Bachelor of Science: An Alternative to Termination of Programs of Weak Students

Summary at the end

Every semester, the Academic Senate of IIT Kanpur goes through a very painful exercise. They apply a large number of complex rules to identify academically deficient students. These students are categorized for issuing of a Warning, or placement into Academic Probation, and finally, the termination of the program.

Termination of one's program is clearly a very painful exercise as it shatters the dreams of a young student. This has to be handled very carefully, and often a student is first given warning, then in the next semester, if the performance remains poor, placed on Academic Probation, and finally, if the performance still remains poor, then the program is terminated, and student is asked to leave IIT campus.

We do have a mechanism of appeal so that we can identify whether there were circumstances beyond the control of the student that led to poor performance, and in most cases, we agree to offer the student another chance. We do not wish to terminate the program too early, just in case we have made an error in judging that the concerned student will not be able to complete the program.

But our caution sometimes leads to cases where the student has spent 5-6 semesters (and even more) and is unable to cope with the academic pressures of the place. And now, it appears that termination will lead to a loss of three years or more for the student, and we really don't know what to do, but letting the student continue in the system is only making life more miserable for him/her.

It is cases like these, which require an exit option so that the student can show something for the time spent at IIT Kanpur. Ideally, if a student is unable to compete at IIT Kanpur, s/he should be able to go to a less competetive environment, get credit for all the courses compelted at IIT Kanpur, and do the remaining courses there, and get a degree from that place. This is how the system works in US, for erxample. But, unfortunately, in our system, getting admission to an alternate college in the middle of a program with credit given for courses done elsewherre, is simply not possible.

And therefore, a lot of people have proposed an alternate degree with reduced academic requirement. The degree can be called "Bachelor of Science (BSc)" and the requirements can be fixed in a way that it is equivalent to a three-year degree program (unlike BTech which is a four-year degree program). Since, the normal load in IIT Kanpur is five courses per semester, a three-year program will mean that the student has to complete 30 courses to receive this degree.

The idea is that such persons should still be able to find some gainful employment, for which a generic BSc degree is the minimum qualification. The student should also become eligible for applying for certain second degrees such as MCA, MBA, and perhaps even MSc in certain streams. Since such students are not really targetting a technical job in a particular area of engineering or science, we need not have a requirement for a minimum number of courses in any particular discipline. This degree should be a broad-based degree, designed to equip the student with general skills, and not specialised skills. If the student has some specific jobs or second degrees in mind, the student should be able to tailor his/her program towards that goal.

Hence the curriculum should only state that the student has to complete 30 courses. It should specify a minimum number of HSS courses to broad base the degree. In addition a minimum number of science courses, ESc, TA, ESO, BSO, etc., should be there. Besides that all other courses should be open electives.

For example, one possibile requirement is: 4 HSS, 2 Maths, 2 Physics, 1 Chemistry or Biology, One of the two lab courses, One of the two ESc courses, One of the two TA courses, and 18 Open Electives. Give students complete flexibility in what they want to do depending on their interest, capabilities, and their career plans. Once a student has decided to do a BSc degree, all the departments should be liberal in allowing him/her courses in the department, even if s/he belongs to another department. For example, if a student wants to do a few courses in Computer Science, because s/he expects to get a software job, it should be possible to do such courses.

In addition to reduced course load, the graduation requirement of the degree in terms of CPI should also be lower. The BTech graduation requirement is a CPI of 5.0 (which means that in the worst case, the student has to get a 'D' grade in half the courses, and a 'C' grade in the rest). For this new degree, I propose that the graduation requirement be a CPI of 4.0. That is even if the student has barely passed all 30 courses, s/he is eligible for award of this degree.

Once this degree proposal is approved, the rules to identify academically deficient students should be changed so that only those students whom we believe can't even graduate with this 3-year degree are only considered for termination of their program. These would be, hopefully, very rare cases. And it should be possible to identify such students early in their program, so that they can leave IIT early, and try to study elsewhere without wasting several years. In most cases, such students, when they realize that they would get only a BSc degree and not a BTech or MSc degree from an IIT, even if they continued, they would voluntarily leave IIT for a less competetive engineering college, where they can compete and get a regular BTech degree.


To summarise, here is the proposal:

You can send me email at: sanghi[AT]