What is the difference between an M.Tech from an IIT and an M.S. from a top 50 US university for computer science?


This post was good and relevant to a few things I have to say about the Indian education system, so I thought I would cross post it onto my blog(it has been slightly edited to reflect my views) –

This short story is the perfect fit here and for so many other questions here on Quora. I am sure many of us can relate ..


Consider two students. One, Raj, is a financially well-off kid of above average smartness, and the other, Hari is your typical genius. Hari toils it out to get into the IIT, and by virtue of his intelligence does some outstanding preparation. Raj frankly doesn’t have the same academic caliber. He does well in his board examinations, but knows he’s not on the same level as Hari. He does the best thing he can – he decides to apply abroad, to the US. Hari, frankly, thinks Raj is taking the easy way out, and because he can’t afford to go abroad, continues focusing on the IIT. Come exam season, it turns out that Hari comes 7th in the IIT. He is ecstatic. Like every other single digit ranker, he decides to do Computer Science at IIT Delhi. Meanwhile, Raj is also ecstatic that he made it to Carnegie Mellon in the US, to do Computer Science. He knows he didn’t really have to work really hard, but he is very pleased.

Fast forward 4 years in the future.
Hari has a great 9.6/10 CGPA at IIT, and is at the top of his class. Raj, on the other hand, has a not-too-shabby 3.52/4.0 at CMU. Both of them are getting all ready to make career choices. In terms of options, Raj has an array of great choices ranging from Facebook, Google, and a whole list of Silicon Valley tech companies, known both for their great compensation and work life balance. He is relaxed about his future and starts thanking the decision he made 4 years ago. Meanwhile Hari, despite being at the top of his class, hates the fact that he has to go through a huge random process to get an offer even comparable to Raj. Very few people from the IIT will end up with that great offer from abroad and most land decent-ish jobs in India. He starts realizing his CGPA hardly matters if he doesn’t do well on his “written tests”. He does not look forward to it. Eventually though, he works extra extra hard and ends up working at the same place as Raj.

What happened? There are two theories:

1. The Indian Mindset: If you’re from India, this story is probably not new to you. You think Raj ‘paid his way to success’ while Hari really ‘struggled it out’. You are of the belief that Hari is infinitely smarter and better than Raj, and that Raj ‘got lucky’ because American companies are bound to recruit him because he’s from an American college. Raj is an undeserving rich kid and Hari is a genius. If you had to brag about one of them, you’d easily choose Hari anyday.

2. What I think is the Truth: Hari was smarter, yes. But college equalized those differences. While Hari took not-so-challenging and quite outdated IIT Computer Science classes, Raj took extremely hard and challenging CS classes, specialized in Systems, learnt from some of the greatest Computer Scientists in the world, researched with them too, interned at a bunch of great companies as well, met some of the most influential people in the Valley, and had a academically rough but extremely educational 4 years.

Moral of the Story

As I said, we’ve all heard of this story in some form. Now, getting to the point of the question, what are academic shortcomings of the IIT?

Everything I just said, really. If you could put intelligence on a scale of 0 to 100, IIT made Hari go from a 70 to a 80, but CMU made Raj go from a 45 to an 85. CMU would’ve probably made Hari go to a 90 and more, had he gone. The point is, with respect to Computer Science at least, the focus is wrong. The IITs don’t really teach their students much. There is a high correlation between being in IIT and being smart but this isn’t the causation. They took already smart people and claimed them as under the “IIT” brand. I feel like this misconception drives most of the IIT hype. You don’t have world class research at the IITs, you don’t have broad course offerings, you don’t have an internet based education system, you don’t have practical based courses, you don’t have exposure to the industry, you don’t have exposure to the most influential people in your field, so frankly, you don’t have much.


Reference Source : Inside IIT – #212 Consider two students. One, Raj, is a…

Edit :
As pointed out to me in one of the comments :
Original Source of the story was  Debarghya Das’ answer to What are the shortcomings in academics at IIT’s?

What is the difference between an M.Tech from an IIT and an M.S. from a top 50 US university for computer science?

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