In their efforts to formalise plans to set up offshore campuses in foreign countries, the IITs have been trying to draw up a roadmap for the future and working out the feasibility options. “IIT Madras is in discussion with multiple countries, including Tanzania and some other African countries to establish offshore campuses. Some of the models and proposals under discussion include country-specific courses, which may be of local relevance,” says an IIT Madras spokesperson.

Elaborating further, he explains, “There is a demand for mining-related courses in the African nations. In Nepal, there are demands for courses on energy systems while courses in data sciences are in demand everywhere. The institute will be arriving at different models based on feasibility and employment potential in the host countries. IIT Madras and other IITs, along with the Ministry of Education, Government of India, are looking at what courses can be offered, though a final decision is still some time away.”

A draft report is being prepared by a 16-member committee headed by IIT Council standing committee chairperson Dr K Radhakrishnan that will provide the blueprint for the expansion plans and the setting up of satellite campuses. The directors of seven IITs – Mumbai, Delhi, Kharagpur, Madras, Kanpur, Guwahati, and Dhanbad – and the vice-chancellors of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Banaras Hindu University, University of Hyderabad, and the Director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, are among the members of the committee.

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Back in December 2020, a letter from IIT Delhi was issued to the Ministry of Education seeking a permit to open a campus in Saudi Arabia. “The idea was to start a 4-year BS programme in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Bioinformatics for which admissions could be based on a SAT like eligibility criteria,” says IIT Delhi former director and Pillay Chair Professor in EE, V Ramgopal Rao. He explains that BTech as a degree has a direct co-relation with JEE Advanced, hence, it would have been too tough for the international students as an admission criterion. “The point was to give the BS programme its own distinct identity,” he adds.

“The aim of the initiative was to enable foreign students to spend a year of their degree programme at the IIT Delhi campus which would help the institute gain foreign revenues and attain more cultural and social diversity. Additionally, international student cohorts at the campus would increase the student count for which both revenues and rankings would go up. While the ministry had said that the letter was sent to the ministry of Law to look at the possibility of further implementation, now a committee has been formed to look at the various modalities,” Rao adds.

Last year, the Centre had issued guidelines to allow institutions of eminence to open overseas campuses after acquiring the Ministry of Education’s nod and no-objection certificates from the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs. This was in keeping with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, it was said.

In the present scenario, a senior spokesperson from IIT Delhi on condition of anonymity says, “A combination of both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are being considered, though at IIT Delhi the focus would be more on offering undergraduate Engineering programmes across four streams. While the ministry has given the green signal to the IITs to make their foreign forays, setting up a campus in a new ecosystem is a challenge due to the different regulatory environment – not too many universities succeed with their satellite campuses overseas. A lot also depends on the diplomatic ties between the countries that keeps changing with time.”

The spokesperson further informs that a strong research component and PhD programmes will be offered by the IITs to attract foreign faculty to these campuses. “The IITs would individually seek out their options, and not work jointly to realise their global aspirations,” he adds.

BJ Rao, vice-chancellor, University of Hyderabad, who is part of the 16-member committee informs, “The countries where the campuses would be set up gave their requirements following which the partner institutes are identified through mutual consultancy. These institutes – which in the first round of implementation are mostly the IITs – would be working out the financial details of the model, and the recipient country will bear the expenditure.”

The campuses, he claims, will be set up within a few months to maximum a year, with faculty pool drawn largely drawn from the IITs. “India is a country of surplus talent, hence, such offshore opportunities will reflect its knowledge base. The universities will be considered in the second round of selections,” he says.





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