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History of IIT Bombay

IIT Bombay: History, Books and More ...

  • Monastery, Sanctuary, Laboratory : 50 Years of IIT BombayMonastery, Sanctuary, Laboratory: 50 years of IIT-Bombay: This book which chronicles the first five decades of IIT Bombay's existence was released on September 5, 2008. It was authored by Rohit Manchanda of the School of Biosciences and Bioengineering at IIT Bombay, and was published by Macmillan India, and tracks IIT Bombay’s journey from its earliest days to the present in the form of a narrative history. Monastery, Sanctuary, Laboratory draws liberally upon the accounts of those who have seen the Institute grow at first hand. It uncovers the people and processes that brought IIT-Bombay into being and nurtured it in its nascent days ... click here for ordering information.
    IIT: India’s Intellectual Treasures
  • Punctuations: A photographic journey through the IIT Bombay campus.
  • The IITians: The Story of a Remarkable Indian Institution and How its Alumni Are Reshaping the World, by Sandipan Deb.
  • IIT: India's Intellectual Treasures by Suvarna Rajguru & Ranjan Pant: A coffee table book which is a behind the scenes look at the IITs. The book and the companion documentary highlight the history and evolution of the IITs and the contributions of its graduates ... click here for ordering information.

The Growth of an Institute for Higher Technological Education

by
Professor S. P. Sukhatme
Director of IIT Bombay (1995-2000)
 

The Indian Institutes of Technology owe their existence to the vision of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who mooted the idea of establishing them to provide trained technical personnel of international class who would act as leaders in technology for the newly born independent India. The Institutes were set up based on the recommendations of a high power committee of the Government of India called the Sarkar Committee. The Committee had recommended that four higher institutes of technology of the level of their counterparts in Europe and the United States be established to set the direction for the development of higher technical education in India. The institutions were to be designed with the necessary dynamism, flexibility of organisation and capacity to adapt in the light of expanding knowledge and changes in the socio-economic requirements of modern society. While accepting the recommendations of the Committee, the Government of India realised that establishing the institutes with its own resources would take a long time. Hence, it decided to seek international co-operation and exchange of experience from developed countries which would be of immense value in establishing the institutes expeditiously.

Birth of IIT Bombay and its Growth

The first IIT was established at Kharagpur in the eastern zone in 1951. The second institute+ was established in Bombay in 1958 after obtaining necessary assistance from UNESCO with funds contributed by the Soviet Union. Many discussions were held at Moscow, Paris and New Delhi before final agreement was reached between the Government of India and UNESCO. UNESCO agreed to provide equipment and technical experts mainly from the Soviet Union, while the Government of India accepted the responsibility for all other expenses including the cost of the building project and recurring expenses.

An Institute is not just a collection of buildings and other physical facilities. It is really the faculty, students and the tradition that is built over the years. There could be a time-bound programme to create infrastructure facilities, but there is not one to try to build good and healthy traditions. Pandit Nehru rightly said that "While it is relatively easy to put up a factory or a plant or a project, it is much more difficult and it takes much more time to train the human beings that will run a factory or put up another factory or plant."

In December, 1956, the first team of UNESCO experts arrived, headed by Professor V. S. Martinovsky, Director of the Technological Institute of the Food and Refrigeration Industry at Odessa. They stayed for two years. With Professor Martinovsky came experts in machine-tool building, fuel technology and the technology of iron and steel. They were joined in the next few months by other experts covering a very wide range of subjects.

The first task was to study the practical problems connected with the establishment of a new institute. The team set about familiarising itself with Indian conditions by visiting the IIT at Kharagpur, the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore and the Department of Chemical Technology of the University of Bombay. After eight months, the team met in Mumbai along with the Planning Officer of the Institute, Dr. P. K. Kelkar, to pool the knowledge gained.

The site chosen for the Institute was at Powai, eighteen miles from the city. It had an area of 550 acres and was given by the then Bombay State Government. While construction was being started, the first academic session of the Institute opened on July 25, 1958, in its temporary home at the Silk and Art Silk Mills Research Association building in Worli (Bombay) with 100 students. These students were selected from over 3,400 applicants for admission to the first year undergraduate programmes in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and Metallurgical Engineering. Towards the end of that year, ten UNESCO experts, eight from the Soviet Union and one each from USA and Yugoslavia were working mainly for development of new post-graduate study programmes, the undergraduate study programmes being entirely handled by the Indian teaching staff already appointed. In fact, two postgraduate programmes leading to the Master's degree in Electro-Vacuum Technology and in Industrial Electronics were introduced in the latter part of 1958 with four students for each programme. Thus, one of the main objectives of establishing the Institute, which was to develop facilities for studies in a variety of specialised engineering and technological sciences was given concrete shape in the very first year of its existence. All through the subsequent period of development, the need for establishing adequate facilities for postgraduate studies and research was kept uppermost in mind. The first Director of the Institute, Prof. S. K. Bose, was appointed in November, 1958.

While the Institute was functioning provisionally at Worli, a determined effort was made to expedite the progress of the building project at its permanent location. When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of the Institute at Powai on March 10, 1959, water and electric supply lines were just being laid and one approach road to the site was under construction.

The first phase of the building programme at Powai included the construction of the main building, several departmental buildings, workshops, heavy laboratories, pilot-plant installation buildings, installation of water, electricity and sanitary services for the campus, residential quarters for teaching staff members numbering 350, hostel accommodation for over 2,000 students, quarters for administrative and ancillary staff numbering about 700 as well as all the other amenities that a modern academic community requires.

During the period between July, 1959, and March, 1960, one half of the Institute was functioning at Worli concerned with the activities of students admitted in 1958, while the other half of the students representing fresh undergraduate intake was working at Powai. Most of the staff members were scattered all over the city. It was indeed a difficult period with the Institute functioning partly at Worli and partly at Powai.

The Institute had to face the challenge of matching UNESCO’s assistance programme with its own developmental achievements so that the assistance given could be fully utilised. It meant an all-out effort on an intensified building construction programme, recruitment of Indian staff members and provision of other facilities for the development of academic activities.

The first UNESCO assistance programme could meet two-thirds of the total requirement of non-indigenous equipment required for the Institute. A separate bilateral agreement entered into by the Governments of India and the USSR in December 1958 was helpful, but was not adequate for meeting the balance of the requirement of equipment for all the ninety-eight laboratories planned to be set up at the Institute. A further request for assistance was made on the recommendations of UNESCO experts who had worked in the Institute over the first three years. It is no exaggeration to say that this assistance was given to the Institute in 1961, because of its achievements in the proper utilisation of the first assistance programme. This additional assistance helped the Institute to make up deficiencies in the requirement of equipment for the various laboratories as well as to get an extension of the services of experts.

The third academic session commenced in July, 1960, with an enlarged intake of 296 undergraduates in five branches of engineering and 76 students for the Master of Technology degree programme in 16 different specialisations. By September, 1962, all the departmental buildings were ready and the laboratories and classrooms were in the process of being set up at their permanent places.

The first convocation of the Institute was held on December 22, 1963. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of the Republic of India and Visitor of the Institute was the Chief Guest. Dr. Radhakrishnan said that the Institute was an example of the growing inter-dependence among nations. He remarked that technologists, scientists, engineers and others, all were working for a ‘Republic of Science’–a world of free communication in which humanity lived as one family.

The years 1962 to 1965 ushered in a period when an expansion of student intake took place. Although initially planned for an intake of 200 postgraduate students and 320 undergraduate students, the undergraduate admission capacity had to be increased from the academic session commencing in July, 1963, because of the enlarged requirement of technical manpower. The intake in postgraduate programmes was also gradually increased during the period. A notable development during this period was the beginning of the doctoral programme. One student was admitted to a programme of doctoral study in 1962 in Metallurgical Engineering. By the end of 1966, the Institute had 135 Ph.D. candidates registered for work in engineering and sciences. Along with the growth of activities in engineering, there was a corresponding increase in similar activities in science as well. The response for the Master's degree programmes in Physics and Applied Geology, started in 1964, was a gratifying experience. During this period, necessary plans were made to offer M.Sc. programmes in Chemistry and Mathematics.

This period of development showed a gradual expansion of student strength and an attempt at consolidating the undergraduate programmes based on the experience gained. It also gave an indication of the direction for further growth. It was the general opinion at the end of this period, that the Institute's capacity for expansion should mainly be utilised in the direction of postgraduate activities including the establishment of centres or schools of advanced studies and research in certain specified fields.

In January, 1965, Mr. Rene Maheu, Director-General of UNESCO, visited the Institute. He was pleased to see the project in its completion stage. His visit is commemorated by a bronze plaque fixed at the main entrance of the Main Building with the inscription: "UNESCO assistance to the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay stands unique as the first venture of generous assistance in establishing an advanced centre of learning and research. In commemoration of the assistance given, this plaque was unveiled by Mr. Rene Maheu, Director General, UNESCO, on 30 January, 1965."

The ten-year UNESCO project was completed in 1966. It marked a milestone in the educational history of India. In a fitting ceremony in Bombay on 4 December, 1966, the achievements were highlighted by the Director-General of UNESCO, who described the event as the coming-of-age of the Institute.

As stated earlier, the assistance that the UNESCO experts provided to the Institute came mainly from the USSR. A few experts also came from USA, Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of Germany and Czechoslovakia. In all, 59 experts came for periods ranging from about 1-3 years. In addition, 12 technicians came specifically for installing some of the equipment and commissioning some of the instruments. UNESCO assistance also provided a large amount of equipment and a number of fellowships for higher studies, research and training in the USSR. 25 faculty members of the Institute benefited from these fellowships by studying in the USSR.

IIT Bombay Today

(Editor's Note: Note that Prof. Sukhatme's comments from this point onward should be read with the late 90s timeframe when this article was written in mind. Please visit http://www.iitb.ac.in to read about what's new at IIT Bombay since the time this article was written.)

 

History of IIT Bombay (http://www.iitb.ac.in/about/history.html)

 

Today, 30 years later, it would be fair to say that IIT Bombay has fulfilled the aspirations with which it was set up and has contributed significantly to the growth of the techno-economic strength of the country in a number of ways. It has produced high quality engineers and scientists and continues to do so. In terms of numbers, the account is as follows:

  • 8,000 B. Tech. students have passed out in various branches of engineering and technology.
  • 6,000 M. Tech. students have passed out in various branches of engineering and technology and in a number of interdisciplinary areas.
  • 250 students have obtained the degree of Master of Design (M. Des.) in a unique programme specialising in Industrial Design and Visual Communication.
  • 1,200 MSc. students have passed in different science streams.
  • 500 officers from defence and other government departments have obtained the postgraduate diploma (DIIT) in specialised fields like Computer Science, and Dock and Harbour Engineering.
  • 1,500 PhD students have successfully completed their research work in various areas of engineering, technology, science, humanities and social sciences.
  • Today alumni of IIT Bombay are doing very well in various capacities as Entrepreneurs, Managers, Technocrats, Consultants and Advisers and as Faculty, both in India and abroad. At home, they are contributing to the growth of the techno-economic strength of the country and also as entrepreneurs, generating employment. Abroad, our alumni have enhanced the prestige of the Institute and the country by their excellent performance in whatever career they have chosen.

Organisation

The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, together with the other five IITs in the country, was established under the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961. The President of India is the Visitor of the Institute and there is an apex body known as `The Council of the IITs" with the Minister, Human Resources Development, in the Central Government as the Chairman. The Council includes the Chairmen of the Boards of Governors and the Directors of all the IITs. It concerns itself primarily with laying down broad guidelines on matters of policy.

At the institutional level, IIT Bombay is governed by a Board of Governors with a Chairman nominated by the Visitor, the Director as a member and the Registrar as secretary. Besides this, there are four persons having specialised knowledge or practical experience in respect of education, engineering or science nominated by the Council. Two professors are nominated by the Senate. Additionally, one technologist or industrialist of repute is nominated by the Government of each of the States of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

For all academic matters, the Senate is the authority having control and responsibility for the maintenance of standards of instruction, education and examinations and all other allied academic matters. The Senate is mainly constituted of all the professors of the Institute and the Director is the Chairman.

The key people in the execution of the Institute's activities are the Director and Deputy Director who are assisted by Dean (Research and Development), Dean (Planning), Dean (Students Affairs), Dean (Academic Programmes) and Dean (Resources Development), and the Heads of the Departments, Centres and Schools. The Administration is managed by the Registrar, with senior administrative officers being assigned for specific areas such as Estate Management, Materials Management, Personnel Management, Finance and Accounts, and Academic Affairs.

The organisational structure consists of departments, centres and schools. The present structure is as follows:

  • Departments Centres/Schools
  • Aerospace Engineering Advanced Centre for Research in Electronics
  • Chemical Engineering Centre for Studies in Resources Engineering
  • Chemistry Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas
  • Civil Engineering Computer Aided Design Centre
  • Computer Science and Engineering Computer Centre
  • Earth Science Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering Industrial Design Centre
  • Humanities and Social Sciences Regional Sophisticated Instrumentation Centre
  • Mathematics School of Management
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Metallurgical Engg. and Materials Science
  • Physics

Apart from the Departments, Centres and Schools, there are interdisciplinary groups in the areas of Biomedical Engineering, Biotechnology, Corrosion Science and Engineering, Energy Systems Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, Reliability Engineering, Systems and Control Engineering

Academic Programmes

The programmes and courses offered at IIT Bombay have the flexibility to evolve and change, and to respond to new challenges. The Institute conducts educational programmes leading to the degree of Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech.), Master of Science (MSc.), Master of Technology (MTech.), Master of Design (MDes.), Master of Management (MMgmt.), Master of Philosophy (MPhil.) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.) in the following areas:

B. Tech.

Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science.

MSc.

Biotechnology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Sciences, Mathematics

M Des.

Industrial Design, Visual Communication

MPhil.

Planning and Development

M Tech.

Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Earth Sciences (Geoexploration), Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science.

Biomedical Engineering, Corrosion Science and Engineering, Energy Systems Engineering, Environmental Science and Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, Reliability Engineering, Systems and Control Engineering.

M Mgmt.

Technology Management, Manufacturing Management

PhD.

All engineering disciplines, interdisciplinary areas, science disciplines and the humanities and social sciences.

The Institute also offers, from time to time, specialised programmes leading to a postgraduate diploma (DIIT).

Admission to the IIT Bombay undergraduate programmes is offered to those qualifying through the prestigious Joint Entrance Examination conducted all over India every year by the IITs. About 100,000 students appear for this examination held in the first week of May and only about 2,000 qualify for admission. Students abroad are offered admission based on the academic performance in their schools and their SAT scores. The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) and Common Entrance Examination for Design (CEED) are two qualifying examinations for admission to the M. Tech. and M. Des. programmes. Departmental tests are conducted for admission to the other programmes.

The teaching programmes are characterised by their flexibility and informality. Courses are continuously updated and new courses, especially electives, introduced in response to recent developments. The faculty strength is about 400 and a student faculty ratio of 8:1 is maintained. There is a strong faculty-student interaction and students have opportunities to work on seminars and projects under the faculty's guidance. Many of the projects are sponsored by industry and government agencies and provide both students and faculty a chance to tackle live problems.

Students get initiated into research activity at the undergraduate level when they work on a thesis project in the final year. At the postgraduate level, design, fabrication and submission of a dissertation of the work forms an integral part of the MTech. programme. At the doctoral level, students undertake full fledged research work in wide ranging areas, in applied as well as fundamental aspects of science and technology. Research work done by project staff serves the dual purpose of completion of important projects for sponsoring agencies as well as acquisition of a doctoral degree.

Every year about 800 students obtain their degrees from IIT Bombay. Of these approximately 300 students obtain BTech/MSc. degrees, while the remainder obtain the degrees of MTech/MDes./MPhil./MMgmt. and PhD.. A majority join the private sector and a significant number have their own business or work in educational/research institutions. Thus, IIT contributes substantially to the manpower requirements in the industrial development of the country.

Change is a necessary feature of a modern and dynamic university. It may be worthwhile therefore to describe some of the new academic programmes of the Institute.

The School of Management has been recently formed. It began to offer a unique two-year Master of Management programme from July, 1995. The programme fulfils a long standing need to provide managers with adequate exposure to technology development and manufacturing management. The School will also conduct short and long term Executive and Management Development Programmes.

From July, 1995, Department of Mathematics of the Institute has offered a new Master of Science programme in Informatics and Applied Statistics. The programme is expected to meet the growing need for people trained in Information Science and Technology.

From July, 1996, the Institute has offered a five-year BTech-MTech. dual degree programme for students who qualify through the Joint Entrance Examination. Admissions have been made in the disciplines of Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. The curriculum includes most of the course work required for the BTech. programme, selected courses in the area of specialisation of the MTech. programme and an intensive MTech. thesis project spread over a period of one year. The specialisations offered are in contemporary areas of modern technology. At the end of five years, the students will be awarded a BTech. degree in the particular engineering discipline and an MTech. degree in the specialisation. It is believed that this unique innovative programme will attract much attention in the years to come.

In addition to the above academic programmes, the Institute organises a large number of short intensive courses in specialised topics both for practising engineers and for teachers from engineering colleges under the Continuing Education Programme. Some of these courses are conducted at the Institute, while some are conducted `in-house' at the specific request of industries.

IIT Bombay also offers training to teachers from other institutions on a regular basis under the Quality Improvement Programme. The faculty members selected under the programme usually work for a Master's or a PhD. degree.

Research and Development Activities

IIT Bombay has made concerted efforts to put itself in the mainstream of national development through sponsored research and consultancy. Many faculty members undertake sponsored research and consultancy projects. Faculty undertake sponsored research projects in thrust areas in science and engineering funded by various national agencies like the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Electronics, Department of Space, Aeronautical Development Agency, Department of Atomic Energy, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, etc.. Many are also working on missions of national importance. A few projects are also being funded by international agencies. Typically in one year, there are about 400 on-going sponsored projects. The sponsored research has ushered in intense research activity leading to the formation of active research groups and has helped in the creation of modern research facilities in key areas.

Consultancy has been a major avenue of interaction between faculty and industry. Consultancy work provides an opportunity to tackle live industrial problems and enhance professional expertise. There are collaborative and consultancy projects with many industries, some abroad. About 700 to 800 projects are executed every year.

The office of the Dean (R and D) provides the necessary liaison with industry and sponsoring agencies. The office helps industry to identify faculty expertise and institutional facilities, and assists faculty in identifying industry problems.

The Departments and Centres have well equipped research labs and workshop facilities. Besides, there are a number of central facilities such as the Central Library, Central Workshop, Printing Press, etc. Many new research facilities have been acquired or developed in the last few years. Perhaps the most important is the Computer Centre which started functioning in 1986 with facilities which have been continuously updated. The Computer Aided Design Centre with its own mini computers and work stations, supplemented by additional computing facilities, caters to CAD activity in Chemical Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering. Research groups like VLSI Design, CAD/CAM also have computing facilities which are accessible to other departments for development activities. Important experimental facilities set up by various departments include laboratories for robotics, biotechnology, microelectronics, microprocessor applications, telematics, remote sensing, low temperature physics and aerodynamics.

The Institute has a Regional Sophisticated Instrumentation Centre set up with the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology to provide sophisticated analytical facilities not only to the Institute but also to industry and research organisations.

IIT Bombay has an excellent library containing up-to-date reference material in science and technology. The collection comprises over 200,000 books, 60,000 back volumes of periodicals, besides current journals, standards, reports etc. totalling over 300,000. A new extension has been added to the library recently to house the growing number of books and journals, and the library systems have been computerised.

Project staff are appointed to assist in the research projects. IIT Bombay also has technical staff numbering over 900, to maintain the laboratories and workshops.

Faculty

The Institute is fortunate in having very well qualified faculty, almost all of whom possess doctoral degrees. Indeed, faculty provide the real strength to the quality of the Institute's programmes. The faculty of IIT Bombay are involved in a varied range of activities which reach out much beyond their teaching and research commitments. Valuable contributions of time and expertise are made towards IIT's academic and developmental activities by serving on committees relating to evaluation, admission, curriculum development, scholarships, as well as campus planning, accommodation, security, etc..

IIT faculty members have the distinction of being invited to serve on national and state level committees on science and technology, on editorial boards and as reviewers for leading professional journals and publications and on selection committees and review boards of leading institutions and governmental agencies.

Actively involved in the Institute's extension activities such as continuing education, workshops and conferences, faculty members individually and as interdisciplinary teams, are also the backbone of the research programmes of the Institute. Research papers written by the faculty find a place in prestigious national and international journals. The faculty have also published a number of books and contributed chapters to books.

Another praiseworthy activity of many of the Institute faculty is their involvement in the development and production of new teaching materials, which range from text books to software, computer-based instructional material to instructional videos.

The Campus

IIT Bombay is a small township in itself. Consciously developed, the campus has retained and increased its greenery, becoming rich in natural flora and fauna over the years.

The campus is connected to the city proper, through buses and local trains. However, most facilities are available on campus itself. These include two banks, a shopping centre, two schools for children, and a well equipped hospital. All students and most of the faculty live on the campus. The peaceful atmosphere of the campus belies the full range of activities going on to complement the academic life. Student activities are organised through the Students Gymkhana and are held primarily at the Students Activities Centre. There are excellent facilities for sports, including a swimming pool, tennis, badminton and squash courts, and vast playgrounds for field games. Wildlife camps and trekking are popular off-campus activities at IIT Bombay. The facilities for sports are matched by the cultural activities on campus. There are cultural and social clubs, film clubs, classical music societies, debating and drama clubs and a hobbies club.

Concluding Remarks

Today, IIT Bombay stands out as a shining example of what can be achieved with projects of international co-operation if they are carefully planned and executed in the early years and if they continue to receive the right kind of support. In the 50th year of our country's independence, it is a pleasure for us to extend warm greetings to sister institutes across the world and to offer our help in the task of setting up such institutes in other countries. This offer is made as a joint one on behalf of the five established IITs. We believe we are now well equipped in terms of human resources and experience to make such an offer and that we would be furthering the cause of international co-operation in doing so.

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