Emeritus Cirrus Logic Inc.) Other alumni have achieved leading positions in corporations, such as Rajat Gupta (former Managing Director, McKinsey), Arun Sarin (CEO, Vodafone), Victor Menezes (Senior Vice Chairman, Citigroup), and Kanwal Rekhi (CTO, Novell). IIT alumni have also pursued careers in politics: for example, Manohar Parrikar became the Chief Minister of Goa. Many alumni have gained national and international recognition: Sushantha Kumar Bhattacharyya received the CBE, a knighthood, and Padma Bhushan; and V. C. Kulandaiswamy received the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards. Narendra Karmarkar earned world-renowned for his work in applied mathematics.

See also

The Indian Institutes of Technology
InstitutesIIT Kharagpur · IIT Bombay · IIT Kanpur · IIT Madras · IIT Delhi · IIT Guwahati · IIT Roorkee · Schools of Management · RGSOIPL, IIT Kharagpur<>