India’s first international IIT at Zanzibar, Tanzania

IIT Zanzibar Tanzania
IIT Zanzibar Tanzania

Established in the newly independent India in 1950 under the leadership of then prime minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are India’s premier engineering and technology institutions renowned worldwide for their academic excellence. 

Last year, the IITs embarked on an unprecedented move by establishing their first international campus in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island province of Tanzania off the African mainland in the Indian Ocean. It has an area of around 2,462 sq km, population of around 1.8 million, and the main languages are Swahili, Arabic, and English.

In July 2023, India and Zanzibar had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a campus of IIT Madras in Zanzibar. The agreement was inked in the presence of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Zanzibar's President Hussein Ali Mwinyi.

"This campus is reflective of the longstanding friendship between India and Tanzania and a reminder of the focus India places on building people to people ties across Africa and the Global South," expressed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India.

 Classes for the first Academic Year (2023-24) commenced on October 2023, offering two full-time academic programs – A four-year Bachelor of Science in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence and a two-year Master of Technology in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. The total student intake will be 70. 

The initial batch at IITM Zanzibar comprises of students from Zanzibar, mainland Tanzania, Nepal and India with 40 per cent of the students being women. A total of 45 students have been admitted for a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Data Science and AI and a two-year Master of Technology degree in Data Science and AI. Indian students can also apply and appear for the three-level process for admission into the first offshore campus to be started by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Zanzibar.

Faculty will be deputed from IIT Madras or recruited from India during the initial days of this campus. Activities to ensure local talent is developed and can be employed as faculty are underway already. The Government of India offers numerous scholarships for citizens of Tanzania/Zanzibar to study in various degree programs at IIT Madras in Chennai, starting from July 2023

The international campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), spread across 200 acres on Zanzibar Island in Tanzania, will start classes in October 2023.

IIT Zanzibar Campus
Image: IIT Zanzibar Building


Speaking to NDTV, Kamakoti Veezhinathan, Director of IIT Madras, expressed that Africa in general and Zanzibar in particular was chosen as IIT's first international foray based on various factors such as the country's necessity for higher education and local government's support for such an initiative. Africa checked all the boxes.

V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras
Image: V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras

Another proud association with IIT Zanzibar is that Dr. Preeti Aghalayam, Dean of the School of Science & Engineering, IIT Madras, will be the first women director of an IIT and the Director-in-charge of IIT Zanzibar.

Dr. Preeti Aghalayam
Image: Dr. Preeti Aghalayam

In 1995, Aghalayam obtained her BTech degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT Madras. Subsequently, she pursued her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, completing it in 2000. Following her doctoral studies, she served as a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, Cambridge and later as a faculty member at IIT Bombay. 

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru pioneered establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology to provide trained technical personnel of international class to a young nation who would act as leaders in technology for the newly born independent India. 

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Image: India's first Prime Minister - Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

In May 1950, the first in the series was established in Kharagpur at the site of the Hijli Detention Camp, where the British had incarcerated political prisoners, the institution was named the 'Indian Institute of Technology' before its formal inauguration on August 18, 1951. Within a decade of the launch of the first IIT, four more were set up: IIT Bombay (1958), IIT Madras (1959), IIT Kanpur (1959), and IIT Delhi (1961). 

Decades later, the sixth IIT was established in Guwahati (1994). India's first technical institute, set up in 1847 and known as the Thomson College of Engineering and subsequently the University of Roorkee, was ordained as the seventh IIT in September 2001. In the year 2008, six new IITs were started: IIT Bhubaneswar, IIT Gandhinagar, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Patna, IIT Rajasthan, and IIT Ropar. This was followed by two more IITs in 2009: IIT Indore and IIT Mandi. In 2012, Institute of Technology, BHU was designated the sixteenth IIT. IIT Palakkad and IIT Tirupati came into existence in 2015, and in 2016 five more IITs; IIT (ISM) Dhanbad, IIT Bhilai, IIT Goa, IIT Jammu and IIT Dharwad were started.

According to the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of India (click to learn more)- High performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries in the world.



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