Insight Issue 9.1, 2006-07

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http://gymkhana.iitb.ac.in/~insight August 22, 2006* *Volume IX Issue I he reservation issue raised its head again, in April this year, with the government’s proposal to implement 27% reservation for students belonging to Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in institutes of higher education including IITs and IIMs. This issue has received wide coverage in the print media, in the tele media and in the weblogs of people. In this article, we recap the events of the summer and analyse the effect that the
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  T he reservation issue raised its headagain, in April this year, with thegovernment’s proposal to implement27% reservation for students belongingto Other Backward Castes (OBCs) ininstitutes of higher education includingIITs and IIMs. This issue has receivedwide coverage in the print media, inthe tele media and in the weblogs of  people. In this article, we recap theevents of the summer and analyse theeffect that the proposed reservationswill have on IIT Bombay. Is IIT-B ca- pable of handling the swelling num- bers of students when there is alreadya shortage of space in the hostels? Isthere enough teaching faculty to cater to the needs of the increased number of students without compromising thequality of education provided?This summer, IIT Bombay witnessedits own share of drama with both anti-reservation and pro-reservation pro-tests.On 19 th May, anti-reservation protes-tors demonstrated outside the IIT MainGate, forming a human chain, display-ing placards and distributing leaflets.On 22 nd May, over 20 protestors carriedout a chain hunger strike in batchesof 24 hours. This was covered exten-sively by news channels like AajTak, NDTV and Sahara. There was also astrong alumni presence in the anti-reservation camp, with prominent so-cial activists like Mr. Shailesh Gandhispeaking to the students about the is-sue. In the wake of the government’sdecision to implement reservations inIITs and IIMs, IIT-B students partici- pated in the ‘Maha Rally’organized bythe Youth For Equality (YFE) on 28thMay in Azad Maidan, which was at-tended by over 4000 people.There were also pro-reservation pro-tests organized by a small group of  people. But their hunger strike wasdiscontinued with the government an- > InsIghT is the students’ newsletter of IIT Bombay. The views expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of Students’ Gymkhana, IIT Bombay. Any reproduction of these contents must include proper attribu-tion and a link back to the InsIghT website. IIT Bombay August 22, 2006* http://gymkhana.iitb.ac.in/~insight  *Volume IXIssue I Students’ Gymkhana  nouncing its decision to implementOBC reservations from the next aca-demic year.We talked to the Deputy Director, Prof.Dipan K. Ghosh and he had this to sayabout the issue. “The current strengthof students, undergraduates as well as postgraduates, in IIT Bombay is ap- proximately 5000, and this number isgoing to increase every year, until after five years, the strength will even out to7700. This will lead to serious infra-structure issues.”One important cause for concern is theshortage of faculty. The ideal facultyto student ratio is 1:9, which the insti-tute currently falls well short of. Thereare, at present, around 400 faculty (ateacher-student ratio of 1:12) againstthe sanctioned strength of 550. Takinginto account the fact that over 50 mem- bers of the teaching staff would retireover the next five years, IIT-Bombaywould need a total of 850 faculty mem- bers- an increase of 450. To maintainthe faculty to non-teaching staff ratioof 1:2, 1000 additional staff membersneed to be hired.“Even at present, instructional areasare inadequate,” says Prof. Ghosh,“We do not have enough classrooms tohandle the additional load. We wouldneed an additional 100,000 sq. ft. of instructional area and 150,000 sq. ft. of academic infrastructural area, for labs,computer rooms, office space etc.”Also, thereis a se-vere spacecrunch inthe hostels.The first andsecond year undergradu-ate studentsare beingdoubled up,while thenew post-graduate students in Hostel 11 haveto share their room with two others.Indeed, the current capacity of our 13hostels is merely 4000, which is short by 1000. “With the extra load of stu-dents, we need to build hostels to ac-commodate a further 4000 students, 8 boys’ hostels and 1 girls’ hostel. Andthere is absolutely no space on our campus to build them,” concludesProf. Ghosh.How expensive will these additionalrequirements prove? The extra hostelsfor students and staff quarters, and their related facilities, the seed grant for theadditional faculty, the extra academicinstructional area plus the labs, libraryetc. carry a price tag of Rs. 615 crores,or Rs. 21 lakh for each additionalstudent. Also, there is a projected re-curring cost of Rs. 3 lakh per student per year, based on faculty salary andmaintenance costs. “But money is notthe issue here,” Prof. Ghosh maintains,“The central government has promisedto allocate enough money to meet theincreased expenses.” And finally, the million dollar ques-tion: Is it feasible to implement all thisand is it possible to implement it bythe next academic year? Prof. Ghoshoffers reasons why it is not. The cur-rent campus at Powai cannot expandto accommodate more than a total of 6000 students, due to the lack of free building space. Even this increasewould need to be done gradually in a phased manner; else, the entire systemat IIT would collapse. And finding therequired faculty to maintain currentstandards would be extremely chal-lenging.What are the alternatives? A possiblesolution would be to build a satellitecampus. “We are looking at the op-tion of setting up a campus either in Navi Mumbai or Gujarat or Goa. Sofar, Gujarat seems to be the most vi-able option. During our meeting withthe Gujarat authorities last month, theChief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi ex- pressed keen interest in our plan.” The Satellite Campus A satellite campus of IIT Bombay isall set to come up in Gandhinagar, Gu- jarat. The campus is expected to comeup by July 2007, housed initially either in the LD Engineering College or RCTechnical Institute, till the new cam- pus comes up. A high level delegationled by Director Prof. Ashok Misra metthe Gujarat authorities this July. IITPowai had asked for 300 acres of landto start the satellite campus. The Gu- jarat government will provide the landand infrastructure, while the unionHRD ministry is expected to provideconstruction funding.When we asked Prof. Dipan Ghoshwhether the setting up of the satellitecampus was a direct result of the pro- posed reservation, he said, “Both yesand no! The plan to set up a satellitecampus was conceived before the res-ervation issue came up. But now that ithas, the second campus would be (continued on page 2...) The Reservations Saga Reservations Issue:   A Timeline April’06: HRD minister Arjun Singh announces the proposal to reserve 27%of the seats in all central universities including IITs and IIMs. April-May’06: Widespread protests across the nation in many colleges anduniversities including IIT Bombay. May’06: Govt announces a 13-man oversight committee headed by VeerappaMoily to look into the issue of implementation of 27% reservation for OBCsin higher education institutions. August’06: Moily committee submits its report. Two draft bills (one for aidedand one for unaided universities) have been prepared by the ministry of HRDand are set to be introduced in the ongoing monsoon session of the parlia-ment. Siddarth Madhav and Vikranth Audi analyse the effect thatthe proposed reservations will have on IIT Bombay. ProgramDurationPresentintakeProposedintakeAdditionper yearNet addition(over 4-5 yrs) Undergraduate 4-5 yrs5748843101376Masters’ 2 yrs7741197423846Ph.D. ~5 yrs16725790450 Course-wise break-up of the increase in the strength of students 01    Projected growth in the strength of students in IIT Bombay IncreasePopulation  02  August 22, 2006 2  http://gymkhana.iitb.ac.in/~insight The very concept of a summer intern-ship can assume two mutually exclusivemeanings – a compulsory requirementor an opportunity to gain firsthand expe-rience of how life might be like after yougraduate. This article is for those whoattach significant importance to the lat-ter. Though most students instinctivelychoose between an industrial and a re-search internship fairly early, specificquestions on what to expect from either of these choices still rage on. Some of us end up taking ‘fundae’ from too manyseniors and confuse ourselves complete-ly because frankly speaking, there is nodefined algorithm to go about it. This ar-ticle endeavours to give a bird’s eye yetholistic view of both the experiences. Academic Internship -  Kartik  Though a research internship may aswell be done in a good Indian institutelike IISc, there seems to be an unstatedconvention of applying abroad as thedefault first option. I have classmateswho have had an equally rich experi-ence working in Indian labs as I had inthe USA. So let me assert that there isno paradigm shift in the value additionon the student’s merit while comparinglocal and foreign internships. On a more personal level, I was excited with theidea of doing an internship in a foreign place from the perspective of experi-ence but had consciously decided to goto NCBS, Bangalore in the event that agood opportunity of my choice did notcome through from abroad. At the end,I secured an opportunity to visit Pur-due University as a summer intern. Mywork was to be in an area of “systems biology”, which was something I hadlearnt a little about while working on myB.Tech seminar. Topic area and interestmust clearly be the top parameters whilechoosing an option for the summer.The second parameter that decides anapplicant’s fate is the availability of funds. Clearly, a three month stay in Eu-rope or USA cannot be sustained withone’s own money and let me go one stepahead and assert that the opportunity isreally not worth it if you are contemplat-ing on paying a substantial amount fromyour own pocket. Fortunately, most of usapplying abroad do get sufficient fund-ing. One would also do well to gather information about living cost and travelexpenses from immediate seniors whomight have been abroad for their sum-mers. Once you receive a mail of ac-ceptance, it is advisable to apply for visaand book tickets immediately to save ontravel expenses.I would now like to share some com-monplace notions and experiences. Itis very wrong to presume that your su- pervisor expects an accomplishment of Herculean proportion from you and feelintimidated by the same. In all likeli-hood, your topic of work will be onewhere three years wouldn’t have suf-ficiently armed you with a backgroundsufficient to comprehend the intricaciesof the project. It is advisable to read upa little on the subject so as to develop a basic understanding. My work involvedmathematical modeling and opti-mal control of met-abolic networksand their stabilityanalysis. I used toreport to my profes-sor twice a week  but my immedi-ate instructions weregiven to me by a gradu-ate student of his, whom I was work-ing with. The point I want to drive homeis that there would be an initial gestation period in any project where things mayseem a little incomprehensible; somemay find the work clerical and monoto-nous. It is important to be patient andwork your way through. The atmospherein most places is very congenial andyour hosts would go out of their way tohelp you settle down. All they expect isthat you show the sincerity and integrityfrom 9 am to 5 pm on something that iscertainly accessible to the acumen of asenior undergraduate from an IIT.The problem of locating the roots of one’s desire to go abroad is a toughie -good recommendation letters, bullet onthe resume or a paid holiday. I would beutterly unequipped to pass a moral judge-ment on this question but experiencessuggest that each of these three can besatisfied if one takes a balanced outlook towards the internship. If one works dili-gently on weekdays, weekends can beused to visit places around. Almost 80%of students receive an offer for enroll-ment into the PhD program in the sameuniversity. From the point of view of astudent who is contemplating on pursu-ing graduate studies, the internship ex- perience provides a flavour of cohesiveresearch. From the point of view of onewho is still weighing myriad options, theexperience helps him/her burrow a littlefurther down the rabbit-hole. Industrial Internship - Sriram As the name suggests, these internshipsare inclined towards application of sci-ence in industry and not so much towardsfundamental research. Most industrialinternships are based in India, the major recruiters being market leaders such asITC, HLL, P&G, GE, Schlumberger andso on. Many of these come for campus placements from August. They first con-duct a PPT (Pre-Placement Talk) wherethey tell you what their company does,what they expect from the interns andwhat the interns can expectfrom the internship. Basedon the profile, core com- petency and skill setsthey are looking for,the companies shortlistsome students who may gothrough a GD+PI process before the final selection.I decided to go in for an industrial in-ternship simply because I wanted toexperience how working in the indus-try actually feels like. I had heard aboutthe corporate world and its various as- pects from friends, but I wasn’t sureif I wanted to believe all that withouthaving seen for it myself. I applied andgot into ITC Limited and was placed intheir tobacco factory in Bangalore. My project was titled ‘Technology Innova-tion Center Design’. It was a slightly ab-stract project that involved preparing aconceptual framework for setting up anideation and innovation center for ITC based on benchmark ideation centerssetup by leading companies worldwide.It also involved studying the existingsetup of ITC, their current capabilities,future plans and estimating the compo-nents required for the innovation center.Each intern is given his own project andother interns working there had projectsinvolving design of layouts of the manu-facturing setup, studying alternate meth-ods for processing tobacco and so on.These required knowledge of conceptssuch as manufacturing principles usedworldwide and their analysis, design of experiments, regression techniques andother concepts that we had never heardof. But worry not, it is generally not ex- pected of you to know these concepts beforehand; you can learn them in theinitial period of your internship.Industries and corporate firms generallyemploy interns to infuse a fresh perspec-tive into their existing system. Depend-ing on the company, you may get tochoose if you want to do a core technical project or a statistics-related project. Theformer would require application of coreengineering concepts whereas the latter would be more inclined towards logicalthinking and data analysis; both wouldhave scope for innovation and creativ-ity. You’ll be evaluated on your abilityto think differently, take independent de-cisions and put in hard work while alsogelling well with your colleagues. Inmost cases, candidates fulfilling all thesecriteria are given Pre-Placement Offers.Most industrial PTs would require youto be formal and professional in all as- pects; long-forgotten things like formalclothes, polished shoes, daily baths andshaves, decent vocabulary, waking upearly will have to get back into the scene.This sounds scary at first but trust me,you’ll start liking it soon; it feels goodto not look like a filthy sleep-deprivedanimal for once.Industrial PTs are definitely not bedsof roses. New concepts will have to belearnt and applied on your own. Peopleat work, including your guide, will al-ways be too busy to give you time, butyou will still be held responsible for your project. In short, you will mostly be on your own and will end up learningmore through a series of failures rather than any sort of guidance or spoonfeed-ing. But this very attribute of industrialPTs is what makes them challenging,interesting and an unparalleled learn-ing experience. You will learn to adopt amore organized approach to everything.You will develop a knack for convinc-ing people, thinking logically and cov-ering up glitches effectively. The overallexperience can also be amazing fun asmost companies would expose you to aluxurious lifestyle. Apart from the rec-reational facilities, you can unwind after work hours with other interns.Many of us make statements about tak-ing up a job after graduation, for what-ever reason. However, almost all of ushave no clue what we are talking about because the experience is completelydifferent from what we have as studentsright now. If taken seriously, an indus-trial internship can give you the perfectinsight into the corporate world and whatit takes to be successful in it.  Kartik Shekhar and Sriram Emani share their experiences of their respective practical trainings. Summer Internship (Continued from page 1...) helpful in reducing the load on thePowai campus, due to the expectedhike in the number of students.” The Gujarat campus is expected to func-tion as a full-fledged institute with anemphasis on courses specific to the state,like textile engineering and marine engi-neering. The authorities believe that in a period of 5-7 years, this satellite campuswould cater to the needs of nearly 4000-4500 students.The government’s final decision and planof action in implementing reservations isstill awaited. Based on the above statedfacts, it is safe to say that the proposedreservations ought to be implementedin a phased manner to ensure againstdiluting the quality of education in our nation’s leading universities.   (Siddarth Madhav and Vikranth Audiare fourth year undergraduate studentsin the Depts of Electrical Engg and Civil Engg respectively. They can becontacted at rsmadhav@iitb.ac.in and vikranthaudi@iitb.ac.in) A Quirky fact! Consider a group of 100 students. According to the existing reservation norms(15% for SCs and 7.5% for STs) there are 77 students belonging to the generalcategory- which includes students of both forward and the backward castes. Ow-ing to lack of official data, let us assume the percentage of OBC students at 15%of the total. That gives us 62 general category students, 23 SC/ST students and 15OBC students. Now, if the reservations are implemented according to the recommendations of the Moily oversight committee (27% reservation for OBCs and a 27% hike inthe number of general seats, so as not to affect the general category students) thatmakes a total strength of 154- 42 seats for the OBC, 35 seats for the SC/ST cat-egory students and 77 seats for the general category students.So, there is in effect, an increase in the number of seats for general category stu-dents! (Kartik Shekhar and Sriram Emani are fourth year students of the Depts of Chemical  Engg and Civil Engg respectively.They canbe contaced at kshekhar@iitb.ac.in and  sriramemani@iitb.ac.in)  03 3  August 22, 2006   http://gymkhana.iitb.ac.in/~insight Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia, DeputyChairman of the Planning Commis- sion was the Chief Guest at the 44 th  Convocation held on August 11, 2006.We had a chance to take a peep intothe mind of one of the key figures in India’s economic reforms from the early1980s. Here are the excerpts from theinterview. Q: What role have the IITs playedin the development of the Indianeconomy? Do you feel this has beenover-hyped? A: The size of the IITs is comparativelysmall, so if you take the total numbersthe contribution is bound to be small.I wouldn’t say, however, that the con-tribution in terms of quality has beensmall. Thefact is thatIITs produceoutstandingyoung menand women - far too many men com- pared to women, but hopefully we cancorrect that! Any institute that becomesa brand for quality assurance is support-ing a search for excellence which hasa much wider impact than the numbersshow. If you take all these into account,IIT has a very major role. Q: Do you think the ‘brain drain’phenomenon is as big an issue intoday’s scenario? A: Today the push to go abroad is muchless than it was earlier. I personally feelthat if we in India run a competitivesystem, Indians will see that the oppor-tunities in India are no less than those cracy. We need to free up the system sothat academics have a greater say. I’malso in favour of increasing the role andfreedom of private education, but thatin itself is not a solution, because most private education will come in at theupper end of the spectrum. Q: You have talked about the estab-lishment of a Knowledge Commissionin 2004. How do you foresee its role ineducational reforms? A: The Knowledge Commission wasset up under the guidance of SamPitroda, himself an IITian and includesother eminent IIT alumni like Nandan Nilekani. The Government’s intentionin setting up this Commission was therecognition that, as one moves intothe knowledge economy, one has torestructure the entire education system.Its contribution will consist of a report,aimed at suggesting ways to improvethe Indian education system. Q: What are your personal thoughtson the Reservation issue and its imple-mentation? A: In every society there is a certainmomentum, and certain instrumentscannot be established as ways of doingthings. We have enshrined reservation asone such instrument. I believe that af-firmative action is extremely important.The end result after 60 years of indepen-dence clearly shows that we do not havean environment in which meritoriousabroad. Competition is also pushingIndian companies to globalize. Manyyoung Indians now feel that working athome is a lot more positive in terms of  prospects than working anonymouslyabroad. If I had to choose between keep-ing IITians in India and sending themabroad for 2-3 years, I would choose thelatter since Indians need to be aware of what is happening in the world.The fact that a large number of IITianswent abroad has given us a very widediaspora. Many IITians want to getinvolved in the development process inIndia, not necessarily to make money, but outof agenuinedesireto help.IITians have become the face of the professional Indian class. Q: What are the major obstacles andchallenges the Planning Commissionhas faced in its work in the field of education? A: Our job, as I see it, is to ask hardquestions and to shake the system outof complacency and lethargy – and thisis not easy. It is clear that we’re notspending enough money on education.Private sector spending has to increase.However, just pumping in money willnot deliver the goods; the system defi-nitely needs to be reformed. The Indianeducation system is strangled by bureau- students from every community haveaccess to higher education, so there’sobviously something wrong.Some people argue that reservationis not the best way; even I can think of better solutions. But in our system,constitutionally and otherwise, reserva-tion has been used. So to my mind, themost important issue is how we canwork with reservation in a way thatdoesn’t compromise on quality. Expan-sion in the total scale of universities isabsolutely essential. The infrastructurealso has to be improved if the intake isto be increased. According to the MoilyCommittee, this would be possible, butin a phased manner. Q: These days, many IITians takeup jobs which are not technical orengineering-related. Do you think this will have an impact on the tech-nological future of India? A: Since we’re moving to a knowledgeeconomy, the system should valueknowledge workers. If knowledge interms of technology is what the systemdemands, it will reflect it in terms of  pay. My personal feeling however isthat it’s a pity. We could do with moretechnical inputs in our productionstructure. Remaining in the technologyspace can also be socially more valuable- environmental engineering is just oneexample. Tête-à-tête withMontek Singh Ahluw alia   “If I had to choose between keepingIITians in India and sending them abroadfor 2-3 years, I would choose the latter.” (The interview was conducted by Nis-hant Patni and Sarmistha Pal and tran- scribed by Vaibhav Devanathan. Theycan be contacted at: nishantpatni@iitb.ac.in, sarmistha@iitb.ac.in and vaibhavdevanathan@iitb.ac.in) “Politics is tougher than Physics”,once remarked Albert Einstein. “If you are not part of the solution, youare part of the problem”; this andother similar sounding proverbs anddidactic sayings are generally foundto decorate the atmosphere of anydiscussion involving the rather debat-able topic of students in active poli-tics. Post-Rang De Basanti and therebellious mindset it left with manystudents, the idea “be a part of thesystem if you want to change it” hasgained special significance. With theemergence of Lok Paritran- the politi-cal party founded by four IITians- andits brief stint in Tamil Nadu, it is abouttime the issue got its dues.So, what scope does politics hold for an IITian? What possible differencescan an IITian make to the politics of the nation? Such are the questionsthat usually come to mind when con-necting the dark world of politics anda relatively innocent (?) IITian. Wemust bear in mind the fact that giventhe status of the IITs in India it’s easyfor an IITian to stick to the current“take degree-get job-earn money” at-titude of many an IITian rather thanget into public services such as poli-tics. Given the nature of Indian poli-tics the action is, at least career wise,almost on par with being labeled as“professional suicide”. In additionto the career issues comes the never-ending string of parent expectations.Getting out of such a “position” intoone which promises no steady income,drains one both financially and social-ly, and often involves tortuous strugglecan be daunting to say the least.The experiences of Tanmay Rajpurohit[B.Tech (Aero. Engg), IIT Bombay],the national president of Lok Pari-tran, bear testimony to the above stat-ed facts. Echoing him is Ajit Shukla[B.Tech (CSE), IIT Kanpur], the vice president of the party, who states quiteunabashedly that their families toohave failed to understand their motto but that does not deter them from mov-ing ahead. Shukla also says that it washis “inner voice” that guided him tomake the choice of investing his ef-forts in the country rather than fillinghis pockets.Today, society norms dictate thatthings be viewed “as they occur in re-ality” rather than “what they ought to be” and as a result things like “inner voice” and related philosophical ideascarry little meaning and significance.The fact that the actions of these four men have been described by some asfoolish, idealistic and publicity seek-ing is not surprising in India at least. Itis perhaps the saddening fact that some people never learn to look beyond their  personal comfort zones that effortssuch as these largely go wasted. Giventhe lean political situation today, mea-sures such as these may in some sense be the last ray of hope for the nation.For some though the IITians’ forayinto politics marks a breakthrough by“Brand IIT” into yet another non-IITdomain. As for the common man, thesituation is yet to register a notice-able change. In an age where votes are bought in exchange for gifts, it can bequite a dilemma for a voter to choose between instant gratification and the promise of a bright future and a politi-cal system free of corruption.A more thorough scrutiny though hasled us to doubt if all the fuss is reallyabout IITians entering politics. Af-ter all Indian politics has seen other IITians. Take the case of Jairam Ra-mesh who has made a career by tread-ing in supposedly unknown territoryintegrating politics and economics inhis various capacities of responsibility.Have our current reactions been theresult of a stray occurrence in time or of long drawn expectation and specu-lation finally coming true? We believeit is more of the latter. Over the courseof the last few years it had become in-creasingly evident that the entry of theyouth in the nation’s politics was inev-itable. What perhaps was not expectedwas the fact that this entry would beinitiated by a class of students as plumand as well placed as the IITians. Inline with the institute’s reputation,IITians would (initially at least) enjoy public confidence at large. But this ini-tiative could be deemed a successful beginning only if it paves the way for the participation of students from other disciplines.If given the proper support, what mayfollow has the potential to uproot In-dian politics from the shaky grounds ithas stood on for decades swaying dan-gerously this way or the other. Whoknows? By the time the nation turnssixty, reading the letters “IIT” on a pol-itician’s nameplate might not appear assurprising as it does today. (Avtansh Agarwal & Amrit Jalan are third  year students of the Dept of Chemical Engg and can be contacted at avtansh@iitb.ac.in and amritseemajalan@iitb.ac.in) Politically Incorrect?  Amrit Jalan & Avtansh Agarwal talk about the latest bug that has bittenIITians- national politics.  04  August 22, 2006 4  http://gymkhana.iitb.ac.in/~insight T he few readers who attended theOpen House organized by ‘TheBiswas Committee’ (BC) at theLT towards the end of the lastsemester will know it createda real buzz. The BC is head-ed by Prof. S. Biswas (CSE)and comprises 11 professorsacross various departments. Like pre-vious committees of its kind (set upevery few years, as part of the regular review process - the last one being theH. Narayanan Committee (HNC) ’96),it was also convened to review andrevise the UG Academic Curriculum.Most of these committees have in the past, ended up making minor adjust-ments to the course structure, with thelast major change being the reductionof the B.Tech program to 4 years froma 5-year program as it existed sev-eral years ago. We spoke to Prof. K.Sudhakar, HoD Aerospace Engg andProf. Shashikanth Suryanarayanan of the Dept of Mechanical Engg on theimpending changes in the institute’sacademic arena. According to them,members of the BC feel that “the timeis right to make substantial changes inthe course structure.” This sentiment isechoed by and large, by both the stu-dent community and at least by somequarters of the faculty. Student concerns As was apparent from the Open House,there is disgruntlement over the rigid-ity of the B.Tech and DD programsamong students. For instance, in Aero.and Mech., there are in all 3 depart-ment electives till the end of the 7 th  semester, out of which 2 are in the 7 th semester itself. For a B.Tech studentwho wants to apply abroad for higher studies, only the first 6 semesters mat-ter, during which there might not even be one elective in his field of interest.Such a curriculum leaves the studentat a definite disadvantage as comparedto students outside who have morechoices before applying. One can only ponder about the rationale behind hav-ing so many core courses.Also forthcoming from the Open Housewas the fact that a lot of students arereeling under the load of the 6-coursesystem. Students generally seem to prefer a lesser number of courses butwith each course having greater depth,a view endorsed both by Prof. Sudha-kar and Prof. Suryanarayanan. A thirdsignificant opinion that came from thestudents’ side was that freshmen needto be properly oriented and informedas to what they can expect in their 4-5year stay at IIT. Many students join-ing the IITs have a completely differ-ent image of the institute – for instancethat there will be a great deal of pio-neering research that they will be partof, and other notions that might arise because of the glamour quotient at-tached with the institutes. The aca-demic experience that they finally gothrough is a complete mismatch withthis image and this leads to further dis-appointment and a lack of motivationtowards academics. Hence the need for a proper introduction to the academiccurriculum and a clear communicationof what exactly is expected of an en-gineer. Other concerns such as menial(and sometimes irrelevant) lab courses,low faculty-student ratio, and repeti-tive courses (especially physics andchemistry) in the first year were alsovoiced by the students present. Notehowever that the students present atthe Open House were not necessarilyrepresentative of the entire UG studentcommunity. Promising signals What is encouraging is that membersof the BC agree with almost all theabove points, and more. Their mandateis to come up with a revised overallmodel for the UG programs, and thusthe power vested in the committee alsois far greater than previous commit-tees. The HNC for instance, was onlyasked to make suggestions regardingcourse content and adjustment withinthe then prevalent program. What willnow follow is a formal survey amongthe students and faculty in mid-Sep-tember and by October–  November;outlines will be sent to alldepartmentsto determinewhether thechanges proposedare feasible.From whatwe gather,the BC is planningto proposeaggressivechanges inits report tothe Senate.The Senate(the all– pre-vailing bodythat ratifiesany suggestions made by any insti-tute-level committee) will then act onthe BC’s final suggestions, either at itsnext sitting later this semester or earlynext semester. Potential developments Some of the means being exploredto solve the above problems includegiving students the option of a minor,floating inter-disciplinary courses andalso introducing ‘general engineering’type courses in the first year – statistics,data interpretation, experiment designand such courses which every engineer should ideally be exposed to. Memberson the BC do think that giving the stu-dent more overall academic responsi- bility, i.e. the right to plan his entire ac-ademic curriculum, will not only help Rohit Hippalgaonkar and Ruchir Goswami revisit the need for flexibility and throw somelight on the recent developments in the restructure of the UG Curriculum. Undergraduate Curriculum Review revive the flagging enthusiasm towardsacademics but also improve overallacademic performance. Evenoffering a B.Tech without aspecialization is being lookedat, though this might be a littlefar-fetched since departmentallocation is currently done jointly by all the IITs.For a majority of UG students today, putting effort into academics is seenas something that is not necessary,as a result of the excellent placementscene, an exciting extra-curricular cal-endar, and in some cases, quite simplya general apathy. Consequently, facultycommitment and motivation towardsUGs has also been adversely affected.Giving a more hands-on experience tostudents might assuage this problem toan extent; yet it will remain a stern testof the effectiveness of the BC’s even-tual model. (Rohit and Ruchir are fourth year stu-dents of the departments of Mechani-cal and Aerospace Engg respectively.They can be contacted at rohith@iitb.ac.in and goswamiruchir@iitb.ac.in)  Some Early Movers Independently, the Mechanical Dept has sent a proposal for Sen-ate approval to change the B.Tech program asking for, in Prof.Suryanarayanan’s words, “fewer and more intense courses,labs to be held in parallel with related courses, greater freedomand responsibility to the student in choosing courses, improve-ments in lab quality and allowing for electives outside the de- partment.” The changes proposed for the first year curriculumhave already been accepted by the Senate, with the DepartmentIntroductory Course (2 nd semester) having been replaced by acore thermal course.Meanwhile, there are departments like Aerospace which intendto undergo a major face-lift and are eagerly awaiting the BCreport. Besides expressing his concern for decreasing the man-datory credit requirement leading to a B.Tech degree, so as todiscourage cramming and laying more stress on fundamentals,what Prof. Sudhakar professes is to look into the key ingre-dients that mould an aerospace engineer. The most interestingthing on the anvil here is a course on ‘the conceptualization of anew aircraft design’ in collaboration with IDC and Mech. JUST LIKE THAT...
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