IIT Madras creates history, becomes first IIT to open international campus

Zanzibar campus to be headed by Dr Preeti Aghalayam, first woman head of IIT

IIT Madras' Zanzibar campus in Tanzania IIT Madras' Zanzibar campus in Tanzania

The eighth edition of National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) that was released recently placed Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras at the top rank for the fifth time. Among the many reasons for its top position, another has been added to its list. IIT Madras has become the first IIT to have opened its doors abroad—a first international campus of IIT has been set up in Zanzibar, Tanzania that aims to enroll Tanzanian students. 

Adding to its list of firsts, IIT Madras’ Zanzibar campus will also be the first IIT to be headed by a woman – Professor Preeti Aghalayam, Dean of School of Sciences & Engineering & Director-in-charge, Zanzibar campus, IIT Madras. Professor Preeti, who has shifted base to Zanzibar, says that the campus is planned in similar terms as Madras, with verdant natural surroundings, state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, and innovation centres. 

The Zanzibar campus will offer two-full time academic programmes to begin with – a four-year BS (data science and AI) and a two-year master of technology in data science and AI. The classes for its first academic year will begin from October 2023 with a total of 70 students in both the courses combined. 

Professor V. Kamakoti, director of IIT Madras said that while IIT-M is bringing in its knowledge investment, the government of Tanzania is bringing in the financial investment by providing them with a 200-acre land, salaries for staff among other expenses. He says that a lot of African students come to India to study here and seeing a positive interest, they took the step of establishing a campus abroad – which will also be closer home to other European students. Professor Kamakoti also shares that student exchange programmes will enable students of both the Indian and Zanzibar campuses to travel to the other country. “We will also soon set up a research park there like the one we have in IIT Madras,” he says. 

The IITM-Z campus is the result of the recommendations of the committee constituted last year by the government for the assessment and accreditation of higher educational institutions, headed by Dr K. Radhakrishnan who is also the chairperson, Board of Governors, IIT Kanpur, and Chairperson, Standing Committee of IIT Council. In the committee, various possibilities of IITs opening its campuses abroad were discussed and Zanzibar was zeroed in owing to the support from the government of the country and the demand for IIT’s education system there. Finally, an MoU was signed between the two countries for the facilitation of the campus in Zanzibar. 

However, IIT Madras is not the only IIT that will have its campus abroad. IIT Delhi will soon open a campus in Abu Dhabi and IIT Kharagpur will have a campus in Malaysia soon. While China is bidding for global intellectual dominance, opening up of campuses of premier Indian institutes like IITs abroad is a step in the right direction to establish India’s presence in the global academic scene.   


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