New Delhi: The Centre is likely to grant administrative and financial autonomy to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), along the lines of what was given to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) last year.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry will discuss a new model of student and institutional financing with representatives of all the 23 IITs at the council meeting in New Delhi on Friday. IITs will also be allowed to choose their board of governors, including the chairman, with little interference from the government, two government officials said on condition of anonymity.

“The government believes that top institutions need to enjoy more autonomy. After IIMs’ autonomy, this is now on the table and will be discussed in the council meeting," said the first of the two officials.

The second official said some of the older IITs had recently spoken to the ministry informally on the contours of administrative and financial autonomy.

One suggestion was to charge students the actual amount IITs spend on them. Whether this would translate into a direct fee hike or a new model for student financing would be introduced, will be explored.

At the B.Tech level, IITs charge students 2 lakh a year, whereas the actual cost is around 7 lakh. IITs had last hiked fees in April 2016 from 90,000 a year to 2 lakh.

“Charging a student 7 lakh per year may be a bit too much in the Indian context. So, a direct fee hike does not look like a possibility as of now," said an IIT professor with direct knowledge of the development. “What the IIT Council led by the HRD minister may explore is to allow IITs to charge the actual and reimburse eligible students. It’s a bit complex now, but modalities will have to be worked out over a period of time."

During the 2016 fee hike, then HRD minister Prakash Javadekar defended the move in the Lok Sabha: “Today (in 2016) the government spends 6 lakh per student, while the maximum fee today is 2 lakh a year. Fee for students from families with annual income between 1-5 lakh is 60,000. Others are eligible for interest-free loans. Those who are capable of paying, ought to pay. Only then we will be able to deliver social justice."

The second official said that while the Centre may continue to appoint directors of IITs, the engineering schools may be allowed to select their board of governors, including the chairman. “If the plan moves as desired, the political appointment and influence in the selection of the board of each IIT will reduce significantly," said another IIT professor, who declined to be named. “This will also help bring in renowned alumni to the governing board—the way IIMs are now allowed to do. IITs running via a self-appointed management will be a huge step forward."

“We are not going to be fully autonomous like IIMs as we are financially more dependent on the government. But significant amount of autonomy is certainly coming soon," he added.

The IIT Council is the apex decision-making body of all IITs. It is headed by the HRD minister, and comprises all the directors, board chairmen and a few outside experts.

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