key move The initiative will fund 250 scholars this year, 300 in 2020 and 450 the year after, to enable PhDs at IITs


India on Monday formally launched an initiative to fund 1,000 scholars from south east Asian countries to pursue PhD at its 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), a move that could help internationalize its premier technology campuses and boost academic ties with east Asian neighbours.

A joint initiative of the human resource development and the ministry of external affairs, the initiative could prove to be a win-win for scholars from ASEAN and the IITs.

“We are opening up IITs to 1000 brilliant students (from ASEAN) to do research,” external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said in New Delhi.

The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to enhance academic ties with the east Asian nations in 2018.

“Launch of 1000 PhD fellowships at IITs for students from ASEAN member states…will go a long way in strengthening ties between India and ASEAN nations,” said HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

While for ASEAN scholars it will be a win-win to study in one of the best technology schools, for IITs, it will bring diversity to campuses and enhance their global rankings in which they are faltering primarily due to lack of foreign faculty and foreign students.

Higher education secretary R. Subrahmanyam said the initiative will fund 250 scholars this year, 300 in 2020 and 450 the year after. The present scheme has an initial budget of Rs. 300 crore. He said the present announcement is not one off and the country wants to strengthen its study in India move through various initiatives.

IIT Delhi director V. Ramgopal Rao said that the IITs collectively need “cultural diversity” and foreign students and faculties will benefit them in both teaching-learning environment and in global rankings.

He said if IIT Delhi has 20% of its faculty and 20% of its total student strength from foreign countries it will make IIT-Delhi as one of the top 100 universities in the world.

Though India has six universities – five IITs and Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in the top 300 best universities in the QS World University Rankings published in June, in the UK based Times Higher Education published World University Rankings not a single Indian university found place in the top 300 list, a first since 2012. THE’s World University Rankings were published on 11 September.

The government said the funding will cover the entire cost of study, and living expenses for upto five years of a PhD program. Aspiring scholars from ASEANS will apply via a single portal and following the selection process, they will be assigned one of the 23 IITs to pursue the PhD.


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