Rising From Reproval: Minor Degree Program
To complement your chosen major and future aspiration, the minor degree program is one of the academic reforms introduced to help customize your studies to your career goals and demonstrate that you are forward-thinking, organized, and self-motivated. Significant reasons for opting for a minor degree include broadening coursework to show one's interest in multiple areas, thereby improving employment opportunities, exploring personal interests and talents, broadening skillset and developing a fundamental concept for research in a multidisciplinary project.
An initiative since 2018-19, the program offers a choice to the UG students to expand their knowledge and expertise, wherein they have to take at least six additional courses (4 theory and two lab courses) consisting of 16 credits between 3rd and 8th semester to be eligible to receive a minor degree.
The programme has witnessed considerable amendments to integrate suggestions by the students and faculty, which includes the introduction of separate grade sheets, specified course structure, and laboratory courses. However, the speculation remains, whether the curriculum gives preference to industrial applications for improving relevant skills for companies to consider during placements, and hence succeeded in proving its vitality. Let's find out by assessing the current scenario.
Eligibility Criteria: The minimum CGPA requirement for filling the choice for minor degree courses saw an elevation from 7.5 to 8, as in the previous years.
Vacancy in Seats: In comparison with the last year, a surge in the strength in all the courses is evident, with filled seats in Computer Science and Engineering, Electronics and Communication Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Few departments still could not attract many students to enrol in the degree.
Opening and Closing CGPA: Since its advent, the programme has been very distinguished among 1st-year students who after the completion of 2nd semester eagerly enrol for the minor degree. The opening and closing ranks of various minor degree department courses are as follows.
Revisions in the program
Separate grade cards: In the face of many students’ questions as to why the minor degree performance was being reflected in the overall GPA, Prof. Saroj Kumar Patel said in a previous article by Monday Morning that steps were being taken to create a separate grade card for the minor degree courses.
The administration has stood up to their words. Now two separate grade cards are available on the website. One grade card is the same for all students, regardless of whether they have enrolled for a minor, and the other grade card reflects the performance in minor degree courses. The students have welcomed this change.
Credits and Course structure: During the registration for minor degrees in the year 2020-21, a circular was released which stated that- “A student will be eligible to receive a minor degree when they take at least six additional courses ( four Theory and two Lab courses) constituting 16 credits between 3rd to 8th semesters.”
Emphasis has been given to include lab courses in the minor degree curriculum to understand the practical applications of the minor courses. This is essential as companies would surely look for practical understanding of the students’ minor courses during placements.
The various courses present in the minor degree offered by a particular branch are available on the official website of the institute. This way, the students are not blindly opting for minor degrees and can make an informed decision.
Graduating with a minor degree: The minor degree was introduced for the batch of 2017-21. With them being in their final year, a clear picture of the minor degree benefits will be obtained this year. The students who have opted for a minor degree will graduate with a separate certificate for the minor degree and graduation certificate for their major degree.
Scope for Improvement
Interactive teaching: Some students feel that there is a need for improvement in the teaching methodology for minor degree courses. There persists the problem of non-interactive teaching because of which a section of students is dissatisfied.
Harsh Mohan, a final year student from the Computer Science department, pursuing minor in Electronics and Communication Engineering says-
The students are from different streams. Hence their knowledge base is not consistent across the class, which is often not considered.
Flexible attendance: Some students have expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the strict attendance policies. Often the attendance policies for the minor are the same as that of the major, which should be changed as these courses are opted by the students based on their interest. So, they should not be compelled to attend classes.
Resolving the placement dilemma: There are various reasons behind students opting for minor degree courses. Some students expect to optimize their chances of internships and placements.
When asked about the scenario of internships during the last academic year, Anshuman Maharana, Placement Secretary for the academic year 2019-20 highlighted-
By their pre-final year, a significant portion hadn’t been covered when companies visited the campus to recruit for summer internships. So, students weren’t eligible. The primary stakeholders are software aspirants, but the companies have specific internal policies that might make them skeptical about letting the students sit due to their enrolled minor degree, at least in the near future. A combined HR and Business team make all these decisions. They might agree to it a few years down the line.
The first batch pursuing minor degrees is sitting for the placements for the very first time this year. When asked about the prospect of placements and if the minor degree would aid students in availing better placements, Swadha, Placement Secretary for the academic year 2020-21 had the following to say-
As the PlaceComm, we pitch the companies from our end to allow minor degree students, for example, if a company allows CH and ME, then we try that students having minor degrees in these branches are also made eligible, but ultimately, it's the company's decision. So far, there hasn't been any major change, also because we are merely in the starting stage of this placement season. I believe that a minor degree should improve placement chances as it expands the skill set of students. We are trying hard from our end. There hasn't been any major improvement yet as the recruiters have strict eligibility criteria. Till now, only a couple of companies have been flexible with minor degrees, ultimately opening their eligibility to all, based on skills. However, I expect the situation to get better once the pandemic condition is over. I do believe that an addition of a minor degree gives the students an edge, depending upon the company's job profile and sector.
Providing choice in subjects: When asked about the changes they would want to get implemented, many suggested that the courses be designed to collectively help the students for placements, higher studies, and exams like GATE. Practical skills and industrial applications should be given more emphasis than theory.
Soutrik Mukherjee, a third-year student from the Department of Industrial Design, pursuing minor in Mechanical Engineering came up with the suggestion-
I opted for a minor degree in Mechanical Engineering because I had a keen interest in it. I think projects should be introduced in minor degrees as well.
Students also demand the syllabus to be more flexible and a choice for selection of the courses based on their areas of interest. Kaustav Ray, a final year student from the Departments of Mining Engineering, pursuing minor in Mechanical Engineering, said-
I am dissatisfied due to the unavailability of preferred subjects. Choices should be provided, and students should be allowed to choose the courses that they want to study.
Many students have shown interest in other branches and hence institute should contemplate adding new branches for the minor degree program. The programme is still in its infancy with the first batch sitting for placements this year. It has overcome many odds that it was initially subjected to and a higher number of students are opting for a minor degree each year.
Team MM remains optimistic that the authorities would keep acknowledging the grievances of students and make crucial changes towards the quintessence of the programme.