The Fab Five? Partnership for Joint PhD Programs with IIT Madras Remains Unknown


Correction: In the Jan. 31 issue of Imprint, we reported that “University of Waterloo media relations may have mistakenly announced UW as one of five partnering institutions with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.” UW media relations did not officially announce this partnership, but rather, posted a link on the UW news site to an innacurate story from The Times of India.

Media relations gave the following statement regarding the matter:

“Waterloo has reciprocal agreements with several hundred universities around the world. We are constantly working to find opportunities to focus our partnerships with the best institutions globally. Media reports of a new partnership between Waterloo and IIT-Madras are inaccurate but Waterloo officials will meet with representatives of IIT-Madras in the coming months to explore ways we can reinvigorate our relationship.


University of Waterloo media relations may have mistakenly announced UW as one of five partnering institutions with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) to offer a selection of joint PhD programs designed with the intention of collaborative research.  At present, this announcement lingers in limbo with UW admin denying the partnership.

Manager of graduate international agreements and recruitment, Lynne Wight said that Waterloo does not currently have a signed partnership with IIT-M in reference to joint PhD programs. While University of Waterloo media relations was unavailable for comment, director of international agreements Drew Knight echoed Wight’s ambiguity of the apparent new stage in IIT-M’s relationship with Waterloo.

While Waterloo’s degree and capacity of involvement remains speculative, partnering institutions are set to include Université de Technologie de Troyes (France), Technion Israel Institute of Technology (Israel), University of Liverpool (United Kingdom), and National Tsing Hua University (China). The partnership would not only transcend continents and ocean currents but language and culture as well.

As reported in the initial press release for the partnership and program initiative, Lih J. Chen, president of National Tsing Hua University, emphasized the merit of the program, saying that in order “to carry out research of the highest quality … it can no longer merely be an ‘in-house’ affair.”

Waterloo currently hosts an array of diverse exchange partnerships between academic institutions across the globe for undergraduate and graduate students alike.  In fact, study abroad programs have been a vital part of Waterloo academia with over 150 study abroad and exchange programs in over 35 countries and in excess of 700 student participants annually.

R. Nagarajan, dean of international and alumni relations at IIT-M, reportedly cited the program as a tiered process involving faculty collaboration, student exchanges, and co-supervision as important steps toward the full realization and potential of the joint degree program in The Times of India.

IIT-M retains a reputation of national importance within technological education and is an established centre where teaching, research, and industrial consultancy takes place in India.  Located in Chennai, in southern India, IIT-M retains 16 academic departments and advanced research centres within the disciplines of engineering and pure sciences, as well as up to 100 laboratories.

Waterloo has had a research-related relationship with IIT-M since 1998, resulting in visiting scholars to and from India, as well as students, including graduate student exchange agreements within the realms of research collaboration. Waterloo administration remains uniformly ambiguous as to whether the existing research partnership will in fact manifest into the announced joint PhD programs.


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