New Delhi: The 10-fold hike in fees of MTech courses at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will deter students from using the premier institution as a “parking space” and lead to fewer dropouts, a three-member committee that recommended the fee hike has said.
The committee, constituted to suggest reforms in the MTech program, had recommended hiking the fee to Rs 2 lakh per year and ending the monthly stipend of Rs 12,400 paid to all MTech students. The recommendations were accepted by HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal last week.
Addressing a press conference on Sunday, IIT-Hyderabad director BS Murty, who was part of the committee, explained by the reforms were needed. "The percentage of MTechs placed in jobs during campus recruitment is small. Secondly, a number of MTech seats go vacant due to the students leaving MTech programs to take up public sector and industry jobs,” he said.
Professor added that MTech is not mandatory for a doctorate anymore. “MTech is not the minimum requirement anymore for PhD and most of the IITs take B.Techs directly into PhD programme. Earlier, people with MTech qualification were able to get into academic jobs, which is no longer the case and PhD is essential for a faculty position in most of the institutions," he said.
A statement issued later by IIT-Hyderabad said some students tend to use the MTech course as a “parking space” till something better like an industry job comes along. "Students are joining MTech mostly to upgrade themselves to get industry jobs. Some of them are even using this as paid parking space to pursue other interests,” the statement said.
Traditionally, MTech programs in IITs have attracted students from non-IIT colleges who intend to pursue either a technical career or an academic career.
For many decades, a PhD has always been a requirement to begin an academic career as well as many research and development jobs in the industry. But now, most universities admit students for PhD programs right after B.Tech with Master of Science (MS) to be pursued along the way. The MS degree was also provided as an exit option for a PhD student who has either not performed well or wants to opt out mid-way to enter the job market.
Four Recommendations by the Committee
The three-member committee, which also includes IIT-Jammu director Manoj S Gaur and IIT-Delhi director M Balakrishnan, made four specific recommendations to be implemented collectively.
First, it recommended hiking the MTech fee to match the tuition for B-Tech courses at Rs 2 lakh per year. It said the fee hike should be effected in a phased manner over a period of three years, and while also proposing that “needy students” be supported directly by the government through DBTs (direct benefit transfers) or arranging educational loans.
Secondly, it proposed ending the stipend of Rs 12,400 per month given as half-time teaching assistantship and that a “good fraction” of the MTech fee (around 50%) be made available to the departments for offering teaching assistantships to students who are competent and want them.
Thirdly, it said that the top one percentile of students qualifying in each Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) discipline should be offered full fellowship for five years (on par with regular PhD fellowship) to join any institution of their choice for PhD.
Lastly, the committee recommended a clear mechanism to encourage institutions to opt for students sponsored by the industry or organisations, or even put in place sponsored programs to bring in “committed” students and increase academia-industry collaboration.
The key motivation behind hiking the fee and ending stipends is to “increase the cost of parking at IITs” and reduce dropouts. Explaining the concept, the committee said students in the MTech courses tend to use the program as a waiting lounge till better opportunities knock, leading to higher dropout rates.
The committee observed that high fee paying programs like MBA even in the IIT system hardly see any dropouts. “Students think and exercise the choice after assessing whether the program adds enough value for them to spend two years and bear the cost of education,” the committee said.
Speaking to the media, Murthy added that with higher tuition fee and no stipend, many of the legacy programs that have no demand may be pulled over time. He added that such programs continue to be operational because a few faculty are available in that area. "Further, because the programme is running, there is pressure to recruit new faculty in that area, though there may be very little demand for its graduates," he said.