How is Academics in Foreign Universities Different from Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT)?

According to a new employability survey by Aspiring Minds in 2019, more than 80% of Indian graduates are unemployable. With the world venturing out into the Industrial Revolution 4.0, there is a huge skill gap in India. Although the education minister Prakash Javadekar has made it mandatory for Indian students to pursue at least 3 internships, the move is yet to be reflected in the university curriculums.

Currently, I am pursuing a Common European Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering (CEMACUBE) at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and RWTH Aachen, Germany. I interned in France during my Bachelor’s. So, I have quite some exposure to the European education system. Based on my MS in Europe experience, here are 5 things I found different from IIT BHU and maybe these 5 factors affect the world rank of Indian universities.

1. Exam patterns

Sample plagiarism assessment in assignments at Trinity College Dublin

The exam patterns in Germany and Ireland are quite different. While the exam pattern in Ireland has a resemblance to the exams at IIT BHU, it is completely different from the exams in Germany. In Ireland, continuous assessments through assignments form a significant component of your overall score, just like in IIT. However, these assignments require you to think critically. The submissions are usually online-based and plagiarism of assignments is checked using Turnitin. This is to ensure a fair assessment of a student’s talent.

RWTH Aachen doesn’t delve into descriptive answers based questions as you can see from Problem 1 (a)

However, the engineering exams at RWTH Aachen never delved into long derivations and long descriptive answers. The professors sought very specific keywords in the answers. Many of the exams also happen to be open-book where a formula booklet is provided and you need not learn the formula by heart.

2. Freedom and Respect from Professors

Usually, professors fail to recognize talent and they make derogatory comments towards students. The professors never force something on you. 
I can say that once upon a time, one of my professors told me. “If you want this, I would continue further.”

They do try to take your opinion before moving forward. They treat you like adults capable of making choices. However, Indian professors lack this respect, and some of them eventually lose the respect from students.

Since foreign universities have students coming from different race, countries and cultures, professors are aware that students may be very sensitive to some comments. They don’t vent their personal frustrations in public. They treat adults like adults while IIT BHU treats adults like children. Professors MUST learn to let go of some things. 

3. Lack of an Updated Curriculum

“Stop making toys. The things you build at the robotics club are not real robots.”

ex-professor, Mechanical Engineering IIT (BHU)

Such statements from professors can discourage a student to take endeavors. Unfortunately, the ‘Robotics’ course taught during my time at IIT (BHU) didn’t even teach you to make those automated toys as it didn’t include anything related to microcontrollers, something quite fundamental to mechatronic systems.

It’s not just the ‘Robotics’ course. There are several courses which haven’t been updated over the years. Further, several courses deal with useless theoretical details. 

The Engineering drawing course taught to students at IIT (BHU) deals with unnecessary manual labor and it never delves into CAD software. However, proficiency in CAD software is a transferable skill in industry and research. Thus, many of the courses taught in IITs don’t teach any transferable skills from an industry or research perspective. 

In Trinity and RWTH alike, the professors include the latest research in the slides. The lectures during MS in Europe has strong focus on including contents from the latest journal publications. However, very few professors make such an effort at IIT (BHU) or Indian universities in general.

4. Lack of Sharable Learning portal

moodle vs blackboard

IIT BHU doesn’t make use of any learning portals like Moodle or Blackboard which allows students to access lectures and submit assignments. Having a learning portal would encourage professors to streamline their curriculum, reduce the lecture hours and prepare detailed PowerPoint presentations. 

Further, assignments submitted at Trinity College are checked for plagiarism via Turnitin after submission. Reports with more than 20% plagiarism are discarded. So, students have to put some real creative effort to get through the assignments. 

Under the COVID-19 situation, Trinity was quick to adopt the online mode of delivering lectures. The lectures were uploaded to the Blackboard, a learning portal accessible to students. Further, professors used Microsoft Team to deliver lectures.

5.  Academia-Industry Collaboration

Academia industry collaboration

This is the area that stands out. I do agree that Indian universities lack the right set of funding to achieve such infrastructure. Indian universities should strive for academia-industry collaboration. This is fairly common in European universities. 

In Germany, one can purse the research Master’s or Bachelor’s thesis in industry. All you need is a professor willing to grade you. That’s one of the best things about MS in Germany. The students get paid for the thesis as well.

However, such a practice is rarely found in India. I believe that CSIR labs should make collaborations with IITs and NITs for good research output. 


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