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Thursday, June 9, 2011

JEE Counseling: Changes in IIT Kanpur

As I said in my yesterday's blog article, I have been getting lots of emails, and the maximum number of them are related to placement data. The next biggest chunk of questions are related to the changes that IIT Kanpur has made in its offerings recently. So, today, I want to talk about those changes, and how they may or may not affect your decision to rank IITK programs in your list of choices.

The first change has been to scrap all BTech-MTech dual degree programs, and add all the dual-degree seats to the corresponding BTech program. The idea is to offer flexibility to all students. The dual-degree will continue to be offered, but it will be an option for students of BTech programs. So after you have been in the system for a couple of years, you can decide whether you want to graduate with a BTech degree or want an MTech degree as well (besides other new options that have been created).

The second change that you will notice is that instead of 5-year Integrated MSc programs, we now have 4-year BS (Bachelor of Science) programs. These are in the disciplines of Physics, Chemistry, Economics, and Maths and Computing. The report of the Academic Review Committee, available from the Dean of Academic Affairs website, does not elaborate the reasons for this change. But I can make a guess.

Several academicians and national academies have previously talked about the need to make the under-graduate degree in all disciplines, but particularly in Science, to be of 4-year duration, as opposed to the current 3-year BSc. And this change can only happen when some Institute displays a leadership position and just does it, and hopefully, others by looking at the success of this program, will follow. Of course, for the foreseeable future, there will be both a 3-year under-graduate program in most universities, and a 4-year undergraduate program in some universities. Both will be named "Bachelor of Science." To differentiate between the two programs, their short form will be different. The 3-year degree will be known as "BSc" while the 4-year degree will be known as "BS".

It is good that IIT Kanpur has taken a leadership position in introducing BS. But whether this is going to be a sustained leadership position, only time will tell. Obviously, there will be problems that the first couple of batches will face. You will have to explain to everyone that you are not a failure who is doing a 3-year program in four years, but really a pioneer who is helping move this idea that the under-graduate program should be of 4-years. How much will IIT Kanpur support you when you have to provide all these explanations, I don't know. If you are having a difficulty in getting admission to a PhD program somewhere, will Director, IIT Kanpur, pick up the phone and talk to the Director there to explain this new degree. Well, it depends on who the Director will be 4 years from now. So there are some risks, but a good move by IIT Kanpur.

The third major change this year has been the introduction of double major and minor programs. Theoretically, it will now be possible for someone doing an undergraduate program in discipline "X" to also get a second undergraduate degree in any discipline "Y", by spending just one year extra. It is possible because if you look at the detailed curriculum of various programs, you would notice that out of about 40 odd courses to be done, only 15 courses or so are from the discipline itself. You have to do a lot of courses in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Technical Arts, Engineering Sciences, Humanities, several non-discipline electives, and so on. So to get another degree you only need to do these 15 courses (or whatever that number is for a specific program). It is expected that some of those courses you will be able to do in the "elective slots" of the original undergraduate degree. Some courses may be waived (like B Tech Project may not be necessary in the second undergraduate degree, and some courses in the two disciplines may have significant overlap, and hence waived). The remaining courses you should be able to do in one extra year.

As a concept, this is great. Provides excellent flexibility, the reason because of which I have been recommending IIT Bombay to JEE candidates. But unfortunately, the devil is in the detail.

There is a lack of clarity on how liberal will be the implementation. My guess is that it won't be very liberal. So the report I referred to in the beginning says that the option for double major will be available to only those students who have a CPI of 8.0 or above. This means that you will have to be approximately in the top 40 percent of the class to avail of this option. That is somewhat restrictive already. The next thing it says is that the departments can restrict "admission" of second degree students to 10 percent of their strength. So, for Computer Science, we will have the right to restrict admission to ONLY 9 students, our current batch strength being 92. And, I can tell you that our department will probably restrict access to the minimum number, nine, and most other "popular" departments may do the same thing.

The detailed rules are yet to be formed, and the chances are that it would be possible for someone to change one's mind and after a semester or two, just inform us that s/he is no longer interested in the second major. If this happens, then I would expect that 9 toppers amongst the non-CSE students would ask for admission to Computer Science major, do a couple of CS courses, and then withdraw, but then it will be too late for others to be given admission.

So, I think the impact of second major would be very negligible. Till all the rules are framed, my advice would be to not be swayed by the announcement of double major. We offer good programs anyway. So consider IIT Kanpur based on that. If you are able to get double major in your preferred discipline, that will be an added advantage later on.

The last time IIT Kanpur introduced a new type of program, which was the BTech-MTech dual degree, it could not come up with clear, student-friendly rules for 10 years. And I have no hope of IIT Kanpur deciding rules on a fast track for the double major students.

My guess is that the implementation of minor program will be more liberal, and a lot more students will be able to do courses in another discipline to get a minor, than the double major.

But as always, I am not an official spokesperson of IIT Kanpur. I do not take any responsibility for correctness of the information provided here. Please read the ARC report that I have linked above for more details. And follow my opinions at your own risk.

Added on 1st July, 2011

PDF file for the Frequently Asked Questions on New Changes


gautam said...

IIT Guwahati has introduced the following changes:
a) there is a minor option (like IITK). This is optional. So a student can graduate with lesser number of credits, but without a minor mentioned in his / her certificate. Students not doing well will benefit.
b) at the end of the third year, a student can opt to shift to a B.Tech - PhD dual degree programme. Exit clause will be passing the PhD comprehensive programme. B.Tech Project (BTP) will not be required, and PhD work can start in semester 7 in the BTP slot.
c) Minimum CPI requirement for completing the programme has been reduced to the minimum possible: 4.0.

Prashb said...

It is good to see that all IITs now have a Minor system.

Did you know about the old IIT Kharagpur System (2000-2005, before KGP became infamous) ?
Curriculum load was reduced . Minors were accessible and reasonably intense. Even in-demand branches like CS/ECE/EE put to gether had about 50 students getting the minor. Interested students were always encouraged to complete the minor regardless of GPA. 6-7 courses, 3-4 with labs.

I go through IIT Resumes reglarly . IIT[B/M] minors seem to be meaningless to be honest. There is no lab component and there are just 3-4 condensed theory courses. Looks like resume fodder to me.

Someone needs to set some benchmarks and standards to normalize the level of Minors in IITs. But anyway it is good that IITs have all realized the need for Minors in the system.

Abhishek said...

Nice article there, prof! I just cannot stop noticing the timing of your post (i did write about something similar in my comment here: ).
It is quite appreciable that you took out (valuable) time to address the changes (the site never seems to be updated)!
Winds of change, eh? :D

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Prashb, I think it is also a matter of right timing. IIT Kanpur has had some form of minor right from the first 4-year batch which got admission in 1981. We used to call it "Streamed Electives" then. I myself did a stream in Maths, which meant 3 courses in a narrow area of specialization. (I actually have as many courses in Maths on my transcript, as in Computer Science. We had huge flexibility at that time.) A few years later, the system was changed, and this time it was called "Minor." The minor was in a department, and not in a narrow area of specialization. So more departments could offer this more easily. But about 10 years ago, this was stopped, because we found that in the first 15 years of existence of streams/minors, a very tiny fraction of students had opted for it, and to enable this system, the timetabling constraints were too much. No point in making a weird timetable, if it is going to help only a handful. But in the last 10 years, everyone else seems to be thinking or implementing minor, and many experiences have been positive. So we are restarting minor from this year.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Gautam, IITG has been very responsive to student needs all through, and I really admire that. Having a 4-year BTech programs by all the science departments (Maths and Computing, Engineering Physics, and Chemical S&T) was really good. And I am happy to hear about the changes this year. It all boils down to leadership. If Mamta Di's successor can start a few more trains from Guwahaty, and improve connectivity, it will attract much higher JEE rankers.

chitta said...

IISc Bangalore alos started a 4 yr B.S program this year.

iitmsriram said...

prashb says"Someone needs to set some benchmarks and standards to normalize the level of Minors in IITs. " Hey, how about the major or degree requirements? There are MUCH bigger differences between IITs, with IITB and IITK at one end and IITKGP at the opposite end, the latter requiring about 50% more credits for the same degree. Yes, 50%, that is not a typo.

gautam said...

Connectivity is not an issue. There are 8 flights to and from Delhi every day, and by my last count 10 to and from Kolkata with connections to all major cities of the country. We have the best connectivity other than the 4 metro IITs (hyd included!) The ranking issue is stuck on the "last year's ranking". But then, it does not matter. My experience has shown that statistically, someone with a rank of 100 and someone with a rank of 1500 or 3000 can all be equally good. We get really good students. Some folks though feel Guwahati is "way out" and I find it is my duty to help them!

Giri@iisc said...

"It is good that IIT Kanpur has taken a leadership position in introducing BS."

IISc announced its four year BS program in sciences before IIT-K.


Gaurav said...

I would like to point out that BITS Pilani has been running a dual-degree (double major, as you call it) programme since 1970's. It gets done by spending one extra year. Logic for it is the same as what you wrote in your article. Some details have undergone a change from next academic year - Number of discipline courses has now been increased to ~19. Earlier it was much lower. However, those admitted for MSc programme (after 10+2) are given preference for the dual-degree. I do not know how IIT-K plans to implement it.

However, I wonder what was the decision to replace 5-year MSc programme with a 4-year BS programme. I did a PhD at IIT-K and I know it was a good programme and at-least in 1990's used to attract good students.

nameless wonder said...

hello sir,

is it possible to get two majors even after taking up economics(as in eco.+BTECH)???....or is it only for the BTECH students???

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@nameless wonder, I feel more comfortable responding to real people.

As I said in my blog, the detailed rules are not there yet. But historically, IITK has not differentiated between science and engineering students.

iitmsriram said...

Dheeraj, I cant get to the doaa link given; is that an intranet only site?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Sriram, I am sorry. I did not know that this website is not visible from outside. I will copy the report to some other page and report back here that link.

Nikhil Tiwari said...

The first change has been to scrap all BTech-MTech dual degree programs, and add all the dual-degree seats to the corresponding BTech program.

I really do not appreciate this change. It will create only the problems in the long run. Students from IIT Kanpur should resist some of these changes.

Sherie Pandey said...

what scores are required (in JEE)if someone wishes to get into a dual degree of mech-Comp eng? are there other IITs who have introduced dual degree programmes?