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IITs see surge in number of doctoral degrees

  25-Jul-2019  |   Post By: Ph.D.online

MUMBAI: Top Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of research scholars graduating with a doctoral degree. 

Proactive government funding, multiple sources of on-campus financial assistance and IITs’ efforts to buff-shine their image from undergraduate engineering colleges to research-focused institutes have led to a 50-100% jump in successful PhD graduates over the last five years. 

The numbers have almost doubled at Delhi and Kharagpur IITs. At Madras and Kanpur, it has jumped by about 50%. 

In the 2018-19 academic session, IIT Bombay had the largest number of PhDs graduating at 380. Among others, IIT Delhi had 378 (up 112% since 2014), Kharagpur 295 (80%), Madras 257 (49%) and IIT Kanpur 186 (41%). 

“Over the years, the ministry of human resource development has been increasing funding support with respect to the number of PhD students sanctioned as well as the amount of monthly fellowship/assistantship for a PhD student. The rate of increase in PhD strength is primarily related to this,” said Ashok Mishra, deanacademic research at IIT Madras. The ministry directly funds a certain percentage of the research scholarships. In addition, there are students funded by other arms of the government, such as the University Grants Commission and the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. These apart, there are research programmes through government bodies like the Defence Research and Development Organisation. 

The rise in the number of researchers is also a result of the expanded focus on research at top IITs.

 According to IIT professors, this is an attempt to change the image of the premier institutes from a B.Tech college to a research-driven establishment

“We have increased the focus on research. IITs were earlier seen as undergraduate engineering institutes. That has completely changed,” said Santanu Roy, associate dean–academics at IIT-Delhi. “We want to see ourselves as a research-driven institute and PhD is a vehicle on which research is done.” 

The ratio of postgraduate to undergraduate students at IIT Delhi is 60:40, of which a large number is research scholars. 

The cumulative number of research scholars at top IITs since 2014 has seen a 40-80% increase. At IIT Delhi, it has gone up 80% to 2,700 in the academic year 2018-19 and at IIT Kharagpur, it jumped 70% to 2,921. Both Madras and Kanpur had about 35% increase in the number of research scholars in the last five years. The total number of PhD students enrolled at IIT Bombay touched a peak of 3,171 in 2018-19. 

About 40% of the total pool of research scholars is Masters’ degree holders from various IITs while 50% is from other—mostly government-run—institutions. 

Achla Raina, dean of academic affairs at IIT-Kanpur, attributes the rise in research interest to enhanced government support. This, in a way, has become a logical option to pursue after Masters, she said. 

“The numbers are expected to increase further with the implementation of reservation for the economically weaker sections in the upcoming admissions in May 2019,” she predicted. 

The institutes, on their part, have made the PhD process more attractive. For instance, IIT Kanpur has introduced measures such as walk-in’ interviews and other measures to attract doctoral aspirants in various fields. IIT Kharagpur has introduced a large number of ‘disciplines’ (diversity of subjects) where researchers can pursue interdisciplinary research in various schools and centres. 

Experts also attribute the increase in the number of researchers on campus to multiple sources of funding, other than government dole. A large number of faculties are working on industry-sponsored projects. Research programmes sponsored by both Indian and multinational companies have increased, said professors. “Individual faculty members work on projects with industry. There are a few students who assist the faculty — an arrangement which also ensures funding,” said Roy of IIT Delhi 

Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com