Now, B.Tech students at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) have the option of skipping the final year project that was till now mandatory and instead take up electives of their choice in consultation with faculty advisors.

The faculty of some of the departments felt that the projects should not be made mandatory unless the students took sufficient interest.

Deliberating on the issue, the IIT-M's senate has decided that the students should be given the option of either taking up the project or three or four courses from the electives.

“Unless there is tremendous motivation, it will be very difficult for every student to do something significant in the project. Not every student is motivated. We can't force motivation,” said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT-M.

Unlike in other technical institutions where groups of students were assigned projects, the students at IIT-M would have to do their project alone. Otherwise, one student would be doing it and the others watching it. “Here, you need a lot of interest to do something very well in four months,” he said.

Asked if it was based on the feedback from students, Mr. Ramamurthi said it was based on the faculty assessment to let interested students take up projects and others do other courses. “It can be from any of the electives. Be it theory papers or simulation-based work. The students will have to consult their faculty advisors and take up courses which make some coherent sense (to their area of study and specialisation),” he said. “However, students of M.Tech and Dual Degree programmes will have to do projects as part of their course,” the IIT-M director said.

Prof. Idichandy, former deputy director, IIT-M, thinks that it is time the engineering colleges in the State followed the IIT-M footsteps by not insisting on the final year projects as most of the students in city colleges walk into Ritchie Street to get their projects done.

“There is an industry thriving on student projects. It is time the affiliating universities looked at the necessity of the projects,” said Mr. Idichandy, who has discussed the issue with Prof.C. Thangaraj, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University of Technology, Chennai – the affiliating university for about 170 engineering colleges in Chennai and northern districts.

Admitting that they had a discussion on the issue, Mr. Thangaraj said: “It may be good for IIT-ians. In engineering colleges, the students need to practise what they learn in theory. They need to know how theory can be applied. It is true that the students outsource their projects. We need to find solutions for that. The faculty can be trained and provided with facilities and students should be made to do the projects in the college itself,” he said emphasising that “final year projects can't be done away with.”