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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My visit to IIT BHU

Last week I traveled to IIT BHU, my first visit to the place after it became the newest IIT. The occasion was a workshop on Academic Affairs that they organized. The first day was a whole day affair where the academic leadership was involved, the Deans, the Heads, Chairpersons of Senate committees, those who are re-writing the academic manuals, ordinances, and so on. The second day (half day, really) was an open interaction session with the entire faculty. I was really touched when during my introduction they pointed to this blog and how I was one of the few faculty members in the existing IITs to support the conversion of IT BHU to an IIT.

The experience was hugely positive. From the intense sessions that we had, it was obvious that they were keenly interested in designing their academic processes with excellence as the only parameter. Not that they were no good earlier, but they were keen to see how the greater academic autonomy could be leveraged to achieve higher quality.

It is obvious that the leadership there has a historic opportunity. How frequently would you come across instances where we have an organization with a glorious history and contributions, and yet not chained to that past. Unlike most older institutions, here was an Old Institute (it is the second oldest institution amongst the IITs) with a strong constituency for change. They were waiting for a new dawn. They wanted to understand the the strengths as well as weaknesses of our processes, so that they can design their own. From the kind of questions that were there, it was obvious that they are doing a lot of homework in terms of knowing other systems.

How often do you get a chance to build a new institute without worrying about civil construction, and immediate hiring of faculty, without which you can't teach in the next semester. How often do you start a new university with a large, distinguished and proud alumni, willing to help every step of the way. IIT BHU gives that opportunity to its leadership.

How often do you see in India a technological institute in the midst of a university with strengths in diverse fields. Indeed, the success of IIT BHU will depend significantly on how they leverage their presence on BHU campus. At IIT Kanpur, we are constantly worried about attracting faculty of humanities and social sciences, and we are never able to offer sufficiently large number of courses in those streams. A typical course has 100+ students, and even that is assigned to the student through a lottery. But on BHU campus, if one can build the right kind of relationships, and the right kind of incentives, the students can be exposed to courses in not just HSS but also performing arts. One could also have electives in law and biology/medicine.

Though I must say that there were some who wanted the changes to happen quickly, let us just copy the IIT Kanpur rulebook lock, stock and barrel. They have to be patient. No system is perfect and each system has grown in its own context and has its own history. The leadership will have to convince them that a bit of uncertainty and lack of clarity for some time will be a small price to pay compared to what an ad-hoc change can cost. One needs to make sure that there is buy in from most of the stake holders. And I must say that the leadership was quite aware of the challenges of change management.

I am truly excited about the emergence of a new IIT in our neighborhood, and look forward to my continued interaction.


Himanshu Rai said...

I wish that I am wrong. Don't consider popularity and enthusiasm of the administration at IIT-BHU to be converted into an action. Its a great place but politics meddle things quite bad here in progress of few good faculty and almost majority of students.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Himanshu, The point of my blog posting was that there is a sense of excitement and change on the campus. As an alumnus of the place, you have a right to look back and say that when I was there, there was so much politics, the place can not improve in a few years. But as an alumnus, you could also say that may be a new beginning is possible, particularly when all the ingredients of success are present there, and support such a change.

Vishwanathan Shreyas said...

Sir, I would really love to read your opinions on the changes that ought to take place in IITR for its betterment, being a sophomore in IITR

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Vishwanathan, the internal people know the best. An external guy like me can only provide a limited perspective, and some suggestion in a specific context, but that too after a visit, meeting people, and so on. I haven't been on IITR campus for a few years now.

Vishwanathan Shreyas said...

So then, I hope that you give our campus a visit soon..... Sure, internal people know the best..... but an experienced person like you can provide a broader perspective for sure.

Dhruv Goel said...

Sir I have been allotted IIT BHU in JEE Advanced counseling.I have not read so much good about it that is why I am little bit confused about its faculty and independence as an IIT being a part of BHU at the same time.
Kindly give your expert review on this.

Subha Sanjeev said...

The chief proctor of the Banaras Hindu University Prof O N Singh resigned late Tuesday night and has been replaced with Dr Mahendra Kumar Singh, dean, student welfare and head of the ophthalmology department on Wedensday with additional charge.