IIT – Not Such a Rosy Picture

The media needs to show a lot more diligence while reporting on placements and salary figures at IIT Kharagpur.

ByKunal Singh
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IIT – Not Such a Rosy Picture
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The new year brought some good news through the newspapers – or so it seemed. Amidst the overwhelming cynicism and the impending doom of the Indian economy, a headline in The Times of India read, “IIT Kharagpur creates record, more than 1000 students get placed”. The supposedly punctilious The Hinducarried a news report – “It’s raining jobs in IIT Kharagpur”. The pink papers were expected to delve deeper into the matter. The indolence, however, befuddles me. The headlines in Business Standard and The Economic Times repeated the same sentiment. There were other newspapers and news websites too singing the same song. In spite of being a proud recent graduate of IIT Kharagpur, I found these headlines disturbing. I know students in the campus who find these headlines not just disturbing but harrowing.

These are students who have performed decently in their academics, participated in sports and managed to sketch out the required one page resumé for themselves. They have been running from one company interview to another, still unable to land a job despite it supposedly “raining jobs” on campus. Their parents read these headlines and think of their children as extremely poor performers who are unable to beat their peers who are excelling and grabbing jobs with annual salaries as high as USD 125,000.

These kinds of news reports place students under immense pressure. Let us look at the present statistics of placements in IIT Kharagpur which has created a “record” by crossing the 1000 mark. According to my sources from The Training and Placement Cell of IIT Kharagpur, the 1010 students who have been placed till January 2, 2014 form a mere 51.8% of the 1950 students who had registered for placements.The students who are supposed to have let down their families by not performing in accordance with the “record” standards set by other classmates actually belongs to a group of 48.2% students in IIT Kharagpur. If the studentsare enrolled in a M.Tech/MCP, MMST or LLB program in the institute, they would belong to 67.3% of the unplaced students in these programs. If these students are enrolled in a two year M.Sc program, they will be among the 108 students who have not been placed out of 116 students who had registered for placements.

The incidence of suicides at IITs is a poorly kept secret. In my four years at IIT, I have seen a few successful and heard of more than a few unsuccessful attempts. The irresponsible reportage could have an adverse effect on students who can crack under the societal pressure of not landing a good salary package during placements.

The figures I have thrown are of the Phase I placements. It is in this phase that most students are offered jobs. Very few students get jobs, especially ones with decent packages, in Phase II. Quite clearly, records have been broken and more students have been placed than in previous years. However, the system has been unable to cope with the increasing number of students’ intake. If elite institutions like the IITs, known for breaking records in terms of number of students placed and the packages offered, are unable to place as many as 48.2% of students, we should stop expecting anything of the engineering colleges which have mushroomed throughout the nation without proper faculties and amenities.

The media is known for its cloying admiration of institutes like IITs. It has a habit of presenting a salubrious picture of the placements every year by selective dissemination of information. The media seems to lack the will or ability to ask inquisitive questions. The very fact that none of the publications mentioned cared to ask how many students are yet to be placed – while reporting that more than 1000 have already been placed –is telling. The IITs do not stand absolved in the wrong message being propagated either. Look at the official note released by IIT Kharagpur on its website. The note, quite smugly, announces the crossing of the 1000 mark in the placements. However, that is not the most misleading part of the note. The notes also states that the range of salaries offered to the students falls between INR 12 lakh to USD 125,000. Most graduates from IIT would be able to vouch that the average package must be closer to half the starting range mentioned in the note published. From what I have seen, it is more likely to find a student earning one fourth of the starting salary mentioned than find a student in the range published.

We have, till now, only focussed on the plain numbers. The greater issues such as the deficiency of enough technical jobs for students from top technical institute have never been mentioned by the media. The plum jobs are offered for the first few days and most of these jobs are offered by service sector companies instead of manufacturing sector companies (Department of Computer Science and Engineering is an exception which attracts enough technical jobs for its students). I am working with a sales and marketing consultancy after graduating from IIT Kharagpur’s Metallurgical and Materials Engineering department.

We have been ignoring such problems and will continue to do so. The institute seems very happy with its performance and the unctuous media rarely asks any questions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently expressed his concern over the state of affairs in the higher education sector. None of the IITs made it to the top 200 educational institutes listed in the QS World University rankings last year. The change, unfortunately, seems far away as we seem to lack enough doubting Thomases. Indian higher education including the elite institutes like IITs requires critics – is the media listening?

The author can be contacted at singh.kunal.iit@gmail.com 

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