Watch Out!
Student Media
Body of IITR
About Guide Get Involved

Cover Story

Director Open House

February 20, 2023

WO! had the opportunity to interview the newly appointed Director, Professor K K Pant on 8th February 2023. You can watch the full recording using the embed above. The interview in the text form is available below.

Disclaimer: Since a lot of the audience questions were not directly spoken into the microphone, they are inaudible in the video. However, you can find them in the transcript.

WO! How has your experience been in IIT Roorkee till now and what was the one major difference you found between IIT- Roorkee and IIT Delhi?

Director: Indeed, it has been a pleasure for me. After 23 years of service at IITD and working in different capacities with many Ph.D. students, in October, I had the pleasure of joining IIT-Roorkee.

I knew the flora and fauna of IITR. The climate (in Delhi) has always been a challenge. There were issues like fog and stubble burning during the month of Oct-Dec. Roorkee weather is indeed a pleasure, so I liked that weather. Also, the environment and infrastructure here are something I wanted. When I came here, there were many things, 175 years of the Institute, lots of seminars, and conferences. I participated in almost all the conferences as a guest. It was an excellent experience for me because, for the past 23 years, I was restricted to the chemical engineering domain, and now I can check off all the 23 departments, schools, and the centers of excellence. I had to read about all the departments, areas of expertise, etc., for the inaugural ceremony. Thus, I got to know about them briefly. A lot of new things happened around that time. It was an excellent experience for me. We won the General Championship at the Sports meet, which was a first for the Institute. Also, we won the CII award for Research for the third consecutive time. It is a new experience for me as an administrator, and I am thankful for the support from all the faculty members, staff, and students.

In comparing IITD and IITR, I believe all IITs are equally good. All the branches of science/engineering are sound. Whatever engineering department you are pursuing, in the end, it is for societal importance. When you can transfer your knowledge to society, it will automatically convert into a business or a source of income generation. Among the top 7 IITs, IITD is either 2nd or 3rd in rankings compared to us being 6th. This is one difference I’d like to bridge.

Secondly, before joining here, I had studied the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis, which is critical to understand before starting any business or startup for the feasibility analysis. I did this analysis for all the IITs in the prospectus. In the study, I observed that IITR has all the facilities and high-quality faculty standards available at all the 5-6 IITs. Still, we are lacking somewhere because there is a difference if you look at the QS rankings and NIRF rankings. If you look at the past ten years’ data, IITR has continuously been in the range of 360-400. If you compare this with the top 4-5 IITs and IISc, they are between 150-200. This means that we must reach that level. So, in 2047 when India will be celebrating 100 years of Independence and IITR will be celebrating 200 years of foundation, our world rankings should be under 100, and this is my ultimate target.

WO!: You talked about business and how research should be oriented around business. So, the top 5 IITs have a rich startup culture as of now and IITR in recent years has tried to build one of its own. How do you envision this journey and what are your short-term goals so that we can achieve this?

Director: We had a brainstorming session when we talked about India 2047 or IITR 2047, around the time of 175 years celebration. I would like to have another brainstorming session in terms of the long-term/short-term vision of IITR. In the short-term goals, we are working on diversity and inclusion. We want to see women’s participation and participation from all parts of society in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Also, we would like to implement the NEP (New Education Policy) 2020, which is a need of the hour. After a brainstorming session, this was sent to the Senate. Soon you would see a much more vibrant curriculum. We will come out of the box of just bookish knowledge, which will include more practical knowledge, where the focus will be on applying the knowledge you learn in class. We will also focus on the students’ entrepreneurship skills and how they can provide jobs for many. Long-term goals include bringing the institute under the top 100. For this, we would have to do a lot of work. In the coming 25 years, I’d like to see at least ten unicorns from IITR. We already have 140 ongoing startups, and I would like to see how these startups could be converted into businesses. To conclude, the implementation of NEP is the immediate goal, and then how the students can be motivated by using the NEP policy and look at their own startup activities. We have the Tinkering Lab whom we are asking for 1000 ideas each year, out of which we will shortlist the selected ideas which can be taken forward with financial support from the SRIC office. We could shortlist 50 at first and then come down to 10 finally. Through this process, we will have a good startup culture at IITR.

WO! You mentioned about ten unicorns from our institute. To implement this idea, is it essential to give a specific benefit to students doing entrepreneurship, i.e., in terms of credits, some advantage in their grading?

Director: Not just certain benefits, these students should receive a lot of benefits. The NEP has multiple entries and exit policies through which a student can do entrepreneurship in a semester and after a certain period (6 months-1 year) return to complete that semester. We want to see our students flourish, develop entrepreneurship skills, and set up industries. This process will take time, for sure. You are never restricted to just your branch of engineering. What you learn here is just for mind development. Through that, you can go into any branch of science or business.

WO! A lot of students have raised concerns about the need for more transparency and the absence of clear communication between the students and the administration. What are your thoughts on this?

Director: I did not observe any lack of transparency as such. The academic curriculum is made after we take feedback from the students. For example, when we had prepared the curriculum of IITD, we did a thorough study. The Dean of Academic Affairs told me that a similar study was done here to design the curriculum. A common query among the students was that they were heavily loaded. As a result, we reduced the total credits from 200 to the range of 150-160. Some students said that they didn’t want to read about chemical engineering. We allow them to get into the CSE branch, provided they must work hard, and their CGPA should be at a certain level. Also, from 3rd year onwards, they can take minor courses in the CSE department like AI, ML, Data Science, Deep Learning, etc. You can also take management courses. We are looking forward to improving some of the course structures. Now you can take minor courses with 15-20 credits out of 150. So, you will have to study just 55% of your core branch. Businesses nowadays require an interdisciplinary approach, and thus you need to learn how to do business which will require everything in terms of science and engineering. I think there is transparency throughout any academic system. Some students might feel that they have got a poor grade, but the professors do all the grading according to a set of predefined rules. There are student representatives in the Senate, so the students’ voices can be heard. To my knowledge, there is full transparency in our institute. If this is not the case, do let me know.

Dean(Student’s Welfare): We have complete transparency in the system and believe in transparency throughout. We do not know of any lack of transparency. As a student, if you think that this problem persists and there is room for improvement, we are ready to hear any suggestions. But we still believe that we have full transparency.

Director: Prof. Barua, do you think that we have this problem in hostel affairs?

Dean (Student’s Welfare): No. We have hostel committees for all hostels, which consist of student representatives. In all committees of the institute, we have student representatives. You will not find any committee without student representation.

Audience: Earlier, we had NPTEL courses for OEC’s which were removed recently. As you said that you take opinions from the students, none of the student representatives to the Senate agreed. What are your thoughts on this?

Director: Do you think that an IIT student should take the NPTEL course unless the course is essential?


Director: In that case, your department must agree to it, and then you can take the course.

Audience: But that makes the process cumbersome for the students.

Director: I have never allowed my Ph.D. students to take these NPTEL courses. These NPTEL courses were made for the private/state engineering colleges that needed more competent faculty. At all IITs, we believe that we have sufficient high-quality faculties who can teach that subject. We allow students to take a course only if it is the case that the course is particular and the institute is not running that course. Otherwise, it is a mockery of the system. You are IITians, and thus you should have that kind of confidence. If you take a more relaxed course which improves your grade, chances are that you will regret this decision in the future.

Audience: It is not always about a relaxed course. In NPTEL, we have a lot of variety of courses available to choose from.

Director: If you want to take the course, we have given you an option.

Dean(Academic Affairs): What this student is saying needs to be corrected, according to the data. The number of students taking NPTEL courses in a semester ranges from 200-750. Many courses these students opt for are available in our institute’s various departments. For example, Programming in C++.

Director: I will allow you to take these courses from Stanford, Purdue, MIT, or other IITs. If you think that the course is essential, I will allow it.

Dean(Academic Affairs): For many medical cases, I have allowed these students to take NPTEL courses. This number has again come down to less than 50.

Director: Why would you want to learn C++ and Python through NPTEL if we already have experts at our institute? This is why many companies have a terrible image of IITR students compared to other IITs. We allow students to audit as many courses as they want.

Audience: But for taking any minor courses, we have to have a certain CGPA, and thus only a few students can take these courses.

Director: So, basically you want to take those NPTEL courses to improve your grade. Indeed, by discussing this with the Dean, we can decrease the CGPA criteria if that is the issue. We will allow you to take a specific course only if that college has a better ranking than IITR. We will also make this process easier by conducting the process by mail.

Dean(Academic Affairs): For some courses in some departments, there is a heavy rush in the students. As the department fixes the number of seats, we must choose from the applied candidates. Thus, keeping the CGPA criteria is required.

Director: We can conduct multiple course cycles if there are many candidates. I am looking forward to increasing the number of faculty members. I am hoping that soon these problems will be resolved.

Audience: The discussion started on the topic of transparency. So, all of the student representatives of the Senate disagreed to this. Why was this still implemented?

Dean(Academic Affairs): This was mentioned in the Senate. I agree that this was not a specific agenda item in the Senate, but it was discussed.

Audience: You just mentioned that this was not a specific agenda.

Dean(Academic Affairs): Yes. But this was discussed in the Senate, and the student representatives also agreed that this was mentioned in the Senate.

Director: Be relieved, as this is not a hard and fast rule. If you want to take a course and the DAPC agrees to it, you are allowed to take it. You are not forbidden to do this. But I would prefer that you do a course at our institute itself. You can also suggest the specific courses to be included in the curriculum. We will also increase the number of seats for minor students. In the new curriculum, you will have the option to do courses from other IITs.

WO!: IIT Roorkee currently lacks infrastructure in terms of basic student’s needs. Many groups share rooms in SAC and some of them don’t even have a room. Also there is a lack of co-working spaces for students who are not involved in any of these groups. Library closes at 12:00 am,except for the exam days. So what is being done or what could be done to improve the current situation?

Director: I feel SAC and MAC are sufficient, because I visited SAC and ground floor was empty. Individual rooms become difficult. One of the options is the top floor of Ganga Bhawan and also we are looking for other space options. Slotting can be done, time slots can be made. Also since students are so studious, we will relook into the timings of the library.

Dean(Student’s Welfare): This is good if there is shortage of space. Everyone is coming up with new groups, so everybody cannot be given a separate room. We are trying to get large space above Ganga bhawan

Dean(Academic Affairs): We made LHC-rooms open for 24 hours during the exam time, on request of students.

WO!: For the people who are not in campus groups and have to work on a project cannot find a place, because in the library there is supposed to be silence. SAC, MAC are open spaces but there is no space to sit and work.

Director: I think we can make Ganga Bhawan and other places available.

Dean(Student’s Welfare): We also plan to provide space given to Cogni and Thomso because these groups operate only for 6 months. So for the next 6 months, we will provide these rooms as co-working places for students.

Director: Give us some time, we will find suitable space using space audit.

WO!: Moving to the next question, post Covid, many of the cultural activities saw a setback. The Electoral procedure has been disrupted along with the elections of DAPC’s. Last year, the Convocation was not held. So what steps would you take to ensure that we go to the same position where we were before covid.

Director: Yes, this is right. Covid has impacted various activities of all academic institutes. We should be ready for these types of man-made or natural calamity. They also taught us methods of online teaching and NPTEL. Having said that, I understand Convocation is still not done. We are communicating with different ministries to get the date but we still haven’t been given a gate. We are still hoping that our honorable Prime Minister will grace the event. But if he doesn’t come, we are looking for alternatives also. Probably in March , we will conduct Convocation.

As for the DAPC election, I consulted Prof. Barua and he is coordinating that activity. Soon you will have DAPC. As for other activities, this year JEE will be conducted on time, probably in the first week of June and next year, first sem students will be on time so probably from the next sem, we hope that all our activities will be on track.

WO!: Sir, you mentioned how important placement and internship are,for students as well as the institute. Sometimes, the intern season and placement season is a very exhausting period for students because they have to give tests and interviews and side by side they have to manage classes, assignments and quizzes. The academic schedule is not aligned to prevent this from happening. Do you think something could be done to reduce the mental burden on students?

Director: I was looking at the academic calendar and discussing it with the Dean of Academics. By 30th November, all academic activities are completed and interviews generally start from 1st December. Our academic calendar and curriculum should be well placed. Classes should be as per schedule, from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and there should not be lag. If there has to be a rescheduling of class, it should be done on Saturday or before 30th November. This is same in all IIT’S and I don’t think there is any mismatch.

WO!: Sir, What about the intern season specifically?

Director: Yes, the intern for 3rd year students . They go for internships in May when the semester closes. They plan accordingly, but If there is a special case, do let me know.

Dean(Academic Affairs): Academic calendar is perfect. Before 30th November, all activities of the autumn semester get completed. And same for spring semester. All activities will close before 13th May, so students will get 15 days before joining for intern.

Director: If you disturb this schedule, companies will go e lsewhere and we will miss the buse should follow the common schedule.

WO!: The tests for internship happen in September of the previous semester. So our main concern was there.

Dean(Academic Affairs): Our academic calendar cannot align with specific companies but it follows the path aligning with the schedule of most companies.

Director: We will look into it, if there is any problem.

WO!- Moving to our last question, What are your opinions on the 75% compulsory attendance rule? A lot of students are concerned regarding that.

Director:- I am saying, not 75% but 100% attendance should be there. 42 lectures for (3, 0 ,0) course, 56 lectures for (3,1,0) course. This should be followed by every faculty member and in a similar way, there should be 100% attendance. If there is any medical issue or personal problem, we always address it. Classes are an opportunity to interact. Interaction between students and professors is very important. I personally feel, if students are not coming to the class, then either the fault is with faculty. We will try to improve in that case or there is a lack of interest in students. In case attendance is falling short to 70% attendance, send the students to wellness centre. Our outreach should be very important with positivity. It is my suggestion for you to remain disciplined and attend classes. The MNC’s’ expect an 8:00am-8:00pm job. So this is training you.

WO!: Sir what about the students who want to pursue something different from the course that they are pursuing? Classes take up a major part of their day. Do you think some more grace could be given to the ones opting for different fields of study than their own.

Director: Co-curricular activities are very important. Personality development is very important. World is growing at an exponential rate, so we also need to grow at that pace and become multi-dimensional. For this you have to make your schedule for academic, extra-curricular and co-curricular. Then only you can compete with the world outside. There are 5 courses and a lab, so you do get time.

WO!: After 6-8 hours of classes, they can give a maximum of 6-8 hours for their field of interest. So classes are stopping them from pursuing their field of interest, with the attendance rule being so stringent.

Director: You are young people, must work from 8:00am-12:00am. After working for these many hours there is no scope that you don’t have time left. You just need to optimize.

Audience: Sir everyone has a different style of teaching. So there is a chance that I might not resonate well with the teacher in class ,but with a YouTube video or NPTEL. So don’t you think attendance is taking away my liberty to study from someone I can resonate better with?

Director: In such cases, I would say that you attend both. There might be many things that haven’t been taught in video. Your learning will then be much better. You can discuss this with the professor too. Teachers also learn while teaching.

Audience: What about the students who are interested in entrepreneurship? You stated that we are aiming for 10 unicorns in the coming decades. What are the steps we are going to take in this regard?

Director: Unicorn will take time. I want that IIT-R alumni should be capable enough to donate the amount the institute needs. That’s why we started with start-up activities. Presently there are 2 unicorns from IIT-R. IIT-D has 20 unicorns. So, I would like to see something similar from here. Our vision and mindset are important.

Audience: Sir I don’t understand why the 75% attendance rule is given so much importance. I run my own business and I would rather spend my time designing rather than attending lectures which are not coherent with my goals. I would not gain anything out of attending lectures I didn’t even opt for myself. I didn’t choose my branch, my JEE rank did. But I do get to choose my passion and goals. The attendance rule is a hindrance to that.

Director: Since you are registered in IIT Roorkee as a student, you are registered in a particular department, so your responsibility first is to fulfill your responsibilities for the department and then if you find time then you can do the rest of the work on weekends. If your business is a good one then you can hire a person who can do rest of the jobs for you.After classes in the evening, you are free to do whatever but the classes are very important hence this 75% rule is necessary. This is our responsibility to make you functional, attend classes and get the degree.For getting a degree, attending the classes, passing your course and maintaining a good CGPA is also important.

Audience: Sir it may be possible that the professor or TA is great at their field but I may face problems in understanding their lectures. So I rather use other resources available online. If the end goal is to get good grades and understand concepts then why waste my time attending lectures?

Director: Everytime the philosophy says that , even Bill Gates became a billionaire but since you appeared in JEE,came to IITR ,you should be following rules and regulations.Rules are everywhere. Even if you do a business ,you have to follow the government’s laws.You have to pay taxes, get market permissions, not disturb the ecology etc. You cannot say that I will be independent, you have the responsibility of the society.Similarly, I have the responsibility for IITR and all faculty members have a responsibility to maintain the campus bright. As a student, you are registered in some courses, you have your department’s aim and we have expectations from you. You just have to manage the 75% attendance and rest all is in your hands. My suggestion would be, get the degree first and then expand your business. I am sure if you have an engineering degree, it would be much better. Your degree has no barrier though, a biosciences degree may get you much more than a computer science degree.You could have done a business after getting a degree from a local college also but IIT has certain norms which ought to be followed. That is why it’s a brand.

Audience: Sir we see that certain departments provide higher grades to the students and some provide lower. So when it comes to 3rd year where we have our intern season, many departments have a disadvantage because of low CG. I think there should be a regularized and normalized way of marking. Most Professors are reluctant to change/improve grades and then go about boasting about their alma mater. They ask us to take permission from directors or deans which is a tedious job.

Director: I don’t think this is because the grading is relative to the class, placement companies do consider that (branch-wise). But yes, I do understand your point. Some MNCs do not see branches but CGPA for the cutoff list but I have already sensitized to the dean academic that the grading should have a certain pattern and criteria. But you know it’s a relative grading that 50% class should be put above average but that can be changed to even 60 or 70 because at times many students can be exceptionally good. This happens on the discretion of the faculty and that’s why moderation is important.We should also train the young faculty members regarding this. Academic curriculum meeting took place and a lot of suggestions came, we are incorporating those.

Audience: There are many of our profs who don’t give above 8, like in a branch of 170, only a handful get 9 or 10

Director: We will have a meeting with all the faculty and sensitize them. This is really important considering MNCs consider above 8 grades across all IITs. We have to make our grades better but not diluted, reasonably good.

Audience: Sir we have a committee on campus which caters to the fauna called the CCF. They work for the welfare of the campus animals and yet receive minimal to no funding. They mostly rely on public funds. Do you think they should be given funding from the administration?

Director: I think we need to develop in terms of our flora and fauna. So far we do not have any strategy made for this but hopefully in future we do.I also think that the street dogs should be kept controlled and hence too many feeding points are not good. There have been cases of dog menace in the picture and we have to avoid them. But apart from this, we can do many things. We have enough funds, we just need to redistribute them. Funding is not the issue, implementation is.

Audience: Sir, in the past few weeks, the mess food quality has gone down. We even found brick pieces and other stuff in our food. As students, we expect basic good quality food. Please do something to maintain this.I am talking about the Ravindra mess.

Dean(Student’s Welfare): Yes, we heard about that incident and don’t worry, it has been taken care of. The mess contractor has been fined already.Our messes have good quality and even tasty food. For instance, students moved to Himalaya bhawan are requesting the same food taste as their old bhawan. We take action against anything that happens wrong. There is a mess council consisting of students which ensures this.

Director: Let us check the complaints. Did you convey this to the bhawan warden too?

Audience: Yes sir, we regularly report our complaints to the bhawan council and wardens but little has been done to improve the scenario.

Director: The quality is very important, we will work on that.

Audience: Sir, since we were talking about your vision for IIT Roorkee, you focused a lot on STEM but I feel that the social sciences are an integral part of this university too. How do you think we should expand in this area too?

Director: Yes, I already mentioned STEM so I am not focusing only on engineering. STEM is multi diverse. Any branch of engineering does not work independently and it needs humanities and social sciences too to function. Ethics are very important in research. Many BTP papers are lacking in this field. Linguistic skills are equally important. Management and economics are integral parts of engineering. Business tactics are very important. Other branches of engineering have to join hands with the Humanities and Social Sciences department and even the management department . We are not getting any funds from outside agencies and we have to make our projects complete by doing economic analysis. I would even like to see a school for public policy because it is another integral part of science these days. We are working on recruitment of more faculty for this department.