Prof. T T Ram Mohan, in his blog mentioned that it is important for Indian institutions to have a residential campus, and hence the student density cannot be comparable to that of foreign institutions. But he does seem to agree that the class size should be higher to justify the amount of land that IIMs have.
In this regard, I remember my discussion with the Architect of IIT Kanpur more than a decade ago. Kanvinde (senior) was visiting IITK and I asked him a question that I was curious about ever since my student days. Why did he design the Faculty Building to be a six-storey building, while all other buildings in the academic area were restricted to three floors. He told me that the original brief to him was that the academic area had to be designed for 20,000 students (yes, I asked him twice, if he really meant TWENTY THOUSAND, and he did). The first phase would be for 2,000 students. Even in 1960, when land was not considered such a scarce resource, it was not so free that we design an Institute with a student density of 2 per acre (we have more than 1000 acres of land). The planning even at that stage was that of 20 students per acre. (By the way, it took us 30 years to have a student strength exceeding 2,000.)
Of course, amongst other buildings that he designed early on, he did not want to have multiple storey lecture hall complex, because movement of thousands of students within 5 minutes of break time between lectures would be very difficult. The library could not be much taller since books are too heavy a load. And before he could design the next building in the academic area, he got a revised brief. Just to concentrate on 2,000 students, and not worry about future growth. So all the buildings after that had a maximum of 3 floors.
Fifty years later, we are still at only 5,000 students. Even the 20-year future planning is not getting us anywhere close to 20,000 students for which the land was apparently given by the government.
By the way, IIT Delhi has a density of more than 25 students per acre, and they provide similar quality of education as IIT Kanpur. So, one can't really argue that an ultra-low student density is necessary for excellence. And IIT Delhi cannot really afford to tear down all its old buildings and construct taller buildings instead. We have empty land, and can construct tall buildings on them. So the land we have can actually support a much higher student density. Even on fully residential basis, it should be possible to support 50 students per acre easily. That is ten times the size of current student body.
Of course, many at IIT Kanpur will argue that the issue is not that of student density, but of absolute number of students. One cannot maintain excellence when the size becomes too large. Fair enough. (Actually, I don't fully agree with that. I think we haven't explored more efficient administrative structures. But that is for another blog some other day. For now, let me agree with this, to avoid digression.) But if that is the case, then the government has clearly made a mistake by giving us so much land. They thought in 1960 that such a large institute is possible. Let the Government correct its mistake by taking away the unused land. Let it set up other educational institutions on that land. Let there be a cluster of educational institutions on the land which has not been utilized for the last 50 years, and is not likely to be utilized for the next 50 years.
I am giving example of IIT Kanpur only because I am most familiar with this campus. The student density of most IIX campuses is extremely low.