The comments by the readers blame him squarely. It was just six more months. There are enough jobs for IITians.
There is no denying that graduating along with your batchmates and joining a job has become an extremely important goal for all students and the parents. Any indication that a student might not graduate in time introduces enormous stress, and every year, at the time of exams, one would find several bright young kids taking their own lives in different parts of the country.
How do we solve this problem. There are all sorts of suggestions on the readers' comments page. We must have professional counselors who would advise the students that six months is only a small fraction of the 50 year work life that they will enjoy. Even the professors should be trained to handle such students sensitively. The heads of the departments who are responsible to break this news to students must be trained to suitably advise the affected students. We must have Yoga or "Art of Living" as compulsory part of the curriculum. Basically, we must make sure that the student does not think of suicide when he comes to know that he has failed.
While all this must be done, there is an alternative, which might be easier to implement.
How about making sure that 80 percent of the batch does not graduate on a particular day. Or even 50 percent of the batch does not graduate on a single day.
Well, IITs have been offering the dual-degree (BTech and MTech together in 5 years) programs wherein the student does not graduate in the regular 4 years. They also have Integrated MSc programs. But that is not enough. A lot of people still graduate in 4 years.
We could ensure that less students graduate in 4 years, by offering more options to them: offer joint BTech-MBA programs, offer double majors (For example, BTech in Civil AND BTech in Mechanical), besides the BTech-MTech dual-degree programs. And then we advise the students that it is in their interest to go for this extra degree. But I suspect that this won't increase the number of students delaying their graduation significantly.
We should also introduce programs in which a student can have a break in studies after 4-5 semesters. He can work in industry or a research lab for a semester or two, get a wider world view, earn some money, and then get back to studies. These students would graduate later than 4 years. (At LNMIIT, we arranged some of the students to spend time at CERN, and other famous labs, doing cutting edge research.)
Another way to have less students graduate in 4 years is to fail a large number of students. But that would be rather mean.
So, we come to yet another (and my favorite) option to reduce the number of students graduating in 4 years - allow them to graduate in less than 4 years. It is high time that we shift to fully flexible credit based systems for all our degree programs. The graduation requirements should be in terms of credits that a student needs to earn, rather than the minimum number of semesters that he should have registered. (In my previous post, I had argued that if we move to credit based system, we would be able to offer an Executive MTech program, which is an urgent need of the industry.)
So students should be able to take an extra course (compared to the suggested program) in regular semester, and also do a course or two in the summer term. My expectation would be that there would be an odd student who would try to graduate in three years, but there would be 10-15 percent students would like to graduate in 7 semesters. Some more students would have done all course work, and would have left with only project work in the 8th semester, and they can graduate anytime during the semester.
So overall, we can have about 20 percent students graduate during or before 8th semester, another 20 percent students encouraged to go for dual-degree programs, and hence graduating after 9th semester or later, and about 10 percent students not graduating at the end of 8th semester due to failure in courses. All this combined would make sure that the number of students graduating at the end of 8th semester is only half the batch, or even less. And that would break the sanctity of a particular date of graduation in students' minds.
When that happens, graduation becomes a process and not a date, and a minor slip in that process will not be considered critical by the students and parents. Of course, industry also would have to become flexible in terms of its joining dates. But that is already happening. In most cases of a delayed graduation, industry is sympathetic and is able to adjust to the situation (at least in my experience at IIT Kanpur).
Of course, allowing early graduation also sends out a signal that we care about our top students. Currently, the feeling on campuses (at least amongst the faculty and the top students) is that all our time is spent on discussing how to help weak students. We must help weak students, but not by excluding good students from our thoughts and actions, altogether.