This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not a reflection of Ping! as a whole.
A company called Conduira and IIIT have partnered up to sell “Research Internships”. 1
By all appearances, the “internship” appears to be more of a course/bootcamp. Students are required to pay to sign up for it — there is no stipend. There is a certificate of completion/participation awarded based on a graded performance. Professors are listed in the posters. The posters state one will be working on projects. The ‘project’ component might be seen as an internship, which seems to be the rationale behind this branding, which goes to the extent of calling the certificates internship certificates.
This seems to be more deliberate than a mistake, to capitalise on students from other colleges for whom an internship certificate holds more value than a bootcamp, or just another online course, and are thus willing to pay the fee even for an internship. In an email Ping! sent to get a response to the video, Prof. Ramesh Loganathan sent a response denying that it was an effort to misrepresent, which has been attached at the end of the article.
This course/bootcamp listing has been up for well over a week now. However, a prominent Tech Industry-centric youtuber recently made a very critical video on the matter, which is how Ping! itself found out.
Josh Fluke, a popular tech-industry centric youtuber with 438,000+ subscribers at the time of writing, released a video on the “internship program” on the night of the 12th of April. This video is not researched enough with logical jumps: he makes the assumption that IIIT students are mandated to do these internships, which is untrue. People signing up for the internship are supposed to pay, but are usually not IIIT students. The prospect of having to pay to do an internship is not well regarded in IT circles. 2
Given the popularity of the channel coupled with the fact that aspirants and parents tend to look up the college when considering choices, the impact of such a video is significant. The video passes critical value judgements of the Institute, going as far as to ask current students to leave the place as soon as possible. Parents and aspirants, especially many that would have to take out loans to finance their education, are likely to shy away.
As information about IIIT is scarce, aspirants are also likely to check the comments sections of such videos for additional information. Since most of the audience commenting is also uninformed, the comments section is an incredibly faithful recreation of your relatives’ concern when you told them where you were joining instead of the “well renowned local college”. Only this time, they’re convinced that it’s a scam. Students of the college have commented offering further information, although the impact of which is yet to be seen, especially as this is a minority of the comments.
For another demonstration of the video’s impact, Conduira’s website was down for at least an hour after the video went out — presumably a server overload due to the stream of viewers flooding to check it out.
The Nature of pay-for “Internships”, and why is the Institute doing this?
For all intents and purposes, this is a bootcamp branded incorrectly (perhaps maliciously). Given the placement on the homepage, the IIIT administration is either (1) aware of the branding, or (2) completely unaware, and needs to establish both a better system of checks for MoUs and a better policy for how the website is updated. Either way, it appears to be a bad idea as it is actively damaging the Institute’s PR.
We should note that students are still very willing to sign up for such “internships”, as evidenced by the fact that two of the three courses offered were sold out.3 Presumably, even if the students are aware that these “internships” do not follow the usual procedure, the brand value offered by a “IIIT Research Internship” on one’s CV means that students are still likely to buy into these offerings.
But as aforementioned, videos like these that are damaging the Institute’s PR are likely to affect the brand value of the Institute in two manners:
- Future admissions, as we have talked about before
- Companies losing faith in certifications offered by IIIT
Relevant snippets from the email exchange have been quoted as received.
“The program was essentially designed to get students from tier 2 colleges an initial exposure to an emerging technology area (Research Teaser). Through a hands on project. Structured in the lines of a typical internship (you learn some basics needed, learn specific tools/api/frameworks, and build something). It is a learning focussed program, but given they are also building a small project, internship better described the contents
On the nature of the paid internship, he says “… I do understand your point on potentially being misconstrued, the web page gives all info on specific structure of the program and the activities. No effort to misrepresent any aspect. The program is driven purely by our intent tp work with the broader ecosystem IIIT-H functions in. Engg Colleges in and around the city have been something we have been engaging whenever opportunity presents. From FDPs to workshops to inviting them to our r&d showcase and more. And this program is one such. To help students get a chance to delve deeper into an emerging tech area and get a chance to work with research groups”. They also point out that the page clearly refers to it as a course and program.
On the relation to Conduira, “The program is ours. As part of a set of sequentially connected programs to help get more interest in and more students into research. Given we need a platform to execute this at scale, we partnered with Conduira (a startup founded by a IIITH alum)”
Regarding the fee charged, “The fee is a nominal fee to get seriousness. It is not a revenue generating program; and we spend a lot more time and effort (Faculty time, TA mentors, platform et al). “.
Regarding the research tag, “A secondary objective of the program is research connect. The ones that do well will come for a weekend workshop and interaction in the research lab, a chance to spend time with Faculty and researchers in the lab, see some of their works and if interested can also explore working on a project in the lab. “
Update (6:00 PM 13/04/21): The article has been updated to include a response from Prof. Ramesh Loganathan
Editor: Rohan Grover
Designer: Mallika Subramanian
Latest posts by Zubair Abid (see all)
- “Research Internship”: Questions about IIIT’s Brand - April 13, 2021
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- Editorial - August 2020 - August 8, 2020
- Somehow, BITS and their PS system (PS-1 is an internship allotted to students by the Institute for a steep fee) has slid through such criticisms. The implicit fee arises from the compulsory registration for the summer term if one wishes to participate in the PS-1 programme. Cost of the summer term: https://web.archive.org/web/20210412182529/https://www.bitsadmission.com/fdfee201920.aspx