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June 2, 2003
What is it that sets IIT-Kharagpur apart? There are two factors, somewhat unrelated to academics, that give it its excellence quotient: ambience and location. "It is like a modern day gurukul," explains Director Shishir K. Dube. "Unlike other IITs, we are far away from a metropolis. With teachers and students living on the campus, there is constant interaction."
Perhaps, it is in recognition of this that the Centre makes a generous grant to the college every year. The Rs. 100 crore has gone a long way in improving facilities. Over the years, IIT Kharagpur has developed the largest technical library in Asia (with over 3.5 lakh volumes), the biggest electronics library in India and has installed computers in every hostel room and facilitated "e-classrooms" with 2,100 hours of video lectures.
Besides the infrastructural back-up, it is Kharagpur's "mandate" to ensure that its students "have a better knowledge of the industry" that they are most likely to cherish. Much before the 1999 Ramarao Committee recommendations and the Central Government's accent on research at technology schools, IIT-Kharagpur was on the road to R&D. The institution has tie-ups with a host of national and international heavyweights like DRDO, ISRO, National Aerospace, the Tatas, SAIL, National Semiconductor Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments and Johns Hopkins University. As part of the initiative, the college invites professionals from the industry as guest lecturers. In their second year, many BTechs are expected to work on a six-month project with a partner company. It also helps that the institute's R&D and consultancy activities have raked in almost Rs 58 crore this year for ploughing back into projects.
The most astounding success on campus has been the National Semiconductor Corporation-sponsored VLSI (very large-scale integration) lab. One of three such laboratories outside the US, the VLSI lab at Kharagpur has produced 12 cutting-edge chips in the past two years for use by the global infotech market. No other institute in the country has any chip-making facilities. "IIT-Kharagpur has now become a brand name," says Professor Anil Bhowmick, dean of sponsored research and consultancy.
But Dube, who joined IIT-Kharagpur last year, thinks this is not enough. An authority on oceanographic studies, he has worked with the Indian Meteorological Department, IIT-Delhi and at institutions like the University of Reading, UK, and the Florida State University. The storm-surge prediction software that he developed at IIT-Delhi-where he spent 25 years-is being used in meteorological services in various countries. Dube wants iit-Kharagpur to focus on such areas of research. Accordingly, the institute has adopted what it calls 13 "mission projects", introducing new subjects like mechanised-food engineering, molecular biotechnology and nano science. "We do not want to come up with only those technologies that will only take us to the moon," says Dube. "IITs are pledged to nation-building and we would like to give something back to our region."
Most IIT-ians would agree. The stamp of an IIT is its sense of national identity besides academic superiority. And it is no coincidence that six of the first seven ranks in the engineering stream-except for BITS Pilani in the fifth position - have gone to these premier institutes. For the past three years, none of the engineering colleges have been able to uproot either IIT Kharagpur or IIT Kanpur which is in the second slot. The contest between the two themselves was close with Kharagpur beating Kanpur by a mere 1 point.
In third place, IIT Mumbai has climbed one position despite dropping to the 11th position on factual data. REC, Trichy, which bagged the 17th rank last year, is No. 8 this time. Conspicuous by its absence is the College of Engineering, Roorkee. It secured the 11th rank perceptually, but lack of factual information weighed it down. As they say, there is always the next year.
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