23 Jan 2022  |   05:55am IST

IIT students suffer sans permanent campus: Director

Goa IIT, which began functioning in July 2016, has been operating from the temporary campus of Goa Engineering College at Farmagudi. There have been three unsuccessful attempts to find land for the campus and relocate it. All three failed. In 2020 land was allocated to the IIT at Shel Melauli, but protests from the people forced the government to withdraw that land. The government then constituted an expert committee to search another alternative site for establishing IIT Goa permanent campus, which is yet to finalise the plot of land for the IIT. SHWETA KAMAT spoke to the IIT Goa Director Barada Kanta Mishra who is also a member of the committee, on how the delay in allotting land has affected the functioning and progress of the institute
IIT students suffer sans permanent campus: Director

SHWETA KAMAT: It was in 2014 that the IIT was allotted to Goa by the Central government, however, in the absence of a dedicated campus, it is functioning from temporary campus at Goa Engineering College (GEC). Has the functioning been affected in any manner?

BARADA KANTA MISHRA: The functioning has been severely affected due to our operations in the temporary campus. GEC has given whatever it could through its parent department i.e. the Department of Technical Education. We now understand that it is impossible for them to do anything further. The limited space has affected our ability to expand our teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, library, innovation center, etc. For instance, our innovation centre operates virtually as there is no space to create a physical innovation centre, tinkering lab, etc, where brilliant ideas could be brainstormed, prototyped and converted into products. At the same time, all IITs have large classrooms for large classes, invited lectures, ceremonial occasions, etc and small classrooms only for small classes, tutorials, group discussions, etc. We are operating only with small classrooms that we managed to construct, and only the one large classroom that GEC provided. However, with the increase in intake of UG students over the years due to education policies in the country, we are finding it difficult to manage large classes. This creates various operational issues as well as leads to inefficient utilisation of faculty time.

We are very conscious of the quality of faculty we hire. Over the years, we have hired very good faculty members who would wish to contribute to the local science and technology environment, local engineering education, in addition to their activities at IIT Goa. All of this can only be achieved properly and at scale only when there is sufficient space to create the necessary learning environments. This also affects sundry things like electrical load requirements. Even with the minimal increase in faculty and student numbers, given our infrastructural limitations, our electrical needs are increasing. These needs cannot be fully supported, technically, by the existing electrical infrastructure that GEC and IIT Goa are sharing.

SK: Has the IIT lost out on grants because of space?

BKM: As far as research grants go, we have not been able to secure some of the large research grants precisely because we couldn’t provide the space necessary to create the related laboratory infrastructure. Such large research grants are not meant just for an IIT but they are meant to create an ecosystem involving nearby educational institutions in research activities. We see this as lost opportunities both for IIT Goa and the other educational institutions in Goa.

Our hostel capacity is now severely limited. We only let our UG students stay in our hostel. PG students, especially research scholars, have been accommodated in off-campus housing which we have rented – this is not a desirable situation in an IIT. When an IIT has its own campus, it is possible to create infrastructural spaces where people from nearby schools, colleges and public institutions can come, discuss, learn, etc. IITs are temples of learning and we are always open to everyone and anyone interested in learning.


SK: How has the delay to get a dedicated campus, hampered the progress of the institute?

BKM: It has hampered progress on multiple fronts. We are not able to start new MTech programmes or increase the intake of our existing MTech programmes. We are also not able to increase the intake of PhD students. We have to be mindful that PG programs need research lab infrastructure and spaces for students to sit and do their research. It is extremely difficult to do these with limited infrastructure.

This has also led to an impression among JEE students and their parents that the academic and student life is not fulfilling. Consequently, our opening and closing ranks in JEE are going down. This is extremely sad given that Goa is a State which perhaps is most sought after as a visit destination in the country.

With continued uncertainty with respect to the new campus, the institute finds it difficult to attract as well as retain good faculty. Slowly it has started affecting the faculty who came to Goa to build a career in IIT. That dream is fading fast.


SK: With Goa government failing to provide a dedicated campus, can there be a possibility that the Central government might scrap the project in Goa?

BKM: The Central government will have to take a call on the future course of action. As far as provisions are concerned, there are provisions to shift, merge, etc. It will be unfortunate if Goa loses this opportunity. Goa is such a nice place to have a higher education institution of national importance.


SK: How will the IIT change Goa’s education scenario?

BKM: Faculty members of IIT Goa are already interacting with various colleges in Goa like Don Bosco College of Engineering, Parvatibai Chowgule College of Art and Science, etc. They have conducted workshops for their students and faculty, advised in their Board of Studies, etc. The goal of all this is to energise and build capacity and capability among both the students and the faculty locally. Our students and faculty have also participated in the national science festivals organised in Goa. In fact, we are soon going to have a High Performance Computing Cluster under the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) where we are interested in giving access to interested faculty members and students in the local educational institutions.

We would like such activities to grow which means we should be able to build more resources at our end.


SK: At present how many seats does the institution offer? How many were there earlier?

BKM: In 2021, we had 157 seats on offer across all our BTech programmes. We started with 90 seats in 2016. So, we have grown by more than 50% in our BTech intake over the past five years. Additionally, we run three MTech programmes with a total strength of 36 i.e. 12 each.


SK: How many seats were filled in the last academic year and how many this year?

BKM: In 2021, we filled 157 seats in our UG programs. The 2022 admissions will be conducted in July-August 2022.


SK:What are the different courses offered by the institution?

BKM: We offer BTech degrees in Computer Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Math & Computing. Our MTech programs are in Computer Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Our PhD programs are offered in these three engineering programs as well as in Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Humanities & Social Sciences.


SK: Is there a breakup of the number of Goan and non-Goan students?

BKM: We have Goan and non-Goan students, including girls, in all our programmes – our BTech, MTech, and PhD. Let me just add here that of the more than ten students from Goa who cleared JEE in 2021, only two opted for IIT Goa. This is sad and there is a very strong reason to believe that it is because of our infrastructure compared to other IITs.

It is worth mentioning that the first President Gold Medalist of IIT Goa was bagged by Ms Neha Vilas Shah who hails from Goa.


SK: In the absence of a permanent campus, do non-Goan students and faculty members from outside the State, face accommodation issues?

BKM: All our faculty members and staff members stay in rented accommodation arranged by themselves. This is not the tradition in IITs where all faculty members and staff members from all over the country stay in on-campus housing together with the students from all over the country. Finding rented accommodation is always a problem because it is not just about rented accommodation but also about electricity, gas and other sundry connections. In on-campus housing, these are all taken care of by the IIT administration.

We have had to put our PhD students in rented off-campus accommodation. That is also undesirable in an IIT system. Some of our married lady research scholars face an even bigger problem because they have to take care of their families and do research at the same time. In IITs, they get access to married accommodation, child-care facilities, and on-campus dining services. This helps in taking some burden off their day to day responsibilities. This is not happening here.


Idhar Udhar