M Tech (Mech.) Admissions—An Open Letter to COEP Authorities

Today I noticed a print ad clarification in the daily Sakal. According to this ad, the requirements for the M Tech (Mechanical) program at COEP include a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent qualifications like AMIE) in only the following branches: Mechanical, Automobile, Production, and Industrial.

I would like to appeal the authorities to completely abolish the requirements of specific undergraduate branches for MTech admissions at COEP.

If that is not possible, then they should at least allow, for example, the Metallurgical and Electrical graduates into the MTech Mechanical program.

Consider the following reasons:

— A typical Industrial Engineer has not augmented or deepened his grasp of stress analysis via related courses such as those on metal working, materials testing, fracture and failure, NDT, etc. Further, the IE students actually don’t re-use fluid mechanics and heat transfer concepts in their later UG courses. So, these courses are often completed by them only as formal requirements, that’s all. Note, industrial engineers are mostly concerned with the more abstract and linear algebraically inclined topics such as OR, operations planning, human factors engineering, management, logistics, etc. So, the typical IE students do not have the time or the motivation to bother developing deeper insights about physical phenomena concerning stress analysis or CFD or thermal engineering. The undergraduate IE programs don’t lay any emphasis on these topics—not even by way of applications alone.

— Metallurgical programs (not all but enough of them—certainly the one at COEP), instead, include *all* of the topics mentioned at the beginning of the above paragraph. Further, they include a lot of topics concerning manufacturing engineering: metal working (an exhaustive range of these processes), heat treatment, foundry, manufacturing methods for newer materials, and why, even that “staple diet” of the traditional mechanical engineers, namely, machining.

Now, if even the industrial and production branches can be considered for admissions into the relevant MTech Mechanical programs, why not Metallurgical?

Isn’t this a matter purely indicative of the entrenched bias of the career academics?

— For MTech in Mechanical with the design stream option, not just metallurgical but also electrical engineers should be actively considered. The latter often have developed a good sense of what it takes to design rotating equipment, power-plant equipment, etc. I mean, they have a good application context and a kind of conceptual maturity about these topics, through their study of electrical machinery, power equipment, and separate design courses on both.

— Further, if the authorties really want to make sure that only the students with the right conceptual background are admitted to the MTech programs, then they should also actively consider the other side of it. They should start dis-qualifying BE/BTech Mechanical Sandwich graduates for MTech Mechanical admissions.

Don’t get shocked.

The reality is, these Sandwich folks receive only a couple of years of class-room education after their common first year. Further, whatever fewer courses they have, these often arrive in a rather mangled sort of sequence. The sequence is designed to suit the instructors, not the Sandwich students. The out-of-order sequence leads to confusion in the mind of the students about the right hierarchical order of concepts—something that is essential if gaining knowledge is the objective, not just ability to repeat some words in a parrot-like manner. The course-work does not arrive in an orderly manner primarily because the College does not bother designing and delivering a completely redesigned sequence for the Sandwich students—the College has no adequate staff to even consider undertaking that.

But that’s just one part of the story. The other part is: These students routinely hear remarks by the “practical” sort of engineers in industry who themselves often display a significantly high degree of anti-conceptual mentality. This, too, serves to discourage many Sandwich trainees from pursuing concepts to a sufficient depth. The end result is that the Sandwich stream folks turn out to be good mainly for operations and shop-floor management. As such, they should *not* be considered for direct MTech admissions; they are rather suitable only for MBA.

Now, of course, exceptions should certainly be allowed for those Sandwich trainees who have specifically worked in the design or R & D departments of large companies. That is, if the students can produce documented evidence to indicate their acquisition of higher levels of skills specifically in these two departments. Not otherwise. (Many of the companies participating in the Sandwich programs are small- to medium-scale enterprises who do not have an adequately well developed design or R & D departments. Typically, industry supervisors will happily oblige the trainee if he requests them that they mention “design” as the main activity—regardless of what he did on the shop-floor for them. The situtation is not very different from obtaining a medical certificate for getting a sick leave.)

I think most people at COEP would get shocked at my suggestion concerning disqualifying the Sandwich graudates primarily because, at COEP, the Sandwich option is (or at least used to be) a hot favorite with students. As such, typically (though not always) it was the students with the *higher* merit who (used to) prefer the Sandwich option. Therefore, the suggestion that these students now be dis-qualified for MTech admissions might come as a rude suggestion to many.

But just the fact that you had better marks, or are more talented, does not mean you are better (or even adequately) prepared to undertake a master’s in engineering or technology…. (The fact that some COEP Sandwich trainees fare wonderfully abroad in PG programs in engg. does not at all mean that the system itself is excellent—all that it means is that the student himself was good, and worked hard at his MS/MTech and PhD.)

And even if the suggestion comes as a shock, do consider the relevant facts—the shortened time for conceptual development, the haphazardly thrown together course-work, and the over-emphasis on the things “practical”…. Where is the concern for better or deeper “theoretical” work here? Theoretical work as would be necessary to undertake a master’s or a doctorate degree later on?

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In any case, though I wrote at greater length about disqualifying Sandwich people, that, really speaking, is not my main purpose here… I just included that point to induce people to think *really* afresh about these matters…

My main point here is regarding expanding the reach of the MTech Mechanical program at least to Metallurgical graduates if not also to Electrical graduates (and of the Mechanical graduates into the appropriate Metallurgical programs, of course—which, again, is *not* permitted in COEP, but *should* be…)

I am sure that my main appeal above will fall on deaf ears. … This statement needs explanation (for people unfamiliar with the way COEP in particular and Indian institutions in general work).

It is a curious happenstance that when arguments such as the above are presented, at COEP (and more largely, with any Indian government department) every *individual* would *completely* agree with *any* of those observations, and still, not raise any objection about them, and yet, collectively, every decision the same fellows eventually take would be taken as if nothing of the above sort had ever been said by anyone at any point of time. Effectively, it would be as if the matter had fallen on deaf ears.

(Readers: Go ahead. Prove me wrong. (LOL!))

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