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Syria requests IIT, India demurs

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI
  • Published 24.06.08
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New Delhi June 24: Syria has requested India to set up an Indian Institute of Technology in its capital Damascus to help upgrade its technical manpower, becoming the second country after Singapore to seek an IIT on its soil.

India has told Syria it will consider the proposal, but is unlikely to agree to launch its premier technical education brand in the West Asian country any time soon, top government officials have revealed.

Syria made the request during the official visit by its President, Bashar al-Assad, to India last week, sources said.

The proposal, submitted to India by Syrian technology and telecommunications minister Emad Sabouni accompanying the visiting President, says an IIT would help the strife-torn country develop its technical manpower, sources said.

“Syrian officials are clearly impressed by the strides made by the IITs, and by the contribution of these institutes to India’s development. One official even referred to the IITs as a ‘shining example for Asia’ during the consultation,” a senior technical education officer at the ministry of human resource development said.

Under the proposal, Syria will provide land and will subsidise the institute, sources said. The remaining funding and teachers and their requirements are to be provided by India, under the proposal.

The “massive” demand for an IIT degree in West Asia would make the institute profitable for India, the Syrian delegates argued, sources said.

Earlier this year, the Joint Entrance Examination for admissions to the IITs was held at a Dubai centre, in addition to venues in India, for the first time. Dubai is the only foreign JEE centre, and was set up to meet an increasing demand from West Asian students.

Any decision on Syria’s proposal for an IIT will be taken by HRD minister Arjun Singh, under India’s education policy framework.

But the ministry is not yet ready to set up a full-fledged IIT beyond India’s shores, sources said.

The UPA government has announced eight new IITs to be set up during the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12). At least six of these — in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Orissa and Gujarat — are set to start offering courses from this year, while the Centre is trying to launch a seventh, IIT Himachal Pradesh, before the academic session starts.

Locations for most of the new IITs are yet to be finalised, and the existing institutes face a severe faculty crunch. To compound their worries, the existing IITs have been given the responsibility of hand-holding the new institutes.

“We are already struggling with the existing IITs and the new institutes. With our own internal problems, it is extremely difficult for us to start new IITs abroad,” an HRD ministry source said.

Singapore had requested an IIT in 2006, and repeated its plea the following year.