The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi has asked its alumni to will parts of their estates to the institution. This money would go into implementing the ambitious plan that won it the status of “Institution of Eminence” on July 9, under a Central government scheme that aims to build world-class centres of higher education in India through additional funds and autonomy for public institutions and autonomy for private ones.

The request has been well received. Sanjeev Sanghi, dean of alumni affairs, said on Monday that one United States-based alumnus has promised to leave his alma mater $1 million in his will. Another, a 1967 graduate, has revised his will to include IIT-Delhi as a beneficiary, replacing Stanford University. Sanghi added that former students are also being encouraged to make the engineering institution a beneficiary in their insurance policies.

In addition, the institution has come up with “Giving Day”. The first fundraiser, held in March, raised Rs 25 lakh. Over the next five years, the institution hopes to collect Rs 75 crore a year from its 46,000-strong alumni – a big leap from the Rs 15 crore it has received since 2016.

After all, IIT-Delhi needs all the funds it can get. As one of six centres of higher education designated an Institution of Eminence, it is aiming for a top 100 rank in global rankings such as the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education Ranking. At present, it places 172 in the first and between 501-600 in the second.

A high international rank is an expensive proposition. The institution needs more research infrastructure. It needs to attract and retain foreign faculty and research scholars. The administration estimates this will require an investment of at least Rs 2,500 crore. As an Institution of Eminence, IIT-Delhi will receive Rs 1,000 crore from the government over the next five years, but it must raise the remaining amount on its own.

Apart from banking on alumni for “unencumbered endowments” – funds that are not meant for a particular chair or activity but put in a corpus, which is then invested – IIT-Delhi intends to generate revenue from post-graduate and diploma programmes and research sponsorships.

According to the plan it submitted to the expert committee tasked with recommending the Institutions of Eminence, it is also “preparing a hostel privatisation model”, considering off-campus accommodation for senior students and a “graded hostel fee model” on campus.

Additionally, it has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Human Resource Development for a “deferred Aadhaar-linked student fee scheme”, by which students can pay their fees after graduation. The biometrics-based unique identity numbers would help the institution keep track of students after they have passed out. The proposal – which will have to be cleared by the IIT Council, the governing body responsible for all IITs – entails an external agency, like a bank, paying the institution a fixed amount after computing the cost per student and recovering the amount from students after they graduate, said IIT-Delhi deputy director M Balakrishnan. But all students will not pay the same amount. Those who get high salaries will pay more, in effect subsidising the education of those who choose to teach, join research programmes or do social work. “This has been used successfully in Australia,” Balakrishnan added.

Market-driven approach to funding

Since both the fee structure and admission policy for undergraduate programmes at the IITs are centrally governed, IIT-Delhi is counting on its post-graduate programmes to propel its ambitious plan.

According to its director, V Ramgopal Rao, the institution gets around Rs 500 crore from sources other than the government – including fees, sponsored research projects, consultancy and donations.

In its submission to the expert committee, IIT-Delhi said it generates just 23% of its recurring expenditure from internal revenue. In five years, it hopes to raise this to 50%. It plans to do this by getting more sponsored post-graduate programmes that train employees of companies in areas such as artificial intelligence and blockchain technology (a decentralised distributed ledger system central to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin). The fees for both are in the range of Rs 9 lakh and Rs 10 lakh a year, and revenue from such “continuing education programmes” grew by 200% last year. Over the next five years, IIT-Delhi hopes to make Rs 100 crore a year from these.

Rao said the institution was taking a “more market-driven” approach to funding its growth.

Funds from sponsored research and consultancy doubled in 2017 to Rs 415 crore and the institution expects to make around Rs 300 crore from these in 2018. But, as the document submitted to the expert committee said, “The overheads paid by the sponsoring agencies is barely sufficient to even manage these projects.”

Also, two new science and technology parks coming up at IIT-Delhi’s Sonepat and Jhajjar campuses in Haryana “will host industry laboratories”, which are expected to fetch Rs 10 crore a year in “direct income” – from private parties that will use those facilities – and “indirect research funding” of Rs 50 crore. In addition, a “strong corporate relations programme” will add a further Rs 20 crore in “corporate social responsibility” funding, the plan outlined.

Anurag Rathore, who manages IIT-Delhi’s relations with industry, pointed out that the institution already hosts “Industry Day” on campus. Started in 2017, this is aimed at strengthening the collaboration between industry and academia.

While devising news ways to raise revenues, IIT-Delhi also plans to become more thrifty. In its plan, it promises to adopt “a strong process of cost auditing of various activities with a view to recover user charges proportionate to the actual expenses wherever possible”. This, the administration believes, will “save the institute” over Rs 10 crore a year.

What are the funds for?

The bulk of the funds IIT-Delhi hopes to raise would go toward developing six “key thrust areas of research” – advanced computational systems, advanced biological and healthcare systems and engineering, materials and devices, energy and environment, smart and sustainable infrastructure and habitat, and Industry 4.0.

It also plans to promote interdisciplinary research by collaborating with other institutions and professional education councils. On the cards are joint PhD programmes with foreign universities – in Australia, Taiwan and Canada to begin with – where students can go back and forth between the partnering institutions. Similarly, there would be joint programmes with medical colleges. It already has a collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

An incubation centre to support “deep technology start-ups”, which makes use of the latest developments in science and technology, is expected to come up this year while a Department of Design and a School of Public Policy are set to become operational next year. Several “centres of excellence” would help bridge the gap between society and academia and also between departments. These include centres for “research on clean air”, “energy and environment”, and “cyber systems and information assurance”.

To attract foreign faculty, IIT-Delhi plans to advertise in international journals and participate in more conferences – which are “a hunting ground” for talent, according to Balakrishnan.

Foreign students are just as important for a higher international rank and IIT-Delhi intends to draw them to its research programmes. “We will offer fellowships,” said Balakrishnan. Rao added, “We are making a beginning this year with 100 fellowships. If we fill them up, we will add more.”