Saturday, July 9, 2011

Should IITK Courses be Open to Public

Recently, a resident of Kanpur approached me. He is BTech in Computer Science, and is running a small company in web designing. He wanted to know if it was permissible for him to do some courses as non-degree student at IIT Kanpur in an official capacity. I suggested to him that he could just talk to the instructor and seek permission informally. But he wanted to do all assignments, give exams, wanted them to be graded, and be assigned a grade. Sorry, we don't allow this.

He sent me a link from IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay. Both IITs allow this. Any instructor in either of these IITs could inform its Continuing Education cell that s/he has no objection to allowing people from outside to sit in the class. They could be working in industry, or in another academic institution, own a company, or whatever. But they do want the person to have adequate background to be able to do the course. If the instructors permit then those courses are thrown open for public on payment of specified fee. Sometimes, if a course is popular, they may even change the timing to evening classes to enable more outsiders to attend the course. At the end of the course, the non-degree student gets a certificate specifying the grade received. This is one way the Institute can help people in the neighborhood.

Of course, IIT Kanpur offers short term courses for industry folks. These courses are typically 2-10 days compressed courses. And all IITs offer them. The goal for compressed courses is that people from outside the city can come for a short duration and upgrade the skills. But there can only be a few of them. By allowing people within Kanpur to sit through its regular courses, the options to local people become more by two orders of magnitude.

Even new IITs like IIT Gandhinagar allow this.

When I talked to a few faculty members about it, the immediate response is - there is no demand for such a thing in Kanpur. May be there is very little. May be this person who contacted me is the only one in the city who is interested. What is wrong in allowing such a thing anyway. (And based on my experience with IITK, I know that if tomorrow there is a lot of demand, we will not start it because there is too much demand and we can't meet that demand. Our quality of education for our own students will go down.) And I do believe that there will be several people in Kanpur who would want to do courses at IITK. For example, many of the project staff, who have done bachelors from poorer quality colleges would want to do a couple of courses "officially" where they have a certificate at the end. And we have a couple of hundreds of them at any point in time.

It is things like these where leadership can play a very important role. Since the perception is that there is hardly any demand, most faculty members would neither do anything to make it happen, nor would oppose this, if the Dean or Continuing Education Coordinator were to propose this.

1 comment:

  1. I endorse your view from the perspective of social responsibility.
    IIT/K is flagship institution of Kanpur. If IIT/K offers such courses to the benefit of neighbourhood , it'll help spreading some kind of knowledge seeds whose may blossom at some point of time later.
    For an institution , it is important to be in harmony with its surroundings. This benefits the institution also in many invisible ways all of which can't be visualised at this stage.