I feel new IITs instead of being broad-based and generic, should center around certain themes. Some sample themes are:
– Chemicals and Materials Research
– Data/Computation Science/Drug Discovery
– Manufacturing (Additive Maufacturing, etc.)
– Defence Research & Electronics
– Water/Environment/Natural Resources.
The chosen themes should be in line with the current/proposed industry eco-system around their location or as a national center of excellence. Each place should have critical size of teachers/researchers than being spread across different IITs. Each IIT should have focus on any one of research, design, innovation/Entrepreneurship or industry solution based.. For example, some of the French Universities seem have given it edge in aviation.
The goal of IITs should have strategic interlock with national goals of driving innovation and give leadership position to the country in high technology. Themes should be carefully chosen than just trying to do everything.
As HRD Ministry’s thinking will be more around employment and skilling, may be these institutions should be part of Science & Technology Ministry. When IITs were created first the approach may have been to create a large pool of smart people who get to study in a culture of institutional excellence. The skills were broad-based. Since we have large number of broad-based institutions now it may be better to focus on differentiation and depth. Define clear-cut value proposition for each of new IITs from the view-point of stake-holders, may it be students, parents, industry, community, government and nation..
As things stand current IIT UG programs at best serve as preparatory ground. We have quite a few success stories as Researchers and Faculty Members. MDs/CEOs. In many cases a MBA, MS or IAS after the B.Tech seem to have made the additional difference. Very small number of graduates stay in the same discipline they learnt in UG.. Very few contributors like Sridharan or Visweswarayya or be space scientists. Also contribution in innovation space can be more. Hard core engineers are fewer or not celebrated enough. Some of this may be due to lack of opportunities or lack of a conducive environment. . On positive side, last few years there has been a good trend of entrepreneurship.
M.Techs even though provide specialization at times do not attract good students and at times good students do not get right opportunities after passing out.
Ideally new IITs should have 5 year integrated Masters program alone (and also PhD). Each of them should be free to use their own selection criteria based on theme and focus. This is instead of blindly following a common pecking order among disciplines. The selection process should include interviews and choose students genuinely interested in engineering theme and focus of specific IIT, either interested in design, research or commercialization. The selection process may be on the same lines of National Talent Search, where final stage involves interview., There should be lateral credit transfers allowed across institutes if need be. They may continue to use JEE Template, but broad-base it and use it as one of the indicators.
It also may be worthwhile having each institute having its own entrance test and a 4-year MS program, here the students targeted are 1st year students of engineering or BSc program. The test may be bench-marked at an advanced level and tailored to the theme of institute, it can go beyond physics, chemistry, maths with few optional subjects like design, electronics, advanced math. , economics, English, Socilology, etc. There could also be a mix of basic and advanced tests. The institute may roll out a preparatory MOOC course where prospective candidates register which can provide a level playing field. This also will reduce the role of coaching classes.
The new IITs should also have place-holders for technician training so that the whole eco-system for a given theme is covered. They also should lead in continuing education with certificate programs which will support the industry and may also be an additional source of revenue.