Brushing aside objections over brand dilution, the government has reportedly begun work on modifying the IIT Act, 1961, to ensure that the eight new engineering institutes it is setting up come under the premier Indian Institute of Technology umbrella.
With the government's plan to set up engineering institutes in Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab besides converting the institute of technology at Banaras Hindu University into an IIT the total number of IITs will increase to 16.
Sources said the Human Resource Development Ministry is planning to do away with the 'society' system for the new IITs to hasten the process.
To award degrees, a body must be a university that is created under the central or state legislature. IITs and the Indian Institutes of Management were created by a special Act of Parliament permitting them to award diplomas. They existed as 'societies' and were later converted into an institute of national importance by calling them IITs and IIMs.
By doing away with the requirement, the ministry can directly incorporate the new institutions into the IIT Act and declare them institutes of national importance, equivalent to universities capable of awarding degrees.
"It makes sense for the new IITs to be directly incorporated into the IIT Act as they become an institute in their own regard and are capable of awarding degrees. If they are made a society, they will have to be converted into an IIT again," said K K Raman, executive director, KPMG.
The move, though, has not gone down well with the existing IITs. This March, the directors of some IITs had written to the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, urging the government to give the proposed IITs some other name.
They believe that calling the new institutes IITs would dilute the brand image of the existing premier institutes, which figure among the world's 100 best technology universities and are compared with MIT, California University and Berkeley.
"I am surely in favour of the government's idea of creating new quality institutes like the IITs but they should be given a different name so that a different branding can be created," said Ashok Misra, director, IIT Bombay.
"We can have a different mandate for these new institutes and they can grow in a different manner. They can be as good or even better than IITs. But I do not think mixing a 50-year-old brand with a new one makes sense."
"We however, can surely mentor the new institutes," he added. IIT Bombay will be mentoring the two new IITs in Gujarat and Indore, while IIT-Kharagpur will be mentoring IIT-Orissa for three years.