Hike in the fees of IIT and preposterous reasons for supporting it

So Mr. Ramgopal Rao put up a long post in Facebook mentioning his reasons for supporting it. It can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/rao.ramgopal/posts/10218188716681820?hc_location=ufi
Lets go through it one by one.

1. Many top universities in the world have strong Bachelors programmes and strong Ph.D. programmes. The universities which are running large masters programmes abroad are looking at these as revenue earners and charge a huge fee. The streams have also been modified and made contemporary like Cyber security, AI etc. In all top universities abroad, while doing Ph.D., many students get a masters degree along the way. This is how masters programmes have changed all over the world in the last decade.

Yes they do. Some universities in California do it. TU Delft and UTwente in Netherlands do it. But it does not mean its a nice thing. However there is a difference. Netherlands does not charge the high tuition fees from its own citizens or citizens of other countries in EEA (it makes sense as well; the people of those countries pay tax into their own system and its fair that they get a share of it). As for American universities, most do not treat its students as cash cows.

2. Students who come to the M.Tech programmes in IITs are not coming to become academicians. Those who wish to become one, can directly register for a Ph.D. All IITs allow a direct admission into Ph.D (with a high stipend and almost zero tuition fee) without M.Tech as a requirement, including the PMRF. Eventually, Ph.D. students registered in IITs will be able to receive a masters degree once they complete certain credits. Even if it is not so today in some institutes, I am sure, it will indeed become a norm eventually to make the Ph.D. admissions attractive.

Being interested in a PhD does not work like that. I was interested in PhD before I went for MS and then I realized that I am not. I liked working in groups but in PhD, you are expected to do things solely on your own. Also PhDs does not always mean a career in academics. A lot of highly qualified PhDs are required in the industry as well. Look up two new startups in Belgium: Pharrowtech and TuskIC. Both of them are founded by people with PhD degrees.
The way it works is you start doing your Masters, and then during your thesis, you will know if you want to continue in research or go to the industry. By increasing the tuition fees and forcing students who cannot afford to go the PhD way, PhD programs will see more drop out.

3. Students who join the M. Tech programmes in IITs are joining these programmes to find a job, which is fine. IITs therefore need to align their M.Tech programmes to the market requirements. Because of government freely giving fellowships, many institutions are running outdated masters programmes in streams which are not even seen as current by the Industry. In the current scenario, there is no strong motivation for any one to change. Many students take admission into the M.Tech programmes and over 50% of them quit as soon as they find a job. Among the remaining, many prepare for other competitive examinations and have no interest in what they are pursuing. Country’s precious Resources (IIT seats and government funds) are wasted in such a scenario with no benefit to any one. Today, we have uninterested students studying in outdated programmes which are completely disconnected with the market demands. Over 50% dropouts in masters programmes today in IITs only means that, students value the jobs they get after their B.Tech more than the career they can build with their M.Techs. How can we spend tax payers money to offer free education to them, when they themselves see no value in such an education? This is an alarming situation we have gotten ourselves into and obviously, a bit of a reset was needed. I am happy that Ministry and Council took such a bold decision.

If outdated coursework is the problem, then how does increasing fees help? If students don’t understand the value of doing a Masters program, its a different problem altogether. It means that the country does not give a higher preference to people with a Masters degree. And that is symbolic of a lack of highly technical R&D jobs that require an advanced technical degree.

4. If students are willing to pay 20 lakhs for an MBA degree in an IIM, they can surely pay 4 lakhs for a masters degree in IITs. Nobody drops out of IIMs since they see a value in IIM-MBA programmes. On the other hand, we see over 50% dropouts in IIT- M.Tech programmes. After the Council decision, since IITs now need to attract high fee paying students, I am sure, institutions will also align themselves to market requirements and will have a serious relook at the masters streams they are offering. This will bring in accountability at all levels. In the long run, the masters programmes will become contemporary and will train students for the jobs which exist in the Industry.

Business courses are so expensive because they require not just highly educated faculty members but also people who have a good clout in the industry. And to draw the latter talent, you need to pay them high salaries. Are they willing to pay the professors in IITs those high salaries?

And what is this constant talk about market requirements? The main focus of a Masters program is to teach students the basics and how to use them in a real life use-cases and some exposure to industry grade tools. The latter part keeps changing.

Masters program are not meant to teach students how to use the Eclipse IDE but how to take advantage of multi-threading.

5. IITs will focus on B.Tech programmes and Ph.D. programmes like what all research intensive universities worldwide do. Masters programmes in IITs will train students for jobs and those who are interested in academics, will switch over to a Ph.D. The top GATE scorers will still be offered admissions into M.Tech programmes directly as Teaching Assistants and will be offered fee waivers and stipend. However, the fee waivers and stipend will be linked to their role as Teaching Assistants. Others will get into these programmes paying a fee by taking loans, if needed. Since the programmes will get aligned with market requirements, they will be guaranteed a job and can repay loans.

Good researcher ! = Good teaching assistant.
And I studied in KU Leuven. It has been consistently ranked in the top 50 universities. It has been ranked most innovative university in Europe for three years in a row. Its also 600 years old.
And the attitude there is never that Masters program is for jobs. I am pretty sure its not the case anywhere else in the world.

6. The Council resolution also says that all needy students will be given fee concessions and scholarships similar to the B.Tech students. No eligible student in the B.Tech programmes has ever been denied admission in IITs because of her/his poor financial background. There is no reason to believe that this will be any different for top GATE scorers seeking admission into the M.Tech programmes. This is our moral and social responsibility

No, it just makes life difficult for students. It also puts them at the mercy of the administration. Education should be a right and not a charity.

7. The freebies that we have been doling out with tax payers money, to students who are uninterested and into systems which have become unaccountable, needed to stop at some point. Let’s not look at this from an individual’s perspective but rather see it in the larger nation building perspective. IITs are now taking loans from HEFA for their infrastructure. IIT Delhi needs to repay some thing like Rs. 580 Crores to Canara Bank over the next 10 years. Same is the case with IIT Bombay and others. There is a great need to increase our internal revenues.

Which means that these universities are not able to draw funded projects from the industry, which means that the ecosystem of doing state of the art does not exist in India or the quality is not good enough to command the top dollars that foreign varsities charge, which means that the faculty is not good enough. But of course, lets put the burden on the students.

8. IITs need to produce a large number of high quality Ph.Ds who can go out and build top class institutions, get into entrepreneurship and build research culture in our industries. We need to attract top GATE scores into our Ph.D. programmes through full fellowships and scholarships. The limited funds we have need to be diverted into these Ph.D. programmes. M.Tech programmes for a large number of GATE qualifiers need to be self funded (with a guaranteed job at the end of the programme) or sponsored programmes by industries. IIT Delhi has been successfully running for some time one such M. Tech sponsored programme in VLSI. This VDTT programme is entirely funded by semiconductor industries. This M.Tech programme still attracts top GATE scores but with the fellowship paid by the industries.

Yes we need more of such programs but it does not mean that we make life difficult for all Masters students.

9. Industries need to take ownership of M.Tech programmes in IITs and not leave it to the government. It is in their direct interest. M.Techs have indeed played a significant role in building the nation by serving our public sector units and private industries such as TI, Samsung, IBM, Intel, GE, Micron and many many others. Time they start investing their funds in building these M.Tech programmes in IITs and also work with these institutions closely to make the M.Tech programmes relevant. The modified CSR rules also allow this now. We are more than eager to work with them. We can then use our limited resources for doing other things.

Educating people is in the interest of the country. A highly educated population means crime rates are lower, people tend to take better care of themselves etc.

And the reason these companies don’t invest in India is because they don’t yet see the value. Companies always do things that suits them. If investing in India means they will get the best, they would do it. If not, then they won’t.

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