Advise to Incoming MTech Students

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This note is based on my experience and interaction with MTech students in the three institutes I have worked: IITK, IITD, and IIIT-Delhi.

In India now, the number of students appearing in GATE is over 10 Lac – not too far from the no of students who take JEE Mains. Based on my interaction with students, It is clear that most students are doing MTech primarily to strengthen their knowledge and skills, as the UG education did not provide these sufficiently. That is the main reason why they try to get into Institutions that have good faculty which can provide higher quality education, like the IITs, NITs, IIITs, etc.

As the basic goal of MTech students is to strengthen their background, knowledge, and skills, so they can improve their career opportunities, it is absolutely essential they view their MTech program differently than they did their UG program – otherwise they risk ending up with the outcome of their UG program – getting a degree with little value. Towards this goal, here are some suggestions:

  • Choice of courses. Many students, when they come to Institutes like IITs/IIITs, where almost all courses are electives, often chose the “easy” courses, largely due to the desire to get better and easy grades. This is exactly the opposite of what they should do. Given the limitations of their UG degrees, in their MTech they should go after the courses that will teach them new subject/area, that will make them work hard to develop new skills, that will test them hard and push them. It is these courses where learning will happen. A course in which there is overlap from previous courses, may be easier, but is of little value to an MTech student in terms of strengthening knowledge or skills.
  • Develop problem solving capability. Most programs in engineering colleges teach concepts at a shallow level, as they often don’t have the faculty or capability to do the quality teaching needed to develop the critical skills for applying them for problems solving. Consequently, while students may have learnt (or, more likely, memorized) enough theory to do well in GATE and other exams, the translation skills of applying the knowledge for problem solving are generally highly inadequate. Therefore, to strengthen the problem solving skills, MTech students should do many exciting projects (as part of courses or otherwise), participate in programming contests / hackathons, academic/engineering clubs, engineering or research competitions/challenges, etc.
  • Strengthen the background. MTech programs are supposed to be composed of advanced courses. Even if there are one or two courses which Institutes may include to strengthen the background, courses in MTech will generally focus on special or advanced topics. However, the background of incoming MTech students is weak. Rather than ignoring the background weakness and just somehow continue with the advanced courses they do, it is better to take some actions to improve the background – more so since when it comes to placement, companies frequently ask about basic concepts and foundations. These two approaches can be used for strengthening the background: (i) every time some concept is covered in an advanced course that uses an earlier concept which you don’t understand, rather than ignoring it and somehow manage to proceed, make the extra effort t to go read up on the earlier concepts and understand it. This extra effort will be well worth it – since course load in MTech is lower than in UG, it can also be managed. (ii) MTech students are often TAs for UG courses. A common comment from students as well as faculty is that the MTech students are not prepared and do not have sufficient background to guide the UGs well. TA work is an excellent opportunity to “catch up” and strengthen some aspects of the background. For this, do the TA work with more diligence – attend the lectures and understand the material for the course you are TA for, do the assignments you need to grade yourself, explain the material to UGs to help them – the process of explaining will help you understand the concepts better…..
  • Develop Research Capability. The above will help build skills that often a good UG program will develop in good Institutions. Building research capability can provide MTech students an edge over UGs. Many top companies also look for research capabilities, besides the engineering capabilities. For developing the research capabilities, some approaches are: (i) Do the projects in advanced courses, which often require some researching, sincerely and seriously – read more papers and reports than needed, spend time and effort understanding them, write a good report following good scientific writing practices (there is a lot of help available on writing style, copyright, …), make a great presentation using sound principles of presentation,…. (ii) Do a strong thesis – again many students look for “easy credits” – how to do the thesis easily with minimal effort. Instead go after thesis and professors that will require you to work hard, will challenge you, will make you acutely aware of your lack of skills and knowledge, will require you to read a lot, apply a lot, engineer a lot,… Then write a good thesis – aim to publish it by writing good paper(s) from it. A strong thesis can not only improve the training and skills, it can provide expertise in some area, which is always valued. It can provide a good launching pad, provide self confidence, and a lot more. A strong thesis is the best thing an Mtech student can do in his/her program.
  • Hard work. Most student will admit that their UG program did not challenge them – small amount of effort, often around exams, sufficed. There is no short cut to learning and building skills – one must study deeply and hard to understand the concepts and must challenge the understanding by trying various problems and assignments, and one must do various projects to apply the knowledge to solve problems and build solutions. Both take time – learning deeply will require deep reading, discussing the subtleties, doing assignments, etc – all these take time. And applying the knowledge through projects, assignments, and the like takes even more time. My advice is: ensure that you are putting at least 10 hours per day for 6 days a week. Without this level of work none of the above is possible.

Though many incoming MTech students struggle in the start – a pattern I have seen in IITK, IITD, and IIIT-D – most of them generally manage very well in the end as they are bright, ambitious, and put in a lot of effort to make the most of the MTech opportunity. Most end up significantly improving their placement opportunities due to their training in MTech. But a few, largely those who treat the MTech like they handled their BTech, end up with only limited value from the degree. I hope the advice given in this note will help all Mtech students to derive the benefit of the rigorous MTech programs that places like IITs/NITs/IIITs have.  

Effective Study Habits

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Most students want to do well in their studies – they want to learn, get good grades/marks, and do well in opportunities that good education can provide. In College life, besides studies, self growth is also an important goal for students. Therefore they need to effectively balance the two goals, which often conflict. In this pursuit, effective study habits can be very useful. They can help to learn effectively and efficiently, thus leaving sufficient time for other activities in life without compromising your academics. However, we have realized that many students are not clear on how to study effectively.

There is literature on this subject available – indeed there is a full book on it (multiple copies of which are in IIIT-D library). However, students often think these are too idealized or impractical, or that they do not apply to their environment or situation.

To better understand what works well in an environment like that of IIIT-Delhi, one of our graduating students (Digvijay Singh) interacted with a set of students from his batch who were known to have good understanding of various subjects, who we will refer to as effective students (this set of students we determined not by grades but by their performance in interviews and exams conducted by best companies that visited us and general input from faculty and students about their understanding, knowledge, skills.) We further validated the outcome of this study by interacting with a set of students of the current batch who have been doing well. It should be noted that not all of them are in the high CGPA category – many of them are below 8.0. It should be pointed out that this is not a statistically and scientifically rigorous study. Also, the habits mentioned here are the common ones, which most effective students we talked to followed. It does not mean that these are the only methods. However, I believe if these practices are sound and if students follow these, they can expect to be effective in their learning.

The three main effective study practices that emerged are:

  • Lectures. Attending lectures regularly and taking notes in them, even if the lectures are not very exciting/engaging, is a practice most effective students followed. This makes sense –students who do not follow this in the hope that they will “make up” for the lectures they miss, generally do not end up “making up”, and soon find themselves lost with too much to catch up. And missing lectures can easily become a habit, which is clearly to be avoided. The two aspect of this practice are (i) attend the lectures, (ii) make notes in the lectures – not copy what the faculty is writing, but making notes in your own language. The second point is important – copying from the board/slide is a passive act which does not help in learning, but making notes in your own words is an active learning task, which engages the student and helps in learning. Paying attention in lectures actually helps save time – a student is likely to take much more time to understand and learn the topic by him/herself, if he/she does not attend the lecture, or is inattentive.
  • Assignments. Do the assignments yourself – most effective students did most of the assignments themselves, even if it took them more time or even if they were not able to complete in time. While lectures introduce the topics and concepts, the real learning and skill building of a student happens during assignments – this is where the students practices and tries to apply the concept/method. So, without doing assignments yourself, there can be really no learning. It should be noticed that taking help (not copying) from friends in assignments is fine, particularly when one is stuck. Indeed taking and giving help in form of discussions, explanations, guiding is a good way of learning.
  •  Weekly revision/sync-up. All effective students have some method of ensuring that they have revised the material covered in the previous week or so, and that they prepared for the next week’s lectures and work. This practice I am calling weekly sync-up (even though students might be practicing this over somewhat longer periods.) Some revise regularly, some do revision with the assignment, some during the weekends, etc., but one common theme is that they sync-up regularly and ensure that they are not behind or lost, as they realize that if they continue while being lost, they will not recover. (One student said that if he could not follow two lectures well, it was a big warning sign and he would put extra work to catch up.) This practice ensures that even if they missed a lecture/assignment, they make up for it and do not fall behind. Without this practice, there is a real risk that a student can fall behind so much that it will be very hard to catch up,…. In a semester of 4 months with a student doing 5 courses, one simply can’t really afford to fall behind too much!

This can be viewed as the LAW for effective studying. Follow the LAW, with suitable enhancements/ modifications to suit your style, and the chances are that you will become an effective learner, and derive the benefits that come from that.

There are some other practices which some effective students also used:

  • Prioritising work. When there are many tasks from multiple courses, as well as from other activities, there will clashing deadlines. Prioritising will clearly be important in such a situation to achieve the most in the limited time. As one student said: “In such a scenario, life becomes a lot easier when you manually set down targets to be achieved by what deadline (which maybe before/ same day as your submission deadlines). Use sticky notes as gentle reminders to yourself so you can use your time wisely when brunt of work is more.”
  • Group study (though many prefer individual study)
  • Group and individual projects. As said by one student: “While it is good to do projects in team to learn teamwork and leadership qualities, I used to push myself and sometimes go forth with individual projects. Undoubtedly, it takes more effort and time, but it boosted my confidence in my own abilities to handle projects single-handedly and made me more self-reliant and self-sufficient.”
  • Help other students – explain to them as explaining helps them understand better (my note: by discussing/clarifying you are helping your friend, but by providing your assignment to your friends for copying you are actually hurting them as you are discouraging them to learn, besides taking them the slippery slope of using unfair means.)
  • Take help from friends for understanding – most students indicated that face-to-face discussion with friends was the first and most common approach they used for clarifying doubts/material. If this did not work then they will go to discussion forums, instructor,…
  • Academics gets the first priority – this is more a value statement but was commonly echoed by most of the students. While they all engaged in other activities (most of them are quite active in clubs, events, etc., they are clear that academics get the highest priority

Besides these practices, there is one attitude/trait I would like to highlight, which I have seen in many students who have done well in whatever they do after college education – and that is curiosity and initiative to go beyond the courses. Many effective students engage in some technical activities that they do which are not needed for their courses – i.e. they take the initiative to go beyond the courses. Examples of these initiatives can be: participating in competitive programming, participating in technical clubs, learning on your own about topics that interest you, listening to some technical lectures on YouTube/Coursera/EdX, trying out some concepts, learning some programming language on your own, teaching students who are facing challenges in their courses (teaching, it is well known and established, is the most effective way to learn – teaching to someone else truly clarifies the topic in one’s own mind) etc. I believe that those students who are ambitious and want to reach higher in life, developing this trait/style is absolutely essential.

I hope the students will devise their own methods for being effective students using the LAW, and going beyond. I hope this little study will be helpful to them in devising their own strategies.

Advise to Incoming BTech Students

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I often ask incoming students “What do you want out of your 4 years in college”. Replies are generally like: become a great programmer, engineering, mathematician,…., get a good job/career, gain deeper understanding of subjects, do exciting project/ research/ innovation; get good overall education, become a better professional, help for entrepreneurship career, make good friends, enjoy life, etc.

 Most of these can be grouped in two basic expectations from college education:

  •  It provides strong platform for good career opportunities
  • It provide environment to grow socially and as a person/individual.

 Let us discuss each of these. While in school, particularly class XI and XII, the main outcome you, your parents, and your school are looking for from school education is admission into good colleges/universities. And for that, performance in exams is what maters the most – whether in board exams or competitive exam. Hence, you, rightfully prepare for mastering the factual and theoretical knowledge that is tested in these exams.

The situation changes dramatically when your desired outcome from college education is good career opportunities. And to achieve this you need to take a fundamentally different approach to education than how you approached it in school. Let us use getting jobs as the primary career goal, though the argument will apply to other types of career opportunities as well.

Companies give you good jobs, and compensate you well, if you have deep knowledge in areas in your discipline, and possess strong skills for applying that knowledge to develop solutions – since it is these skills which generate value for the companies. Any good company, when it comes to a college for recruiting, thoroughly checks how well the student understands his/her subjects, and how well has (s)he developed the skills of applying the knowledge for problem solving. Top companies will do as many as 3 to 4 rounds of interview to assess various facets of this – e.g. in computer science, they will try to understand how deeply you understand programming, data structures, algorithms, operating systems, and how effectively you can use this knowledge for solving problems. Unlike exams, which are conducted on a large set of students and are limited in what they can assess, due to the thorough one-to-one interviews they conduct, companies do figure out how deeply you understand the subjects, and how good are your skills and capability.

So your goal for education in college is not to get marks, but to develop the skills, gain the knowledge and understanding of subjects. Marks are going to be a bye product – any good university will have decent assessment methods to ensure that if your understanding is good, you will get good grades. I have not met any student in my life who has good understanding and skills but has poor grades – may not have the best of grades, but still good grades. And inevitably these students do well in career.

 This is the main shift incoming students need to make in their approach to studies – study with the purpose of understanding and building skills, not for getting marks, as this understanding and skills is what will get you the jobs/career you seek. There are two other direct implications of this in how you approach your studies in college:

  1. Use of unfair means in assignments, exams etc will be counterproductive. When you copy an assignment, say from a friend, then it is the friend who has done the learning from it, not you. A universal truth is that nobody else can learn on your behalf – only you can do your own learning; even the richest of people have to do their learning themselves. So, you must do your work yourself and must not resort to “short cuts” like borrowing from the Internet, your friend, as these short cuts hurt you in achieving your goal, besides also taking you down the slope of moral decline.
  2. You have to work hard and put in sufficient effort. Learning takes effort and time – nobody can learn a new skill or obtain mastery in something without putting in hours and hours of practice, reflection, studying. Anybody who thinks otherwise is fooling him/herself. There is simply no other way to learning, but to learn, and that takes both physical time, and mental and physical effort.

So, to achieve your first goal, these two must be cardinal principles guiding you during college life, and your approach towards education should be to build skills, deepen understanding, etc.

Second overall goal of these 4 years is your social and personal growth. This is the period that will have the maximum impact on your life. Growth here means that you are a much better person, have an improved understanding of things, people, friends, world, … improved social and people skills, a better friends support system….., improved ability to enjoy things like art, music, dance, literature, and other things that bring joy and happiness and satisfaction to a personal’s life, etc.

For this goal, ensure that you are actively engaged with the people around you, with the college you are studying in, various activities like reading, watching films and discussing them, debating with friends about contemporary issues, existentialist issues,…. in learning and playing different sports, instruments, arts,….

These two goals of college life will often conflict. While they do often conflict, you must not pose it as an “either-or problem”. You actually do not have to make a choice between the two – you can and must achieve both. There is sufficient time to do both – assuming that sleeping, eating, commuting,… takes 12 hours each day, you still have about 85 hours per week available to you – this is plenty to achieve both goals. But this requires you to develop two meta-skills, which will serve you not only in these four years, but also in life: Balance, and Discipline.

In college, you have more freedom than ever before – in fact you have more freedom than you will have after college life. And you have two somewhat diverse goals. To use this freedom properly so it helps you achieve both your goals, it is imperative that you develop some discipline and sense of balance. Balance means that you spend your effort and your energy judiciously among the different activities to ensure that not only are your growing professionally/academically but also personally.

Discipline means that if you plan to do something, you are able to do it. So, if you want to study x hours every day or week, or go for a jog in the morning, or play computer game only for one hour per day or only during weekends, you are able to follow it. Most students are smart to make decent plans. Yet, they often end up not following their plans because they have not developed the discipline to execute their own plans.

To end, college life has two basic dimensions: grow professionally through the education a college offers, and grow personally through the variety of outside-the-class opportunities that colleges offer. Go after both – and you can achieve both through discipline and balance.

Note: This is based on the welcome speeches I gave to incoming students at IIIT-Delhi as Director, and to students in DTU as interim Vice Chancellor.

Placement Record/Statistics of IIIT-Delhi, 2014

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A new BTech batch is about to graduate from IIIT-Delhi. For the counseling of incoming BTech students, I compiled the placement data for the graduating batch. I was pleasantly surprised at the result – vast majority of our students got placed in technology companies, which not only offer technically more challenging work, but in general, also offer higher compensation for the better trained people that they try to recruit.

While it is not the case that best companies (work wise) offer the best compensation, compensation has become a yardstick of assessing the quality of placements. So let me put the basic placement statistics. The total no of students up for placement was 76, out of which 90% (69) were placed (till May end.) The placement record is:

  • 21% of the students got International jobs, each of more than Rs 30 Lac per annum
  • Highest overseas offer was Rs 60 Lac ($100K); highest Indian offer was Rs 20 Lac
  • 28% students got offers of 10+ lac
  • 55% students got Rs 5-10L offer
  • 8% students got offers of less than Rs 5 Lac
  • Avg compensation: Rs 12.6 Lac (Average of Indian offers: Rs 7.3L)
  • 10% (8) students got offers for higher studies abroad

What surprised me somewhat was that 10% of the students got admission for higher studies, mostly in North America, and most of them with financial support. With little historical record and few alumni, it was surprising to note that so many had got offers. On careful thought, however, it is understandable – most universities in US give a lot of weight to the quality of projects and research done during the undergraduate program, and to the credibility of the people who write recommendation letters (all applications require three recommendation letters.) Given our faculty’s record in research and their background (about two-thirds have PhD from Europe and US), their letters must have carry weight. And as many of our advanced courses have project/research component, often students have a good experience with them. These two must have considerably strengthened the application of our students. This high percentage can easily compare with that of IITs, where the percentage of students going abroad for higher studies has declined over the years.

The average compensation also needs a mention. In India, 90% or more of IT jobs are in the large services sector we have. While this sector is indeed the pride of the country and is immensely valuable and employs the largest number of engineers in our country, it is well known that their starting compensation is around Rs 3.5 Lac even in the biggest software companies. In this context, the average compensation that our students go is quite remarkable – I believe similar to that of IITs (thought they don’t often share it publicly).

The distribution is also quite important from a student perspective. In an college, if 80% of the students get jobs in the services sector, and 20% in technology/product sector (say with average compensation of Rs 12 Lac), the average compensation will be a respectable Rs 5.2Lac – and many of the top institutions outside of IITs have averages around this. But for a student it means that he/she has 80% chance to getting an offer of appx Rs 3.5Lac! In the case of IIIT-Delhi, 80% of the students have offers of more than Rs 5 Lac!

In this overall context the record very satisfying – most students getting offers in high technology and product companies that can better utilize their fine training and education (and also offer better compensation.) And this record is for our 3rd batch – clearly it is not due to the historical brand value but due to the education and training we have provided to our students. This continues to strengthen my belief that our high quality education is creating high quality opportunities for those who are willing to learn and work hard.

Undue Focus on Marks is Hurting Students

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Success in Indian education, particularly at school level, is measured almost entirely in terms of marks obtained in some tests. A key goal of school education is to facilitate getting good higher education opportunities. And in India the higher education opportunities are almost entirely based on marks in class XII or some admission test like JEE. So, naturally, students, schools, and parents work towards maximizing marks in these exams in order to maximize their expected outcome. It is clear that focus on marks in Class XII and entrance tests is a good strategy for achieving the goal of good higher education opportunity. However, in colleges, particularly professional education institutions, the scenario changes completely – good marks/grades do not necessarily help in achieving the desired goals of college education. And actually, undue focus on marks can actually hurt the chances of achieving the desired goals. One of the desired outcomes for professional education like engineering degree is to get good placement. Almost all companies, when they come for campus placement, conduct rigorous tests and interviews – all focusing around students’ skills, knowledge, and ability. As companies are making substantial investment in the person they recruit, they spend a lot of time evaluating students rigorously, and are indeed able to separate students with better skills and knowledge from others.  Almost all the companies that I have interacted with (and it is quite a few) when pointing out deficiencies in students mention shortcomings in knowledge and understanding which they uncover through their tests and interviews. (E.g. “does not have deep understanding of programming/algorithms/systems…”.) They never talk about grades and are never impressed just by the CGPA (I have yet to find anyone saying, “vow the student has a great CGPA, we will hire him/her”.) So, it is clear that for achieving a main goal of professional education, namely getting good placement, it is the knowledge and skills that matter – marks are at best an initial reflection of that. Students with better understanding, knowledge, and skills are the ones who will get the placements they desire. Now let me come back to the topic of this note – how undue focus on marks hurts.  Students, in an attempt to get better marks, often resort to:

  • Cheating in assignments/projects – assignments and projects are important instruments of learning in professional education..
  • Shallow learning – students learn just to give the test and get marks. Such learning does not improve the understanding/knowledge and never lasts.

As assignments and proejcts are always done in an unsupervised setting, in pursuit of marks, students often cheat (copy from friends, internet,…). Instead of struggling to solve these themselves, a struggle which is essential for developing the understanding as well as the capability of solving problems, students give up easily or take the easy way out. But this “easy way out” can at best get some marks – not for learning. There is NO easy way out for learning – knowledge and skills have to be acquired by the student him/herself – nobody can do the learning for someone else, and there is no royal road to learning. And shallow or passive learning may get marks, but certainly does not help develop deep knowledge or understanding that will last, or that will help in developing problem solving abilities. Any interviewer will be easily able to judge after spending some time with the student, that the understanding is shallow and bookish. To summarize, if a student wants higher education to help them achieve their goals in life, they must get out of the school mindset of focusing on marks and must focus on learning. Only with good learning can objectives/goals of higher education be met. I would like to add, however, that if a student learns well and deeply, good grades will come – I have never seen a student who has good understanding of the different subjects in his program and ends up with poor CGPA.

Role of Alumni in for an Institute

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I gave my first convocation speech at IIIT-Delhi in Nov 2012. Mr. NR Narayana Murthy was the chief guest. My full speech is available at Institute’s site (here). I thought I will share/record some suggestions I gave for the alumni of IIIT-Delhi – those portions of the speech are given here.

“Let me now take this opportunity to put before you, the first set of alumni of IIIT-D, a few suggestions, as trends you and your families set will guide others to come in later years.  But before that, let me mention the important role of alumni for an Institute.

To a large extent what alumni do with their lives define the stature of an Institute.  And we have provided a strong foundation for you to do well in life – good education from a dedicated faculty, and a strong value system of academic honesty, hard work, and professionalism.  Alumni form a special stakeholder for an Institute as their only interest is to see the Institute flourish and grow in stature –  the more the Institute grows in stature the better it is for the alumni. This makes them a unique stakeholder as all other stakeholders like students, faculty, staff, and administration, have other stakes as well. I have two specific suggestions for your consideration to play your role as a responsible and important stakeholder of IIIT-Delhi.

First, stay engaged with the Institute. This is extremely important. Visit the Institute when in Delhi and meet with faculty and students, respond to our emails, ensure that your contact information with us is correct, visit the Institute website regularly to keep abreast of what is happening, give suggestions, etc.

Second, give back to the Institute, financially and otherwise.  For an Institute to be strong and protect itself from interference from outside, financial autonomy is essential. Towards this, as has been shown by great Universities of the world, a strong endowment/corpus is necessary. We have set a goal of Rs 100 crores corpus in 10 years – we have made a good start and have about Rs 2 Crores corpus, with at least six people contributing around Rs 20 Lac each. My suggestion to alumni is to contribute 1% of your income yearly to the Institute, and increase it when you are well-off and can afford to contribute more. If each alumnus does this, this support will enthuse others to contribute, creating a strong support base.

To be with you in this drive of giving back to your Institute, and to walk the talk, I have instructed our finance department to deduct one month on my salary every year as contribution to our Institute. And this has already started – before you graduated one month of my salary was donated as the initial contribution by your batch.

Besides giving yourself, there will be opportunities for you particularly when you are senior, and for your parents now, to have corporations, philanthropists, agencies to establish Chairs, Fellowships, Scholarships, Awards etc at the Institute. Please help bring such opportunities to the Institute.  I can share one personal example of this. When I was spending my Sabbatical from IIT Kanpur at Infosys as Vice President, Mr. and Mrs Murthy wanted to set up a Chair. I quickly worked with them and provided all the help, resulting in the Chair getting established in IIT Kanpur.

Later when you are senior and have more experience and knowledge to share, there will be other possibilities of giving back, particularly if you have remained engaged. E.g. offering some courses,  giving lectures, conducting short programs/workshops, facilitating placement and internships of our students, etc.”

Report on PhD Production in Computer Science highlights the Opportunity for PhDs

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On behalf of ACM India, I conducted the first survey on PhD production in Computer Science in India. The report has been published and can be found, along with the background, here.

As the report clearly shows, while the number is not as low as one thought, it is still about 125. And if you consider PhDs from only the top 20 institutions in the country, the number is in two digits. And the projections are that this number will only double in about 5 years.

This study actually highlights the tremendous opportunity for those who are doing PhD in CS in India. Academics is growing rapidly with so many new IITs, IIITs, and other Institutes coming up. Even if you consider each such Institute will need about 5 faculty members each year, 50 upcoming Institutes can easily consume 250 PhDs. Then there are at least 20 research labs in many software companies, including the large software companies which seem keen to expand their R&D capabilities rapidly, and various other companies that can consume PhDs. Overall, the private sector can also consume about 250 PhDs per year. There are other opportunities in Govt sector also. In a nutshell, the supply is significantly lesser than the demand. And this gap is likely to increase as demand is set to increase.

Due to this mismatch in demand and supply, and the growth of academics, the compensation for fresh PhDs is now very good. Companies will often pay a package starting from Rs 15 Lac to Rs 25 Lac or more for a fresh PhD. Academic packages are also quite good after the sixth pay commission – an Asst Prof can have a yearly compensation of Rs 8 to Rs 12 Lac. Compare this with the starting package for software jobs – except for a few multinationals, the starting package tends to be around Rs 3.5 Lac for the large and medium sized software houses (which is where 90% of the software jobs are), and Rs 4 to 6 for the niche players. Even if one counts for the 4 to 5 years that one has to spend in getting a PhD, compensation wise, a student who does a PhD will clearly come out ahead.

And then there are the really strong benefits of doing a PhD – the main reasons why people preferred this route even when the compensation was not good. And that is, the freedom to explore and chose your own work agenda, the non-repetitive and challenging nature of work, the culture of R&D, lack of hierarchy, being a member of the global community of researchers, etc.

Overall, while the PhD production report does not have too much good news for those who want to recruit PhDs, it is good news for those who are considering doing PhD.

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