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All engineering aspirants know how difficult it is to get into the IITs or the NITs. You need to clear the JEE-Main, which is arguably one of the most difficult Engineering Admission Tests in the country. The candidates clearing the JEE-Main exams are eligible to take the JEE- Advanced exams. Then there is the brutal competition, last year alone more than 11 lakh candidates appeared for the limited number of seats at the IITs and NITs. But, what if we told you that there is an Institute equally good as the IITs or NITs, which accepts the JEE-main scores and also provides education for free? No, it’s not a typing error. So, now that we have grabbed your attention, let’s take a look at the Indian Institute of Space & Technology (IIST) and why it may be a good place for you.

IIST is a government-aided premier institute and deemed University for the study and research of space science. Founded by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2007 to meet its Human Resource requirements, IIST is a one of its kind Institute in Asia. Many were surprised when it was ranked at the 8th position among the top 100 Universities in India by MHRD in 2016, a list that has long been dominated by the IITs and NITs. However, a closer look reveals that IIST is indeed at par with the premier institutes in the country in many aspects. Admission to the limited undergraduate seats in IIST is tough – one requires a real good rank in JEE (Main) and a minimum specified score in JEE (Advanced), which explain why few of them call IIST the institute where nobody gets in. It is common for such good rank holders to enter a dilemma of choosing between the famous IITs or NITs against going for a relatively lesser known IIST. So, let’s look at various aspects of IIST to see why IIST may be a good place for you.

The IIST Campus

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The IIST campus is located at Valiamala, about 25 km from Thiruvananthapuram city. The campus has an academic wing, administrative wing and a residential wing for students, which has 11 hostels, two mess halls, bank, ATM, bookstore, cafeteria, eateries, and a medical centre with qualified doctors and nurses. IIST has tied-up with premier hospitals to ensure world-class medical facilities for students, if and when required.  The Institute also has an extended campus in Ponmudi hills with a fully functional climate observatory. IIST has two campuses planned, which will be spread over a 100-acre area near the foothills of Sahyadri ranges.

Academics and Faculty

IIST offers UG and PG programs in areas relevant to space studies. The Institute currently offers B. Tech in Aerospace Engineering, Avionics and a Dual Degree (B. Tech + M.S/M. Tech) that has replaced the B. Tech (Physical Sciences) from the academic year 2015.  Admissions to these branches are on merit and based on your scores of JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced. The syllabi of the courses are tailor-made for the requirements of ISRO. Most of the faculty in IIST are scientists or engineers from the various departments of ISRO, who have worked in ISRO projects amidst the advanced technologies implemented in space missions. The fact that the first chancellor of IIST was Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, an exemplary genius who needs no introductions, itself is a testimony to the extremely high standards of IIST. Currently, IIST has 96 faculty members aided by a large number of non-teaching staff. The Institute is home to around 600 B. Tech students, 150 M. Tech/MS students, and 90 Ph. D. scholars. We can safely conclude that the academic quality offered in IIST is of the highest standards, on par with even the older IITs.

Infrastructure & Facilities

IIST boasts a huge library housed in a six-storey building, which has a collection of over 26,600 books, 4500 e-journals and hundreds of conference papers. There are high-end laboratories, workshops and a Computer Systems Group (CSG). Some equipment and instruments at IIST cannot be found in most other colleges in the country. ISRO makes sure that the students are exposed and trained to operate the latest equipment and technologies used in space projects. The hostels have uninterrupted power supply, housekeeping services, Wi-Fi, reading room, facility for indoor games, modern gym, and mess for students.

Fees

As mentioned earlier, the major highlight of IIST as an engineering college is that education in the institute is absolutely free (including academics, hostel, mess, internships, etc.), if the student secures the prescribed Grade Point Average (GPA). Moreover, the students are also entitled to a book allowance of Rs. 3000 every semester. While we frequently hear about the fee hike in IITs that have now reached the Rs. 2 Lakhs per annum mark and with the NITs also catching up, IIST presents itself as the best option for quality education at zero expense.

Placements & Absorption in ISRO

An IIST student is required to sign a bond at the time of admission, making his/her services available for ISRO after graduation, for at least 5 years. While this turns out to be the most popular decision to not choose IIST, one must remember that ISRO is fast growing to become one of the most prolific space agencies in the world. A job as a scientist cum engineer in such a reputed firm, with all the perks of being a central government employee, is a dream for many. The starting pay in ISRO is at par or more than the average packages secured by students of other engineering colleges. You also get to work under a globally acclaimed organization working for a national cause and thereby be a part of the technical advancement of the country. According to me, that should be reason enough to join this institute.

Other than ISRO, many reputed companies such as The Indian Navy, Analog Devices, KPIT Technologies, Philips Innovation Campus, COM DEV International Ltd, etc. recruit regularly from IIST.

Points to be considered before joining IIST

Now, that we have seen all the pros of joining this institute, let’s take a look at some of the points you might want to consider before making up your mind to join IIST.

  • Due to the very niche nature of courses, some students have concerns regarding the scope for a career outside ISRO or related industries. IIST is well-known for the academic pressure on its students to maintain CGPA of 7.5 or more to be eligible for recruitment to ISRO.
  • There are concerns about the 5-year bond, which makes it difficult for post-graduation plans abroad.
  • Being a college with an intake of just 140, the student activities inside the college are not so impressive. The college fests are more inclined towards the technical side, a sharp contrast to the grand college festivals in other premier institutes. So, if you are the type who sweat it out at fests and make most of your college days as far as extra- curricular activities are concerned, you might need to make sure if IIST is the right place for you.

If you like the world of rockets and space and enjoy working with a highly motivated team that works for a national as well as a global cause, then IIST definitely is a good place for you. But not many people know about it. Click here for a detailed list of many such colleges.

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