Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Abhinav Maurya
From recent personal experience, some of my statements about placements in this blog are not true. Some of the consulting/finance/other-rubbish profiles are off-limits for graduate students even before any elimination rounds are conducted. Hence, if you are an ambitious careerist interested in being in the industry after your graduate studies and have admits from IIMs or good US/European universities, you might want to give IIT Bombay a miss for greener pastures. After almost a year and a half at IIT Bombay, I have realized that the institution is good only for academic rigor and some of the amazing professors that teach here (my favorites here). Such professors are exceptions to the norm but the situation might be better than anywhere else in the country.
The administration is thoroughly Indian; it sucks as usual. One of the amazing professors I mentioned in the earlier paragraph (Prof. Soumen Chakrabarti whose work has been cited in the PageRank/Google paper http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html) put up the following description of his 'Web Search and Mining' course on IIT Bombay's Course Management System: 'Main building still knows this course by the mouthful "Information Retrieval and Mining for Hypertext and the Web" in spite of requesting them to change the title over five times.'
A query I received recently about studying at CSE, IIT Bombay:-
My name is Axxxx and I just got an AIR of 44 in GATE 2011 which means that I will probably get into the MTech CSE at IIT Bombay. I got your contact off the IIT website and I was wondering if you could help me out by sharing some of your experience. Your profile seemed interesting and I know I can trust somebody who gets XKCD.
So, how do you find the course compared to your BE at VJTI? (I'm from TSEC and really need a change in the level of teaching standards). What about life at IIT campus? And do you know anything about the placements scenario for MTech students? Is it on par with the BTech placements or is it not that good? I have an offer from Oxford University but I'm probably declining it as the UK visa rules are getting extremely annoying for anybody who wishes to gain work experience after their degree there (plus its bloody expensive!).
Anything that you can tell me will really help me in making this decision (IIT vs Oxford) better for me...
I think I will set out the reasons for my decision to come to IIT Bombay. You must evaluate your situation, opportunities, and inclinations to come to your own decision.
I am fairly certain that I will end up either in academia, an R&D lab, or doing a startup. I joined IIT Bombay because I needed a stronger background to pursue a PhD, both in terms of my technical soundness and the reputation of the institution I was going to study at. I had admits from Uppsala for technical masters, and IIM Lucknow and Kozhikode for MBA, besides the IIT admits. I chose IIT Bombay because I was sure I would eventually get bored with standard management stuff (is that really work?), and (surprise, surprise!) I still liked CSE after I graduated from VJTI. I haven't really regretted my decision so far. IIT Bombay provides fabulous facilities and a beautiful campus, and is about an hour from my home.
VJTI, the institution where I spent my undergrad days didn't have a research culture to speak of. I don't really remember any worthwhile professors or well-taught subjects. In short, my undergrad education would amount to zilch for a person looking for rigorous foundations. Consequently, the difference between the UG/PG quality of education has been immense for me. At IIT Bombay, I have been taught and guided by some really great professors; some of them are forerunners in their particular areas of research. Prof. Bhaskar Raman (Systems and Networks) and Prof. Sunita Sarawagi (Machine Learning and Data Mining) are my personal favorites. Prof. Soumen Chakrabarti is also highly regarded and really knowledgeable,
The graduate intake at CSE, IIT Bombay is much larger compared to other IITs. This is a good thing, because it leads to bigger research groups and you almost always have people who share similar research interests. It's a bad thing, because the class sizes increase beyond the desirable graduate class size (maximum ~20-30), leading to lesser attention of professors to each individual student. For better or for worse, the competition for getting into research groups and working under good guides also increases.
Also, IIT Bombay has a much more vibrant social life than other places like IISc and other IITs. It has great placements and a good reputation in case one wants to pursue research further. As far as I know, IIT Bombay has had good placements, but individual preparation and commitment are better indicators of the quality of placements one lands up with rather than past statistics.
Thanks for all that information. The one big factor for me wanting to choose IIT over Oxford was that there is very less research activity on distributed systems and machine learning at Oxford (they focus more on theoretical issues of computer science) but I found quite a few active projects at IIT. The only doubt in my mind was whether the MTech degree was good enough or not.
I have seriously been encouraged to go for IIT after hearing your story (and that of a couple of others). For some reason, I had an ill-formed view that MTech at IIT was inferior to the BTech degree (probably wrong feedback from some IIT undergrads).
I had read Prof. Raman's web pages before, and some faculty in my college were telling me about one Prof. Kavi Arya as well. Knowing that professors like these will be teaching us is really exciting.
I'll hope to meet you in a few months then (assuming of course that I get direct admission)... Good luck with your exams and stuff!