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IIT unity plan for better rank

New Delhi, Jan. 16: The Indian Institutes of Technology have fallen back on the old saying unity is strength after being ranked embarrassingly low among global universities for successive years.

At a brainstorming session here today, directors and chairpersons of the 16 IITs discussed whether the tech schools should be projected as a single entity when agencies like the Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli Symonds and Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranked institutions.

If the idea is followed through, sources in the HRD ministry and some IIT directors said, the premier institutions were likely to score higher on parameters like volume of research, technology transfer, international students, international faculty and peer comment.

“We are considering this idea that all the IITs will present themselves as one entity or brand. We are going to write to the ranking agencies on this,” higher education secretary Ashok Thakur said after the meeting.

Only four IITs ranked among the top 500 world institutions in 2013, while three figured on the list the previous year. None ranked among the top 200.

Asked if such a single-entity projection was possible, Thakur said some of the top universities in the world had several campuses at different places but are considered single institutions.

“If the foreign universities’ multiple campuses… can be considered as one entity, why not the IITs?” he said. “In fact, the IITs have been created under one law, the Institute of Technology Act.”

Not every IIT director agreed that the plan would work. Some said it would weaken the case of the IITs because of the disparity in achievements.

The older IITs, for example, have a better record of citation per faculty — or work of a faculty cited by another faculty in a research paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

If all the IITs are branded as a single entity, this section said, the citation-per-faculty score would come down because the average would have to be taken.

IIT Kanpur director Indranil Manna suggested the IITs should participate in the category of technological institutions. “Institutions like Harvard University have a wide range of subjects and departments. The IITs only focus on engineering education. It would be better if we compete among technological universities,” Manna said.

Another director doubted whether the IITs could be projected as a single entity. “Each IIT is an autonomous institution. They don’t share faculties and students,” he said. “How can they be considered as a single entity?”

The final decision will be taken after a panel set up by the Standing Committee of the IIT Council gives its report.