The Indian Institutes of Technology may not figure in the top 200 on several international university rankings but they remain the first choice when it comes to undergraduate education for the children of overseas Indians returning home, particularly IIT alumni.
One of the main considerations for NRIs to come back to India is to encourage their children to get into IITs. Like Indian students, foreign nationals too have to write the JEE (Main) and figure among the top 1.5 lakh candidates to sit for the JEE (Advanced) and clear that test to get into the IITs.
Dilip Kumar’s parents, for instance, shifted from Dubai to India five years ago with the objective of getting him into an IIT. He trained for the last couple of years and joined IIT-Kharagpur this year. The Muralishankars also relocated to Coimbatore from the US four years ago to help their daughter Smriti prepare for the IITs.
“Many IIT alumni who have lived overseas prefer to send their children to the IITs even if they can afford a foreign education,” said R Nagarajan, dean of international and alumni relations at IIT-Madras.
An IIT alumnus who has lived abroad said he wanted his daughter to study in IIT because “you cannot go wrong if you put your child through IIT”.
Another said he insisted his son complete his under graduation at an IIT, because it is a good entry point to US universities. “My experience showed me that foreign institutions respect a degree from an IIT because the students are more prepared to handle the rigour of higher studies anywhere in the world,” he said.
And that, say academics, is one of the main considerations for this move.
A degree from the IITs carries weight in top institutions in the world, as the institutions have been identified as providing good grounding for higher studies anywhere on the globe.
Professor Nagarajan said an MIT professor once told him he would prefer an IIT graduate over one from a US grad school when it comes to graduate admissions. “The chances of an IITian getting into, say, Berkeley are high. This is because the curriculum is comprehensive and there are no holes, whereas in the US the curriculum is so flexible that students can even replace core courses with others,” he said. For instance, a student in a US university may be able to give up the course on mass transfer, which is part of the core chemical engineering curriculum in IIT and cannot be skipped.
Speaking of his own experience in Yale University after graduating as a chemical engineer from IIT-M, professor Nagarajan said, “Graduate studies in the US is tough, but while some of my classmates from other countries were struggling I was able to cope up. It wasn’t because I was more brilliant than they were, but because I had gotten into the pattern of thinking in a certain way. I would not have been able to keep up if not for IIT.”
Many believe that getting students to prepare for JEE (Advanced) from Class 6 trains them to think analytically, helping them excel in higher studies in overseas institutions.
Previous worries that IITs may be lagging behind foreign institutions in promoting entrepreneurship are now being dismissed because of the supportive ecosystem for startups on campus, said IIT faculty.