|Courtesy BITS Pilani
Established: 1964 Vice- Chancellor: Prof. Bijendra Nath Jain
Programmes: BE, B Pharma, MSc, MPhil, ME, MBA
Approval/ Accreditation: NAAC accredited deemed to be University
Selection: BITSAT, merit basis Full-time faculty: 305
Top recruiters: Microsoft, Air Liquide, BHEL, KPMG
Conferences: Nano Microelectronics and Embedded System
Student activities: Oasis, Apogee, Interface
On asking for the directions to the Director’s office in the campus, I was instructed to set my cross-hairs upon the clock-tower. Though the architecture is Victorian, academics is definitely American, with MIT as the ideal, as Prof. Raghuram puts it.
GD Birla, the Founding Chairman established three major colleges in his birth place - Pilani in Rajasthan. These were the Birla College of Science, Birla College of Arts and Humanities and Birla College of Engineering. These colleges merged and became the earliest privately-funded deemed university in the country.
GD Birla attended MIT, and was totally impressed and fascinated by the education system there. He also enabled a Ford Foundation grant, which facilitated some American professors to come to India and train BITS professors on the American education system. So BITS has an academic system which encompasses continuous evaluation, total internal evaluation, semester system and letter grading instead of marks.
Though engineering is the star attraction, the campus is also known for its MSc (Hons.) and MSc (Tech) integrated programmes. Spread over eight semesters, education is rigorous and since 2005, admission is through an online test. Entry is difficult, and the emphasis on practice training is very high. Each student has to do an industry internship, that too under the supervision of visiting faculty. Practice School, PS as they call it, is taken very seriously. This is indicated by the fact that BITS Pilani has 50 dedicated, full-time off-campus faculty members just to ensure this.
“It was in 1979, we started in a big way with Practice school system, which has become a very well known model in the country today,” says Prof. Raghuram. This links industry experience to the curriculum, for every student. In this model, each student spends seven months and 15 days in the industry before he graduates. A two-month stint during the summer after the first two years and a full semester of 5.5 months in the final year. This way he is already trained in the world of work before he graduates. “This has given us a lot of dividends and is a win-win model for both the industry and the University. Today we have more than 150 industries taking part in this and take 2,000 students from BITS Pilani in a year,” adds the Professor.
"There is no reservation.
Every student here by merit"
Dr.G.Raghuram, Director, BITS, Pilani
With aspirations to become an MIT, research is an integral component at BITS, Pilani. Ranked 14 in the country in the area of research output in refereed journals, the institute has a legacy to live up to. An active PhD programme also helps. With over 22 govt. departments and 11 foreign partners, R&D projects are on a roll in the campus, but consultancy, has not yet picked up. Dr.RK Baradwaj, a former faculty, attributes this to the disadvantage by virtue of its location. “Though right from the beginning, we did focus on the university-industry linkage, “ he shares.
Campus life and beyond
It is a mini city in this dusty town, and the notable structures in the campus include Saraswati temple (which reminds you of the many Birla temples across the nation), ‘Shiv-Ganga’, and a museum. A modern and expansive ‘Student Activity Centre’ houses multiple indoor badminton courts and table tennis tables, a gymnasium and open lawns where the students try their hand at martial arts like Judo and Karate. There is a weather observatory and also a ‘Sky Lawn’ where the students can sit, relax, reflect and discuss. The number of motor vehicles is surprisingly low, with most of the students using bicycles.
As a Deemed University, the BITS mandate is to ‘be an island of excellence’. Most students concur that the institution is quite good. According to Prof.Raghuram, today, when the universities have lost the sheen due to indiscriminate expanson, BITS uses its status to bring in innovative things in their education system. The university has been on an expansion mode in the last few years. Campuses have been set up not only in Hyderabad and Goa, but also on a partnership basis in Dubai. And its off-campus programmes are also on the rise with 23 such programmes on offer. It is high time the institute took stock of its growth and plan further.
The new VC from IIT-Delhi, Prof. Bijendra Jain has his agenda cut out for him: increase the depth in each campus. “Consolidation is our agenda now,” he quips. Amen to that!
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