First IIT overseas campus in Zanzibar, with woman director

he Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) has become the first IIT in the country to set up a campus outside India, opening in Zanzibar, Tanzania, as part of a plan by India’s premier institutes to set up a chain of branches in other countries.

In another milestone for IITs, Dr Preeti Aghalayam will become the first woman director-in-charge for IIT Madras in Zanzibar and the first ever woman to be an IIT director. IITM Director Professor V Kamakoti told the media that her appointment to the high-profile role was in line with IITM’s aim to bring women into leadership roles and work for gender balance.

Hot on the heels of the Zanzibar announcement, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 15 July exchanged a memorandum of understanding to establish a branch of IIT Delhi in Abu Dhabi, the first ever IIT in the Middle East, North Africa region.

It was signed in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UAE president Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan during Modi’s visit to the UAE. The Abu Dhabi campus will be the second IIT to offer masters courses abroad after Zanzibar, from January 2024 with undergraduate courses starting from September 2024.

A Memorandum of Understanding to set up the first ever IIT campus abroad, which will be fully funded by Tanzania, was signed between India’s Ministry of Education (MoE), IITM, and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training Zanzibar, Tanzania on 5 July, in the presence of Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, President of Zanzibar and Dr S Jaishankar, India’s minister of external affairs.

Initially, the Zanzibar Campus, to be known as IIT Madras at Zanzibar, will offer two full-time academic programmes – a four year-year Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and a two-year Master of Technology, both in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, with a total student intake of 50 to 70 undergraduates and 20 masters students from October this year. India is providing dozens of scholarships for local students.

IIT Madras degrees will be awarded to graduating students. The state-of-the-art interdisciplinary degrees are expected to attract students from elsewhere in Africa and other countries as well. Indian students are also eligible to apply to these programmes, according to IITM.

Internationalisation efforts

“This is the most significant step forward in the internationalisation efforts of IIT Madras. A detailed strategic plan that includes increasing the number of international students, fostering meaningful and synergistic joint degree programs with international academic institutions and enhancing faculty and student mobility has been laid out by us.

“Opportunities for a full-fledged physical campus abroad were being strongly explored and it is heartening to see the realisation of these ambitions,” Raghunathan Rengaswamy, dean of global engagement, IIT Madras, told media this week.

An official of the Ministry of Education said that this campus will bring the top-ranked educational expertise of IITM to a prime destination in Africa and serve the imperative current needs of the region.

Talking to the media in New Delhi on 10 July, Kamakoti said: “It is indeed a major milestone in the history of IIT Madras that we are establishing a Campus at Zanzibar. Through this, we look forward to active participation in the future higher education initiatives at Zanzibar.”

He had earlier said that IITM would set up a research park in Zanzibar, similar to the one at IITM, with experts saying this would serve as a regional technology hub in East Africa.

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