Economics progs at IITs
Shipra Goel, 04 Jan 2014
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Fast Facts
Programmes: BS, BS-MS, MSc & PhD in Economics
Location: BS & BS-MS – Kanpur; MSc - Kharagpur; PhD - Kanpur, Kharagpur, Mandi, Patna, Gandhinagar and Indore
Fees: Same as other courses at IIT at respective levels.
Admission test cut-offs:
2011 - From rank 2230 to 3895,
2010 - From rank 2598 to 4100,
2009 - From rank 3209 to 4138

Today’s Economics has Mathematics at its core and if you like it, IIT is the place, says Pranay Shetty, who is pursuing MSc (Economics) at IIT-Kanpur. A fourth year student, Pranay initially wanted to become a Mechanical Engineer but now he thanks his stars for saving him from spending hours in a hot greasy lab. Back in the year 2005, when the HRD Ministry asked the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to break their tech barriers one of first courses they launched was in Economics.

                                                                       Must-read: Course review on Economics

The offering
A five-year integrated MSc in Economics became the first one to pave its way in the Humanities and Social Science department of IITs at Kanpur and Kharagpur. The students are trained in diverse fields of the discipline like Microeconomics, Macro-Money, Industrial Organisation, Regional Economics, Environmental Economics, Development Economics, Law and Economics, Transport Economics, Econometrics, Input-Output Analysis, and Project Economics. Along with theoretical knowledge, students and faculty members also work on projects in areas like irrigation management, alternative energy sources, rehabilitation and resettlement, urban transport systems, measurement of aggregate capital stock, steel industry employment etc.

“Number of faculty members is definitely a concern. We are running this programme with only 11 faculty members”

Prof. Vimal Kumar, IIT-Kanpur

Interdisciplinary Nature
“Like any undergraduate student in IITs, a student in Economics, first, learns Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Drawing and Basic Engineering techniques. After finishing these courses, the student starts learning techniques in Economics. The 5-year integrated MSc programme at IIT-Kanpur was conceptualised to produce this new pedigree of professionals,” says Prof. Vimal Kumar, Assistant Professor of Economics at IIT-Kanpur. He received his Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) and Master of Technology (M.Tech) in Mechanical Engineering from IIT-Mumbai and PhD in Economics from University of California Irvine (UCI).

In 2011, the programme at IIT-Kanpur was restructured to give students freedom to spend one more year in the institute and get a dual degree at the end of the programme. Now one can get BS as well as MS in Economics in five years or get BS in Economics and BS or BTech in any other discipline in 5 years or get BS in Economics and MS or MTech in any other discipline or only pursue 4-year BS.

Four other IITs at Mandi, Patna, Gandhinagar and Indore, along with the above two, offer PhD in the subject. They admit PhD students under the full-time category as Institute Research Scholars with Teaching Assistantship (TA), government and semi-government Fellowship Awardees, FA (CSIR, UGC, DAE, DBT, NBHM, Commonwealth Fellowship, Nehru Memorial Doctoral Fellowship, etc.) and Foreign Scholars, FS (ICCR Awardees). For Institute Fellowship i.e. TA (except candidates holding M.Tech/M.E/MPhil degree) all should have qualified GATE or CSIR-JRF or CSIR-NET or UGC-JRF or UGC-NET. In Indore, the current faculty members are involved in research areas of Intellectual Property Rights, Technology Transfer (Trade and FDI), Technological Change, Research and Development (R&D), International Economics. Agricultural Economics (Trade, Food Security, Economics of Land and Water, Climate Change and Agriculture) and Development Economics (Rural Poverty, Social Infrastructure, Public Spending).

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Founder-Director of IIT-Patna Prof. Anil K Bhowmick says, "One can utilise the knowledge of basic sciences/fundamentals to solve a problem or develop a product or look at finding a remedy to societal problems." Read on to know more.

A five-year integrated MA in Economics was also launched at IIT-Madras but it was merged with the Development Studies programme last year. According to the institute’s website, the reasons cited were the need to strengthen the   Development Studies curriculum which had a dearth of courses in Advanced Economics subjects and shortage of full-time faculty to teach specific areas of Economics to cover a full-fledged MA programme in the subject.

“With the number of students increasing, faculty should also increase at the same pace”

Avaneesh Doogar
Student (MSc), IIT-Kharagpur

The faculty crunch
Infosys chairman emeritus N R Narayana Murthy had recently said IITs lack faculty. Was he right? “Number of faculty members is definitely a concern. We are running this programme with only 11 faculty members. By rough estimate, we need at least 5-6 more faculty members to run it in an ideal fashion,” shares Prof Kumar. An Economic Times report published in October, 2011 says IITs all over the country need 2,500 faculty members immediately to catch up with the standard student-to-teacher ratio of 10:1 and every IIT is short of 30% faculty. (Read full report here...)

Avaneesh Doogar, an MSc student at IIT-Kharagpur seconds that his institute is better in all terms except the faculty number. “There is shortage of renowned faculty. With the number of students increasing, faculty should also increase at the same pace,” he says. However, in terms of quality, ‘at par’ is the term he uses. He explains that his professors have very good teaching skills apart from a thorough knowledge in the subject. They make students understand concepts clearly by way of multiple examples and comprehensive tutorial sheets.

Students often judge an institute on the basis of placements, along with other things. If he or she has a lovely job with a handsome salary, nothing’s better than that even if it is at times a mix of luck and hard work. In IITs, the placement process is conducted by a Student Placement Office (SPO) which is a completely student-run organization and transparent in nature.

Job offers come from consultancy, financial institutions, FMCG companies, IT companies, engineering companies, software companies and investment firms. Some graduates also choose to go for higher studies finding their place in IIMs and foreign institutes while some even prepare for IAS. “We had excellent placement (100%) with average salary around Rs.9.5 lakhs per annum in 2010. A partial list of companies where our students got placed includes Citibank, Nomura, Deloitte Consulting, Deutsche Bank, Accenture, Daeyang Shipping Corp, GenPact, Diamond Consulting, Cognizant, Evalue Serve and Novartis Pharma,” Prof. Kumar states.

Admission criteria

For MSc/MA/BS (Economics)
A student should clear IIT-JEE entrance exam

For PhD
A candidate should satisfy either of the following criteria:

  • Posses MPhil degree in relevant discipline of Arts/Commerce
  • Has done Master’s in Arts/Commerce with a minimum of 60% marks or equivalent with UGC-JRF or NET OR in Science/ Engineering/ Agriculture/ Environmental Science/International Business with a minimum CPI of 6.5 or 60% marks with UGC-JRF or NET.
  • Has done B.Tech from an IIT with a minimum CPI of 8.0

An institute is much more than placements. If it lets its students to be ahead of others both in terms of studies and extra-curricular activities, it is considered good in eyes of both students and parents. At the same time, infrastructural facilities also play a major role.

Avaneesh says his college deans keep revising the academic curriculum to make it abreast of times and apt for overall development of students. “I have seen in my department that they replace or shift the subject to other semesters if students have some problem in a particular semester.” He compares his institute with others and says other college students do not have opportunity of breadth of subjects as he has in IIT. Also, IITs have the license of the entire required site for research purpose like, CMIE prowess, etc. So students do not have any problems in their research projects. However, shortage of latest lab equipment sometimes creates a problem for students.

At postgraduate level, it is also necessary for one to have skills like time management, leadership, etc. These IITs seem to have done their job so that they do not get termed as “a boring campus”. Pranay shares that IIT-Kanpur has indoor basketball courts, more than 10 outdoor basketball courts, six synthetic tennis courts, indoor badminton and squash courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool among other sports facilities. Besides this, they host two student festivals, a cultural fest and a technical fest.

“The Economics curriculum leaves the students sufficient time to follow other activities. More than anything else, one thing I would have learnt from my time here is time management,” Pranay says. He adds that IIT-Kanpur campus even offers facilities like an air strip and gliders for students to learn to fly.

The journey ahead
Though the potential is huge, the need is to convert this potential into realisation. Economics courses are among the most popular electives for engineering students and this is true across most IITs. It is mostly on the basis of the JEE rank that students take this stream. IITs are neophyte in this particular discipline and so are yet to make it to the top list at master’s and research levels. Moreover, the faculty crunch is a major hurdle which has to be overcome. If that is taken care of, it can become the best place to pursue Economics in India as it is all in the name.

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