It is that time of the year when students are in the process of getting or not getting admission in various colleges and universities after the declaration of results of Class 12 and various competitive exams. Social media platforms and numerous educational websites are flooded with questions along the lines of which branch or stream should be preferred, whether single or dual degree should be considered, the career prospects of a particular branch and so on.
Since college life forms the baseline of a strong career, students and their parents want to gather all the possible information about all institutes of their interest before proceeding towards making a commitment with one of them.
Only 2% of all the applicants appearing in different entrance examinations for various degree programs every year are able to gain admission at an Indian Institute of Technology! I have always wondered why the selection process is so difficult. What makes IITs different from other institutes? Why are IITs the dream of many Indian students? Why do parents and teachers sacrifice everything just to see their children studying there?
I got the answer to all these questions as soon as I joined IIT Gandhinagar as an MTech student in Biological Engineering. To explain briefly, IITs extensively promote the concept of practical applications of studies to solve real-world problems. Students get numerous opportunities to meet the most eminent scientists, professors, Nobel Laureates of their respective fields and are also eligible for fellowships, financial assistance on projects, scholarships, student exchanges, internships and research programs with universities like MIT, Cambridge, Stanford and Harvard.
In terms of salary, the job packages of IIT-ians are 137% higher than other institutes of India. They have access to laboratories containing world-class equipments and take regular quizzes, competitions and examinations based on rigorous interactions with their professors which encourage them to brainstorm the most feasible solutions. They are also highly encouraged to pursue their hobbies and extra-curricular activities in the form of numerous sports, activities, fests, celebrations and outings which positively shape an all round development. Hence, the students do not have to go looking for opportunities. If they are a part of an IIT, they are presented with such countless options every single day!
IIT Gandhinagar builds on top of the IIT system and frameworks, but being a young and vibrant institution, it has also leveraged several new ideas to create unique opportunities for its students. IIT Gandhinagar is driven by its core principle of students first. It is among the most globalized campuses in India with vibrant options to study abroad and visiting faculty exchange programs with renowned universities across almost all continents. A large number of undergraduate and research scholars receive opportunities in the form of a semester overseas, research internships, summer programs, etc.
This institute supports its students with the liberal branch change policies, flexible curriculum, leadership, self-governance, cutting-edge research, open-door policy (friendly student-faculty interactions) and exciting placement opportunities. The institute offers a large number of first of its kind initiatives:
1) the Invent@IITGN – originated in the USA, this is a six-week program promoting students to conceive of an invention, prototype it, pitch it, write and file a US patent application for it, and compete for prizes,
2) a non-degree program – students of institutes other than an IIT can take part-time or full-time courses and spend an entire semester at IIT Gandhinagar for credit or perform research,
3) the Foundation Program – a five-week program for incoming first-year students focused on creativity, leadership and communication, ethics, social awareness and physical fitness,
4) the Explorers Fellowship – a six-week summer fellowship for students to discover India’s cultural diversity by visiting minimum six states on a shoestring budget of ₹900 per day for travel, accommodation, food, and other living expenses,
5) Project Oriented Learning – emphasizes on learning by doing,
and others like the Tinkerer Lab, Makers’ Space, Active Research Park, and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre.
The institute comprises of strong faculty with more than 50% having a PhD from leading overseas institutions. The average publications record in 2017 was 3.2 publications per faculty. Overall growth is promoted in the form of workshops and conferences, with nearly 40% overseas experiences, programs like Earn While You Learn, student-managed technology conclave Amalthea and cultural fests like Jashn. One of the core features is the interdisciplinary interaction with 7 interdisciplinary research centres!
Many members of faculty are part of multiple disciplines and many students have PhD advisors/Principal Investigator/Co-PI from a discipline other than their own. There are no department buildings and no heads of departments. The research infrastructure is commonly shared and not monopolized by departments.
IIT Gandhinagar is rated as India’s first five-star GRIHA LD (Green) campus for minimizing the negative impact on the environment with comprehensive solid waste management system, solar water heaters, biogas plant, water-less urinals and central water treatment plant. It was also recently declared India’s first five-star campus for ensuring food safety and promoting healthy eating. The institute also contributes to the local community, through formal and informal initiatives, outreach activities and educational engagement. In the words of the IIT Council, “the exemplary practices of IIT Gandhinagar (labor welfare and community outreach) should be introduced in all IITs.”
Although the online platforms do shed some light on crucial aspects of taking admission in a particular institute, they lack the essence of detailed discussion which is possible only when people gather at a place to express and share their experiences, thoughts, and exchange notes in face to face conversations! An initiative by IIT Gandhinagar to encourage this style of brainstorming is the Open House, which happens every year and is a perfect opportunity for JEE qualified students and their parents to interact with the faculty, students and alumni of this institute so that they can make an informed decision about their future.