he liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1992 led to two direct results. Firstly, the Indian software industry was catapulted onto the global stage, going neck to neck with the giants in Silicon Valley. Secondly, the Indian higher education system was overhauled completely to match the new demands of a burgeoning economy. From legacy engineering sectors such as mechanical and civil, colleges pivoted towards computer science, computer engineering, and IT education.
Today, India produces close to 215,000 Computer Science graduates every year to service the $200 billion Indian IT and Business Process Management industry. Today, the sector contributes 7.7% of India's GDP, up from 1.2% in 1998. Moreover, it is growing at an annual rate of 8.4% which is significantly higher than India's GDP growth.
It didn't just end here. Global tech corporations from Europe and the USA rushed to capitalise on this opportunity, setting up R&D centres and flooding the market with high-paying jobs. The rapid growth of the IT sector opened the floodgates for eager students looking for better jobs to solidify their futures.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students enrol in the 4000+ IT and software colleges in India. This article will help you make sense out of these numbers. We will answer questions such as what are the best software courses in India? How competitive are they and how do they compare to their Western counterparts?
The best software engineering colleges in India
Out of 4000 colleges, how does one filter out the best ones? After all, not every college is built the same, right? This is where the National Institute Ranking Framework or NIRF steps in. Every year the Human Resource Development Ministry of the Central Government releases the NIRF rankings, grading each college across several crucial parameters.
1. Teaching, Learning and Resources
The student strength, student to teacher ratio, faculty with Ph.D. and financial resources.
2. Research and Professional Practice
The quality and number of publications and patents along with the impact projects.
3. Graduation Outcomes
Metric for university examinations and the number of Ph.D. students who graduated.
4. Outreach and Inclusivity
This metric measures the diversity of the student body.
5. Peer Perception
How do recruiters and leaders perceive the college to be?
Each parameter has been carefully selected to reflect the overall authority of the college. When a college ranks within the upper echelons of these rankings, you can be assured that it is a quality college. Colleges that rank high tend to have better faculty, fewer students, more published research, several research grants, in addition to a stringent syllabus that combines both, the practical as well as theoretical aspects of software engineering. Each student is expected to participate in projects and internships to enhance their skills. Students who pass out from here tend to be better prepared to face the challenges offered within high-growth companies.
Among the government-funded colleges, there are over 23 Indian Institutes of Technology and 31 National Institutes of Technology spread out over the country. These are the most sought-after colleges in India for their competitive software engineering and Computer Science programs. Colleges like IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur, IIT BHU, and IIT Guwahati are the top engineering colleges in India in every right. Most of these colleges also find a prominent place in worldwide college rankings.
Apart from the IITs and NITs, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore is another top tier government-funded institute. In the private sector, the Vellore Institute of Technology, Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani, Birla Institute of Technology Mesra, Manipal Institute of Technology Manipal, and SRMInstitute of Science and Technology are well-known amongst employers and peers.
All college rankings place the government-funded institutions far above the private ones. This is because of the quality of students going in, the different approach to academics, an abundance of research opportunities at IITs and NITs, and the top-notch placement offers. When hiring for a leading role, almost every tech company turns towards the top IIT colleges. But this is not a mere coincidence. IITians have proven their mettle over time. Nikesh Arora, CEO of SoftBank Internet and Media, and Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, a company that created the Java language, were both illustrious alumni of the IITs.
Just for reference purposes, here are the top 20 engineering colleges in India according to NIRF.
- IIT Madras
- IIT Delhi
- IIT Bombay
- IIT Kanpur
- IIT Kharagpur
- IIT Roorkee
- IIT Guwahati
- IIT Hyderabad
- NIT Tiruchirapalli
- IIT Indore
- IIT BHU
- IIT Dhanbad
- NIT Karnataka
- Anna University
- Vellore Institute of Technology
- NIT Rourkela
- Jadavpur University
- Institute of Chemical Technology
- NIT Warangal
- Amrita School of Engineering
How competitive is it to enter these colleges?
The IIT JEE Main and Advance, the common entrance test for all government-funded institutes, form the holy grail for any Indian engineering aspirant. Most students begin preparing for this exam at least two years before they sit for the test. A few others even start preparation and coaching six years prior. The students who do end up making the cut put in a combined 2000+ hours of extra study on average over the two years. They attend special coaching classes, several hours a week, that are intensely focused on applicative learning.
Over a million students appear for the exam but only a few thousand manage to secure seats in these coveted institutes. From a pool of 1.2 million candidates in 2018, 220,000 got through the IIT JEE Main test. The Advance test filtered out the most deserving 11,000 for final seat allocation in the reputed IITs. That's an acceptance rate of less than 1%. In comparison, Cambridge University has an acceptance rate of 23% while Oxford is at 16.6%. The entrance test is highly regarded as one of the hardest tests in the world due to its extensive syllabus and application-based questions. Students who do manage to clear the tests are amongst the brightest in the country. Since students are allocated their stream according to their ranks, only the top 3000 rank holders manage to get into CS, CE, and IT-related streams.
The next strata of colleges, the NITs and IISc Bangalore select students solely on the basis of the IIT JEE Main test. Around 50,000 students manage to get admission to 31 NITs spread out across the country. While this number is higher than the IITs, it is still very competitive.
Lastly, most private institutes hold their own entrances while a few also accept IIT JEE scores. Since IT related subjects are in high demand among the students, only the best of the crop make it. Students flock to these prominent institutes for many reasons. Apart from the research facilities, alumni base, and industry connections, all these colleges boast of amazing teachers, well-balanced syllabi, and a focus on the development of soft skills.
Why are IITs so well-known?
The IITs were pioneered by late Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to train a new class of Indian engineers - engineers who were at par with their Western counterparts and could lead the technological revolution of the country. The IITs were designed to be dynamic and flexible, constantly adapting to the changing technological needs of a growing country. They are world-class educational platforms that have given the world crop after crop of intuitive engineers who continue to lead the global tech stage from the front. The global reputation of the IITs is built upon the contributions of its professors and alumni who have gone on to achieve academic and post-academic success.
For instance, Indians have founded 61 unicorn startups globally out of which 21 are based in India. Moreover, 36 of the 109 founders and co-founders of the 21 startups are IITians. As a testament to their quality and ambition, over 33% of all immigrant-founded startups in Silicon Valley are led by Indians which is more than the combined number of the next four ethnicities. In addition Indian tech leaders such as Satya Nadela and Sundar Pichai are key figures for transforming the software industry.
How does the Indian software education system compare to the Western system?
While controversy abounds in the Indian education system, computer science and IT continue to be strong points. This fact is validated by the placement statistics for top engineering colleges. For instance, IIT Bombay, India's top-rated Computer Science program, received a total of 156 international placement offers, for the 2019-20 batch, from companies like Microsoft, Samsung, Google, Amazon, Qualcomm, and McKinsey & Company. This number was a 75% jump from the previous year.
IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee, IIT Kanpur, IIT Guwahati, and IIT Hyderabad also saw a surge in the number of international offers for the placement season that began in December 2019. This jump was primarily a market phenomenon as more first time recruiters joined the placement lists.
"Associate hiring, especially from IITs, is very important to us. Our hiring numbers for associates have not been affected by the slowdown in the economy," said Natarajan Sankar, MD and partner, Boston Consulting Group India. Along similar lines, Wadhawan, HR Head, Samsung India, told a publication that they were committed to hiring the most talented engineers from IITs for local R&D inIndia.
The international software community continues to show great faith in top Indian talent as they regularly line up to hire the best students during campus placements. This hiring pattern can be primarily attributed to the quality of students that make it into the IIT programs. Due to the ultra-competitive nature of the entrance tests, only high-caliber students with the right analytical mindset make it to the IITs. Additionally, India's top professors also tend to teach there.
The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 declared the IITs to be ‘Institutes of National Importance’. This Act created a unique framework for the funding, administration, and academic development of the IITs as privileged institutions, conferring a high degree of autonomy on the system and protecting it from extra-academic pressures.
Most of the government funding for research is driven to the IITs. This opens up a plethora of opportunities for IITians to take up impactful research projects in the undergraduate stage itself. The exposure to international research standards, a thriving community of intellectual students, and the practical-based engineering syllabus attract multinational recruiters to the IITs.