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Are you fascinated by our country’s space program and wish you get a chance to work on the next Mangalyaan? IIST could be the place for you!

The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) located at Thiruvananthapuram offers bright students a B.Tech programme for a very low fee and a chance to get absorbed into ISRO as a scientist. Sounds interesting? Read on… 😀

IIST was established in 2007 in order to focus on space-science specific subjects at the UG level, which was not available in most IITs. IIST used to charge 0 fee till 2021. The condition was that those who didn’t score a CGPA of above 7.5 in a semester would have to pay ₹50K as fee. Due to the confusion and subjectivity involved in awarding grades, very few could maintain the completely free fee structure. Therefore the institute started charging fees from the 2021 batch.

While most B.Tech aspirants only focus on Computer Science and inflated ‘packages’ while preparing for their admissions, you will be surprised to know that IIST does not offer a Computer Science Engineering programme!

UG Programmes offered by IIST Thiruvananthapuram

IIST offers the following degrees at the UG level:

  • B.Tech in Aerospace Engineering
  • B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering (Avionics)
  • 5-year dual degree with B.Tech in Engineering Physics and
    • M.Tech in Earth Systems and Science
    • M.Tech in Optical Engineering
    • M.S in Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • M.S in Solid State Physics

IIST also has multiple M.Tech and PhD programmes at the PG level.

How to apply for admission to IIST?

Admission to IIST is based on the JEE Advanced exam conducted by IITs.

However, admissions are not done via the JoSAA portal. Candidates must apply separately on the IIST Admission portal after declaration of JEE Advanced results.

In 2023, the tentative timeline for IIST Admission is as follows:

  • JEE Advanced Result: June 18, 2023 (Expected)
  • Opening of Online Registration: June 18, 2023
  • Closing of Online Registration: June 28, 2023
  • IIST Admission Rank List: June 29, 2023
  • Spot Admissions (if required): July 28, 2023.
  • Joining IIST: August 7, 2023.

IIST previous year cutoffs

The previous year’s cutoffs are given on the IIST brochure and they are as given below.

Source: IIST admission brochure

Just to get an idea, if you are a general category student, you will get a seat into Aerospace if you have a rank of around 10000 in JEE Advanced (rough estimate) and 15000 should get you a seat for a dual degree.

The cutoffs are much lower than many IITs, mainly because of the craze for Computer Science, where people choose CSE in new IITs over IIST, thinking of the ‘packages’.

IIST Thiruvananthapuram Fee

While the education was free at IIST, students who didn’t join ISRO had to pay the 4 years’ fee back to IIST. This was a deterrent to many talented students, because of the cutoffs required to be eligible for the ISRO/DOS (Dept of Space) interviews.

In order to encourage more talented students to apply and also give the others an exit option without the burden of paying a huge fee at the end of their graduation, IIST has started charging fees. The fee comes to around ₹1 Lakh per semester, which is on par with IITs and NITs and a lot lesser than private engineering colleges like BITS Pilani. Check the fee details of the 2021-22 batch.

Bright students are given the following scholarships.

  • Top 5 students who have secured less than 1000 rank in JEE Advanced will receive a 100% scholarship in the first semester. However, they will have to maintain a CGPA of 9.0 and above to continue receiving the scholarship. Please note that even if you are among the top 5 rankers at the institute, but your JEE-Advanced rank is below 1000, you will not be eligible for this scholarship.
  • Students getting a CGPA of 9.0 in a semester will receive a fee waiver of 50% in the next semester. Only 10% of the students will be eligible for this scholarship. If your batch has 100 students and 12 students get over 9.0 CGPA, all of them will not get the scholarship. There will be some criteria to limit this number to 10 or below.
  • There are also scholarships awarded to students from economically weaker sections on providing income proof.

IIST Placements

As mentioned in the fee section, earlier, the system was to absorb the students into ISRO and those who didn’t want/couldn’t make it had to pay back the entire fee to IIST.

Since this provided students with limited options and undue stress of getting the required CGPA in a batch with very bright peers, IIST has now opened up to external placements. The placements work as follows:

Students who secure over 7 CGPA at the end of the third year will be eligible for interviews conducted by ISRO. Students who are selected should get a CGPA of 7.5 and above at the time of completion of their programme to be eligible for the offer letter. This means if you get a 7.3 CGPA, attend the ISRO interview and clear it, you must work hard and get your CGPA to 7.5 and above before you complete your graduation.

Students who are not eligible for ISRO placements/offers or those who find that their interests don’t lie in space tech (which is ok, because as you grow, your tastes change and you may find something else that interests you more) can appear for external placements. There are quite a few good companies that visit IIST for placements.

Source: IIST brochure

Therefore, you are not stuck to ISRO without an exit option. If you study Electronics and Communication Engineering, you have a world of opportunities outside space tech.

IIST Campus Facilities

The IIST campus spans 100 acres and is located 35 km from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. It is around 23 kms from the railway station and 26km from the airport.

The campus caters to around 1000 students from various disciplines. The intake of students is low (< 200 first year seats), therefore it is not a very crowded campus.

Source: IIST Brochure

Just to get a perspective, VIT Vellore has an area of 372 acres and has 21,000+ students.

The campus is fully residential with twin sharing rooms for UG students. Research facilities on the campus are excellent as they are aimed to improve India’s space research programme. There is a lot of emphasis on physics, astrophysics and avionics and these programmes are unlike the common engineering programmes aimed at creating coders. Students get to work on projects related to ISRO, like the nano satellite programme which helps students understand satellite technology.

Students are also encouraged to participate in activities for the benefit of tribal villages in Kerala and help them lead a better life through technological initiatives.

Should you consider joining IIST Thiruvananthapuram?

If you are fascinated about space as the final frontier, this is definitely a place for you. However, you need to clear JEE-Advanced for it and should be willing to put in the effort in your 11th and 12th grade and clear mains first and then advanced.

However, it’s not as tough as getting a CSE in IIT Bombay. If your JEE-Advanced rank is in the 10,000 range, you should be able to get into IIST. However, you may not be eligible for the full fee waiver, as only those who get below 1000 in JEE-Advanced are eligible.

Academics can be rigorous, as there is a certain pressure to maintain a 7.5+ CGPA if you want to get into ISRO. Considering that the peer group is a bunch of toppers who have cleared JEE Advanced, the competition can be pretty tough.

This place is for those who have true passion for science and India’s space exploration programme. The packages may look smaller initially but as you grow with ISRO, the thrill and satisfaction of being part of a future Mangalyaan project is on a completely different level compared to salary packages.

Earlier, there was a risk if you failed to clear the ISRO interview or decided that you want to go abroad for higher studies; you had to pay the entire fee in one go if you had to get your graduation certificate, plus the stress of looking for a job off-campus. However, now with the introduction of fees and external companies visiting IIST for campus placements, you have a plan B if things don’t go as expected.

If you are only interested in the ₹1Cr packages advertised in the IT sector, you may give this a miss.

You may also read our reviews on IIIT Hyderabad and BITS Pilani.

Also check this ISRO recruitment notification to get an idea of the kind of careers available to fresh engineers at ISRO.

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