The National Institutes of Technology (NITs) (Hindi: राष्ट्रीय प्रौद्योगिकी संस्थान), are a group of premier public engineering institutes of India. On their inception decades ago, all NITs were referred as Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs) and were governed by their respective state governments. NITs were founded to promote regional diversity and multi-cultural understanding in India. Comprising thirty autonomous institutes, they are located in one each major state/territory of India. In 2007,the Indian government declared these schools as Institute of National Importance.
NITs offer degree courses at bachelors, masters, and doctorate levels in various branches of engineering and technology. All NITs are autonomous which enables them to set up their own curriculum.
Admission to NITs was done by the erstwhile All India Engineering Entrance Examination, now replaced by Joint Entrance Examination Main (JEE Main) conducted across India.
Jawaharlal Nehru sought to develop India as a leader in science and technology. The Government started fourteen RECs between 1959 and 1965, at Bhopal, Allahabad, Kozhikode, Durgapur, Kurukshetra, Jamshedpur, Jaipur, Nagpur, Rourkela, Srinagar, Surathkal, Surat, Tiruchirappalli, and Warangal. It established one in Silchar in 1967 and added two others located at Hamirpur in 1986, and Jalandhar in 1987.
The RECs were jointly operated by the central government and the concerned state government. Non-recurring expenditures and expenditures for post-graduate courses during the REC period were borne by the central government, while recurring expenditure on undergraduate courses was shared equally by central and state governments.
The success of technology-based industry led to high demand for technical and scientific education. Due to the enormous costs and infrastructure involved in creating globally respected Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), in 2002 MHRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi decided to upgrade RECs to "National Institutes of Technology" (NITs) instead of creating IITs. The central government controls NITs and provides all funding. In 2003, all RECs became NITs.
The upgrade was designed along the lines of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) after it was concluded that RECs had potential as proven by the success of their alumni and their contributions in the field of technical education. Subsequently, funding and autonomy for NITs increased, and they award degrees which have raised their graduates' perceived value. These changes implemented recommendations of the "High Powered Review Committee" (HPRC). The HPRC, chaired by Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, submitted its report entitled "Strategic Road Map for Academic Excellence of Future RECs" in 1998.
In 2006, MHRD issued NIT status to three more colleges, located at Patna (Bihar Engineering College - a 110 year old college), Raipur (Government Engineering College), and Agartala (Tripura Engineering College). Based on the request of state governments and feasibility, future NITs are either converted from existing institutes or can be freshly created. The 21st (and the first brand-new) NIT is planned for Imphal in the north-eastern state of Manipur at an initial cost of Rs. 500 crores. In 2010, the government announced setting up ten new NITs in the remaining states/territories. This would lead to every state in India having its own NIT.
With the technology based industry's continuing growth, the government decided to upgrade twenty National Institutes of Technology to full-fledged technical universities. Parliament passed enabling legislation, the National Institutes of Technology Act in 2007 and took effect on 15 August of that year. The target is to fulfill the need for quality manpower in the field of engineering, science, and technology and to provide consistent governance, fee structure, and rules across the NITs. The law designates each NIT an Institute of National Importance (INI).