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When IOE opens purse-strings, campuses get a range of benefits: IISc to IITs, DU to BHU

The difference is visible — and telling.

On one side, the Government is dragging its feet on awarding the Institution of Eminence status to four selected private campuses while four others in this category that got the IOE tag are yet to realise its promised benefits. On the other, this flagship initiative for higher education has helped eight public universities step up ambitious reforms and growth — riding on the financial boost each has got as part of the scheme.

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So far, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharagpur, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Delhi University (DU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU) have been officially notified as IOEs under the Government category.

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The Indian Express found, after visiting these campuses and interviewing key officials, that in these eight insitutions, IOE funding, a total of Rs 3244 crore until January 31, has been channelled into a range of initiatives: investing in state-of-the-art research, increasing the number of postdoctoral scholars, constructing new hostels and classrooms, faculty housing, offering financial incentives to publish research, and investing in internationalisation.

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Under the scheme, the government institutions, in addition to more autonomy from regulatory control, are entitled to financial assistance up to Rs 1,000 crore, over and above the regular annual budgetary grants. The private IoEs are promised autonomy, not funds.

When IOE opens purse-strings, campuses get a range of benefits: IISc to IITs, DU to BHU Rs 3,244 cr to eight campuses has helped upgrade research labs, infra, hostels.

Today, project coordinators at each of the eight public institutions acknowledge that initiating infrastructure expansion, research and academic reforms on the current scale was only possible with funds that came with IOE status.

Consider this:

IISc Bengaluru: scholarships to hostelsIOE notified: October 11, 2018Funds received till Jan 31, 2023: Rs 620 crore

The IISc has received the highest amount under the scheme to date. The increased strength of postdoctoral scholars on campus and the significant hike in the “seed grant” meant for new faculty are among the immediate tangible changes, said Professor G Mugesh, IOE project director at the institute. “We now have 125 postdoctoral fellows on campus who are supported with Rs 20 crore from the IOE grants,” he said.

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IISc now offers the highest seed grant in the country to new faculty joinees — upto Rs 2.5 crore. “Earlier it was a few lakhs. We have offered this to the 80 new teachers who have joined us recently. Before this, new faculty members had to wait for grants from external sources to start building labs and begin research,” Mugesh said.

Infrastructure, too, has got a fillip with four new hostels — one for postdoctoral scholars (Rs 30 crore), an international hostel, a women’s hostel (Rs 60 crore) and a men’s hostel (Rs 150 crore).

IIT Delhi: research equipment, hostelsIOE notified: October 11, 2018Funds received to date: Rs 555 crore

The institute has earmarked Rs 125 crore for research equipment of which almost half has been procured. Key equipment worth Rs 40 crore have been purchased from the US and Japan. The institute has spent close to Rs 40 crore on additional floors in four buildings. Work has been undertaken for constructing a new hostel for girls, another for boys and new faculty housing quarters.

IIT Madras: research, visiting facultyIOE notified: February 17, 2020Funds received to date: Rs 474 crore

Rs 175 crore has been spent on more than 60 research projects; Rs 100 crore on new infrastructure, including a new hostel for international students, and Rs 35-40 crore on “face-lifting”. Besides, Rs 25-40 crore has been spent on hosting visiting faculty from foreign universities, according to Ligy Philip, IOE coordinator for IIT Madras.

IIT Kharagpur: hostel, academic building, researchIOE notified: February 20, 2020Funds received to date: Rs 472 crore

After the pandemic affected the first two years of implementation, institute registrar Tamla Nath said work has been “accelerated”. They include a hostel to accommodate 1,500 students, a new academic building for seven new centres of excellence and new faculty housing quarters. The electricity system has been upgraded for uninterrupted supply and seed grant provided for research in digital health and quantum technologies.

When IOE opens purse-strings, campuses get a range of benefits: IISc to IITs, DU to BHU

Banaras Hindu University: New teachers, internshipsIOE notified: February 17, 2020Funds received to date: Rs 386 crore

Under the new “Teach for BHU” initiative, students who recently completed their PhD are selected to teach for a year at a monthly salary of Rs 40,000. “This will help them financially after their fellowship stops and till the time they get their degree,” said Sanjay Kumar, IOE coordinator at BHU.

The university has also launched an internship scheme with 100 positions at a monthly stipend of Rs 20,000. It has started a one-time grant of Rs 85,000 to non-NET qualified students to help them publish in quality journals.

Support for new teachers includes seed grant for research up to Rs 12 lakh. “There’s also a one-time grant of Rs 8-12 lakh for faculty members who have performed well in the past five years in terms of publications,” Kumar said. “Also, 125 smart classrooms have been set up, an international boys hostel is ready and an international girls hostel will be ready by March.”

IIT Bombay: labs, classroom upgradeIOE notified: October 11, 2018Funds received to date: Rs 352 crore

“We are probably the only IOE that has earmarked 40% of its funds (Rs 400 crore out of the promised Rs 1,000 crore) towards procuring world-class research equipment for our laboratories,” institute deputy director S Sudershan said.

The institute has earmarked Rs 215 crore to build five world-class laboratories, including for health sciences, engineering, materials and advanced manufacturing. “Another lab is on data and information science, which will be a supercomputing facility,” said Prof Ramaswamy Murugavel, IOE coordinator at the institute.

The IIT is also upgrading its student activity centre (Rs 22 crore), and modernising classrooms and building new hostels. That apart, 200 positions for postdoctoral scholars (Rs 70 crore) have been created.

Hyderabad Central University: Equipment, research centreIOE notified: February 17, 2020Funds received to date: Rs 291 crore

According to vice-chancellor Basuthkar J Rao, the university is constructing an interdisciplinary research centre, human resource development centre and a guest house. It is also purchasing state-of-the-art high-spec equipment worth Rs 25 crore for research, said IOE project coordinator M Ghanashyam Krishna.

Apart from this, a publication-based incentive has been announced for non-NET PhD fellowship holders under which a scholar can get Rs 12,000 for the first publication and Rs 5,000 for the second. “All faculty members and PhD students are being given a one-time grant of Rs 1 lakh to travel abroad for conferences,” Rao said.

Delhi University: research centre, hostelsIOE notified: March 2, 2020Funds received to date: Rs 92 crore

The university has upgraded two instrumentation centres, initiated work to build new academic blocks for 1500 students and new hostels for 600 students. DU has also sanctioned research projects worth over Rs 20 crore to teachers.

According to the final funding pattern agreed in the meeting of the Education Ministry’s Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) on IOEs, held on September 26, 2019, IISC, IIT-Delhi and IIT-Bombay should have got Rs 923 crore by the financial year ending March 2023. But IISc has received Rs 620 crore, IIT Bombay Rs 352 crore and IIT Delhi Rs 555 crore till January 31 this year.

According to the plan, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Madras, HCU, BHU and DU should have received Rs 378 crore each. But they got obtained Rs 472 crore, Rs 474 crore, Rs 291 crore, Rs 386 crore and Rs 92 crore, respectively.

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This discrepancy is because of inadequate and delayed funding during the first two years. Initially, the government IOEs requested the ministry to be more flexible in releasing funds by linking allocation to specific activities or projects. However, the ministry adhered to fixed conventional heads and insisted that IOEs first spend their unused balance and submit utilisation certificates before raising demand for more.

IOEs such as IISc, IIT Bombay, and IIT Delhi aised concerns about the sluggish pace of funding during their review meetings with the Empowered Expert Committee. Funding bottlenecks persisted until the review meeting held in November 2019 at IIT Madras, where they were resolved but the pandemic struck immediately after, hampering the IOEs’ ability to effectively utilise the funds.

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Given this, the Education Ministry in October 2022 extended the deadline for releasing all of the Rs 1,000 crore to IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay and IISc till March 31, 2025, from October this year.

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