Amid a debate around recent hike in M.Tech programme' fees at Indian Institutes of Technology, a former top government official said on Monday their courses need to be attuned continuously with new and emerging technologies and with industry needs. R Chandrashekhar, who was conferred Distinguished Alumnus award of IIT Bombay in 2010, backed the fee increase, saying it would also exert pressure on the IITs to make their programmes more market- and research-orientated to keep abreast with the changing times.
"...if the fees are disproportionately low in comparison with the economic environment, then lot of people do that programme pending getting into a job," the former Telecom Commission Chairman told PTI.
"...the fact is that these courses are heavily subsidised, and therefore people just do it....people shouldn't be doing master's courses to pass time, or while waiting for a job. They should do it to actually further their knowledge, becoming more specialised", he said.
Mr Chandrashekhar received MSc degree in Chemistry from IIT Bombay, and a MS degree in computer science from the Pennsylvania State University, the USA. He is also former President of NASSCOM. But he stressed that any qualified student who has the capacity should not be denied an M.Tech programme seat because of financial constraints.
Welcoming the M.Tech course fee hike, Chandrashekhar, a former Secretary in the Department of Telecommunications, said IIT programmes are expensive and some of them are experimental requiring high-cost facilities.
"..people do Master's programme and then apply for some job which absolutely has nothing to do with that (their chosen subject)...so, it's a just further waste of resources", he said. IITs should enroll students who are not only qualified but also doing the courses because they want to do that and become specialists in that particular area, according to him.
"This will also in a sense put pressure on IITs to make the programmes more market-oriented...," he said.
"...certainly low fees have resulted in people continuing to study not because they are interested in it, not because they want to improve their qualification or anything, but just to sort of pass time or while waiting for job, while applying for job," Mr Chandrashekhar said.
He said IIT faculty may not be very conversant in emerging technologies unless they have taken the pain to keep abreast of them.
"So, all of this (fee hike) will put pressure on IITs and the faculty also to keep more abreast with time".
Looking from industry point of view, Mr Chandrashekhar said India is very strong in information technology (IT) with a global footprint.
"But also we know that we are weak in (IT)products...don't have enough products, we also know that our IP creation and research-orientation is very limited, aside from research centres set up by global companies in India where people are hired as employees for tech jobs," he said.
Mr Chandrashekhar underscored the need the promote research which is self-driven in the sense tasking is also done by people who are trained within the country.
"Masters and research programmes (at IITs) need to be attuned continuously -- not as a one-time exercise -- with new and emerging technologies and with industry needs," he said.
Post-graduate programmes need to develop the "thinking" of people in the direction of research, "questioning things", productionisation and so on, Mr Chandrashekhar said.
"So, a little do's of commercial skills like business management.. some of the basics...(need to be imparted at IITs)because technical people who become entrepreneurs also need to know a little bit about running the business," he said.
"If you only know how to run a business and you are not a technocrat, you can't be an entrepreneur in new emerging technology areas," Mr Chandrashekhar observed.
He stressed the need for greater thrust by IITs on business orientation, imparting right skills for productionisation and entrepreneurship, along with promoting research and "enquiry mindset".
The IIT Council led by Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' on Friday approved a proposal to hike the fee of the masters programme and bring it to the level of the B.Tech courses. The decision was taken on recommendations of a three-member committee on reforms on M.Tech programme in IITs.
"The committee had recommended proactive increase in the MTech fee and bringing it at least to the level of BTech fee (Rs two lakh per year) over the next three years. Simultaneously the needy students will be supported directly by the government through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) or arranging educational loans," a senior HRD Ministry official had said.
M.Tech programmes at IITs record a dropout rate of over 50 per cent as students treat the courses as a stop gap arrangement till they land a job or crack a competitive exam, IIT-Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao has said, and termed the recent hike in course fee a "surgical strike" on" uninterested" students.
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