A little over thirty years ago, there was no place in India where a graduate student in astrophysics could learn the subject through formal coursework in modern astrophysics. Students working in different astrophysics groups were expected to pick up the tools of the trade on their own. With the explosive development of modern astrophysics, it was more and more keenly felt that students working in astrophysics ought to be trained through a formal course work. Around 1982, several Indian astronomers came up with the proposal titled Collaborative Programme on Astronomy and Astrophysics. It was emphasized that such collaborations should centre around students since institutions and subjects retain their vigour only when they are fertilized by creative young minds. IISc was identified as the host institute for the student training programme.
The Joint Astronomy Programme (JAP), as the programme was eventually named, went into operation in August 1982 as a collaborative effort between different research institutes, with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) acting as the nodal institute and the degree-granting body. The associated institutes of JAP were: the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), the Raman Research Institute (RRI) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). Since then, JAP has been a stable programme, training students every year and producing a steady stream of PhDs. It has produced the largest number of A&A PhDs in India, with the students’ theses covering all the important areas of modern, theoretical and observational, astrophysics.
The courses offered by JAP provide an all-round training in modern astrophysics. Over a hundred fifty students outside of JAP, who joined the collaborating institutes directly, have also had the benefit of the JAP courses. One of the aims of this programme was to train young astrophysicists to take up positions in various research and teaching institutes in the country; many of the students associated with JAP have joined and contributed to astronomy institutes in India and abroad.
Currently, JAP has four participating institutes: Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Raman Research Institute, and The Indian Space Research Organization. These institutes together contribute to the first year joint teaching programme, and provide a wide variety of topics in astronomy and astrophysics for our students to choose from for their PhD thesis.