The Inter-IIT Exchange Programme

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The IITs have long been an epitome of excellence, be it in terms of the research and academic opportunities or the cultural and social atmosphere. Above this, every IIT in itself is an institution offering innumerable opportunities for the students to grow and learn through the various schools of excellence and extremely diverse and developed labs and research facilities. But, so far the opportunities available were limited only to one’s host IIT. In order to overcome this barrier, the administration of three IITs namely Bombay, Delhi and Roorkee had come together in 2012  with an aim at launching a new programme which would allow students to study at one of the other two partner IITs in a similar fashion as the much coveted Foreign Exchange Programme.
Since the program barely has any details, it is important that the student community is made aware of this opportunity, so they may put forth their suggestions as to how the program can be structured. A recent survey was also conducted by The Co-Curricular and Academic Interaction Council (CAIC) in order to take in the opinion of the students. Here, we have tried to bring together all the information related to this, along with a detailed analysis of the survey conducted.
This programme, as the name suggests, will allow a few selected students to study at the IIT of their choice for a semester similar to the foreign exchange programme. Even though the particular details are yet to be decided upon, the procedure of getting the credits passed would be more or less the same.

Why is it needed?
There has clearly never been a means for students to pursue programmes in sister IITs in the past which leads to students missing out on the opportunities that the other IITs have to offer. The only method through which they can experience a new college for a whole semester is the foreign exchange programme which in itself has a few problems. Here are a few that we gathered from the students and administration collectively:

  1. Academic differences:
    There is a huge difference in the academic setup of universities in India and abroad which makes it difficult for the students to find equivalent courses. For a course to be considered for awarding credits there should be a significant overlap in terms of syllabus and the number of classroom (L) / tutorial (T) / practical (P) hours of the course. The process to get these credits passed is cumbersome and some people tend to decide not to go for a foreign exchange if it turns out to be difficult in terms of ability to complete the courses in the future.
  2. Language and Cultural Differences:
    There can be multiple instances where the students choose not to pursue a semester abroad because of the huge cultural differences that they would be experiencing. Apart from that, the problem multiplies in magnitude for most institutions in France and at École Polytechnique Montréal (Canada) which offer a majority of their courses in their regional language. Thus, to pursue the courses there, the student should either know that language or pick up courses offered in English which might be a problem for students who are not well versed with it.
  3. Economic constraints:
    A semester abroad could cost you somewhere between 2-5 lakhs depending on the amount of scholarship you can get, which in itself is particularly limited. Thus, students who do not have a strong economic standing tend to miss out on this opportunity.
  4. Internship opportunities:
    Usually, companies come to the campus at the same time when the semester in foreign universities is about to start. This leaves the forex students with only the first few days to secure an intern. This creates a very obvious lack of options and chances as compared to the students who stay on campus for their fifth semester. Since third year internships are extremely important and have a chance of being converted into a PPO, some students might decide to stay on campus instead of going out to a different college.
  5. Scope for pursuing minor degree:
    Minor area specialization in a department comprises a set of pre-defined courses of total 20 credits (10 core +10 electives) to be completed during the undergraduate programme. Since all forex courses require prior consent of the respective department, it is usually hard to find equivalent courses in the host university. The process to get these credits passed is also quite inconvenient. Hence, it becomes difficult for a B.Tech Student to complete the extra credits required for the Minor area completion.

What good would such a programme do?
The problems mentioned in the last section would be evidently solved by the inter IIT exchange programme because of the similarities present in the academic setup, semester schedule, and costs of living and studying at a sister IIT. Above this, the programme, as noted by the administration, also aims to offer multiple other benefits as mentioned below:

  1.  Educational benefits:
    The students get to experience new teaching methods, gain access to new courses,new research facilities and also to the new academic and extracurricular opportunities present at the host IIT. Students can be a part of research projects that the host IIT is excelling in. Apart from this, the student gets to experience a whole new lifestyle while still completing their credits and learning new things.
  2. Personal Benefits:
    The students get to experience a new city, make new friends. This is yet another opportunity for the student to nurture themselves and develop as an individual. Enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem, self-awareness and improved social skills are some of the additional benefits of pursuing an exchange programme.
  3. Strengthening IIT as a brand:
    Ever since its inception, there hasn’t been any programme that has bridged together IITs through an academic venture. This programme will change that, and allow the IITs to come together. This would also help project the IITs as a strong brand to the outside world.

The Student Community’s Opinion

In a recent survey conducted by the CAIC the students were questioned about their awareness and interest about the programme through a small set of questions. The survey was answered by a total of 554 students. Here is a detailed analysis of the same:

  1. 42 percent of the participants belong to the 2017 entry batch. The number of people who took the survey were equally distributed amongst all the branches, with chemical engineering students being the majority.
  2. Out of the responses received, 90.1% of the people were interested in going for such an exchange. This high skew can be attributed to the fact that the people who were interested in going for such a program were the ones who were interested in the survey as well. In absolute numbers, around 500 students said they were interested in going for such an exchange.
  3. 348 students admitted having never heard about the programme while 206 people agreed to have known about its existence.
  4. 456 students or about 82 percent of the participants showed interest in visiting IIT Bombay over any other IIT. Overall, we found that most of the people wished to go to the older IITs (Mumbai, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati, Madras) as compared to the newer ones. The tilt towards the older IITs was strong making up to 1248 choices as compared to 348 in favor of newer ones. Here is a histogram representing the choices.

  5. There were multiple varied reasons as to why a student would be interested in going for such a programme which have been shown in the chart below. Also, there are reasons why a person might want to stay back such as a position of responsibility (POR), a settled lifestyle or the fact that they might be at the IIT of their choice already.

How will it be implemented?
There have been a lot of changes in the implementation scheme since the  MoU of 2013. Here are the procedures that have been finalized so far:

  1. A total of 5 students can visit other IITs from one IIT. The division of students going to each IIT would be based on the number of IITs interested in participating.
  2. The exchange students will have to pay the tuition fees at their home IIT and the living expense which includes the on-campus accommodation fees at the host IIT.
  3. The course selection procedure, research project undertakings and the credits scheme of the program have not been completely decided upon yet. However, deliberations reveal that it is going to be based on the Foreign Exchange Scheme with minor changes. Students will have to carefully fill out their courses at the home IIT and find similar courses in the exchange IIT which match in content by some percentage.
  4. No credits for core courses would be passed.
  5. For the students pursuing a minor degree, a proper validation of the courses has to come from the Professor of the concerned department at the home IIT and the one at the exchange IIT.

The final decisions would be once the participating IITs have been decided upon.

At what stage is it now?
A tripartite memorandum of understanding for the Inter IIT Semester Exchange was signed between IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee on February 16, 2013. However, it kept gathering dust until 2016. In 2016, a committee was formed to look into the implementation of the programme. It included Associate Dean of Academics Prof. Joby Joseph, Assistant Registrar UGS Mr. Alan V Sinate, Prof. M.R. Ravi, Prof. S.R. Kale and Mr. Vaibhav Anand, CAIC GSec (2016-2017). Mr Alan Sinate and Prof. M.R. Ravi were nominated as convener and the chairman of the committee respectively. The committee discovered that something along these lines but much more comprehensive had already been passed by the Pan-IIT Council and hence, it recommended a phased implementation of the exchange process. Everything was sorted and the first exchange was to happen in the fall semester of session 2017-2018.
However, the exchange could not happen due to the lack of awareness and interest of the students of IIT Delhi. Prof Joby Joseph on being asked about the status of the programme said the administration is always ready to initiate this if students of IIT Delhi come forward because ultimately the exchange is two-way: if people don’t go from here, the interested students who want to come from other IITs will not be able to come here.
In a recent meeting with Prof. Joby Joseph, CAIC was asked to take initiative to talk to the concerned student bodies of other IITs and see if they are interested. Since this programme aims at bringing together the various IITs, it will only be beneficial if an acceptable number join forces. This needs to be completed in the next 6 months. And the number of IIT and students interested will finally decide the fate of this scheme.

Here is the link to the MoU: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9lyi6C9DOZhczY1Y0h6T1REQkU/view

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