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Flexible courses, quality learning

L.K. MAHESWARI

A pioneer in higher education, BITS Pilani has introduced several dynamic and flexible programmes to cater to an ever-changing educational scenario.



ENDURING EDIFICE: The facade of BITS Pilani's buildings.

Educational innovation is a continuous journey and it aims at excellence. There has to be built-in flexibility in the education process responding to changes in the environment and the market. The Birla Institute of Technology & Science has been one of the pioneers in this area and has introduced several educational innovations which have proved successful. It has structured the educational programmes to make them more enriched, interdisciplinary, flexible and marketable.

The institute offers degree programmes at all the three tiers of education, namely, the Four-Year Integrated First Degree programmes after 10+2, Higher Degree programmes, and the Doctoral programmes. The First Degrees are B.E., B. Pharm., M.Sc. (Hons)., M.Sc. (Tech), and M.M.S. (Master of Management Studies). All programmes contain certain structural commonality and common courses. Foundation courses in Sciences, Mathematics, Computer Programming, Engineering Sciences, Engineering Graphics, and Workshop Practice are common to all students admitted to the First Degree programmes. The specialised discipline courses are offered in the third year. In the final year, the student takes a certain number of elective courses, where the structure insists on prior academic preparation for each course. This allows the student to make his own career planning.

The institute programmes allow several flexibilities outlined below:

Dual degree

It is possible for a student to work for and complete concurrently two integrated first degrees within a reasonable period of time. Thus, a student pursuing any of the M.Sc. degree courses can simultaneously work for a degree in engineering, pharmacy or management by spending one extra year. This flexibility has been in operation for the last 30 years at BITS. Combinations such as M.Sc. (Economics) and B.E. (Mechanical), M.Sc. (Maths) and B.E. (Computer Science), M.Sc. (Bio Sciences) and B. Pharmacy, M.Sc. (Chemistry) and B.E. (Chemical Engineering) have been popular with the students and many industries have preferred candidates with such combinations. In addition, this scheme has given very high quality students (95% and above) for science degree programmes as well.

Transfer

Facility is available to students for transfer from one programme to the other in the middle of a programme without having to start from the beginning. This is possible because the student is given the credit for what he has done till then towards the requirements of the programme to which he seeks the transfer. Besides, in the case of bright and promising students of the First Degree programmes, a transfer to Higher Degree and/or Ph.D degree is possible. In the past, a few students have used this flexibility effectively and some of them are pursuing their research component in laboratories and institutions in USA and Australia.

Admission in both semesters

Admission is possible in both semesters, though the bulk of the admissions are made in August. Any cases of late results of boards/universities are considered for second semester admissions which take place in January. This flexibility enables the institute to stick on to the institute calendar.

Admission with marginal deficiency

While the academic preparation required for admission to each degree has been clearly spelt out, there is a provision whereby brilliant students whose prior preparation has been marginally deficient in terms of stated courses/subjects may also be admitted with the condition that they do additional courses to make up for the deficiency.

Electives

A student can choose electives from a wide range of subjects. The electives are particularly useful when a student wishes to prepare himself for a multidisciplinary professional challenge. This allows the student to make his own career planning. Irrespective of his destination degree, he can take courses in emerging areas such as Genetic Engineering, and Knowledge Management.

Acceleration and Deceleration: It is possible for a bright student to complete the degree before the normal prescribed time. Similarly it is possible to go slow towards completion of the degree.

This gives an opportunity to the student to enhance his knowledge, though taking these courses will not earn any credit.

These courses are neither part of the programme nor are available through electives.Education system, especially at the university level, has to be agile, dynamic and flexible. It should prepare the students to face the challenges of the market, and also support the growth of the student to realise his full potential.

Academic regulations need to be made flexible, as far as possible, in order to fulfill the educational goals of the student community.

(The author is Director, BITS Pilani, and can be reached at e-mail: lkm@bits-pilani.ac.in)

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