New Measures in IITs M.Tech. Program will change the landscape of postgraduate education in India and align it with global trends quickly: IIT Hyderabad Director

Hyderabad: The New Measures being introduced in M.Tech. Program of Indian Institutes of Technology will change the landscape of postgraduate education in India and align it with global trends quickly, according to Prof B.S. Murty, Director, IIT Hyderabad.

Prof B.S. Murty was part of a three-member committee on reforms on M.Tech. programme in IITs whose recommendations were accepted by the Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ during the IIT Council meeting held Friday at Delhi

The Members of the Committee include Prof. B.S. Murty, Director, IIT Hyderabad, Prof. Manoj S. Gaur, Director, IIT Jammu and Prof. M. Balakrishnan, IIT Delhi.

Prof B.S. Murty, Director, IIT Hyderabad, addressed a Press Conference in the campus here today (29th September 2019) in which he spoke about the recommendations made by the Committee.

The reforms were called for as (a) The percentage of of MTechs placed in jobs during campus recruitment is small. (b) A Number of MTechs seats are being unfilled due to the students leading MTech programs to take up public sector and industry jobs. (c) MTech is not the minimum requirement any more for joining PhD and most of the IITs take BTechs directly into PhD programme. (d) Earlier, people with MTech qualification were able to get into academic jobs, which no more the case and PhD is essential for a faculty position in most of the institutions.

Due to the above reasons, Students are joining MTech mostly to upgrade themselves to get industry jobs. Some of them are even using this as paid parking space to pursue other interests.

Keeping the above in view, The Committee made four specific recommendations that, if collectively implemented, may be able to address issues in the current system.

I. Increase the M.Tech. fee and bring it at least to the level of B.Tech. fee (Rs 2.0 lakh per year) over the next three years. Simultaneously the needy students should be supported directly by the Government through DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) or arranging educational loans.

II. The present stipend (Rs 12,400 p.m.) given as half-time teaching assistantship should be stopped and the good fraction of the M.Tech. fee (say 50%) be made available to the Departments for offering Teaching Assistantships (for UG labs and courses) to the students who are competent and want them. These funds can also be used for other professional activities of the Department.

III. Top one percentile of the students qualifying in each GATE discipline be offered full fellowship for 5 years (on par with regular PhD fellowship) to join any Institution of their choice for PhD (CSIR fellowship model in Sciences).

IV. Clear mechanism for encouraging Institutions to move towards sponsored students from Industry and/or organizations or even sponsored programs be put in place.

The above four recommendations are likely to have the following impact.

I. Increase in fee (i) along with stoppage of stipend (ii) would immediately increase the cost of “parking” at IITs for few months and hence reduces the dropouts. High fee paying programs like MBA even in the IIT system hardly see any drop-outs. Students think and exercise the choice after assessing whether the program adds enough value for them to spend two years and bear the cost of education.

II. Easy availability of education loans would help students who do not want to be dependent after graduation to still pursue their studies. Along with this for very needy students financial support may be provided directly by the Government.

III. Students supported through teaching assistantships would contribute and learn much more as it is unlikely to be renewed if found unsatisfactory. Also only the required number of TAs would be supported. Funds may also be available in the Department for supporting meritorious students for conferences etc.

IV. With higher tuition fee and no stipend, many of the legacy programs that have no demand may vanish over time. At present there is no incentive for anyone to stop anything and these programs continue just because a few faculty are available in that area. Further, because the programme is running, there is pressure to recruit new faculty in that area after retirement though there may be very little demand for its graduates.

V. Revenue sharing with the Departments would also help in persuading Departments to recast their programs in line with the job requirements. With clear incentives to the Departments, not only new programs to replace old programs are more likely but it is also more likely that number of seats available over time may get more tuned to demand rather than having fixed number of seats in each M.Tech. programme.

VI. Recommendation (iii) is likely to have multiple benefits.

o enhance the value of GATE and establish UG as the primary intake for PhD programs (Global norm).

o offers choice to students to join any Institution for PhD and thus enhances competition among Institutions including some of the private or PPP Institutions where they are expected to find money for PhD fellowships themselves. (Note this exists for Sciences already through CSIR fellowships but is severely restricting the growth of research in Engineering)

o Gives more choice to students to join faculty of their choice as Institute fellowships typically gets divided among all faculty uniformly – independent of area of interest to students. Empowering the student with fellowship to choose the area/supervisor of his/her choice can start persuading faculty to start aligning themselves with the emerging areas

Recommendation (iv) is likely to bring more committed students and would also increase academia-industry collaboration.

Traditionally M.Tech. programs in IITs attracted talented students from non-IITs with either the intent of pursuing a technical career in the industry or an academic career. Globally, Masters program in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia were never a starting point for an academic career.

For many decades PhDs has always been a requirement for starting an academic career as well as many R&D jobs in the industry. Most Universities admitted students for PhD programs right after B.Tech. with MS to be earned on the way. MS was also provided as an exit option for a PhD student who has either not performed well or wants to opt out mid-way to enter the job market.