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Q&A: We should not compare the new and old IITs

Goutam Das     April 24, 2013
Ashok Misra, a former director of IIT Bombay and now the Chairman of the JEE Apex Board, has watched the IITs evolve from close quarters.  He spoke to BT's Goutam Das.

On expansion of the IITs and their branding: The expansion was carried out to provide quality education of the standard available at the IITs across the country. It is erroneous to compare the IITs that have existed for 50 years with the ones that are just graduating their first batch.  Stanford University took 100 years to reach where it is. There is a long gestation period for institutes. But one of the things that could have been done was to have given the new IITs a different name - it is not a question of branding, but more a question of naming. The comparison of new and old IITs is made only because the names of the two sets of institutions are the same. Roorkee and BHU (Benares Hindu University) have been converted into IITs. That's a second brand. And then there are the eight new IITs. They will all have different brandings. What you have to see is whether the new IITs are on the right path. The answer is, yes. They are getting good faculty, better than the second tier institutions. There are people who go into teaching only if they get a job in an IIT. The new IITs are also getting retired faculty from the other IITs and some young people.

On the quality of students being enrolled: Quality of students cannot go down. If you are picking 10,000 out of 400,000, how can the quality deteriorate? You have to pick the best. Those who have gone to coaching classes tend to have a small advantage because they have gone through 10,000 questions. After Class X, there is no life (for these students). They just go to schools and attend coaching classes. Therefore, the personality of the students who are going into the IITs is slightly different. That tends to affect their attitude and you tend to think they are not bright.

On what needs to change at the IITs: It is all about people - students and the faculty. At the B. Tech level, we are getting the best of the best. At the Ph.D. level, we are getting the best of what we can get. I don't think any other institution is getting better students than the IITs.  But are they the best in India? Probably not, because the best students are not going into research. Second, there is need to change the economic system - you have to pay professors well. That should be one major shift to look for. People go for teaching because of their passion for it. But if your colleagues are working with companies where they get four times your salary, it does affect your teaching.

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