The Telegraph
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Push for uniform NIT syllabus amid 'intrusion' grouse

New Delhi, Oct. 13: The government is pushing a common curriculum for the National Institutes of Technology, many of which see the move as an intrusion into their academic autonomy but have not spoken up.

A meeting of the NIT Council, headed by Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani, set up a committee on October 1 to work out a model curriculum for the 31 institutes.

The committee is headed by V.K. Saraswat, a member of the Niti Aayog and a former chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It will study the existing NIT curricula and suggest an upgrade, a task that has so far been the exclusive domain of the respective NIT senates.

Under the NIT Act, each institute's senate, headed by its director, is responsible for its standards of teaching, overall education levels and examinations. The senates have been revising the institutes' curricula - which vary from one another to some extent - every two to three years with the help of in-house experts.

The expert panel has been set up under a clause of the act that empowers the NIT Council to advise the institutes on matters relating to course duration, admission standards and other academic matters, sources said.

Two institute directors told The Telegraph the government move was a step towards absolute uniformity, which ran counter to these institutes' autonomy.

"By forming such a high-level panel, the government has ensured that every NIT will adopt the syllabus without any questions, thus limiting the scope for diversity or innovation in individual institutes' curricula," one of the directors said.

Another director said the necessity for the uniform curriculum was never explained to the directors at the October 1 meeting. He said the directors had learnt about the move for a common syllabus after entering the venue. He conceded that no one asked any questions at the meeting.

NIT Council sources said each institute's senate will have the right to amend the common curriculum but did not clarify what magnitude of changes can be carried out.

The Saraswat committee members include Geetha Bali, chairperson of the Maulana Azad NIT in Bhopal; U.B. Desai, director of IIT Hyderabad; Ajay Sharma, the NIT Delhi director; and academics such as Ashok Jhunjhunwala, A.K. Ghosh and Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath.

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