The government has agreed to the scheme of setting up of new IITs in the public-private partnership scheme. Binita Mehta finds out what this means for the students, and the brand.
Anil Kumar Jha harboured this secret dream to pursue his engineering from one of the coveted Indian Institutes of Technology. He worked hard to crack the entrance exam, but unfortunately, he remained on the periphery, failing to make the final list, because there were just too few seats. “I am going to fulfil this dream through my son, who will go through and IIT experience,” he states. His son, Arun, is 12 years old. Well, for Arun, it might not be as difficult as it was for his father, since there are significantly more number of IITs.
In addition to the existing ones, the government recently approved a plan of setting up 20 more IITs in the public-private partnership mode. So what does this entail for the students? And for the brand? “For the students, it is a case of more the merrier. More of them can now have that tag associated to them! However, can you imagine the dilution of the brand? To have a reputation, you need exclusivity. And with setting up institutes like a chain of coffee places or sandwich places will not help!” says mechanical engineer and IITian Prasad Sheshadri. He gives the instance of the Ivy League Universities in the United States. “There are only eight, and that is why the programmes there are valued over any other in the States, and perhaps the world. There are many ‘like’ the Ivy Leagues, but not really Ivy. That’s what I mean.”
While stating Prasad’s comments as ‘elitist’, those like Jha feel that finally the ground is beginning to be levelled for all to play. “Why should thousands of students suffer or just one mark? They have studied hard enough, put in the hours, and showed the results. The student who scores one mark cannot be less intelligent that the one who just got past. This way, more students have the opportunity to aim for a great education,” says Arpit Kumar, who missed his mark during the admission in 2007. He had to “settle” for another institute for pursuing mechanical engineering, the experience of which though being great, did not wipe out the disappointment of not getting in to one of the IITs.
“We already have 15 IITs, including the eight new ones, which have still to gain as much reputation as their older counterparts. Now 20 new ones? So in all 35 institutions in the next 35 years. Talk about brand dilution. At this rate they will be like any other college offering arts, science and commerce courses,” exclaims electrical engineering student Rajan Waghmare.
While some label it as a politically motivated decision, others welcome it for the benefit of the bright students of the country. There are certainly mixed reactions, and one can only wait and watch.