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October - 2009 - issue > Director Speak
IIT-Hyderabad A Space to Explore
U B Desai
Monday, October 5, 2009
Today, academic institutions have to be competitive globally; it is just not enough to be competitive locally. Perhaps, the only way to be ahead of others in this competition is through inventions and innovations. Thus, at IIT-Hyderabad we have decided to have this as our focus from day one. But this, by no means, implies any compromise in teaching – excellence in teaching, which has been the hallmark of IITs, will continue. In fact, leading universities across the globe are those that have excelled both in research and teaching. Consequently, the vision of IIT-H is: IIT-H will be the cradle for inventions and innovations. It will advance knowledge and scholarship to students in science, technology, and liberal arts and equip them to handle the challenges of the nation and the world in the 21st century.

The thrust at IIT-H will be inventions at all levels: in technology development, science, teaching, liberal arts, theory, and entrepreneurship. Being a young institution, we do have the freedom to chart a course without being encumbered by legacy.

How we are going to achieve this is the question. Of course, resources will be required; but resources alone will not suffice. The question does not have an easy or a clear answer. One thought is to create an ambience for uninhibited thinking. The point being that, innovations flourish when we create open spaces in mind. This has to be complemented by an environment that encourages out of the box thinking. Another aspect is to create a confluence of disciplines – it is well known today that excitement is at the intersection of various disciplines. We plan to achieve this by creating schools as a cluster of departments that have some commonality. By doing so we hope to create an atmosphere where people from different disciplines are likely to cross paths, and this crossing of paths hopefully will lead to exciting cross-disciplinary research.

Another approach is to create new entities that are impacted by technology and which in turn can impact technology development. In this context, IIT-H plans to have a Medical School, a School of Design that will house Media Design, Architecture, and Industrial Design schools. Moreover, there will be a School of Liberal Arts, which will house a new Department of Fine Arts, besides various departments like Economics, Psychology, Social Anthropology, Linguistics, Literature, and Contemporary Studies. Creation of these new entities will indeed be a major differentiator for IIT-H.

At the teaching front, we plan to create a more flexible academic program: Flexibility in choosing a bouquet of courses, in the pace of learning, and in combining projects with classroom learning. There will be emphasis on structured as well as unstructured learning. The challenge is to provide flexibility without losing focus and high quality.

It is well accepted that entrepreneurship is a vehicle for social change. At IIT-H we plan to take this mantra forward. We plan to facilitate entrepreneurship for faculty as well as students by having proactive policies. Our Master Plan includes an entrepreneurship incubator as well as a Science and Technology Park. Students at IIT-H, with help from other IITs, have already started an e-Cell.

When one looks around the world one sees that institutions of excellence have a large number of foreign students and faculty in their campus. In fact, one could argue that when ‘already achieved’ and the ‘aspiring achievers’ rub shoulders exciting ideas emerge; and at IIT-H we plan to emulate this. We plan to have a total student population of 20,000, of which roughly 4,000 will be visiting students.

We envisage a total faculty strength of 2,000, of which 500 will be visiting faculty. Of course, generating the resources to achieve this target will be a major challenge. Moreover, this will be a part of international collaboration that IIT-H plans to have with major academic institutions across the globe. In this regard, we have already initiated collaboration with Japanese institutions as part of Indo-Japan collaboration for IIT-H, and have already had exchange of students.

Another focus at IIT-H to foster innovations, not only within the confines of the institution but also in the whole of the country, is to have an inclusive approach. We plan to have active collaborations with institutions and research laboratories across India. Already on the anvil is collaboration between IIT-H and University of Hyderabad.

The article would be incomplete without expressing our gratitude to IIT -Madras, our mentor IIT. Active help and support from IIT-M has been exceptional to say the least.

To conclude, inventions and innovations (InI) are what will give us the edge in times to come. The challenge is to create an ambience for fostering ‘InI’.
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