Humanities and Social Sciences at IITs

Posted on March 27, 2015


Worldwide, leading technology universities like MIT and Stanford also have a very strong faculty of Humanities and Social  Science.   As per 2014-15 THES university ranking in Social Sciences, Stanford and MIT are listed at first and second position. Stanford is also listed as first in list of Arts and Humanities.      On the other hand , in India,  the leading technology institutes, IITs,, IIITs, and NITs, do not offer many programs for students of humanities and social science.  IITs MBA,  MDes, and even LLB programs are also not open for  students of humanities and social sciences. The common perception is that  HSS departments in IITs are mostly confined to teaching few HSS courses to BTech students.    However,  IITs do carry out  research in these streams as well.   As per 2014 QS ranking of world’s top 500 universities in Social Science and Management, only 7 Indian universities are included.   It is interesting to note that  IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, and IIT Kharagpur also  appear in this list along with  Delhi University,  Jawaharlal Nehru University, IIM Ahmedabad, and IITM Bangalore.

Contrary to the common public misconception, HSS departments at some IITs are indeed contributing much more than  just  offering few HSS courses to BTech students.   Here are few high quality and reputed interdisciplinary “Humanities and Social Sciences” programs at IITs:
1. Almost all IITs have a strong HSS department (different from their management departments) and offer PhD program in various core and interdisciplinary HSS area like economics, history, philosophy, literature, psychology, sociology, development studies, etc.
In addition,
2. IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur offer a 5 year integrated MSc Economics. (Admission: through JEE)
3. IIT Bombay offers  a 2 year program of MPhil in Development studies.
4. IIT Guwahati offers a 2 year MA   in Development studies
5. IIT Kharagpur offers a Masters in Human Resource Management
6. IIT Madras offers  two 5 year integrated MA programs in Development studies and also in English Studies
7. IIT Gandhi Nagar offers a 2 year MA in Society & Culture and also a 2 year MSc in Cognitive Science.

IIT Gandhi Nagar is the first IIT to make one HSS course compulsory in each of the 8 semesters of the BTech program and also to include  2 compulsory HSS courses in MTech programs. In their BTech programs,  through open electives, the number of the HSS courses  can even exceed eight.

Joining this tradition, among another group of nationally important technology institutes, i.e., IIITs,   IIIT Hyderabad offers PhD in “Exact Humanities” and also PhD & MPhil in Computational Linguistics.  IIIT Bangalore, in 2015,  has launched a new interdisciplinary masters program in “Digital Society.”   For many decades, BITS, Pilani has been offering an integrated MSc Economics after 12th class. Unfortunately, it has closed the integrated masters programs in English and Museum Studies that it used to offer in 1980s.

Hope some more such program will be added by other IITs as well as IIITs and NITs too in near future to make these institutes as truly multidisciplinary world class universities, especially because the world is becoming far too complex for any single discipline and rightly so the scholarship is becoming so much interdisciplinary.

Also see: Well Rounded Curriculum – An Insight from Biglan’s classification of disciplines  at

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