Allowing Students To Graduate Early

Though we have introduced last year (2007) some flexibility in taking courses in any semester, we still are very conservative when it comes to duration of various programs. We strongly encourage students to not take extra semesters (which results in huge amount of stress for weaker students), and we forbid students from graduating early. We have not realized that our students come from different backgrounds, and they have different capabilities and interests, and therefore, it is natural that some students will take more time, while some others will take less time.

What are the objections to letting students graduate early. (I am going to use BTech program as an example, but the views are valid for other programs as well.)

First, and foremost, is that we announced in the JEE brochure that BTech is a four-year program, and hence we cannot let anyone graduate early. This is laughable, except that it is being said by supposedly the smartest professors in this country. If you were to really look at that statement literally, then we should not allow a 5-year BTech program also. So, if someone has a backlog, one should be thrown out of IITK. (By the way, I am not suggesting this route. I am just trying to show fallacy in the argument.) But, if this is really a problem, change the JEE brochure to say that the median time to complete the BTech program is 4 years.

Another argument is that students would try and cram all their courses in as short a time as possible. The early graduation will be such a great attraction that they may hurt themselves in the long run.

It is not clear what would go wrong if a few students graduate early. It seems to me that as an Institute, we should decide on a curriculum, which an average student can complete comfortably in four years. But there will be students who will do a bit faster (say in one semester less), and there will be students who will go a little slower. If we find that a large number of students are able to graduate in 7 semesters, then that is an indication to us that we can perhaps increase the requirements of the degree a bit more, and if we find that a few odd persons are graduating early, then it really shouldn't matter to us.

And it is not as if we have never allowed students to graduate early. There have been enough examples of people dropping a semester because of illness, and then taking an overload in every semester and do some courses in summer terms, and graduate in time. (There have even been an example of someone being forced to drop a semester because of disciplinary action, and the person still graduating in time by taking overloads.)

By the way, there will be hardly any incentives to graduate early, even if we allow early graduation. The placement season starts after the 7th semester is over. One would not like to leave campus before having a job. And most of these companies have a joining date in June/July for fresh graduates. So what will the student do in those six months. If the student is interested in higher studies (MTech/PhD/MS/MBA, etc.), then all the programs start in July-September timeframe. Again, there is no incentive for student to graduate early.)

So, it is clear that allowing early graduation will not have many takers. (The assumption is that even with liberal overloads, and summer courses, it will be next to impossible for someone to save one year. The early graduation will be possible only to the extent of one semester.) But allowing early graduation will send a strong signal to the student community that we do think about academically good students also. As of now, most of our policy making and administrative time is spent on academically weaker students.

You can send me email at: sanghi[AT]