Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), situated at Thiruvananthapuram is a Deemed to be University under Section 3 of the UGC Act 1956. IIST functions as an autonomous body under the Department of Space, Government of India. The idea of such an institute was mooted keeping in mind the need for high quality manpower for the Indian Space Research Organization, one of world’s leading scientific organizations engaged in space research and space applications. The institute is the first of its kind in the country, to offer high quality education at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral levels on areas with special focus to space sciences, space technology and space applications. IIST was formally inaugurated on 14 September 2007 by Dr. G. Madhavan Nair, the then Chairman, ISRO and was temporarily housed in the premises of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, very close from where ISRO built and launched its first rocket. Both the founding fathers of the institute, Dr G Madhavan Nair and Dr B.N. Suresh, the latter being the first Director of IIST, played a very important role in the formation of the institute, facilitating its establishment and contributing to its vision. Dr B.N. Suresh piloted the institute from the conception of the idea to its realization in a permanent campus near Thiruvananthapuram in 2010.
Carrying the mantle forward, the next Chairman, ISRO and Chairman, Board of Management, IIST, Dr. K Radhakrishnan and the present Director of IIST, Dr. K.S Dasgupta have been guiding the institute to achieve its mission of creating a unique learning environment enriched by the challenges of the Space exploration, by nurturing the spirit of innovation and creativity. Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar has assumed charge as Secretary, DoS very recently and IIST is looking forward to Shri Kiran Kumar to take the institute to the next higher level of excellence.
IIST offers various undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in areas that are relevant to space studies. The institute currently offers B.Tech in three branches – Aerospace Engineering, Avionics and Physical Sciences. From academic year 2015 onwards, a Dual Degree (B. Tech + M.S / M. Tech) will replace the B. Tech (Physical Sciences). This five year Dual Degree Programme will lead to a B.Tech degree in Engineering Physics and any of the following Postgraduate specializations - (i) M.S. (Astronomy & Astrophysics) (ii) M.S. (Earth System Science) (iii) M.S. (Solid State Physics) and (iv) M.Tech (Optical Engineering). Admissions to these branches are merit based and intake is based on the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi as well as the Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) conducted by IITs, as per the guidelines set by IIST. The major feature of the undergraduate program is the complete absence of any form of fees payable to the institute, rendering the education “completely free”, subject to the students securing a stipulated minimum academic requirement. As performance based financial assistance is provided by DOS to the B.Tech students of IIST, ISRO/DOS will have the first right to absorb them, subject to the human resource requirements of ISRO/DOS.
Apart from this, IIST offers postgraduate programmes in fourteen areas of space science and engineering. These M.Tech and M.S programmes are open to scientists / engineers of DOS / ISRO as well as public. The academic programmes have been formulated to strengthen the fundamentals, experience the realities through practical work, and enhance the knowledge and understanding in the areas of interest. Also, the programmes so envisaged ensures adequate exposure in the emerging fields which will lead to experience knowledge synthesis.
The institute recognizes the relevance of research. IIST encourages all its faculty members to guide and supervise young scholars for the PhD programme as well as for Post-Doctoral programmes. It also supports the research needs of faculty members by funding research projects directly. The institute provides for the publication charges of peer reviewed journal papers that are published by faculty, research scholars and students of the institute.
Currently the institute has 96 faculty members from 11 different states of the country, ably aided by a large number of non-teaching staff. Lady faculty members account for about 23 % of the total faculty strength of the institute while 22 % of the total student community in the campus is girl students. There are around 600 BTech students, 150 MTech/MS students, and 90 PhD scholars. The campus is fully residential for students. It has an area of about 100 acres, and is located in one of the most scenic places in Kerala, very near the majestic mountain range of Western Ghats.