MTechs, PhDs in IITs surge as industry demand grows

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BENGALURU: The growing numbers of research labs of global technology companies in India has dramatically changed the profile of programmes being pursued at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

Prof Abhay Karandikar, director at IIT Kanpur, says half of the students in the IITs today are pursuing MTech and PhD programmes. About 20-30 years ago, 80-90% used to do BTech.

“If I look at my area of computer science and electrical engineering, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, they all hire PhDs. In mechanical engineering, there’s GE. India today has R&D centres of every multinational. Apple, Cisco, Huawei, they all hire PhDs,” says Karandikar, who moved to lead IIT Kanpur a little over a year ago after 22 years with IIT Bombay.

IIT Kanpur plans to start a medical school. We believe the next generation of research in healthcare will come from materials science, chemistry, computer science, AI, robotics, etc. If we start a medical school, unlike traditional medical colleges, we will have a lot of synergy with our engineering departments and that could really make a difference

Prof Abhay Karandikar

“Earlier, most of these organisations would outsource software development, but now they do core research here,” he says. And the pay is very good. Masters too is regarded as a value add over the undergrad programme. So those with MTech too have significant opportunity.

While some of the IIT BTech students go on to do MTech there, many of the MTech students are those who did BTech from other institutions such as the National Institutes of Technology (NITs).

New researches and new fields of study quickly become part of our curriculum. For instance, we have courses on artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science. We are considering starting an MTech in data science at IIT Kanpur

Prof Abhay Karandikar

Karandikar says there are also lots of opportunities now in academics for those with PhDs. “There are so many institutions that need quality faculty. The IITs themselves, the IIITs, NITs, others,” he says.

Computer science and electrical engineering are the most popular courses and are expected to remain so in the foreseeable future. But Karandikar says there are also good emerging opportunities in areas like materials science, mechanical and chemical engineering.

We are looking at starting an e-Masters, a totally online programme for industry professionals. It could be an e-Masters in cyber security, or e-Masters in data science. They can do 4-6 courses online that are offered by IIT. It won’t be an MTech, because MTech involves a thesis

Prof Abhay Karandikar

Another sea change in the IITs has been in the number of its students going abroad after BTech. This figure used to be 80-90%. “Today, 90% of the students are choosing to stay back in India because there are a lot more opportunities here. A large number of them are doing their own startups,” Karandikar says.

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