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Encourage students to pursue M.Tech. and Ph.D. programs - Dr Venkata Rao, NIT-Surat


Our country has a very large number of engineering colleges and technical institutions (apart from reputed universities, IITs and NITs). Thus, we are producing a huge technical manpower as compared to any other country in the world. However, the quality standards of engineering/technical education are somewhat poor and MHRD and AICTE are taking adequate steps in this regard. Our graduates are already serving in both domestic and international companies and organizations.

No takers for colleges of inferior standards:
The quality standards of engineering/technical education are somewhat poor in our country at present. Significant number of students are not getting equipped with the required technical knowledge and are poor in practical aspects of engineering. They lack confidence and somehow they complete their engineering education and get the degree. Their colleges/institutes are also responsible for this. Many colleges are not maintaining the standards. They lack infrastructure, lack faculty and lack seriousness in providing good quality education to the students. The faculty members are under-paid by some colleges and how can we expect dedicated faculty members. MHRD and AICTE are taking necessary steps in this regard through Accreditation of quality programs. There comes a time when there will be no takers of engineering education in the colleges of inferior standards. States like Gujarat have initiated Anchor Institute Cells and the objective is to give special training to the graduate engineers to make them employable. Andhra Pradesh also has similar scheme through the Institute for e-governance.

Encourage students to pursue M.Tech. and Ph.D. programs:
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of Govt. of India is encouraging graduate students to pursue M.Tech. and Ph.D. programs by giving monthly stipend of Rs. 9000 to M.Tech. and Rs. 18,000-20,000 to the Ph.D. students, so that, they can be drawn towards research and the teaching. Special schemes are also introduced by MHRD to motivate the students to go for research through Ph.D. program. Furthermore, IITs and NITs are encouraging the Ph.D. degree holders working in other countries by conducting interviews through Skype, Video-Conferencing, etc. and selecting them as the faculty members at appropriate levels. Furthermore, many incentives are offered to the prospective faculty members. For example, Rs. 10,00,000 as the research support to the Asst. Professor level faculty members to initiate research in a field of their interest, Rs. 3,00,000 for a block period of 3 years so that they can attend international conferences and to visit reputed universities in India and abroad and to have academic interaction with their peers. In addition, IITs and NITs have sufficient funding and the faculty members of any level can purchase the research equipment to conduct research. Thus, IITs and NITs are trying their best to attract quality teachers. However, they are not selecting a person just based on having PhD degree. They analyze the bio-data, teaching and research potential of the candidates and then only the selection will take place. In the case of other institutions also, now a days a number of faculty members have registered for the Ph.D. program (to get promotions as per the 6th Pay Revision Commission) and within next few years we can expect a number of Ph.D. degree holders in the country. The present pay scales are very good and can attract the prospective candidates. However, I am doubtful whether the self-financing institutes really offer the pay scales to the candidates or not. But once the number of M.Tech. and Ph.D. degree holders is increased, then the problem of faculty shortage will be decreased.

Innovations in the curriculum design:
The curriculum should be in line with the current developments in the engineering branch concerned. Emphasis should be equally given to industrial visits or industrial training for a semester in true sense. Obsolete and outdated topics should be removed from the curriculum. The laboratory practice should be conducted preferably with modern equipment. Persons working in the industries should be invited for delivering guest lectures frequently. Soft skills development as a subject must be there for all branches. Professional ethics and Environmental Engineering subjects should also be there. Industry personnel should be invited while framing the curriculum.

Research an important component in engineering education:
At M.Tech. level, the students are asked to conduct research for one year and to submit a dissertation based on the research work. In the case of PhD program, the student is required to submit a thesis with major research contribution. However, as you said, the quality of research is not much encouraging at present. Majority of the supervising faculty members and the students are not much serious about the quality of research. However, the situation can be improved by putting conditions that every student must get accepted/published at least 3 research papers in well reputed international journals (called SCI journals) before submitting their Ph.D. thesis (and 1 paper in the case of M.Tech. students). While promoting the faculty members also, the criterion of how many SCI journal papers they have published (in association with their students) should be adopted. The faculty members should be asked to get industry-sponsored research projects that will help both the industry as well as the institute. The institute should help the faculty members to approach the industries. Apart from this various funding schemes of the Central and State governments, funds should be availed by the faculty members of the institutes by submitting concrete research proposals.

Engineering students not opting for a career in research:
Because, their mind set is such that they hardly think about research during their B.Tech. study. Their aim will be either to join a job after graduation or to pursue MBA or going abroad. Of course, some students are pursuing M.Tech. after clearing the GATE examination. But I am, sorry to say that they are not serious in doing M.Tech. and majority of the students think doing M.Tech. as a stop-gap arrangement till they get a job (and they get Rs. 8,000 per month as stipend during M.Tech.) Even after M.Tech. if they have not got the job, then only some of them are joing Ph.D. program in IITs, NITs, etc. (with the aim of getting Rs. 18,000 per month!). Then how can we expect quality research from such students?

At present, the students simply think about either job after graduation or doing MBA or MS (thereby thinking to settle in US or in similar advanced countries). Thus, the question of doing research hardly raises in their mind. There may be exceptions to this but the general trend is like this.

Industry requirements:
Technical knowledge, practical approach, ability to learn, ability to work in a team, ability to communicate effectively, ready to take up the given task, etc.

Advice to budding engineers:
Equip yourself with the required technical knowledge and soft skills, and never lose self-confidence.
Published on 9/10/2014 4:09:00 PM

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