IITs mull research sweetener- Plan to offer combined masters and doctoral courses
Chronicle Editor @ Jan 24, 2009
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http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090122/jsp/frontpage/story_10424937.jsp

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IIT Kharagpur: Talent glue

New Delhi, Jan. 21: The Indian Institutes of Technology are considering starting combined masters and doctoral courses for engineering and science students to entice potential researchers to stay in the country.

The IIT council, the highest decision-making body of the IITs, is scheduled to discuss and possibly decide on starting the courses at a meeting here on January 28, The Telegraph has learnt.

Many of the brightest of Indian students interested in pursuing research in the sciences or engineering leave the country to study combined MS/PhD or MTech/PhD courses in the US and other western countries.

These combined courses, offered by most US universities and in many countries of Europe, often work out to be shorter in duration than the time required for a postgraduation followed by a PhD.

Combined courses also save students interested in research the trouble of applying afresh for doctoral degrees after completing their postgraduation.

But Indian science students need to complete their postgraduation before they can apply for the PhD course.

“That is where we hope to capitalise,” a senior IIT Kharagpur official said.

The IIT combined courses, if approved by the council, will be open to students immediately after their graduation. The IIT courses will also be cheaper than corresponding courses abroad.

Combined courses were recommended by an IIT review committee headed by former science and technology secretary P. Rama Rao in 2004.

A senior IIT Bombay administrator said the institutes had been contemplating the combined courses for “some time now”. “There were concerns about the combined courses earlier. But there is now greater consensus,” the official said.

If approved, the courses could start this academic year itself, the official said. The IIT course, it is proposed, will offer an MSc/PhD degree. The engineering course will offer an MTech/PhD degree.

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai is the only established premier educational institution in India that offers such combined courses at present.

The TIFR programme consists of fixed coursework that students are required to complete for the masters segment before the start of the PhD component. Like in many US universities, TIFR allows students to quit the programme midway with a masters degree if they have completed the course requirements for the postgraduate degree.

The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, allows select students the opportunity of pursuing a PhD directly after their graduation. But students who leave midway are not granted a postgraduate degree.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has, on more than one occasion, asked the IITs to focus more on research.

The IITs have also been criticised by a central panel reviewing higher education in India for failing to give adequate focus to research.

The IITs are today little more than “undergraduate factories”, professor Yash Pal, a former UGC chairman who is heading the review panel, said.

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