Teamwork has paid off, says IIT Madras chief on retaining top NIRF ranking

It was quite easy to reach the top, but difficult to maintain it, and the recognition has given IIT-M a lot more confidence and motivation to work much harder: Professor Kamakoti

Collective effort, continuous assessment and improvement strategies were the key factors behind the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras retaining the top position in the National Institutional Ranking Framework, the premier institute’s Director V Kamakoti said here on Monday.

It was quite easy to reach the top, but difficult to maintain it, and the recognition has given IIT-M a lot more confidence and motivation to work much harder, Prof Kamakoti said.

Speaking to PTI exclusively, he said though there was satisfaction over the accomplishment, a lot more needs to be done in areas including innovation, research and teaching. “That we as faculty, students, staff, the alumni, industry partners, Union Ministry of Education and our Tamil Nadu State government, all of us have contributed in a very cohesive manner to reach this level.” IIT-M retained the top spot among institutes in the country for the fifth consecutive year, according to the Union Ministry of Education’s National Institutional Ranking Framework.

Several parameters are important with regard to the NIRF rankings, and in order to excel, a single factor alone cannot be decisive. “…the faculty sector alone cannot be that parameter, it is a collective effort. That collective, cohesive effort is what has given us this laurel. We are confident that we can work much harder and do much more in the service to our nation,” the director said.

The first time IIT-M went up to the first position in engineering category, the institute started “introspecting on what gave us this success” and areas that warranted improvement.

“We have a very dedicated team which looks into every parameter and finds out where we are lacking, where we need to improve. Bi-monthly we have a correction of the actions so that we are maintaining that standard,” he explained.

The NIRF framework has been immensely useful to the institute to “tell us where we stand and where we are going down in something”. Consequent improvement initiatives has led to a lot of benefits to the institution, he said.

Be it governance, the way the IIT-M has been proposing different types of projects, or the implementation of plan of action and in the institute’s every step, the framework provided good guidance, he said. “That is helping us retain this top position,” he added.

“IIT Madras is a great place for you to come and study. We have a wonderful campus. We have very interesting courses. It is not just computer science or the top disciplines which everybody wants to do. We have a lot of interdisciplinary courses. We offer a wide variety of education and it is a very diverse campus. I am sure students will love being on campus,” the director said.

IIT-Madras to focus on innovation, interdisciplinary courses and mental well-being of students going forward

The institute has bagged the first place in the ‘overall’ category of the National
Institutional Ranking Framework rankings for the fifth year in a row, and has
also been placed first in the engineering category for the eighth year in a row.

Crediting the efforts of the faculty, students and staff of the Indian Institute of
Technology-Madras (IIT-M) for being ranked first in the overall category in the National
Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings, director of IIT-M V. Kamakoti, on
Tuesday, said that interdisciplinary courses, research, innovation, and global knowledge sharing would be among the focus areas for the institute, going forward.
In the rankings, the institute has bagged the first place in the ‘overall’ category for the fifth year in a row and has also been placed first in the engineering category for the eighth year in a row.

“IIT-M recently launched 15 centres of excellence, where faculty members from different departments are coming together. This will not just contribute to employability for students who take up interdisciplinary courses being offered, [to] but will further high impact research as well,” Prof Kamakoti told reporters here.

Speaking about IIT-M’s new four-year offline Bachelor of Science programme in medical sciences and engineering, the director said that they had received thousands of applications for this programme.

Campus in Tanzania soon
“Knowledge sharing is what runs the world and as a part of this, we will soon be opening a campus in Tanzania. Our focus on entrepreneurship and innovation too, has been unwavering, and this year we expect at least 20 start-ups at the Centre for Innovation,” he said.

While he said that the rankings gave them confidence that the institution was going in
the right direction, Prof Kamakoti said that what would make them truly happy was when the country’s Gross Enrollment Ratio increased. “With a large population between the ages of 15 to 25 years, we need a special focus on education and [need to] dedicate ourselves to this cause. IIT-M is taking several steps for this,” he said.
Mental well-being of students An important next step for the institution, Prof Kamakoti said, is addressing the mental well-being of the students and faculty.

“We have held stress and mental wellness workshops, as well as undertaken a wellness survey. The feedback so far from students has been promising, and in the coming year, we want to comprehensively address stress faced by students,” he said.
Among their initiatives for students, IIT-M has set up rural interaction centres that focus on after-school classes for students and has also launched a B.Sc degree in Electronics as well as a degree in Data Sciences. “We will continue to take steps towards making IIT-M, a locally relevant and globally recognised institute,” Prof Kamakoti said.

IIT Madras will be among top 100 global universities by 2025

After being crowned the best institute in the country in engineering and overall category for the eighth and fifth time in a row, IIT Madras director V Kamakoti speaks to Ragu Raman about the next big leap for the institution as well as steps being taken to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and mental wellness on campus.


What will be the next big leap for IIT Madras now that the NIRF rankings for 2023 have placed you in the top slot again?
We are looking to strengthen our BS data science and BS electronic system programmes, which we believe will provide quality, affordable, accessible and equitable education to all. That’s going to be the next biggest turning point for us. Our new BS degree and PhDs in medical sciences and engineering will be a giant leap for us. Medical science is the next computer science. People who realise and join this course will benefit. We have tied up with six hospitals and have many more hospitals that want to collaborate. This is going to be the pathbreaker.

When will the Tanzania campus of IIT Madras be opened?
We are looking at opening in October. In the next five years, we plan to offer four UG programmes including data science and five PG programmes including marine engineering. All the courses will be offered in the offline mode.

What sets IIT Madras apart from the rest of the IITs?
We have made significant progress in teaching and learning, research, outreach, and perception. It is the cohesive effort of the faculty, students, and the central and state governments. We are on the right path. Now, we have to respond to every academic
and technological need of the country. We have launched 15 centres of excellence in areas such as maritime, deep electronics, energy systems, lean construction, quantum information, sports science and analytics. These are the major areas identified for research

Why is there so much stress on interdisciplinary education?
School students decide on careers without fully understanding the subjects they have chosen in college. Some for example do engineering because they get marks in certain subjects in schools. Interdisciplinary courses give students the option to pursue
their passion at the end of the second year. At the end of five years, they get an interdisciplinary degree. For example, a student doing BTechin computer science can pursue MA in public policy. This opens up new opportunities. I believe IIT Madras
will be a sought-after college for undergraduate students. IIT Madras offers 15 interdisciplinary programmes including quantitative finance, public policy, and cyberphysical and energy systems.

In the wake of recent student suicides, IIT Madras conducted mental health survey among students.
We did a mental health survey of more than 6,000 students. Now, we are surveying the staff and faculty. We found about 3% are under some sort of stress. We now have independent counsellors for the students. We have collaborated with the Kauvery
Hospital group for this. The counsellors function independently of IIT and our students are free to speak to them. Counsellors are also available at their doorstep. We have also set up systems such as We hope to have a comprehensive system in place before the start of the next academic year.

What are the expansion plans for IIT-M’s rural interaction centres?
We have 180 rural information centres, each equipped with a TV, camera and internet connection to provide tuition to students. We are planning to start 1,000 such centres and at least 400 of them will be in Tamil Nadu. Many state universities and government colleges slipped in the NIRF rankings this year. We have Presidency College in the third position in the college category. Anna University also improved its ranking. There is a need to invest in infrastructure. The state government must look at it. People should stick together and work together. Unless there is cohesiveness, we will not scale in rankings.

What is your view on Tamil Nadu’s attempt to draft a State Education Policy in place of a National Education Policy?
Multiple policies can exist, and we can take the best of both. A policy is merely a guiding document. Education is driven by placements and industry needs. Higher educational institutions need to be aligned with the needs of the industry and country.

Do you see IIT Madras breaking into the top 100 global universities’ ranking?
Two important parameters in which we lack are the number of foreign students and foreign faculty and perception. With Tanzania opening in October, I hope the world will recognise our globalisation efforts. I am sure we can break into the top 100.
We expect to do it in two years.

When will the initiative to train government school students in electronics take off?
We will train students from 252 government schools on the fundamentals of electronics this June. Around 25,000 students will come out with deep grounded foundational knowledge in electronics every year. We have many government school students enrolled in our BS data science programme as well.

Do you see a role for IIT Madras in mentoring other higher educational institutions in Tamil Nadu?
Yes. Through our 10X programme, we are helping other colleges incubate ideas and mentor startups.