Sunday, January 08, 2006

From IIT to MIT

Many of the Indian students and faculty members who make a splash at MIT are IIT
ex-students. Yet, the IITs have a long way to go before they can actually be
considered at par with MIT.

“I think IITs have produced some outstanding scholars and practitioners. If we had one IIT rather than seven and admitted only the top 1% of the students, we too could build an aura of technological sophistication much like MIT. Having said that, let me add that there are other factors that make MIT a superb institution of higher learning. One, the steady flow of brilliant international students and faculty to MIT makes it a great university with very hard working researchers.

Second, once a faculty is hired by MIT, no one tries to control the research agenda and methodology of that faculty member. There is truly a sense of intellectual autonomy which is a prerequisite for path breaking research. Third, the level of funding available for research is quite high at MIT, and the teaching load is reasonable. One can also buy one’s time with research funding and not teach while conducting full time research,” says Sanyal.

Others feel that executive level salaries are also important to draw top faculty
members. “IITs have to attract top faculty and pay them well at executive salary
rates and set up labs and facilities that make it attractive to be there. Also,
there should be more emphasis on experimentation rather than on theory,” says Sarpeshkar who chose to go to MIT for his undergrad degrees in electrical engineering and physics though he was also accepted at IIT.

Even IIT ex-students like Sur feel that though the IITs are great undergrad engineering colleges, they still have a long way to go before they become centres of cutting edge research. “The IITs are undergrad powerhouses but they need to add value in terms of research,” he says.