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Monday, April 27, 2015

How do people select engineering colleges?

Recently, I wrote a blog on how to choose an engineering college? I do realize that the methodology that I ask people to adopt is too time consuming, and watching IPL is more important than doing research on colleges where one may be interested in. I also realize that quality of teaching, quality of research, quality of infra-structure, quality of all other parameters regarding your career can be summarized so beautifully by one word: placements. With these things in mind, I actually started looking at quora questions regarding choice of engineering colleges and what answers do people give. There was another reason for checking out quora. I have recently decided to spend the next two years in IIIT Delhi, and wanted to understand what do people who join competing colleges think IIITD is lacking. And may be, I could help the Institute in improving on those issues.

However, I was in for surprise. IIIT Delhi is a Delhi Government institute, and just like all other Delhi Government engineering colleges, it too has an 85% quota for Delhi students. So, obviously, we compete mostly with other Government engineering colleges in Delhi. (Of course, we also compete with engineering colleges outside Delhi, since they too attract students of Delhi.) So a typical question in quora would be to compare various Delhi government engineering colleges.

And a typical answer would be as follows.
I am a student of one of the government engineering college (not IIITD) in Delhi, and I have looked at the website of all colleges, have friends in all colleges, and therefore, I know everything about all colleges. So the credentials are proven. IIIT Delhi faculty is absolutely the best. In fact, in my own college, we get taught by temporary faculty members. None of my faculty members are doing any research. The infrastructure at IIIT Delhi is awesome. Of course, it is because they are new. (The implication being that this great infrastructure will be useful only for the next few batches. Give them 20 years, and they will be as bad as us.) It is easier to get a hostel room in IIIT Delhi than in our college where we have a serious shortage of rooms. And you know what, they get air-conditioning in their rooms in the night. We don't have AC even in our classrooms. Their curriculum is great. They have so much flexibility. They have several courses offered against an elective slot. If we have an elective slot, our department will offer either one or at most two courses. So no real electives.Their Director is truly a visionary guy, and he really thinks about the future of his students. Just look at his blogs. (Of course, we are proud to say that he was also acting Vice Chancellor of our institute for a few months.)

Having written all sorts of things about IIIT Delhi in superlative terms, by now, the student's conscience starts hurting him, and he has to now justify his own decision of joining his college. So he constinues: When their first batch graduated in 2012, the placement was an issue. Our college has a real awesome placement. (The implication being that I joined my college because at that time, there was huge gap between the placements.) But there too, they have been improving every year, and for the 2015 graduating batch, the placement is almost the same, but still not at par with us. (Notice, how placement is really that last straw he is clinging to. Not willing to admit that even placements have become excellent in IIIT Delhi.)

Having read all this, I am like, wow. If the students of our competition are saying that we are so great, then we don't have to worry about anything. People will just come. But not so soon. Then you read the last paragraph.

There is one serious problem though. The faculty members at IIIT Delhi actually give assignments in the courses. In many courses, you have to write a lot of programs. They are even tough on cheating, and do not allow copying. You should be willing to focus on academics a lot more, and work very hard. They will really make you learn a lot of computer science. And some people will thankfully elaborate further. You have worked really really hard to get a good rank in JEE. You must have worked towards it for at least 3-4 years. You should choose a college where you can study less and still get good marks, and good placement. So that you can focus on non-academic pursuits like sports, cultural activities, and so on. That will also help you in placement.

 And then some people will point out that the tuition in IIIT Delhi is higher than other colleges. (Though IIIT Delhi is giving very high value scholarships to top students, which will ensure that these people don't choose one college over the other for financial reasons, besides liberal fee waivers to people with economic difficulties.)

And that brings me to the question. What is the goal of a college. Why are you working so hard for that JEE exam. Why does motivation go down drastically as soon as you enter the portals of a college. It is obvious to me that student life is important. At that age, having fun is important. (Heck, at all ages, having fun is important.) But is having fun so important that you would proudly ask others to join the college where the faculty is mostly ad hoc, does no research, gives no assignment, does not provide feedback if at all an assignment is given, since in such a college you can get good marks without studying. Is it really true that companies don't look at technical knowledge and competence and only worry about soft skills. And, of course, it goes without saying that IIIT Delhi student community is also very active in extra-curriculars.

Anyway, the debate appears to be settling down to: If you want to go into a technical, research or academic careers, then join IIIT Delhi. If you want to go for an MBA, IAS, finance/management jobs, or anything else which is non-technical, then join other colleges. And everyone is happy with this settlement. Other colleges can claim that they get more students in the top 2000 ranks than IIIT Delhi. IIIT Delhi faculty is happy that they get students who actually are interested in CS (or ECE, whatever I am saying from CS perspective, is true for ECE as well) and are motivated to do hard work.

And it is not just IIIT Delhi. I hear similar statements about IIT Kanpur (it is too academic, of course, for IITK there are several other issues as well). I hear the same about IISc and IISERs. (Don't go there unless you are willing to work hard.) Why would a student who has really worked hard to get admission, now plann to go to a place where he wouldn't have to work hard.


prasun said...

I was always told that once you clear JEE, you would be set for life. This is the kind of mindset that a lot of students starting college have. It's payback time for all the time lost in last 2-3 years.

Somehow this has to change: getting into a decent college should not be a matter of life and death.

I heard someone say once: "Not getting out of IIT is tougher than getting in". The implication being that you'll graduate in four years with a good job, so why bother. The student body also has a negative bias against classwork. To have street cred, you need to ace exams without studying. If you are working hard, it better be not related to classwork (except for a few tough labs like Compiler, OS etc)

Gaurav said...

general perception among students after clearing JEE is that they have done most of the hard-work of their life (or least foreseeable future) and they 'deserve' a good long break. this comes from the coaching classes, peers and immediate seniors. parents generally
don't know any better themselves and trust the trends. sadly, the mindset doesn't change even after coming to IITs for some(most?) students, again, guided by peers and immediate seniors. some never bother to find why they did what did, rest realize it a bit too late to do much about.
to cut some slack though, most students at the time of clearing JEE don't know what they want in the name of education so they go with the 'fun' index of the iit/metro

siddharth jain said...

Its not really the problem at IITs or engineering colleges only,this is a more generalised trend emerging everywhere. Even my medical students shows these signs. People are not enrolling even for CPT courses as they feel clearing IPCC and CA Final needs a lot of study afterwards. Its basically the lack of enthusiasm towards sincere studies or I say sincere work even in jobs. Everyone is bothered about the goals but not the journey. The typical HR question of where you want to see yourself after 10 or 20 years are history now everyone wants to be a millionaire right at start of his career. And please don't blame coaching for all bad happenings.This year number of JEE registrations also have shown a decline plus the cutoff in scenario where students opting coaching even from class 8 onwards declined indicates that serious JEE aspirants are declining at more faster rate.