This year, I thought I will put it on blog to have some amount of public discussion on this list. But "limited" is the operative word here. Please do not mind if I reject your comment, as I do not intend to make this a free-for-all forum.
I have primarily looked at CS or IT departments. In India, many Institutes (particularly NITs) built their reputation based on traditional engineering disciplines. When Computer Science was introduced to most of these institutes a couple of decades ago, they just could not find enough faculty, and most of the NITs (and many old government institutions) continue to have serious shortage of faculty. But the way things happen in India, if some institute is good in one discipline, we assume, without question, that that institute is good in every discipline. I have tried not to get influenced by the presence of good traditional departments on the same campus, and therefore, you would notice that some of the high ranking institutes are not on this page, because I believe that their high ranking is based on departments other than CS and IT.
I have also resisted the temptation of looking at the placement scenarios. I strongly believe that the placement is a function of current perception (which is no indicator of quality). One should be interested in long term career, and not in placement. Long term career is a function of quality of education (besides your own personality, hard work, life skills, and a good bit of luck). In my view (and I have talked to thousands of people on this), initial placement has no causal relationship or even a strong correlation with a good career. And hence I only look at parameters which ensure quality, primarily the quality of faculty.
But I also look at something interesting that the Institute is doing. So the list below does not just represent a set of Institutes with good CS faculty, but those who are unique in some ways.
Disclaimer: Do Not take this as my ranking of CS/IT Departments. These are good departments that I know of. I do not claim to know about all the Institutes in the country. And as I said above, I am also including some departments for their innovation, rather than an overall quality.
If I have not listed a department here, it can be for a variety of reasons. I may not have been able to visit the Institute in the last few years, and could not get enough information from the website. I may not have even tried to get information about the Institute, since it may not have been on my radar. And, of course, I may not have found anything exciting on my visit there, and I do not believe that they are doing a good enough job of education.
Other minimum requirements for listing here:
- I only list institutes which are autonomous in academic processes (that is, they are either university themselves or a constituent college of a university). ( I am not listing colleges affiliated to any university.
- I only list colleges which have an under-graduate program in Computer Science or IT. (So, great places like IISc, Bangalore, are not on this list.)
- International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-H), Hyderabad
- Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-D), Delhi
- Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT), Gandhinagar
- LN Mittal Institute of Information Technology (LNMIIT), Jaipur
- BITS, Pilani
- NIT, Calicut
- Jadavpur University, Kolkata
- NIT, Hamirpur
- Institute of Technology, BHU, Varanasi
- College of Engineering, Anna University, Chennai
I consider IIIT, Hyderabad as the best alternative to IITs (from amongst the institutes I know or I have been told of). This Institute is already competing with IITs on attracting faculty, and every year it does attract some students who have got a good enough rank in JEE to get admission to IITs. They also get top students from AIEEE, and I believe that these students are as good as those in IITs. Basically, if you made a small mistake on the day of JEE, and did not do that mistake in AIEEE, you join IIIT Hyderabad. They have tremendous focus on research and human values. I have visited IIIT Hyderabad umpteen number of times, and I come back more impressed every time I go there.
IIIT Delhi is the newest amongst the IIITs. Though it has been in the existence for only 3 years, it has already started making waves. It has been able to attract excellent faculty, start strong research programs, have a great curriculum, and everything else that you would want from a good institution. It is supported by Delhi Government, though it is managed largely through a board which has very little representation from Delhi Government. Its Director, Prof. Pankaj Jalote, is a well known academician who has been writing a great deal about technical education for the last many years. He has a great vision and his presence as the founding director is really giving this Institute a great shape.
Another Institute, which is making an impact in IT education is DA-IICT at Gandhinagar. I am very impressed with the number of faculty members with PhD degrees from various IITs and decent US universities. And let me admit, being a faculty member myself, I think that an Institute which has so many of PhDs in their faculty, has to be on the right track. Of course, having "Dhirubhai Ambani" in the name of the Institute will ensure that the ADA (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani) group would never let it become a second-rate institution. Further, in their curriculum, there is a unique mix of Information Technology (CS) and Communication Technology, and depending on one's interest, one can go into the depth in either direction. And they seem to truly believe that under-graduate education is about broadening the horizons, and not become an expert. So not only do they have humanities courses in their curriculum, but they also have a six-week stay in a rural setting as part of curriculum.
LNMIIT is the fourth of the IT-focused institute which has potential to compete with the best in the future. The Institute has excellent infrastructure, beautiful architecture, and some of the best teachers in the country, who have retired from IIT system. Many of the young faculty members too have PhDs from IITs, IISc, and other fine institutions. Another great thing about LNMIIT is that they let you chose and change the discipline any time you want, with very liberal limits. You decide the discipline at the end of first year, and if after doing a few courses in that discipline, you think you like something else, just change it. They believe that a single exam on a single day should not determine the career of a young boy or girl. So they offer admissions through both AIEEE and IIT JEE. The curriculum is modern, and has only 40 odd courses. (Elsewhere, I have argued that a BTech curriculum should have no more than about 40 courses.) LNMIIT is a unique experiment of education in the joint sector. It is not a private college. It is a public private partnership between the Rajasthan Government and Lakshmi and Usha Mittal Foundation. And of course, Jaipur is arguably the best city to live in North India.
I admire BITS, Pilani for a lot of innovation that they have been doing in the engineering education. Whether it is the one semester training (Practice School) in the industry, or their online entrance exam, they always seem to be a step ahead of others in the new ways of doing education. They have an excellent dual-degree program, more flexible than any IIT can boast of. They have the best admission process, which takes some amount of language abilities into account. Of course, one concern that I have is whether BITS is spreading itself too thin by growing so fast. They have opened campuses in Dubai, Goa, and Hyderabad. Also, their focus on research seems less than other top class institutes in the country. (And, by the way, my strong recommendation is only for the Pilani campus.)
In September 2006, I had a chance to visit NIT Calicut, and I must say that I was very impressed. As you can see from the short list of institutes on this page, I do not get impressed easily. And let me tell you why. The first thing I noticed was that pretty much every faculty member in the department had a degree from either an IIT or IISc. They do hire people who have a BTech degree, but then ask them to do graduate education from outside. Most colleges run graduate programs (MTech or PhD) primarily to ensure that their own faculty members can get part-time graduate degrees. Even in NITs, most faculty members do MTech or PhD internally. But this in-breeding is dangerous for the quality of a department, and NIT Calicut has avoided the path of convenience to ensure quality. The maintenance of the campus is another thing that struck me as something great. The infrastructure is very good. The faculty is very cohesive. They have resisted the temptation of starting a program on IT. (Why shouldn't CSE and IT departments be merged in all NITs? There is hardly any difference in the programs, and these differences can be handled by offering electives.)
As one of the oldest engineering college in the country, Jadavpur University has made great contributions to the country. It was one of the early universities to start programs in computer science. It has a faculty, which includes 20 PhDs, which is rare, and almost impossible to find outside the IIT system. They have put out the number of their papers and other output on the website, which is good, though I would have liked to see the list of those papers, preferably with links to download them. The number of specializations is more than the number of faculty members. A large number of those PhDs are from Jadavpur University itself, and as I said above, I think there is something wrong with a department that encourages so many of the internal PhDs. This is particularly strange in their case, when fine institutions like IIT Kharagpur and ISI Kolkata are nearby. And the website is very poorly designed.
If there was an award for the most improved Institute in the country, it had to be given to NIT Hamirpur. Besides being the most beautiful campus that I have visited (and I have visited more than 100 colleges in the country), the improvements in the last five years are everywhere to see. You talk to anyone and they have a story to tell, a story of change, a change for the positive. The infrastructure improvement (computers, Internet bandwidth, buildings, and everything else) have taken place at a very rapid pace. It is no longer a sleepy NIT, with no link to the outside world. Now they welcome visitors from other NITs, IITs, and everywhere else. And once you go there, you are bound to fall in love with the campus. The curriculum has seen major changes (for the good). There is focus on hiring more faculty. They have started new MTech programs. They are starting to build relationships with their alumni. Everything that a college can and should do is being done at NIT Hamirpur, and it is no surprise to me that they have started appearing in some of the surveys of top engineering colleges. It also shows that while institutions are built through team-work, leadership makes a huge difference. Prof. I K Bhat, ex-Director of NIT Hamirpur, is one such visionary, who has made a huge difference. But the question being asked now is: Who after Prof. Bhat? The Institute has been without a Director for the past six months.
Institute of Technology, BHU, Varanasi has many strengths. It has been participating in the Joint Entrance Examination for several decades and that has really given it a good brand image. It is part of a great university and a great campus. That means that not only the campus has facilities of all sorts, but it also enables some cultural exchange between engineering students and non-engineering students, which is very good for wholesome education. And of course, it is expected that IT BHU will soon be converted into an IIT. The bill has already been passed by Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha is expected to pass it in the next session. And, as this list only contains institutes other than IITs, this is perhaps the last year for IT BHU to be on this list.
Another excellent place that I visited in 2006 is College of Engineering, Anna University, Chennai. The CS department has a fairly large faculty, and lots of them have a PhD degree. There is an active research program, and one can find several publications from that department in literature. It is an active and vibrant department. Also, they have a very interesting part-time under-graduate program. As I said above, whenever I visit a department, I am looking out for something unique, an idea which is worth emulating, and I don't know of any other place which has such a part-time under-graduate program. The curriculum is based on a credit-based system, which is a big positive.
If you have a suggestion for including another institute, please let me know. But back up that suggestion with data. Not placement data. Not India Today ranking, or any other ranking. Not the closing rank of AIEEE. But data about quality of faculty or something innovative about the program there.