A motivating line which I came across once is “The journey is the ultimate destination.” I am writing about the journey of the oldest yet one of the youngest premier institutes of the country, that is a part of the Banaras Hindu University. Conceived from the ideas of a few legends, realized by the sacrifice of the common masses, the institute spans an unbeatable legacy, being the torch-bearer of the Indian education system for over 98 years. Founded in 1919, blossoming from a small institute BENCO to getting integrated to form Institute of Technology and then finally gaining the status of an IIT in 2012 and then carrying its own legacy, this certainly is not an easy journey.
The transition from IT to IIT is not merely about autonomy or allocation of more funds, but more about developments in terms of infrastructure, facilities, quality of education, research and more governance. I became a part of IIT (BHU) in 2014. I have witnessed a lot of changes in the college in the last two and a half years. I would like to cite an example here. In 2014, while selecting an IIT befitting to my rank, I was browsing about the curriculum structure of Mechanical Engineering in IIT (BHU). Other established IITs had a well-defined course readily available for reference on the web. I browsed the web, but it was futile. However, I guess no student after 2015 would have faced this problem. This is just the tip of the iceberg of changes in the college after the transition to IIT.
Changes In Academics
Talking about Academics, IIT (BHU) has a well-defined and well-documented course structure for
every department, which IT never had. The absolute method of grading has been done away and a
relative method of grading is in practice. The course curriculum didn’t have the humanities subject. I read in a survey that an ideal engineering curriculum should have 12.5% of the humanity courses.
Humanity courses are supposed to instill ethics and morality in engineers and give further insight into the society for which we have to contribute. Now, humanities form a part of around 10% of the credits, which was non-existing earlier.
The Induction Programme for the first year batch of 2016 was a novel experiment which received huge applause. There have been discussions in the intellectual circuit to emulate this programme in other IITs and central government institutions. The programme aimed at making the new entrants comfortable to the college environment, which is really a big endeavor to make learning stress-free. A mentoring network comprising the senior students helped the new students to sink into the college atmosphere. It also promoted a sense of bonding with the faculties and senior students. This highlights the shift in vision towards a holistic education, a vision which no one had before.
Discussing further on academics, the floating of Open Elective courses has opened the doors for interdisciplinary research. Further, the choices offered to the students are quite large and there is much flexibility in opting for these courses, which has led to the success of open electives. I will cite an example to reassure my stance. For example, a student of mechanical engineering with a strong
interest in materials science has the choice to opt for subjects not only from materials science, but
also other similar subjects like composite materials from Metallurgical Engineering, biomaterials from Biomedical Engineering and ceramic technologies from Ceramic Engineering. The provision for B.Tech with Honours has already given an impetus to the student research in the institute and will surely give a surge to the number of academic publications and collaborations in the coming days. Creative Practices which include performing arts, visual arts and fine arts have become a regular part of the curriculum. However, these are only introductory courses enabling the students to explore their interests. Several QIPs (Quality Improvement Programs) for faculties are now being conducted around the year. In collaboration with MHRD, GIAN courses for the students of the native as well as students from other institutes have come into effect. 10+ GIAN courses have been reported to be conducted in IIT (BHU) in the last one year. It is quite evident that the academics in terms of curriculum as well as its flexibility have undergone a sea change with the addition of an ‘I’ to ‘IT’ in a matter of 4 years.
Even the student-teacher ratio has improved over the years, but it is still not on par with the national standards and it is a major challenge for the coming years.
Research And Development
The ‘IIT’ status has burgeoned the research and development in the institute which was almost vacuous before 2012. There is no better way to validate a hypothesis than statistics, facts, and figures.
A recent paper in Current Science (Vol. 112, No. 5) by researchers from South Asian University (Delhi), BHU and the National Institute of Science, Technology and Developmental Studies (Delhi), analyzed the research performances of IITs. Among the new IITs, IIT (BHU) lies ahead of its contemporaries. The number of academic papers published between 1999-2008 was less than 900 and that between 2010-2014 is 1443. The total citations of various papers between 2010-2014 are 2110 while it is below 1800 over the period of 1998-2008. The rationale behind these figures can be attributed to not only in the increase in the intake of Ph.Ds. in the last 4 years, but also the availability of better and advanced instruments and dedicated research centers.
The establishment of CERD (Centre for Renewable Energy Development), Central Instrumentation facility, a new Computation unit and some other labs imply an emerging future of research in IIT (BHU). The Central Instrumentation Facility has some modern equipment like Nano-indenter, Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), Magnetic Property Measurement System, with a plan to install Raman Spectrometry soon.
Establishment of Design and Innovation Hub (DIH) is a testimony to the endeavor being taken by the institute to promote innovation. DIH offers the flexibility to students to come up with their own ideas and it definitely provides the means to shape the ideas. It boasts of over 200 completed projects in less than 3 years of its inception. It has also sponsored students for events like SAE India BAJA, Shell Eco-Marathon etc. The Shell Eco-Marathon Team brought laurels for the institute finishing first in the country and seventh in the world.
Apart from this, Advanced Research Centre for Iron and Steel (ARCIS) has been established in the Department of Metallurgy by the Ministry of Steel, Government of India. This center will cater to the education and research of iron and steel in the institute. Malviya Chair for Railway Technology has been established by Ministry of Railways, Government of India to have collaborations with IIT (BHU) in Materials Science and Engineering. A Design and Innovation Centre (DIC) has also come into effect in 2015 as a joint project of IIT (BHU) and BHU. IIT (BHU) will specifically take care of the engineering and technical aspects of the design and innovation projects.
Establishment of infrastructure and allocation of funds for various projects are the stepping stones towards shaping a quality idea or realizing a project. The establishments of these dedicated centers surely raise the hopes of illustrious projects in future.
If awards are a measure of gauging the potential and excellence in a field, so be it awards. The number of awards in various national events, particularly Inter-IIT Sports and cultural has gone up. The techno-management fest Technex, the cultural fest KashiYatra, and the Sports Fest Spardha have seen new heights witnessing a surge in the budget, sponsorship, participation.
I was the joint secretary of the Creative Design Club, a club under FMC. I have witnessed an increase in inventories over the 3 year period, like Dictaphones, DSLRs, graphics tablets etc. The student gym has got a new look. IIT (BHU) is one of the few campuses in India with floodlight facilities. This has given a new experience to the students and especially allowing practicing for a longer duration.
College magazine was foreign to IT (BHU). The student magazine ‘The Quest’ has come into the picture since 2014 updating us with the buzzing college activities. The inception of ‘FMC TV’ is a creative dissemination of the buzzing campus life of the students and multifarious events organized in the college. FMC Weekend was initiated in the year 2014. Over the three editions, FMC Weekend has garnered a national reputation and has established its foothold in the hearts of the students. Club of Economics and Finance came into effect in 2016. Student-driven social initiatives like Blood Donation camps, cloth collection drives were in full swing even before. However, the establishment of a Social Service Council under the Gymkhana is likely to further promote connecting with the society for the greater good.
IIT (BHU), being a part of BHU, became a torchbearer of a legacy of attending the convocation in kurta pajama and in sarees. This model has got national acclaim and has been recently emulated in IIT Bombay.
The placements have got a major boost after IT was converted to IIT. This can be justified with IIT (BHU) emerging as the top-ranked institute in terms of placements in MHRD rankings for the year 2016. Even entrepreneurship has got a major boost. Till 2014-15, Technology Business Incubator (TBI) at MCIIE was supported by DST (Department of Science and Technology). However, after 2015, it is funded by IIT (BHU) and that has led to greater autonomy and promotes entrepreneur aspirations among the students. Currently, it is supporting over 15 start-ups. Some of them have been appreciated at the national level. In 2018, a new E-Cell has been initiated that has been conducting workshops for budding entrepreneurs to enhance their skills.
Student Parliament has led to the direct involvement of students in the governance of the institute. The involvement of students and the response of the institute to the immediate demands of the students in the situations of crisis are quite commendable and this justifies that the institute has
evolved a mentality to adopt changes. The student parliamentary elections have given a choice to elect the right people to represent the students. This has led to the development of various infrastructures and the enactment of several laws regarding the security of students, particularly girls.
We lag behind many IITs in various fields.
The Challenges Ahead
The research and development and the security facilities in this college are still at an embryonic stage. The recent slip in the MHRD rankings from 14 in 2016 to 31 in 2017 just emboldens the challenge that lies ahead of us all. With the establishment of its own LAN infrastructure, WiFi routers in every hostel, the expansion of library and efforts towards building a Student Activity Centre, the future of IIT (BHU) looks promising.
I have often come across grumbles regarding the institute. But looking down the line of 4 years, it is unequivocal that IIT (BHU) has come a long way since its conversion from IT to IIT.
Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them backward.” I can relate to these words when I write about the changes I have seen in this college.
The journey ahead is full of insecurities. But I loved being a part of the journey so far, often contributing insignificantly for its development. The institute has to strive for excellence which is the ultimate destination and excellence is a never process. As I conveyed in the beginning, the journey will be the ultimate destination.