Monday, December 10, 2018

IITK Revival: Must start from Computer Science

A few decades ago, after the JEE results, I went to IIT Delhi for Counseling, I just put up one option, "IIT Kanpur Computer Science." The good professor on the stage warned me this may not be enough. The previous year's closing rank for IITK CS was 26. And I added my second choice, "IIT Delhi Mechanical." Thankfully, I got my first choice.The top 100 ranks, in those days, would go for IIT Kanpur and overall about 50 percent of top 100 students would be in Kanpur. This continued for many years, but started declining about 20 years ago, and for the last three years, we have had 0 students in top 100.

While there are many reasons for top JEE rankers to not choose IIT Kanpur and the situation is not likely to change overnight, we must do something to counter this perception that IIT Kanpur is in some sense worse that IITB, IITD, and now even IITM, and the rate at which the closing ranks of IITK and KGP are closing in, may be tomorrow's perception will be that we are the worst old IIT. It is nobody's argument that a 100 ranker is far better in academic preparation than a 200-rank student. After all JEE is a lottery among good students. So all the students you are getting are good. But the perception still makes a difference. Having a bunch of 1000 students most of whom preferred some other IIT and are sad (at least in the beginning days) that they are stuck in IITK is not the best environment to start converting these young adults to great engineers.

Based on current perceptions in the admission market, it would be difficult to convince students (and parents) to prefer Kanpur over Bombay/Delhi for the same discipline. But we must note that some students do prefer Kanpur CS over Electrical at other IITs, and most students will prefer Kanpur CS over the next popular program (Mechanical or Maths+Computing) at other IITs. So the preference of other IITs is not so much that students will take any discipline there over any discipline at Kanpur, though if the choice is between the same discipline, they will prefer other IITs. We should be able to make use of this dynamics.

Why do people prefer certain disciplines - not because of their interest, but because of their perception of job market. Even the choice of IIT is driven in part by perception of their placement. It is assumed that placement depends on discipline and IIT and hence you can go to a "lower" IIT if you are getting a "higher" discipline. (I really feel sad to use terms like lower/higher, since they are more based on ignorance and not on passion or an understanding of career issues.) What if we could tell people that if they were to join IITK, they would have wide variety of jobs available, not just in their core disciplines but also in CS related fields, and I am not talking of IT service industry but "higher" end jobs. Even in their own disciplines, they would have faster career progression since they will have skills that are in demand. Yes, that means, every student in IITK, irrespective of their discipline, will be able to do a course on Data Structures, a course on AI or Machine Learning, a course on Robotics or automation, and may be a couple of others, as electives.

We don't have to change our curriculum for this, since it is already very flexible, it already has a large number of elective slots, and the only thing that is needed is that such courses be offered in all semesters, may be multiple sections, and be available for enrollment for all students. While some of these courses could be offered by departments other than CSE, doing this will put a significant load on CSE department. And that is where the problem is. Why should CSE department take up extra teaching load?

It is clear that if we can allow all students to do certain set of courses (as electives) many of which will have to be offered by CSE department, we could improve the closing ranks of other departments. This won't help CSE department, but they would be helping the Institute if they can manage this. And from my discussion with KGP alumni and faculty, I see that they do have this kind of flexibility for their students and this is helping them.

I believe this is possible through a multi-pronged approach. We can make use of technology and offer some courses in flipped classroom mode. We can make use of guest faculty. We should be able to hire some more regular faculty. We can remove some electives with just 2-4 students and ask the faculty to teach courses with some minimum student strength. We can co-teach certain courses with faculty from other departments. There can be incentives to individual faculty members who are not too busy with research to take extra teaching load. There can be incentives for the department as a whole. I really believe that where there is a will, there is a way.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Remembering 1994 batch

Recently, DORA announced on facebook that 1994 batch will be coming to IITK later this month to celebrate their silver jubilee year of graduation. Then yesterday, the government announced that one of their batchmates, Prof. Krishnamurthy Subramanian is being appointed as the new Chief Economic Advisor. So I started thinking of my own interaction with this batch.

I had joined IIT Kanpur when they were in their 7th semester. In the 8th semester, I had offered a graduate course on networking, which only two UG students took, one each from CSE and EE departments. So, for all practical purposes, I didn't teach this batch. However, in the month of April, I felt that having overlapped with this batch for over 6 months, I should have some interaction with at least the CSE students before they leave.

I invited them one evening for some chatting and some tea/snacks. It was a very small group in those days unlike a graduating batch of 100 these days. About 15 students showed up. I started the discussion by asking how has their IIT experience been over the previous 4 years. This was a disastrous start, since student after student said that it was horrible, that they will never come back to IITK, and they would like to forget their experience. I was shocked. I have been a bachelor's student in the same department, and I had absolutely loved my 4 years here. What could have gone wrong.

I probed deeper. Did they enjoy festivals, student clubs, sports, hostel life in general, and they all seemed to have enjoyed that. So it was academics which was causing this negative feeling. So on a board I started listing all the compulsory courses and popular electives that many of them would have taken, about 40 of them. I started asking, "How was Math 101?" It was enjoyable. How was Phy 101. It was good. And we went on and on. At the end, out of 40 courses, they seemed to have liked about 35 courses, a couple of courses, they had some minor issues, and in another couple of courses, they had some major issues.

So it turned out that two faculty members either as instructors or as DUGC conveners (or some other positions) had taken a few decisions which the batch considered unfair and that was bothering them a lot.

It was an eye opener for me. I learnt that a few unfair decisions can cause so much hurt that one is willing to ignore all the good things that may have happened. I pointed out to them that they spent about half their waking hours on academics, and half on non-academics. Pretty much 100% of non-academic hours, they seem to have enjoyed, and 90% of academic hours too they seem to have enjoyed. Overall, 95% positive and 5% negative. That is not sufficient reason to hate IIT so much to say that they would never come back. Also in terms of faculty, each one of them would have interacted with 25-30 faculty members (instructor, tutor, warden, various committee members, etc.), and if they found two to be unfair, that does not represent the entire spectrum of their experience. They all agreed, and thanked me for this discussion. Some of them recalled this meeting when I met them a few years ago.

Later on, I made it a practice to invite the graduating batch every year for such a discussion with some food. The idea was to learn what negative experiences they may have had so that we can ensure the future batches will not face the same situation and also to put those negative experiences in perspective so that they don't go out with negative feelings towards their alma mater. Of course the practice lasted only about 10-12 years with 1 or 2 gaps in between.

I look forward to the Silver Jubilee Reunion and interacting with the batch again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Liberal Program Changes 2018

This year we have allowed change of program to 87 students in a batch of 821 students. Also, we allow program changes even after 3rd and 4th semester. I am quite sure that at least 25-30 students will get their programs changed in the next two semesters. This means that almost 15 percent of the batch would have their programs changed. That is a very large number (though I will never be satisfied, I think there is still scope to tinker with the rules).

I wrote a blog yesterday in which I mentioned this, and there were requests to make public more details of program change at IITK. Hence this article, and here are the rules:

Each program strength can go up by 2 (from the maximum of current strength, or the number of seats announced for admission). This means that there are at least two vacancies in each program. Other vacancies get created because an odd student does not join, and a few students' programs have been terminated at the end of 1st year due to poor academic performance.

Each program strength can go down to a minimum of 55 percent of the number of seats announced for admissions. This means that the least popular program, which happens to be Chemistry, some low CPI students will have difficulty in leaving for a new program.

Program changes can be done at the end of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th semester, strictly in the order of CPI. CPI is computed based on all courses of 1st year. This also means that if you haven't passed all courses, you are not eligible to change your program. And indeed there are students who do not go for morning exercises but have a decent CPI, and are not eligible for program change, since morning exercises is a compulsory course in the first year.

If there is only one vacancy in a particular program but more than one student who have the same CPI and want to change to that program, all of them will be granted change to that program. (This allows a large number of students to get Computer Science, since all of them have a CPI of 10.0 while there are only 2 vacancies in the program.)

Following is the statistics for program change this semester (only for those who got admitted in 2017 and have completed 2 semesters):

CSE, 2 vacancies, 10 in (last at CPI 10.0), 0 out, no vacancies left for next semester
EE, 2 vacancies, 10 in (last at CPI 9.5), 7 out, no vacancies left for next semester
ECO, 2 vacancies, 2 in (last at CPI 9.0), 0 out, no vacancies left for next semester
MTH, 3 vacancies, 6 in (last at CPI 9.0), 1 out, no vacancies left for next semester
ME, 2 vacancies, 10 in (last at CPI 8.8), 6 out, no vacancies left for next semester
CHE, 2 vacancies, 11 in (last at CPI 8.4), 9 out, no vacancies left for next semester
AE, 2 vacancies, 6 in (last at CPI 7.7), 4 out, no vacancies left for next semester
CE, 2 vacancies, 11 in (last at CPI 6.2), 9 out, no vacancies left for next semester

PHY, 3 vacancies, 7 in, 5 out, 1 vacancy left
MSE, 5 vacancies, 12 in, 13 out, 6 vacancies left
BSBE, 3 vacancies, 2 in, 6 out, 7 vacancies left
ES, 3 vacancies, 0 in, 11 out, 14 vacancies left

CHM, 3 vacancies, 0 in, 16 out, 19 vacancies left, No one else can leave Chemistry due to 55% rule.

The last student allowed to leave Chemistry has a CPI of 6.5. A student at 6.4 CPI has not been allowed to change. Only one more student can leave Earth Science to hit 55 percent rule.

Note that new vacancies can get created next semester because someone leaving IIT (voluntarily or involuntarily) and also in some cases a student seeking a change from a more popular program to a less popular program.

I mentioned in the beginning that there is still scope for tinkering with the rules. One rule is that a student can get program change only once. This makes the system a lottery which is highly undesirable. So, if you are in Earth Science, and you have a decent CPI that can get you Mechanical after the second semester, should you apply for it now, or hope that after the 3rd or 4th semester, an additional vacancy will get created in a more popular program and there will not be as much demand then, so one waits. But of course no additional vacancy may get created and you didn't get Mechanical either because not this too is full.

Also, one can allow additional program changes at the end of 2nd year. Someone who is willing to work extra hard to do a program of his/her own interest, can be encouraged.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Marketing New Programs at IITK

The year was 1976. We had been running an inter-disciplinary M.Tech. program in "Computer Science and Engineering" for a few years. Even earlier, we had a specialization in Computer Engineering as part of Electrical Engineering department. We had been running short term courses in computing right from 60s. Pretty much every one connected with computing in India had attended some program at IIT Kanpur. And yet, the general feeling in the country was that Computer Science would never succeed in a poor country like India where the labor was so cheap. The Government would not allow use of computers since that could only reduce jobs.

The faculty took a very risky decision. They will offer an under-graduate program in Computer Science and Engineering, the first in the country. This was bound to fail, critics warned. We will get only those students who cannot get admission to any other program. The Senate refused to allow this. After a lot of persistent effort by the then CS faculty, it was finally approved to start in 1978 with just 20 students. Prof. Rajaraman went to several cities just after the announcement of JEE result and met students and parents and convinced them why Computer Science had a bright future ahead. Faculty members also went to other IITs on the day of counseling to answer any questions that students and parents may have.

When the counseling results came out, this new program which was predicted to be a failure had closed ahead of all existing programs in all IITs at that time.

Today, we think that "marketing" is a four letter word.

Economics program was started in 2005 after Mr. Arjun Singh, the then Minister of HRD made a public statement that IITs should widen their offerings and he particularly mentioned Economics as one program that we could offer. I was quite excited about this program. If this program was available in my student days, may be I would have seriously considered it instead of Computer Science. But it was a risk that IIT Kanpur was taking. We had a small faculty, and we really were not prepared for it. The students and parents were not ready for it. Most people were of the view that those who give JEE want to do engineering. Some of them do science because they had done science in 11th and 12th and enjoyed it. But things that they had not done in school and are not engineering, they would not be interested in. It was pointed out that other such programs like Architecture, Pharmacy, and certain science programs like Geology had extremely poor closing ranks compared to other programs. And Economics was going to be right there, at the last.

I talked about it on my blog and encouraged people to opt for it. I was sure that after some teething troubles, this will be a great program. Frankly, I had very little support till Prof. Vimal Kumar joined the department in 2009. We worked together on social media, reaching out to students and parents, answering their queries. It helped that the first batch graduated in 2010. He was also able to rope in students. And slowly Economics has become a reasonably popular program. I am convinced if people like Vimal were there in the department in 2005, this would have been a top choice right in the beginning and continued from there onwards. If a program is not a top choice in the beginning, fighting the argument of last year's closing rank is extremely difficult.

Next program to start was Earth Science in 2016.

Lest I should be misunderstood, I am not at all suggesting that marketing is all we should do. I am only suggesting that we share our passion with future students. And I am also saying that "Marketing" is not a 4-letter word, but a 9-letter word. :-)

People believe that good things will happen when they see faculty members are passionate about those things. To give an example of this, when I was SUGC Chairman, I organized a session on "branch change" where I invited faculty members from each department to talk about their discipline to first year students. At the end of a couple of hours, we distributed the branch change forms. That was the first time when Maths was more in demand than Electrical Engineering. Never happened again.

While I have written about under-graduate programs, the same is true for graduate programs as well. As a Dean, I started insisting that during admission time, each department must provide the name of a person and his/her phone number on Dean's website for any admission related query. Most departments gave the number of an office clerk. A couple of them gave the number of a graduate student, and a couple of them gave a faculty member's number. It took a lot of cajoling to get a faculty name for all programs.

I have often heard in various forums that it is not the duty of faculty members to attract students. I am glad that the pioneers of Computer Science at IIT Kanpur did not share this view.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

No one in top 100 JEE rankers comes to IITK

It is becoming routine. Every year, the closing ranks for our programs decline. A few people complain. A few will explain that it is all due to geography and there is very little we can do to change geography. A few will blame the students and parents for not realizing how great IIT Kanpur is and will pronounce that it is their loss and not ours. And after a few days, we will forget about it, till the next year.

So, very little outrage this year when IIT Madras closing ranks are better than those of IIT Kanpur for every department. After all, we were expecting this to happen for the last few years and were ready with the excuse - IIT Madras is in a Metro city like IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi.

We will also hear, like every year, that there is no difference between a student with rank 100 and one with rank 150. And I would argue like every year that the problem is not the closing rank only, but the fact that even rank 150 student is here because his top 5 choices were not available to him and hence we are admitting mostly those students who are unhappy to be here at Kanpur. (That they might become happy over the four years is immaterial.)

Something else seems to be happening. IIT Kharagpur is closing on us. This is something that cannot be explained purely on the basis of Metro versus non-Metro. We are certainly a far better geography from any perspective. Some people would try to look into data to see if there were more selections from West Bengal/Odisha, etc. They will fail, of course, as the number of selections from North India are very high this year. So, what is happening.

In one word, it is called, "Leadership."

Do we listen to our students and potential students. Do we even know what they want. One colleague complained that social media is too full of negative news about IITK. I haven't felt that way, but do we understand why some of our students feel that way. Do we do anything about it.

My gut feeling is that the leadership at IIT Kharagpur for the last five years has been listening to students and making changes to accommodate the aspirations of their students while we aren't so pro-active. Just to give one example, given that CS and computing in general is what attracts students, can we compare how many students are able to do branch change to CS, second major/minor/dual-degree in CS at both Kharagpur and Kanpur. I am told that the numbers in Kharagpur are better.

Every time during registration, the students complain about lack of real choices in open electives. The number of faculty members who allow non-department students to do their courses is small. Have we done anything about it. The humanities and social science courses are becoming increasingly important for engineers and are no longer just for breadth. Do we have any strategy to enable students to do HSS courses of their choice and in smaller classes.

One of the ways to enable flexibility was to offer summer courses. But the summer term has not been leveraged as it should be.

There have been cosmetic changes in the curriculum over the last several decades. While no one denies the necessity of breadth at the UG level, but forcing a large number of compulsory courses isn't how that breadth is provided by most good universities. Can we offer more contemporary courses and as electives.

We have many strengths, and we don't talk about it. We do not organize open house for JEE selected candidates. We have a very large number of merit-cum-means scholarships. This year, we have started many merit-based scholarships. And for the first year students, merit is to be seen in terms of JEE ranks, which means it would be easy for top rankers to get those scholarships. But we don't even mention them anywhere.

Why do we not focus on admissions. The simple reason is that it is not worth it in the short term. And it is difficult to plan for long term. The closing ranks in UG admissions change slowly. Most students and parents fill choices based on last year's closing ranks. A small perturbation happens because more or less students get selected from different regions every year. On top of that, there will be small change based on a variety of information that these candidates may come across on social media, websites, open houses, friends and relatives and so on. So you do a lot of effort and the closing rank pretty much remains the same, what is the conclusion you would draw. Obviously, that effort did not yield desired result. So why repeat it. But that effort is still necessary because its impact will be seen over 10 years, and not over 1 year. At least you won't be declining every year, if you were to be serious about admissions.

I recall that the issue of IITK not attracting top students through JEE was first raised more than 15 years ago in our Senate. A request was made that a committee be formed to look at whether there was something we could do to arrest the slide. Senate refused. The issue surfaced again a few times, and each time, Senate, in its wisdom, deciding that it does not merit any investigation. That, to me, reflects the quality of its leadership.

Blaming geography, blaming social media, blaming students and parents, yes there are lots of potential targets of our blame game. But none of them would help us move forward. There are lots of low hanging fruits. If we pluck them, we would make our system so much in line with the aspirations of our students, and that is the only way to move forward. The issues are internal and not external. And that is why leadership is so important.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Kanpur on Flight Map

A lot of people point to lack of operational airport in Kanpur as a reason for IITK to be going down. I have always disagreed with that, but in any case, that is going to change soon, in less than a month.

Kanpur used to be an active airport during our student days with flights to several cities. But slowly flights shifted to Lucknow. When Fokker Friendship planes were replaced by Boeings, the larger planes could no longer land at Kanpur airport without a load penalty. Also, the industry declined, the trading declined, and the Government became bigger. All of this helped Lucknow. Every now and then, some airline will bring in a small plane for a Kanpur-Delhi flight, but the service will be unreliable. In addition, the costs of a single flight will be high. Also, with the Kanpur-Lucknow highway becoming 4-lane and mostly free of intersections, the time to Lucknow airport is only 30 minutes more than time to Kanpur airport from most parts of Kanpur, and the smaller planes usually take 20-25 minutes extra in flying to Delhi. So these flights did not save time either. And the service will stop sooner or later. The last time there was a flight to Kanpur was a year ago. Air India regional flight stopped in May 2017.

So, realistically speaking, Kanpur airport will see a lot of passengers only when the cost of the flight is comparable to those from Lucknow (and you save on taxi charges), and the flights are reliable (so you don't waste time in waiting for the flight, or worse, in calling a taxi to take you to Lucknow airport). And this is where the UDAN scheme of Government of India has hope for Kanpur.

Airport Director in a tweet couple of days ago has announced that Spicejet has agreed to fly Delhi-Kanpur-Delhi route from 7th June. Also, Air Odisha has announced that they will fly Delhi-Kanpur-Varanasi-Kanpur-Delhi route from 15th June. Both these airlines are flying under the UDAN scheme, which means that fares will probably be comparable to Lucknow-Delhi fares. Spicejet is likely to use a 72 seater aircraft while Air Odisha is likely to use a 20-seater aircraft.

Can we at IIT Kanpur do anything to ensure that these flights are here to stay, and perhaps even encourage these and other airlines to start more flights out of Kanpur. Well, a lot of people from IIT Kanpur fly every day out of Lucknow. The number is not less than 25-30 passengers every day. Can we encourage just 5-10 out of them to fly out of Kanpur. That would be significant number of passengers for the two small planes.

We need to do a few things for this. One, since there is no Air India flight from Kanpur, anyone traveling on IITK funds can take any private airline flight from Kanpur without an explicit prior approval, including that for LTC. Two, further allow a connecting flight from Delhi to be taken on the same airline as one has taken from Kanpur to Delhi. Otherwise, change of terminal at Delhi to T3 to take Air India would mean a lot of extra time, and one might as well go to Lucknow airport to take Air India flight rather than changing terminal at Delhi. Three, allow more of its staff who are not eligible to fly otherwise to travel up to Delhi by air. The 7th pay commission allows everyone with a pay level of 6 and higher to travel by air. Perhaps, we can allow as a special case, people with pay level 4 and 5 to fly only on Kanpur-Delhi route (like people in NorthEast are allowed to fly Guwahati-Kolkata route). To further reduce the costs of people patronizing these flights, IIT Kanpur could arrange a shared Innova to take IITK passengers for at least Spicejet flight and bring back those who have arrived by the flight. (Air Odisha 20-seater flight is unlikely to have many IITK passengers, and also, since the flight arrives early morning, and leave late morning, a single taxi cannot cover both flights.)

These steps would not cost much to IIT Kanpur, but would provide extra passengers to these flights. Remember, five years ago, we had experimented with a helicopter service to Lucknow, which did not save time for anyone, and the subsidy was Rs. 1 lakh per day. If we could try that, we can certainly try these steps outlined above. After all, a regular flight to Kanpur would make a huge difference in the perception of people about IIT Kanpur.

Added on 4th July, 2018:
The Spicejet flight started yesterday, 3rd July. Hopefully, it will be successful, and Spicejet will launch more flights from Kanpur.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A New Beginning for IITK

In a few hours from now, Prof. Abhay Karandikar would take charge as Director of IIT Kanpur. Here is the bio sent by our Dean of Faculty Affairs to the campus community in the evening:

Professor Abhay Karandikar was Dean (Faculty Affairs) and Institute Chair Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay. He was the Head of the Department from January 2012 to January 2015. He was the coordinator of Tata Teleservices IIT Bombay Center for Excellence in Telecom (TICET) and the National Center of Excellence in Technology for Internal Security. He spearheaded a national effort in setting up Telecom Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI), India's standards body for telecom, with participation of all stakeholders. Professor Karandikar is the founding member and Chairman of TSDSI. Currently, he is working as a consultant to provide technical expertise in design and implementation of BharatNet, Government of India's flagship initiative under Digital India program. Professor Karandikar has several patents issued and pending, contributions to IEEE, 3GPP standards, contributed chapters in books and a large number of papers in international journals and conferences to his credit. Professor Karandikar was awarded with IEEE SA's Standards Medallion in December 2016 in New Jersey. His team also won the Mozilla Open Innovation challenge prize in March 2017. He is a two-time recipient of the award for excellence in teaching at IIT Bombay - in 2006 and 2011. He is a co-author of papers which won Best Paper awards in ACM MobiHoc 2009, Workshop on Indoor and Outdoor Small Cells WiOpt2014 and a finalist for the best paper award in IEEE LCN 2012 and IEEE NCC 2014 conferences.
Clearly a very distinguished career, and a lot of admin experience as well.

IIT Kanpur has lost its prestige over the last 10-15 years, but the fundamentals continue to be strong. The only missing ingredient has been leadership and I certainly hope that the new Director brings that in plenty. We will soon know.

The immediate challenge on the campus is to enthuse all stake holders and make them believe that we can bring back the old glory. When I had joined IITK as a faculty, I was made to believe that I was not merely an employee but an owner. That is not the feeling a lot of people have on campus today. And the biggest challenge for any IITK leader is to convert employees into owners. Once there is enough ownership, Director can relax and things will happen.

But this change will not happen in today's atmosphere of fear when we don't know whether a statement made while sipping tea or having dinner will be taken completely out of context, exaggerated, and worse will follow. The faculty members of the Security Advisory Committee have been claiming that instilling fear is one of their planned goals.

The second biggest challenge will be to inculcate a feeling in all the stake holders that IITK has a future despite its location outside the top 10 cities of the country. (I am tempted to say that we have a future because of our location, which hasn't changed since its inception.) Of course, every location has its positives and negatives. We must learn to leverage our strengths and take corrective steps on our weaknesses. There can be enough and more jobs for spouses on campus, if there is a will to solve problems, and hopefully they get paid more than unskilled workers on campus.

There is a belief on campus that we could be either good in teaching or good in research and good teaching happens at the cost of reducing time from research. As someone who has been bestowed with both teaching based awards and research based awards, Prof. Karandikar is perhaps the best example of how good teaching and good research can go hand in hand. We must make sure that our teaching programs are once again the best in the country. This is quite simple. Good teachers just need a word of encouragement. Tell them that good teaching is valued by the leader. And the rest will happen magically.

External stake holders are even more important these days. Our alumni are our best ambassadors. Relationship with them needs to improve. We need to have a vibrant and independent alumni association, even if they disagree with the Institute administration. We need to respect those alumni who have worked tirelessly over a couple of decades to set up channels of supporting IITK from US. We must make sure that we are seen as transparent and efficient by our donors and benefactors. Remember, we are dealing with people who have huge amount of affection for IITK. So the task should be simple and yet we haven't really done well since Prof. Sudhir Jain left office in 2008.

And we can't have great alumni relations unless the student experience while they are here is great too. We have a great infrastructure, not just hostels, but sports, and for other student activities. We have lots of good things going in academics. But there are many irritants too. Can we identify small issues and take care of them. Why should a student wait for 6 months to get a scholarship that is due to him/her, just to give one example. Why should a student be running around all over the campus to get a course in open elective slot.

We need to remain aggressive with faculty recruitment. Not only there are retirements and resignations, but we are growing too. Prof. Karandikar's experience of recruiting several faculty members in Electrical Engineering as Head would come handy here. He can transfer that knowhow to Heads of our departments, though some departments are already doing quite well.

Overall, I believe that IIT Kanpur already has good students, good faculty and good infrastructure. While there can certainly be further improvements, one significant ingredient missing till now is good leadership. And I hope the new Director will provide just that.

Welcome, Prof. Karandikar, to IIT Kanpur.