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June , 2017
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D or E ? This has been a matter of contention for as long as dual degree courses have been in existence at IIIT. Dual degree course? What does that mean, one may ask. Well, to start from the beginning, as one says, IIIT has 2 departments – Computer Science and Electronics and Communication. Both these departments offer the regular 4-year B.Tech course as well an integrated dual degree course that gives a B.Tech degree in CSE as well as a MS degree in CSE at its completion.

IIIT is the country’s only college, which allows research at the undergraduate level and the dual degree programmes are a natural extension of the college’s prerogative to further research by allowing the students to start research as early as the 2nd year itself. A dual degree student is required to choose a department and start research on a particular field under a guide after the end of the second year. It generally translates to a greater workload, as the student may be required to take up particular subjects, sometimes in addition to the prescribed number of subjects, to help with the chosen field of research. Moreover, while most B.tech students ( read carefree birds ) are lazing around in the summer sun, the D-students have to sacrifice the summers working in the labs. Of course, the air conditioned labs with their thickly cushioned chairs are a pleasure to work (?) in and many a times, one can see a ‘researcher’ with headphones on, legs on table and a movie running on the computer. A pleasure, as mentioned above, to work in. ;-)

Of course, there’s a flip side to every story and the biggest complaint that the D students have is the duration of the course which, simply said, is indefinite. The college website describes the dual degree programme as a “5-year course” but in reality, that is the minimum time required for its completion. The groundwork for the thesis and its writing take at least a year after the regular 4-year course is over and so 5 years is the minimum time in which, one can hope to get the degree. The D students are required to take up a few MS courses in the fifth year but classes are few and so the major part of their time is spent on research. In general, five and a half years seems a reasonably fair estimate of time in which, one can hope to get a degree. Moreover, with the increased intake of research students, resources have to be stretched to their limit to accommodate all. This year, when the time came for the 2K7 batch to choose their departments as 3rd year students, many had to compromise on their choice of department as the seats in that particular department were already full.

Research Blocks. Credit- Seargent Arbit

Research Blocks. Credit- Seargent Arbit

Saurabh, a CSE student, feels that dual degree courses are “Unfair because a 12th grader doesn’t know if he or she wants to do research or not”. After all, “whether or not he wants to do MS is something he can decide only after he has a fair notion of the subjects and departments and that’s not after atleast a year of joining college. So why bind him in the beginning?” offers another student.

The opening and closing ranks say much about the first choice of students. While CSE and ECE opened at 162 and 344 and closed at 1729 and 1921 respectively, the opening and closing ranks for CSD in the year 2008 were 157 and 2613 respectively and for ECD, 2093 and 2646. Although there are students, who willingly take up the D programme to avail the benefits of an integrated course, a survey reveals that for over 85% of the D students, dual degree is a second choice, which they opt for only if they cannot get CSE/ECE.

Of course, there’s always the benefit that by joining an integrated MS programme, a student can start research early and finish off the thesis in less time as compared to two separate B.tech and MS degrees. Moreover, MS students don’t have to sit for placements and their names are directly referred to companies by their guides and the average placement package is higher for a MS student.

The college provides the provision of switching to a dual degree programme from CSE/ECE and some students have indeed changed to dual degree. According to Shraddha, who converted to CSD from CSE after the second year, “If you know you want to go for MS later on, then it makes sense to convert. After all, with such an opportunity in hand, why go to any other college?”

Like any other argument this one too has much to be said for both sides. Which side holds more weight is a relative choice. And so the question hangs in the balance – D or E ?

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