Tuesday, 14 March 2017

"Allocation" of students

There has always been an issue that I've not been fully able to understand ever since I've joined IIT. The problem is how should the M.Tech and PhD students in the department be paired with faculty. Currently there is no standard procedure that is followed by all IITs, even within one IIT various departments have their own policies that might change with time.

The two most common ways of pairing are:
  1. Let the students come and spend a semester or two in the department, then let them choose a person with whom they'll work on their thesis.
  2. The Head or DPGC or some admin figure in the department pairs students with faculty
Ideally the first method looks pretty good. This is also what is followed in most American universities that you first secure admission to the department and then choose the advisor once you're here. This also accounts for the students' choices and seems quite fair.
However, a general feeling among faculty is that most students aren't mature enough to take an informed decision. They tend to choose supervisors based on what their seniors tell them and thus go with the 'older' professors with established labs. It's very unlikely the student will themselves initiate and choose a young faculty member who has joined last year and still is in the process of setting up the lab.

Thus, stating this reason some departments simply allot guides to the students taking into account how many students each faculty has while trying to maintain an equitable distribution. This method, however, largely ignores students' opinion and thus can be unpopular. I've seen conflicts occurring in the department when a student makes an application for change of supervisor. This also gives un-necessary power in the hands of administrators.

In a fund-crunch scenario when the number of incoming PhD students is a quarter (or even less) of the number of faculty in the department, this question of student allocation assumes a much larger significance. I'm still undecided on which method should be used or is there a better optimized third method.
Any suggestions by the readers will be helpful.