ISM Dhanbad to IIT Dhanbad – a long road crossed

This year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his budget speech that Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad, will be converted to a full-fledged IIT. Once it does, IIT Dhanbad will become the 3rd oldest IIT institute, after IIT Roorkee (founded as Thomason College of Engineering in 1847, converted to an IIT in 2001) and IIT (BHU) Varanasi (founded as Banaras Engineering College (BENCO), a constituent of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), in 1919, converted to an IIT in 2012), displacing IIT Kharagpur, the first actual Indian Institute of Technology, to 4th place.

This change of nomenclature will feel like a breath of relief to ISM’s students, who have been fighting a lone battle against the belief that ISM is known only for its mining engineering programmes. Deemed to be a University since 1967, ISM (also known as ISM University) has been offering courses other than Mining and Mineral Engineering since 1977.

The idea of converting ISM to an IIT began to take root when several new IITs were announced – some without even having existing campuses – in the 2007-08 season. Between 2009 & 2010, the ISM board, council, teachers associations and other entities all approved of the conversion to an IIT. In 2011, the Govt. of Jharkhand also passed a resolution recommending the conversion. In 2012, the Planning Commission took it up and added the proposal to convert ISM to an IIT be added to the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17). It took two more years of meetings, deferrals, and reports before the final approval came in Budget 2015.

“ISM started offering courses like Electronics and Computer Science in 1998, one year after it started taking students through the IIT-JEE in 1997. Many more courses have been added since then, most notably in 2006, when as many as 14 programmes were added,” says Kushagra Bharadwaj, a final year student at ISM. Since it comes under the Ministry of HRD, ISM has all perks equivalent to the IITs. ISM has been jointly conducting the JEE (Advanced) alongwith the IITs, and currently is the only non-IIT institute to take students through JEE (Advanced).

But that does not stop prospective students from stumbling on the ISM name before learning more about the programmes it offers, whether it is the flagship programme or other engineering programmes offered by the university. Most students still consider ISM not as good as any IIT, and prefer to go for the IIT brandname. This can also be seen in this year’s Joint Seat Allocation, where the top 1000 rankers in JEE (Advanced), 2015, opted for not just the major IITs, but also newer institutes like IIT Guwahati & IIT (BHU), but none opted for ISM. [Source]

However, none of this indecisiveness  was visible during placements for the 2015 batch, when Computer Science Engineering stole a march on the other programmes by placing over 98% of its students, with the highest package being Rs. 26 lakhs per annum. Mineral Engineering, on the other hand, barely placed 90% of its students, with the highest package being a distant Rs. 8.5 lakhs per annum.

Speaking on placements, Kushagra states, “In the last few years, our Computer Science batch has been performing better than the Mineral Engineering course.” 

Kushagra’s batchmate Abhishek Singh explains it  by stating that the IT industry has always been an all-weather recruiter, as IT companies always keep recruiting more people all the time to fill up their bench strength, correct attrition, or simply expand their employee pool. On the other hand, mineral engineering and similar courses are dependent on companies who hire based on current trends. A downturn in petroleum prices? The Petroleum Engineering programme’s placements take a downturn too. Mineral Engineering, Mining Engineering, etc. face the same issues.

Whether being an IIT brand matters, or does not, is of no concern to the institute’s students, who continue to be proud of the institute and the history it espouses. However, they would certainly like to dispel the doubt that ISM’s success is limited to its geology related programmes only and prove to the world that they are successful across the board. And being named IIT Dhanbad will certainly go a long way in doing that.

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