Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Explained: How Indian govt set up IITs with help from several countries

  • Recently a German student at IIT Madras was asked to leave the country “immediately”, days after he attended protests against the CAA and the proposed NRC.
  • As it happens, IIT Madras was established with the help of West German technical expertise more than six decades ago.
  • Apart from Madras, the Bombay, Kanpur, and Delhi IITs were also founded with assistance derived from foreign collaborations.

Why did India decide to rope in foreign countries for setting up IITs, and which countries helped?

  • The idea of developing modern engineering education took shape after British rule ended.
  • Then PM Jawaharlal Nehru implemented the blueprint with the first IIT, established at Kharagpur in the eastern part of India in July 1951.
  • Nehru wanted Indian engineering schools to be among the best in the world, so he enlisted some of the leading higher education institutions of the West to develop them.
  • Seeking external technical and financial help was also inevitable as national resources were inadequate for the task.
  • Help from different countries also meant a diversified engineering and technical education system would result.
  • Politically, such an amalgamation fit with Nehru’s vision of nonalignment with any superpower.

The First IIT

  • The first IIT at Kharagpur in West Bengal established in 1951 drew faculty members from the US, UK, Ireland, France, USSR, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Poland.

IIT Bombay – USSR

  • For the second IIT at Bombay, the UNESCO arranged the donation of equipment and technical expertise from the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries in 1956.
  • The institute has received substantial assistance in the form of equipment and expert services from the USSR through the UNESCO from 1956 to 1973.
  • Under the bilateral agreement of 1965, the Government of USSR provided additional assistance to supplement the Aid Programme already received by the institute through UNESCO.

IIT Madras – West Germany

  • The third IIT was set up in 1959 after the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) offered assistance to set up the institute during PM Nehru’s visit to the country in 1956.
  • Subsequently, an Indo-German agreement was signed at Bonn in 1959 which provided for the services of German professors and training facilities for Indian faculty members and the supply of scientific and technical equipment.

IIT Kanpur – USA

  • Established in 1959, this IIT was developed under collaboration with American researchers as part of the Kanpur Indo-American Programme.
  • During the period 1962-72, the Institute received technical assistance under KIAP from a consortium of nine leading Institutions of USA.
  • Under the program, faculty members from these Institutions assisted the Institute in the setting up of the academic programs and development of laboratories for instruction as well as research.

IIT Delhi – UK

  • This was the fifth IIT, established in 1961.
  • The GoI negotiated with the British Government for collaboration in setting up an Institute of Technology at Delhi.
  • The British Government agreed in principle to such a collaboration, but were inclined initially to start in a modest way.
  • It was therefore agreed that a College of Engineering & Technology should be established at Delhi with their assistance.
  • Later H.R.H. Prince Philips, Duke of Edinburgh, during his visit to India, laid the foundation stone of the College at Hauz Khas on January 28, 1959.


Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT)

  • The IITs are autonomous public institutes of higher education governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961.
  • This act has declared them as institutions of national importance and lays down their powers, duties, and framework for governance.
  • Each IIT is autonomous, linked to the others through a common council (IIT Council), which oversees their administration.
  • The Minister of Human Resource Development is the ex officio Chairperson of the IIT Council.
  • The resident of India is the most powerful person in the organizational structure of Indian Institutes of Technology, being the ex officio Visitor and having residual powers.
  • In the 2019 QS World University Ranking, IIT Bombay ranked highest at 162, followed by IIT Delhi (172), IIT Madras (264), IIT Kanpur (283), IIT Kharagpur (295), IIT Roorkee (381) and IIT Guwahati (472).
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