PM research fellowship can't stop brain drain from top engineering, tech institutes, say faculty, students at IITs

Government’s flagship PM Research fellowship scheme for PhDs at IITs and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is being touted as a measure to check brain drain of "brightest minds".

Published: 24th February 2018 07:38 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th February 2018 07:46 PM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose only.

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Government’s flagship PM Research fellowship scheme for PhDs at IITs and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is being touted as a measure to check brain drain of "brightest minds" but the programme is being met with scepticism by students and faculties at premier institutes.

On Friday, the Union human resource ministry invited application from the engineering graduates from IITs, IISc, National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Indian Institutes of Science Research and Education for the programme—first announced in the budget this year.

The scheme promises up to Rs 80,000 stipend to about 1000 students apart from Rs 2 lakh annual research grant and urges them to come up with research idea in subjects such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology- among several others- with clear deliverables and outcomes.

It also makes it clear that only those students who have the Cumulative Grade Point Average upward of 8 will be considered.

“Every year about 20 per cent brightest minds from premium engineering and technology institutes leave country either for jobs or higher studies—this scheme should put a brake on that practice,” a senior hrd official said.

Several faculty members across IITs, however conceded that unlike the undergraduate programmes at IITs, PhDs are considered less "prestigious".

“In fact, the reality is that only 200-300 students from IITs prefer to do PhDs at IITs while most prefer to go abroad for better exposure and academic experience,” said an IIT director, not wishing to be named. “Also for many students who want to pursue higher studies instead of taking up high-paying jobs, money is not very high on the priority list nor is what is being offered by the government very lucrative.”

Dheeraj Sanghi, professor of Computer Science at IIT Kanpur said that scheme might benefit students from other institutes more than the older IITs and IISc.

“The students will be interested in staying back for the purpose of research here if there is a healthy research ecosystem in India but the government perhaps needs to find several other ways to ensure that,” he said. “Also what is the guarantee that after five years of research these students wont go to countries like US for post-doctoral experience or jobs?”

Samarth Malik, a mechanical engineering student at IIT Kharagpur said that there is hardly any buzz around the scheme on the campus. “Many talented students are attracted towards PhDs in US universities because of the best academic experiences they promise—I doubt if PMRF can deter such students,” he quipped.


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