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A ticket to careers in research and industry

Indian Institute of Science has a novel four-year BS programme reports Rahat Bano

education Updated: Jan 05, 2011 09:10 IST
Rahat Bano

What prompted the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to launch a four-year BS programme?
There has been a steady decline in the number of bright students pursuing higher education in science. To reverse this trend, it is necessary to make science education more attractive to talented youngsters. This requires large-scale restructuring of undergraduate science courses, improving the peer group by integrating engineering and science streams, and linking classroom learning to research to make science education an exciting and enjoyable experience. IISc has decided to take the initiative in this direction by launching a four-year BS programme that meets all these requirements. We expect that this model will be seen as showing the way to other universities and institutes in India.

How will it be different from a BSc and a BE or BTech?
These are several aspects that make the BS programme different from the currently available BSc, BE and BTech programmes. The unique features of this programme include:
Interdisciplinary character: Students specialising in a particular discipline will be encouraged to broaden their knowledge and skills by taking about 30% of the courses from other disciplines.

Substantial component of engineering: Students will take five-six courses in engineering, including three compulsory courses on engineering essentials (computation, data analysis and electronic instrumentation).

Exposure to humanities and social sciences: Students will be required to take three lecture courses and several seminar courses in humanities and social sciences.

Experience in contemporary research: In the fourth year of the programme, students will carry out a one-year research project with a member of the faculty.

We initiated the four-year programme because we believe that the material covered in the existing five-year course structure in science (three-year BSc followed by two-year MSc) can be taught quite well in four years. A four-year BS programme will also remove the existing difference between the durations of undergraduate education in engineering (four years) and science (five years). Our decision is consistent with the recommendation of a panel constituted by two science academies of India to suggest ways to improve post-school science education.

Can you tell us why other institutions will accept the qualification for entry to PhD programmes?
The students of the four-year BS programme will receive a training that covers all essential aspects of the standard five-year BSc + MSc programme. In the third and fourth years, BS students will take the same courses as those taken by the students of our Integrated PhD programme in their first two years (students join the integrated PhD programme after completing BSc). Since integrated PhD students who have completed two years of study are considered to be equivalent to MSc degree holders, we expect that the same will apply to our BS graduates. Also, IISc and many other institutions offer graduates of four-year BE and BTech programmes direct entry into PhD programmes in science. For these reasons, we believe that graduates receiving the BS degree will not face any difficulty in gaining admission to PhD programmes in India and abroad.

What core competencies and skills are graduates going to have? What will their career options be, especially in the industry?
Graduates will acquire a solid foundation in the chosen major discipline, as well as competence in several other areas, such as the chosen minor discipline, basics of engineering and topics in humanities. They will also acquire skills in communication and have the experience of participating in contemporary research. We expect that the BS programme will serve as an ideal launch pad for research in cutting-edge areas of science and technology, as well as for challenging careers in industry.

There is a growing demand in modern industry for personnel with strong analytical skills who can specialise quickly in specific fields of expertise. Given this emerging industrial scenario, graduates of the BS programme, with their multidisciplinary training, will be ideally suited for recruitment by our modern industry. Depending on their specialisations, BS degree holders are expected to find attractive employment opportunities both in traditional industries (such as in the areas of energy, electronics, chemicals, medicine and transportation) and in high-tech industries (such as those involved in biotechnology, genetic engineering, advanced functional materials, unconventional energy sources and micro- and nano-mechanical devices).

Interviewed by Rahat Bano.
Applications can be submitted from January 1 to March 31, 2011. www.iisc.ernet.in