Established in 1959, The Indian Institute of Technology - Madras, also known as IIT - Madras, has been constantly ranked as the top engineering institute in India by national and international rankings in the last few decades or so. In such a scenario, it only made sense for the institute to build an overseas presence in the form of a foreign campus in Tanzania. With an ambition to start the operations for its campus in Zanzibar in the next few months, IIT Madras Director V Kamakoti in an exclusive chat with the Free Press Journal talked about the reasons behind choosing Tanzania, how different it will be from the India campus, future foreign campuses, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
Why was Tanzania chosen as the location for the foreign campus?
To establish an institution abroad there are three important parameters that we look at. The first one being, whether they need us, the second being whether the government there is supporting us since it’s an international campus and we need their blessing, and the third being how their basic education is in order to set up a campus for higher education. We also found that Tanzania needed the institution and was fully supporting us, while also being confident that we will get really good students from the country once we open up there. Additionally, Tanzania can also be a hub for other students from Africa, who can come and study there. So all these aspects helped us decide on the country.
How will the Tanzania campus be different from the one in India?
There are some very interesting things that are happening currently. For example, we started the BS in Data Science and BS in Electronic Systems courses in IIT Madras that are the landscape of education in our country, and there’s no doubt we are going from strength to strength in those courses. We would like to put all our good learnings in the past 60 years of our existence here (in Tanzania) in great detail. For example, we are now starting a BS in Data Science and AI and will also have tech and cyber physical systems. The whole world is leaning towards interdisciplinary education so we would like to bring it from scratch there so that all the courses will have a conventional touch of course but it will be very practical oriented and industry oriented, and at the same time can also motivate students to go for further studies, research, etc. We are also working in a lot of niche areas, where human capacity and building is necessary.
How has the response been like in Tanzania?
We have not even advertised the courses there as we are waiting on an MOU to be signed. We already did a very careful survey which took into account the needs of the country and then we decided on these courses. We are very confident that once we announce the details there will be a huge influx of students there. We plan to start the campus around October 2023.
Are there plans to start IIT Madras campuses in other countries?
We are now currently looking at many joint degree programmes with foreign universities. With respect to campus, we would like to establish the one in Tanzania and see how it goes.
Can the students in Tanzania campus study and work in India as well?
We are now looking at an IIT Madras campus in Tanzania so it’s not a separate entity. Of course there can be movement of students from there to India, when there is a need, because we are imparting quality education there but there’s no necessity for them to come to India. We are also trying to create more industry collaborations in Zanzibar, Tanzania so that the students start serving their nation after the completion of their course. But of course based on the same employment regulations, they can also come to India and work because at the end of the day they will become a part of the IIT Madras alumnus after their courses.
Can education be used as a soft power by India, according to you?
I am an academician so the one word that has impressed me very prominently is the notion of a ‘Vishwaguru’ in the NEP 2020 so we want the world to love and respect us. When we go and give education and at the same time make it affordable, which can in turn help the economic growth of the nation, I think then automatically the love and affection towards India will grow. The term ‘soft power’ is something I don’t believe in. Our goal is to be lovable and respectable there and that’s what will help the long-standing relationship between two nations.