Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)

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INDIAN INSTITUTES OF TECHNOLOGY (IITs) In 1945 the government of India, on the initiative of Sir Ardeshir Dalal, appointed a twenty-two-member committee of industrialists, scientists, and educators, under the chairmanship of N. R. Sarkar, to consider the development of higher technical institutions in India, with the goal of ensuring an adequate supply of technical personnel for India's industrial development. The committee recommended the establishment of at least four "higher technical institutions"—one each in the north, south, east, and west—with the first to be located near Calcutta (Kolkata) and another near Bombay (Mumbai). These institutions were possibly to be modeled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In May 1950, Sir J. C. Ghosh, who succeeded Sir C. V. Raman as director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, was appointed founding director for the first such institute. Named the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT), Kharagpur, it was inaugurated at Kharagpur in West Bengal on 18 August 1951 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, minister of education. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the cornerstone on 3 March 1952, and formally opened the institute on 21 April 1956. On the occasion of the convocation of the first graduates of IIT Kharagpur on 15 September 1956, the Indian Parliament passed the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act, declaring it an "Institute of National Importance."

IIT Kharagpur remains the largest of the seven IITs in India. With 19 academic departments, 8 academic centers and schools, and 9 research centers, it offers 22 undergraduate and 63 postgraduate and doctoral programs in almost all branches of engineering and technology. It has the largest technical library in Asia and one of the largest computing facilities in the country.

In 1958 the second Indian Institute of Technology was founded in Bombay, in collaboration with the former Soviet Union. IIT Madras (Chennai) was established in 1959, in collaboration with West Germany, and in 1960, IIT Kanpur was set up in collaboration with a few top American universities, led by MIT. In 1963, IIT Delhi was established by upgrading the College of Engineering and Technology, which had been created in 1961 at Hauz Khas, New Delhi, with British collaboration. The Indian Parliament passed an act in 1961 (which has been amended a few times, most recently in March 2002), known as the Institutes of Technology Act, which declared each IIT an "Institution of National Importance."

In 1995 the sixth IIT was established at Guwahati in Assam, located in a picturesque campus near the Brahmaputra River. Unlike the earlier institutes, IIT Guwahati had no formal collaboration with any other country, since by that time the IIT system was strong enough to assist in its own growth. IIT Guwahati was created as a part of the Assam Accord reached by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with local leaders for the development of the Northeast region of India.

On 21 September 2001, through an ordinance by the president of India, the oldest technical institute of India, the University of Roorkee, was upgraded to an IIT and was renamed the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, in the newly created state of Uttaranchal. The newest IIT of India is therefore also the oldest technical institution, with more than 156 years of service.

The Admission Process

The IITs are known for their rigorous admission process, which attracts high-achieving Indian students. The academic and research programs of these institutes are comparable to those of leading institutions worldwide. Undergraduate admissions are conducted through a joint entrance examination, and postgraduate admissions mainly through the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). Only about 2 percent of those students who take the screening tests are admitted to the seven IITs. Recently a joint admission test has been initiated for admission to the master of science programs in various sciences and mathematics, and another for admission to the master of business administration programs in the IITs.

At the undergraduate level, a four-year degree program leading to a bachelor of technology (B.Tech.) degree in various branches of engineering at the seven IITs requires that candidates pass a qualifying examination in science and mathematics. IIT Kharagpur and IIT Roorkee also offer a five-year bachelor of architecture (B.Arch.) program. At the graduate level, the admission requirements are a bachelor's degree in engineering (and in some programs a master's degree in science) in addition to passing the GATE, which is a prerequisite for receiving financial assistance from the government. Admission to doctoral (Ph.D.) programs in all IITs are handled at the institute level.

Vision and Development

Each IIT may have its own statement of its vision, mission, and core values, but all share a common theme. These statements are essentially excellence driven, holistic in scope, covering education, research, and outreach, emphasizing national relevance yet global understanding, nurturing academic freedom, creativity, innovation, integrity, and the overall development of their students. Quality in all its endeavors is the hallmark of the IIT system.

IIT Delhi has created a Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer, which has established Technology and Business Incubation units to facilitate research ideas and their development into products. IIT Kharagpur and Roorkee have Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Parks. All other IITs also have institutional mechanisms to promote entrepreneurship and technology transfer. IIT Madras has made notable contributions to technology transfer in the area of communications systems.

The governance of each IIT is essentially comparable. The president of India is the ex-officio visitor of each. The minister of human resource development of the government of India is the ex-officio chairman of the Council of IITs, which deliberates on policy issues common to all IITs. Each IIT has a board of governors, with a part-time honorary chairman and a full-time director appointed by the IIT Council with approval of the visitor. The director is the chairman of the Senate, which is the apex body for all academic policy matters, with each professor of the institute serving as an ex-officio member. There are deans for various academic and administrative functions, as well as faculty boards and research committees. At the lower level, the governance structure may vary at each IIT, as determined by their respective board of governors and Senate. The director of the institute is the principal academic and executive officer, similar to the vice-chancellor or president of a university. The registrar is secretary of the Senate and the Board of Governors.

Engineering Education and the Growth of Technology

Engineering education in India has seen exponential growth since the 1990s, after the All-India Council for Technical Education became a statutory body, empowered by an act of Parliament in 1987 to control the quality of technical education. Over 1,200 degree-awarding engineering colleges exist in various parts of India, admitting some 380,000 students every year. There are, however, regional and discipline imbalances, with an overconcentration of these colleges in certain states and in certain branches of engineering, mostly electronics, computer science, and information technology. There is also an acute shortage of qualified faculty in many engineering colleges.

However, the seven IITs have a capacity of about four thousand students admitted annually, and the quality of their graduates is comparable to the best in the world. There are also eighteen National Institutes of Technology (NITs) in modern India, and several other very good technical universities and institutes. The number of graduate programs in IITs varies from 25 to 55, with over five hundred research students enrolled for doctoral studies.

During more than fifty years of existence, IITs have played a very important role in India's technological development. Their graduates have contributed to government departments, including public works, irrigation, power, railways, highways, and space research, as well as in the private sector for manufacturing and service. Current trends indicate that IIT graduates prefer to join private sector or multinational corporations, with relatively fewer opting for the public sector. About 10 percent of these graduates become entrepreneurs, and 20 percent go abroad for higher studies and research, mostly to the United States. IITs's contributions to research and development laboratories and educational institutions in India is enormous, as nearly 60 percent of those holding doctoral degrees in engineering and technology come from the IIT system, as do nearly 45 percent of those holding master of technology degrees in engineering and technology. In the corporate sector, both nationally and internationally, IIT alumni have made enormous contributions, and have risen to leadership positions at corporations, laboratories, and university departments. Many have reached senior positions in government, technical institutions, and universities as secretaries, directors, and vice-chancellors.

IIT graduates have also contributed to entrepreneurship and technology development in the United States, particularly in the Silicon Valley, working for organizations such as IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Texas Instruments, General Electric, Motorola, Boeing, Ford, General Motors, Bell Labs, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Many of them are senior professors in American universities and technical institutes, or hold top management positions in U.S. corporations. There are an estimated 30,000 IIT graduates contributing to economic development in the United States.

A study of IIT Kharagpur alumni who graduated between 1982 and 1991 found that of 28 percent who went abroad, about 24 percent were in the United States and Canada. About 50 percent of the alumni had taken higher degrees after graduation, half of them in management. About 8 percent of these alumni had reached top positions by 1994, when the survey was conducted.

Prem Vrat

See alsoInformation and Other Technology Development ; Scientists of Indian Origin and Their Contributions


The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961. Roorkee: Indian Institute of Technology, 2002.

Pant, Ranjan, and Suvarana Rajguru. IIT: India's Intellectual Treasures. Silver Spring, Md.: Indus Media, 2003.

A Walk through History: 50 Years of IIT Kharagpur, Golden Jubilee 1951–2001. Kharagpur: Indian Institute of Technology, 2001.