Yesterday, I talked about one hurdle that IITs put to block good candidates from applying for PhD program. There are other problems in the system, which are well known, and yet no action has been taken for years.
Many good students are confused whether to go for graduate studies or to go for a job. Once they get a job, they stop considering other options. One way to attract them to graduate programs would be to offer them admission, before they are offered a job. It was pretty difficult thing to do when companies were willing to offer jobs in the 6th semester itself. But for the last couple of years, a self-restraint has happened on part of industry and they have started offering jobs only at the end of 7th semester. This has given a great opportunity to IITs and other top institutions to attract good students away from industry. In the lounges and the drawing rooms, most of my colleagues (not just in IIT Kanpur but in other IITs as well) would agree that if we could offer admission in the 7th semester, at least to a few bright students, it would help the graduate programs tremendously.
But are we going to implement what we think will help our graduate program. Of course not. I have had the experience of faculty members sitting in the lounge agreeing that this would help, and then in the formal meetings of Academic Senate opposing the proposal to do the same. What they really are saying is that yes, this would improve the program, but we don't want an improvement in the program. Perhaps the reason is that that would force us to work more.
In IIT Kanpur, we have a program called SURGE, where by we admit bright under-graduate students after 3rd year (some after 2nd year) for a summer internship, all expenses paid, including a reasonable pocket allowance. We have had the opportunity to see their work for 2 months. If at the end of two months, we feel that the student is excellent, shouldn't we just grab the chance and make an offer. We will never get to see any student for 2 months before making an admission decision, except these interns. But, as I said above, faculty members outside the Senate meeting agree that this would improve the quality of the graduate programs, but inside the Senate meeting, would oppose offering admission to such students.
Similar summer internship programs are run by most top institutes in the country, and all of them could easily make use of this golden opportunity to evaluate these students over a long period of time and then offering admission to select few, but none does it to the best of my knowledge.
There are other things that IITs can do. They could encourage students to give GATE exam in their 6th semester, instead of the 8th semester, by suggesting that a fraction of the graduate program seats would be filled in by making offers to students in their 7th semester. So, one does not even violate the GATE requirement. And the admission offer could be provisional subject to certain academic performance in the final year.
And, I am not the only one to suggest ways to attract students. Many others are far smarter than I am, and have made other suggestions. But implementing such suggestions would be possible only if we are serious about our graduate programs.