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The Final Push
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Tamil Fault Lines
Touchdown Stars

Health Without Wealth
The Abandoned

Khushwant, My Father
Picture Imperfect
The New Style Order
Heritage in a Toy Box

 

 CURRENT ISSUE MAY 17, 2004  
cover story INDIA TODAY-ORG-MARG SURVEY ON COLLEGES

Engineering

The IITs Continue to Reign. Kanpur leads while Roorkee is back among the winners.

By Sharmila Dhal

It is time to chill. The "bhulla" session is in full swing and the students are at their flippant best. After a rigorous day of study, there is nothing better than this informal grouping in the evenings when they lounge around in the first empty classroom that they can find and joke about everything from the theatre of politics and Bollywood to the more immediate affairs of the institute and their own idiosyncrasies. As the conversation in jest flows, two students struggle to push open the door and let themselves into the room. "Why can't it open on its own?" mutters one of them in sheer annoyance. Ordinarily, such a remark would go unheard. Not here though. It leads to animated prattle on how the door could actually be made to open on its own. Somewhere along the line, a workable solution cuts through the cacophony and a prototype for a fully automatic door eventually put into place.

SPIRAL OF SUCCESS: A sense of inquiry leads to creativity at IIT Kanpur

If that is creativity, that is also the mark of IIT Kanpur where innovations are almost a force of habit. Having topped the charts after being in the No. 2 slot for three years, the premier institute, which has produced such names as N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys and Satish Kaura of Samtel, has consistently striven to better its performance. To be fair, the IITs in general continue to rule by keeping the first seven ranks within the family. Among themselves, however, there has been a reshuffle with IIT Delhi climbing to the second position-from No. 6 last year-and long undisputed topper IIT Kharagpur slipping to No.7. Significantly, IIT Roorkee which did not figure in the top 10 in 2003, moves to the sixth slot.

Top 10 Ranking
2004
2003
2002
1
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
2
2
2
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
6
10
3
Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai
3
4
4
Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai
4
5
5
Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati
7
-
6
Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati
-
7
7
Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
1
1
8
BITS, Pilani
5
3
9
Anna University, Chennai
10
-
10
Delhi College of Engineering, Delhi
-
-
(-) means the colleges didn't figure in the top 10 of the previous years mentioned.
National rankings are derived from a combination of perceptual and factual ranks.
The city-wise ratings below are based on perceptual ranks alone.

Back at IIT Kanpur, Director Sanjay G. Dhande is careful not to get carried away. "The IITs are at the crossroads today," he explains. "The challenge is to produce world-class students for Indian firms to become global players."

The key to this is research. Accordingly, students are imbibed with a sense of inquiry and are taught early on that it is the little things which make the big difference. A breakthrough achieved by Professor Manindra Agarwal and two students of computer science reflects this best. All they did was ask a simple question: how does one identify a prime number with too many digits? What followed was the computing of a unique algorithm that could do the needful. Crucial in identifying prime numbers for computer security systems, the patented discovery is being used worldwide today.

Innovations at IIT Kanpur never rot as ideas. They are invariably implemented. Says Narayana Murthy: "The institute has always made a judicious balance between research and application and has never sacrificed one for the other."

What matters is the active participation of students in the projects. "Few places allow for so much freedom," says student Saurav Nanda. Complementing this is an emphasis on social responsibility which shows up not just in the institute's external social initiatives in healthcare, electrification of villages and agriculture but also within the campus.

The 1,200-acre premises is a lush green mini city in itself with swanky complexes for various departments, plush halls of residence, a state-of-the-art hospital, a 1,300-seat auditorium, even an air strip of its own. But what is more striking is the bonding between the faculty and the students and among the students themselves. Much of this, says student Chandramohan Thakur, is possible because of the prevalent "baap" culture under which a senior mentors four-five freshers. Even when they graduate into being "baaps" in the second year, he caters to them as their "dada". A simple idea again but one that makes a world of difference.

 

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