22 May 2022 15:10:34 IST

Fewer IIT-ians heading abroad to study

Students of IIT Madras attending classes

Neeraj Kumar, 21, a final-year BTech student at IIT Guwahati, can’t wait to graduate and join a Noida-based start-up as a user experience designer. For him, going abroad for higher studies, which was earlier a norm, was not on his agenda. 

“I believe I have the skills needed to join the industry right away. The booming start-up culture is very attractive. Moreover, there is a cost to going abroad. You have to leave all your family and friends behind. I would rather stay in India and give back,” says Kumar.  

Kumar is among a rising number of BTech students from IITs across the country who want to remain in India after graduation, instead of flying westward for a postgraduate degree. The sheen of a degree abroad may be fading among IIT-ians as the percentage of students choosing to go has been gradually declining.  

Steady decline

Data collected from exit interviews conducted among IIT Madras students, which the institute shared with  BL on Campus, show that on average 69 per cent of students opted to work in the last three academic years. The percentage of students going for higher studies has reduced from 21 per cent in 2017-18 to 14 per cent in 2019-20.  

A welter of factors has caused this shift. The start-up boom Kumar refers to, along with major international companies setting up shop in India, makes the job market ripe with opportunities to absorb the top-notch talent coming from the IITs.  

“It is a reflection of the opportunities available in India right after a bachelor’s degree. Students prefer global roles and global companies are readily hiring from robust Indian campuses. So, the monetary compensations are comparable, the excitement of starting your career is high, and the whole energy of collaborating with a global team is now available to IIT students,” says Prof Rajesh Khanna, President, NIIT University, and former faculty and Dean of Students at IIT Delhi.  

Khanna also says, during his stint at IIT Delhi, in the early 2000s, he would write up letters of recommendation for up to 30 students in a class of 120. But now, that has come down to maybe one or two.  

“Earlier, higher education was a stopgap, in a sense, to delay decision making and discover core interests. But students are now making up their minds much earlier. There is awareness and exposure. If they find merit, they are willing to work extremely hard for landing the right job. There is also possible fatigue to continue the learning streak, especially for IITians who start preparing for competitive exams really early on in their student life,” adds Khanna.  

Changing priorities

Students’ certainty in their career choices can also be seen in placements. Jobs that align with their interest areas are preferred over the ones with big pay packages, says Prof Tushar Jain, Head, Placement Cell, IIT Mandi. Similarly, even companies are willing to make room for new roles, adds Jain.  

Did Covid have a hand in the changing mindset of students? Kumar, who is also the general secretary of the student alumni body at IIT Guwahati, says, regardless of Covid, there is always a small percentage of students who target a handful of Ivy League colleges to go to each year. But, a majority of them keep their options open.  

“During placements, there were instances where some start-ups were offering pay packages comparable to what large international companies were offering. So, why would you not take it?” shoots Kumar, confidently.  

The IITs are constantly striving to impart a leading edge for their students to meet the demands of a global market, says Nilesh J Vasa, Dean - Students, IIT Madras. “There are four pillars which contribute to students becoming job-ready. The focus on skill development, including soft skills, internships and strong alumni linkages, nurturing entrepreneurship and offering guidance, and rigorous placement preparation,” says Vasa.