Thursday, September 15, 2011

New resolutions

The IIT council met in Delhi and

  • proposed a pan-India common entrance test for admission to engineering programmes possibly from 2013.
  • suggested a hike in the tuition fees that can be paid by the student after graduation. 
  • significantly increase the number of Ph.Ds


The third initiative specifically says that the IITs will produce 10,000 Ph.D graduates annually from around 1000 currently. This will be based on increasing the faculty strength from around 4000 currently to 16,000.

What does this mean? Currently, 4000 faculty guide 1000 Ph.D students annually (ratio of 0.25) but within this decade, 16,000 faculty will guide 10,000 Ph.D students annually. What will bring about this change of faculty willing to guide so many students? Faculty normally complain on the lack of students for not doing research. But, as pointed out by Prof. Dheeraj Singh, "One of my colleague once said that we talk about PhD program because it is in fashion to talk about research, and we need to justify not doing research. But we really don't want to admit more PhD students because we are afraid we will have to work harder. "

The IIT council seems to taken the view of lack of students for research seriously and recommended, "From 2013, students would have to pay the balance Rs 6 lakh if they take up a non-teaching job after graduation." The minister says, "The intention is to attract IIT students to teaching and research" Currently, around 1% of B.Tech students from IITs pursue Ph.D in India and I am not sure how this move will attract more students to research. Will the council exempt the fees for students who pursue research and teaching in USA rather in India? Why not introduce many schemes that will make research and teaching attractive in India? Will that not make more students to take up teaching and research rather than asking them to pay if they do not take up an academic career?


24 comments:

Anonymous said...

On paper, this looks like a step in the right direction, which has been long overdue. Now, Let us run a few numbers to see if it makes sense.

1) Money: This year, the JEE intake was about 10,000 across all IITs + IT BHU + ISM. Now, let us assume that HALF of these students decide to pursue graduates studies in India. So, 5,000 students will pay back 6 lakhs each every year. So, 300 crores will be raised from this effort. If 10,000 new faculty are added, all at the same time, and the cost per faculty is 12 lakhs per year, they need 1200 crores are needed ever year to pay their salaries. So, this amount is not sufficient to hire new faculty.
A shortfall of 900 crores per year still needs to come from the government. Note that if NONE of the students decides to to MS/PhD in India, this would still lead to a shortfall of 600 crores per year. The only way this breaks even for the earlier case is if 2500 new faculty are hired.

2) Ratio: On average, 5000 new graduate students will be supervised by 2500 new faculty if we break even, with a ratio of 2 - not a very difficult task.

3) Manpower: This "break even" analysis assumes that existing+ new faculty will continue to make the same money, i.e., no salary increases for either faculty, or graduate students. The current salaries are a big reason why most engineers are not willing to look for a career in academia. I am not sure if waiving 6 lakhs is motivation enough to bring them across. Typical engineering salaries for PhDs with 3 years of experience is more than 12 lakhs PA today. Many people make much more abroad. So, I am not sure if this "funny money" is motivation enough to increase the number of graduate students and faculty.

4) I don't see any scope of involving industry in this consideration. Right now, based on many meetings I have had with industry folks, they complain about the quality of many power, the complain about "lazy" professors not willing to take up projects, and they complain about anything else they can. But, ask them to put some funding in, and you see them running like 100m Olympic sprinters. In short, leaving a few exceptions aside, the industry in India, does not show much desire to involve academia in research, which is why, a majority of funding is still from the government. Now a new "Corporate Social Responsibility" is in parliament, which will force companies to use 2% of their profits on CSR. Why not suggest that funding academic research will be considered CSR? This will not only utilize this CSR money in a proper way, it also has the potential to benefit industry in the short term.

5. The money trail: Who will recover the 6 lakhs per student at the end of 4 years? The institute, or the government? Will it be a lump-sum recovery, or in installments? Will interest be charged? If a student pays the IIT he graduates from, but many students join IISc for PhDs, for which new faculty has to be hired, who gets the money? The IIT, for already having "spent" it or IISc for the new faculty hiring budget? So, it seems that this money collection process has to be centralized, at least for logistical reasons. What is the guarantee that this collected money will only be used for education?

6. Plain-speak: To me, it still looks like the fees are being raised, albeit, at the end of 4 years for an undergraduate. Why not be open and honest about it, and raise the fees instead of all this "funny accounting"? As a pilot project, Mr. Sibbal and the IIT directors can still try "liberating" just one IIT or IISc from the clutches of the government. Just take one IIT - and give it the freedom to choose its students (e.g, no reservations) and faculty (for example, market determined salaries). Just see how soon that place will become world-class. But, is there a motivation to do that? I don't think so.

a new iit prof

Ankur Kulkarni said...

I ignored the comment of attracting students to research by waiving off fees as boilerplate. The real issue, I think, is the following. IIT Btech who take up jobs earn much more than junior faculty in IIT. For those IIT junior faculty that are themselves IIT Btechs, these fees would be a significant portion (about 25% if the payback is of 4 years) of their faculty salary. That would mean disaster for faculty recruitment.

All that this does is that it does not make problem of recruiting faculty any harder. When Sibal calls it an "incentive", it sounds like this problem is likely to become easier - which it will not.

And yes - I think that waiver will not apply to those who take up faculty positions in the US.

ksquare said...

I think it is unfair to penalize students for taking non-teaching (aka high paying) jobs instead of academics. Academics/research is not for everyone but requires a different mindset. Also those who take high paying jobs are not doing it for free. They are going to pay that much more in taxes (much more than Rs. 6L over a long term). How about govt. making sure that the IIT-tag is attached to their PAN card and the first Rs. 6L in taxes they pay will be channeled into the IIT system rather than other wasteful govt. schemes?

Anonymous said...

As a pilot project, Mr. Sibbal and the IIT directors can still try "liberating" just one IIT or IISc from the clutches of the government."

Well said. They can try the ISB model for a new institute.

Pratik Ray said...

"Why not introduce many schemes that will make research and teaching attractive in India?"

Prof. Madras, this is indeed a challenge. A way to address this will be to have a larger pool of PhD students.

But then, attracting students to a PhD program is a struggle too. My own take on it is the lack of high paying research based jobs in the Indian industry. Elsewhere, people with PhDs get lapped up by companies having good R&D centers for a very good financial package. We need to create a situation where academics / govt research lab is no longer the *major* option for PhDs.

After spending 5 years in academics though, not all PhD students will want to join industrial R&Ds. I will bet that a number of them would be turned towards academics. There are always the precious few who realize that difference between industrial salaries and academic salary is the price you pay for academic freedom.

I am not very much aware of the research funding scenario in India, but my $0.02 - if the government funding agencies start some initiative to promote original research in the industries, this would be a step in the right direction. This wouldn't address the entire issue, but this would still be a small step.

Initially, they can even opt for a partnership model where industries and faculty from universities submit joint proposal, so that the industry gets some help from the academia to set up their R&D center, while building a stronger collaboration between the two entities. In United States, SBIR proposals often follow these lines, so this is an existing model that has been working here.

Also, as an aside, we need to get over the obsession with IIT BTechs. Coaching centers being what they are, there are plenty of good students without access to coaching who end up in NITs and universities. It is high time we started focusing some more on these institutes, rather than try to come up with schemes for attracting IIT BTechs to come back and teach in IITs.

Again, may be this is already in place in India, and I just don't know about it, since I haven't researched it well enough. In such a case, my apologies for this rant.

Desi Babu said...

During the early days of any system, idealism prevails. Then, people figure out how to game the system, and then, the rot begins.

The JEE system picked reasonably bright people in its original days. Today, with professional coaching centers, people have figured out how to game the system. With a massive faculty shortage, inept political leadership, and students trying extremely hard to give up engineering, in favor of careers in banking and finance, the rot has already eaten up the system. Substantially.

The only solution is to let the IITs die a natural death. As someone who went to one of these institutes as an undergraduate, I feel sad to see them die a slow death. But, if the IITs were living beings, I could confidently invoke Darwin and pull a Dodo out of the bag. I am sure, some biologist will tell me that you can apply the same general principles to inanimate objects as well. Right?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

I don't think any decision has been taken regarding this additional 6 lakhs to be paid after getting a job and waived if s/he joins graduate studies. This is something that has been considered and someone will work out details and the feasibility of the scheme and will be discussed in a future council meeting. This is also linked with the dematerialization of all degrees in the country, a bill for which is pending.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

Prof Madras - since you are talking of making teaching attractive, what prevents institutes from finding ways to reward faculty monetarily or in kind? Have the institutions done all that they can under the constraints?

For instance - we know that DST grants don't allow PIs to earn any extra money through them. Is there something that prevents the institutes from doing some creative accounting to return a portion of the overheads they charge back to the faculty? That would open a way to earn through grants. Also, already there are schemes of bonuses etc at some IIXs - why isn't every IIX trying to do something similar?

Likewise have IIXs tried to find creative ways to pay their graduate students competitively, over and above the govt salary, so that a promising student does not have to succumb to the job of a software coolie only for the sake of money?

Another instance - so many people complain about faculty housing, especially at IISc. Building and maintaining first class housing is not string theory. It is a routine, well understood, solved problem which only requires some standard drills to be performed over and over again. Yet, why are institutes faltering at it? Surely, this is doable regardless of govt constraints.

iitmsriram said...

Some items from the council meet dont seem to have received publicity; I saw something about 5 new IITs to be opened during the 12th plan ...

Anonymous said...

Ankur,

Regardin your query, read

http://giridharmadras.blogspot.com/2009/09/one-more-post.html

Anonymous said...

Prof. Sriram,
Can you provide the link about the 5 new IITs that you have mentioned?
Thanks,
AB

iitmsriram said...

AB,

I appear to be mistaken; I cant find any mention of it anywhere.

Anonymous said...

These recommendations are based on the Kakodkar Committee Report (www.education.nic.in/tech/KakodkarCommitteeReport-05132011.pdf ). You can find details of the cost calculations and the justifications for the proposals.

rick2047 said...

Okey it started out as a comment here but then it went long and I made a blog post out of it so I can write more freely

http://blog.lifeasparesh.in/2011/09/about-mtech.html

Anonymous said...

@a new iit prof && desi babu

very pertinent and just views/analysis. iits/iisc are failed institutions. many profs here at iisc talk about this regularly(albeit mainly in private circles). all the students who have been through this system be it btech/mtech/phd know this. although btechs have it a bit easier as they do the least research and get job after 4 years, and if it is in a financial company many get pretty decent salaries too. phds suffer the most in iits/iisc due to lack of collaboration, many a times lack of proper funding, etc.


what we have to accept today is that the talent pool of quality engineers/scientists is gradually increasing and today is far beyond the intake strengths of iits/iisc. many students from ordinary colleges nowadays are almost as good as an iit graduate. 99% of iit entrants for the btech have undergone coaching which in itself proves the futility of the JEE. (although the JEE in itself is not a bad exam it has outlived its purpose, and has failed its objective to scrutinize and select students)


the only hope i see for people like us who actually want to see india come out and do path breaking research, develop high end products, etc is that research in india has to be decentralized outside of the claws of iits/iisc and has to involve a lot more number of people.
india also has to build hopefully many world class research labs and there has to be hopefully greater corporate spending in research.


- as desi babu said, i hope to see the iits/iisc die a slow and natural death as these institutes have clearly outlived their purpose(by quite a long margin)

rick2047 said...

to all the people who suggested that IIXs should die a slow death, what do you suggest should replace it?

Anonymous said...

research in many areas can very well be privatized and decentralized.

ex: engineers passing out from government sponsored colleges(ex: IIT, NIT, and few other government/state government colleges) may number only around 15,000. but the number of engineers passing out from india is around 5,00,000

specialized centers to study/research topics like fluid mechanics, material science, etc can be set up at various locations in the country with public/private cooperation.

Anonymous said...

to all the people who suggested that IIXs should die a slow death, what do you suggest should replace it?

Belly dancers and scotch whiskey. The entertainment value is slightly higher than that of the papers that IIT professors write.

Seriously, why do you think we need a replacement? To pursue the scary Nehruvian dream of proliferating the country with engineers, which actually know something about engineering? In that case, the NITs have done a much better job with that. Most IIT graduates end up as bankers, creating funny money out of thin air.

If your aim is to do research, the IITs have made a mockery of the process. The only institute in India, that does decent enough research is IISc. So, why have them do that?

So, what remains is the perceived entertainment value of IITs. Like I said, think about the belly dancers and scotch, you might agree with me that it has better return on investment.

An_IIT_Grad

rick2047 said...

I don't know if I should be amused or annoyed with your comment IIT_Grad. I have heard so much about this that my head spins when someone even mentions this topic. I usually excuse myself from the discussion. Its painful to watch people discuss this especially people already preparing for CAT. I don't know if this self righteousness or misinformation when they say stuff like an M.Tech only goes for prof jobs. This has been discussed at great length and have heard perhaps every single argument. Excluding the misinformed people, even the opinions given by respectable people fall into 2 categories: 1)IITs suck 2) IITs change lives.
Of course IISc is a class apart since it does some awesome research for sure.

I have heard perhaps IITs sucks argument more hear so I would take up the other one first. People say that IITs are the premier institutes in India so they change lives. That is without a doubt true. There is good placements and good exposure. Significantly better than anything in a mere mortal university where I pursue my B.Tech. But what we are looking for here is not money but real knowledge and research facilities. There are plethora of statements from students as well as faculties stating how much research is being done in IITs especially IITb and IITd. They seem to have a high number of private company sponsored projects and high number of research papers published in good publications. But how can I judge them without knowing where the research went and how exactly it was received in the academia. All my google-fu draws a blank on that.

The other part is the IIT sucks arguments which prevail here. They usually suggest that IITs should just die (a slow death of course, painful and excruciating perhaps). But again, no data. Not coming in International rankings is not sufficient since even IISc is pretty low. Our institutes are just not organized in a way to maximize our rankings. What other metrics can I use. I don't know, you tell me. I would really like to hear that. I would also like to meet a few people at the next conference in banglore where I present my paper. This is a good conference and should give me some contacts and clues. I hope I can get to go to IISc in person and talk to some people. Wonder if that is possible.

The worst part though is not the discussion, its the solution proposed. The first thing that comes to every single person's lips is give GRE and join a US/UK/Australia university or go do CAT. Doing in MBA is not for me and by god I hate the GRE format. But those are not the biggest problem in getting the foreign education. The thing is not everyone is born with a silver spoon up their rear end and thus cannot afford that kind of education with the super honest public servants salary. And US government doesn't help by having hiked fees and not so good stipend. Even with an 80% scholarship its really too expensive with all the living and eating expenditure. Its really expensive to even reach there let alone live. See I have a quest to become better at what I do good and that would require me to be trained by the best. But I want to do that in such a manner that I am not under a mountain of debt when I am 27. Seems awkward to write this kind of comment on someone else blog but its late at night and all the weeks frustration of college comes out as words on a friday. Sorry if I bored you.

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of Aamir Khan's story of cursing trees to kill them from TZP (even if that might be fiction!).

It has become a fad for the high and the mighty (NRN, Jairam Ramesh, our flip-flopping HRD minister and now the esteemed readers above) to abuse the IIX system. Given the financial, societal and psychological constraints, I think these institutes have done quite well for themselves (and don’t forget that this is in a country where practically nothing works as expected). Of course, they can do much better, and I think there are many honest efforts as well!

One can easily get fooled by world rankings, but I believe the output of IIXs are in proportion to the inputs. Wouldn't it be much nicer if we honor our host here by posting only serious, constructive comments and suggestions and avoid glib, sarcastic statements?

For a little bit of perspective, this makes interesting reading… (at least the initial part, although the end does seem like a bit of rambling)

http://www.scholarsavenue.org/2011/08/20/convocation-address-by-shri-jawaharlal-nehru-at-the-first-annual-convocation-held-on-21st-april-1956/

An_IIT_grad_who_is_doing_reasearch_in_US.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be much nicer if we honor our host here by posting only serious, constructive comments and suggestions and avoid glib, sarcastic statements?

I am assuming that this was aimed at the "whiskey and belly dancing comment" above.

First, what is wrong with sarcasm? A sense of humor is a pretty good thing to have. You should try having one - it helps with digestion, and sometimes, the sex drive.

Second, I am not trying to dishonor our honored host here. The last time I checked, neither belly dancing, nor scotch have any dishonor associated with them. In fact, I don't know if our host dances or drinks (or both at the same time), but in case he doesn't, the intent was not to dishonor him.

The biggest problem with academic types in India and Indian academic types abroad is that they are too damn serious, and have a "holier than thou" approach to life. Be normal, like the rest of us. Have a sense of humor. May be, you will do much better than what you could manage so far.

An_IIT_grad_who_did_research_in_US_and_discovered_the_true_spelling_of_research_and_came_back_to_India_and_Misses_belly_dancing_and_scotch_BADLY

rick2047 said...

I don't know if I should be amused or annoyed with your comment IIT_Grad. I have heard so much about this that my head spins when someone even mentions this topic. I usually excuse myself from the discussion. Its painful to watch people discuss this especially people already preparing for CAT. I don't know if this self righteousness or misinformation when they say stuff like an M.Tech only goes for prof jobs. This has been discussed at great length and have heard perhaps every single argument. Excluding the misinformed people, even the opinions given by respectable people fall into 2 categories: 1)IITs suck 2) IITs change lives.
Of course IISc is a class apart since it does some awesome research for sure.

I have heard perhaps IITs sucks argument more hear so I would take up the other one first. People say that IITs are the premier institutes in India so they change lives. That is without a doubt true. There is good placements and good exposure. Significantly better than anything in a mere mortal university where I pursue my B.Tech. But what we are looking for here is not money but real knowledge and research facilities. There are plethora of statements from students as well as faculties stating how much research is being done in IITs especially IITb and IITd. They seem to have a high number of private company sponsored projects and high number of research papers published in good publications. But how can I judge them without knowing where the research went and how exactly it was received in the academia. All my google-fu draws a blank on that.

The other part is the IIT sucks arguments which prevail here. They usually suggest that IITs should just die (a slow death of course, painful and excruciating perhaps). But again, no data. Not coming in International rankings is not sufficient since even IISc is pretty low. Our institutes are just not organized in a way to maximize our rankings. What other metrics can I use. I don't know, you tell me. I would really like to hear that. I would also like to meet a few people at the next conference in banglore where I present my paper. This is a good conference and should give me some contacts and clues. I hope I can get to go to IISc in person and talk to some people. Wonder if that is possible.

The worst part though is not the discussion, its the solution proposed. The first thing that comes to every single person's lips is give GRE and join a US/UK/Australia university or go do CAT. Doing in MBA is not for me and by god I hate the GRE format. But those are not the biggest problem in getting the foreign education. The thing is not everyone is born with a silver spoon up their rear end and thus cannot afford that kind of education with the super honest public servants salary. And US government doesn't help by having hiked fees and not so good stipend. Even with an 80% scholarship its really too expensive with all the living and eating expenditure. Its really expensive to even reach there let alone live. See I have a quest to become better at what I do good and that would require me to be trained by the best. But I want to do that in such a manner that I am not under a mountain of debt when I am 27. Seems awkward to write this kind of comment on someone else blog but its late at night and all the weeks frustration of college comes out as words on a friday. Sorry if I bored you.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnWocYKqvhw

just put up this link for those who still believe in a concept like an IIX that too in a country as big and diverse as india.

the link talks about OPEN SCIENCE.

i will give you some info in a nutshell
1)lectures can be streamed via the net or could be sold on DVDs.
2)ebooks are available on net, which can replace the very costly textbooks.
3)blogs can be created to clear doubts and ask questions in specific subjects
4)even today i think most of the journal papers have their e copies. it is just that they are very expensive!!


most of the US universities have combined disciplines like medicine, engineering, science, arts, languages, etc all clubbed inside a single university. colleges have 70,000+ capacity football(american football i.e), basketball, etc stadiums to support their budding athletes.

can india have such multifaceted institutes???? we are not a rich country(atleast yet)

it would be better if we focused on building high tech labs, and educating a much larger percent of our populace to conduct research and develop technology. do you think employing some 5000 profs across the IIXs in india and also having a similar number of research students studying in these institutions is sufficient for india to develop and sustain its technological consumption???
we need massive number increase in the amount of people to be trained, number of researchers/profs employed and also much better quality labs set up at various centers across the country.

contribution of india to current science is still very weak and anyone who reads literature will know it.

IIX was a noble concept during say 1960, but is a failed concept now, and INDIA has to move beyond this concept as it did with the massive strength increase in UG education.

AN_IISC_GRAD_WHO_IS_TALKING_ABOUT_IIX

Anonymous said...

@rick2047

dude, are you on ecstasy or something. control your emotions man :D