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The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are autonomous public institutes of higher education, located in India. They are governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 which has declared them as institutions of national importance and lays down their powers, duties, and framework for governance. The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 lists twenty-three institutes. Each IIT is autonomous, linked to the others through a common council (IIT Council), which oversees their administration. The Minister of Human Resource Development is the ex officio Chairperson of the IIT Council. As of 2018, the total number of seats for undergraduate programs in all IITs is 11,279.
The history of the IIT system dates back to 1946 when Sir Jogendra Singh of the Viceroy‘s Executive Council set up a committee whose task was to consider the creation of Higher Technical Institutions for post-war industrial development in India. The 22-member committee, headed by Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, recommended the establishment of these institutions in various parts of India, along the lines of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with affiliated secondary institutions.
The first Indian Institute of Technology was founded in May 1950 at the site of the Hijli Detention Camp in Kharagpur, West Bengal. The name “Indian Institute of Technology” was adopted before the formal inauguration of the institute on 18 August 1951 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. On 15 September 1956, the Parliament of India passed the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act, declaring it as an Institute of National Importance. Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India, in the first convocation address of IIT Kharagpur in 1956 said:
|“||Here in the place of that Hijli Detention Camp stands the fine monument of India, representing India’s urges, India’s future in the making. This picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India.||”|
On the recommendations of the Sarkar Committee, four campuses were established at Bombay (1958), Madras (1959), Kanpur (1959), and Delhi (1961). The location of these campuses was chosen to be scattered throughout India to prevent regional imbalance. The Indian Institutes of Technology Act was amended to reflect the addition of new IITs. Student agitations in the state of Assam made Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi promise the creation of a new IIT in Assam. This led to the establishment of a sixth institution at Guwahati under the Assam Accord in 1960. In 2001, the University of Roorkee, India’s oldest engineering college, was converted into IIT Roorkee.
IITG, established in 1994
Over the past few years, there have been a number of developments toward establishing new IITs. On October 1, 2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced plans to create more IITs “by upgrading existing academic institutions that have the necessary promise and potential”. Subsequent developments led to the formation of the S K Joshi Committee, in November 2003, to guide the selection of the five institutions which would be converted into IITs. Based on the initial recommendations of the Sarkar Committee, it was decided that new IITs should be spread throughout the country. When the government expressed its willingness to correct this regional imbalance, 16 states demanded IITs. Since the S K Joshi Committee prescribed strict guidelines for institutions aspiring to be IITs, only seven colleges were selected for final consideration. Plans are also reported to open IITs outside India, although there has not been much progress in this regard. Eventually in the 11th Five year plan, eight states were identified for establishment of new IITs. In 2008 and 2009, eight new IITs were set up in Gandhinagar, Jodhpur, Hyderabad, Indore, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Ropar, and Mandi. Following same selection process since 1972, in 2012 the Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University was made a member of the IITs.
The entire allocation by the central government for 2017-18 budget for all Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) was slightly over ₹70 billion (US$980 million). However, the aggregate money spent by Indian students for tertiary education in the United States was about six times more than what the central government spends on all IITs.