New Delhi: As a government with an eye on national elections speeds up education initiatives, the human resource development (HRD) ministry wants to open 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) in the next three months, in partnership with the private sector.
In a ministry committee meeting this week, members discussed reducing government role in IIITs and how to meet the short deadline.
“The committee met to look into the modalities of setting up the IIITs and the government is keen that this be done in the next three months. If buildings can’t be constructed in time for the institutes, classes can be kicked off from temporary campuses,” a committee member said, requesting anonymity.
Setting standards: The Indian Institute of Information Technology in Gwalior.
The same has occurred with the new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Facing infrastructure problems, students of the new IITs are attending classes at the old campuses, which are “mentoring” the new institutes. The solution has not been an ideal one, stretching the old IITs’ resources and patience.
In the new IIITs, the government is actively considering a model where a majority stake goes to the private sector, while reducing the government to a minority shareholder. So, on an equity base of Rs30 crore, the government would get Rs14.90 crore maximum; and industry, Rs15.10 crore minimum.
“This is where the concept of autonomy begins. Even IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and IITs, which are autonomous institutes, can’t decide on fees and number of seats without government approval because they are dependent on it for grants,” said Rajdeep Sahrawat, vice-president of industry lobby group National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), who led the drafting of the detailed project report on IIITs.
The government is also looking at a loan model, prepared by Nasscom, for IIITs to be set up as autonomous bodies, where the government would give loans to the institutes—and not grant funds—to be paid back over 10 years after a five-year moratorium.
The partners in setting up these IIITs would be the HRD ministry, the governments of the respective states where each institute will be established and industry members.
The committee member said it is hoping the model has no management quota. “There will be a board of governors that will decide policy matters for the institutes, and have representations from academia, industry and government,” this person said.
To further clip government interference, the board of governors at these IIITs will have just one government representative, based on the policy of “one seat per investor”.
“Each institution should have three-four industry partners, with a pedigree for research. Even the age of the people to be appointed to the governing board can’t exceed 70 years,” the member said.
With a focus on research, the new IIITs will also have a faculty-student ratio of 1:10, as in IITs. While Nasscom’s public-private partnership model for the new IIITs skips any mention of reservations for students from backward classes, a provision for merit-cum-means scholarships for the students is proposed, where an institute is granted subsidy from the government for the scholarships granted.
This, however, continues to be the toughest call for the government. “The industry wants merit to be the sole criteria, but the government would like to push through reservations, as applicable in other educational institutions. However, the IIITs would have some kind of a relaxation of marks for students from certain backward classes,” the member said.
The four existing IIITs in Gwalior, Jabalpur, Allahabad and Kancheepuram, set up by the Union government, have so far set a benchmark in terms of the demand for professionals from these institutes.
Three others have been set up by the state governments in partnership with the private sector in Hyderabad, Kerala and Bangalore. The IIIT in Bangalore has Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy as the institute’s chairman, while the other members include IIM Bangalore director, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, Nasscom president and several chief executives of multinational firms.
While welcoming the partnership model for the new institutes, IIIT Allahabad director M.D. Tiwari, who is also on the ministry-appointed panel, said the existing IIITs had not faced any government interference despite funding from the Union and state governments.
“The new IIIT model is entirely different from ours. We are totally government organizations, but I have not felt any problems so far. However, if private partners are there in the new IIITs, locations for the institutes have to be selected in a way that local industry can be tapped for employment generation for the students,” Tiwari said over the phone.