CHENNAI: For decades, IITians have been faulted for leaving the country in search of greener pastures. But now, contrary to public perception, the brain drain from the premier technical institutions to foreign shores is declining.

According to faculty members, the number of students from IIT-Madras going overseas for higher studies and jobs has dropped from around 50% in the 1980s to around 15% in the last couple of years. Of the 800 BTech and dual degree students graduating from IIT-Madras in 2015, only 10% are likely to leave the country, said placement advisor Babu Viswanathan.

Of the 661 BTech and dual degree candidates who passed out in 2013-14, 100 left for foreign shores, including 88 to the US and two to Canada. In the 2012-13 academic year, only 40 of the 640 graduates went overseas for jobs or higher studies.

“The number of students going overseas for higher education is declining. The brain drain has almost stopped. This year, around 10% have signed up to go abroad, but note that an equal number is staying back to start their own ventures. It’s a positive trend because we can retain talent,” said dean, international and alumni relations, IIT-Madras, R Nagarajan. “There is a bigger drain of students from core branches to non-core companies during placements,” he added.

He said this was one area that the IITs were seen as lacking when compared to foreign universities. But, with support for entrepreneurship in the institute – ranging from minors courses, an MS in Entrepreneurship, deferred placements, and offers to incubate startups with potential – students are rethinking their plans.

Professor Viswanathan said the emergence of institutes such as the Indian Institute of Management within the country contributed to the decrease in numbers. “In recent years, 50% of those who choose higher studies choose the IIMs. They have seen that there is good value in doing MBA here after IIT,” he said.

Faculty members, however, added that a little overseas experience was not a bad thing. For international exposure, students find the institute’s many MoUs with foreign institutions come in handy.

“I wanted to get an overseas experience to find out how research is done there. But, I decided to take up a PhD in IIT because there was a good chance of forging a tie with academics working on similar projects so I can spend six months overseas and return with the advantage of having spent some time in a foreign institution abroad,” said a research scholar at IIT-Madras.