It's the stubborn irony that marks the end of campus life: graduating 21-year-old engineers walk away with higher pay cheques than their senior PhD fellows.

MUMBAI/ CHENNAI: It's the stubborn irony that marks the end of campus life: graduating 21-year-oldengineers walk away with higher pay cheques than their senior PhD fellows. And, this year is no different at the Indian Institutes of Technology.

Take IIT-Madras for instance, where dual-degree students (those who opt for completing both BTech and MTech in a five-year course) seem to be the most preferred among those registered for placements. By the evening of December 6, while nearly 45% of dual-degree students at the institute had received job offers, the percentage was only 15 for the 151 MS students registered for placements. Out of the 69 PhD candidates, however, only one had been placed. The numbers are not very different at the other IITs.

"Last year, the average salary on campus was Rs 7 lakh, but the average salary for PhD candidates was less than that of the BTechs," said an IIT-Bombay official.In 2005-06, Rangan Banerjee and Vinayak Muley, in their report on engineering education in India, had noted that the average MTech and PhD salary is lower than the average BTech salary in India, a trend that is the exact opposite of that in the US.

Vatul Tarath, student placement manager at IIT-Roorkee, said that companies visiting the campus early in the placement season usually go for BTech candidates. "The two-year MTech and PhD placements happen after the BTech placements. Around the second week, companies extend offers to MTech students and the offers get balanced out by the end of the placement season with the PhD students also getting them," he said.

But not all are as sure. "It has been discussed in many fora that the placement opportunities for MS/PhD scholars are not bright through the regular placement activities of the institute, and it is a cause of concern for the scholars to get good placement after their graduation," IIT-Madras's dean of academic research, Sarit K Das, said in a mail to all the faculty members.

While IIT-Madras has sought the help of faculty to give MS and PhD placements a fillip,at IIT-B, placement chairman Avijit Chatterjee said that the institute allowed a high degree of flexibility to the PhD fellows. They are allowed to participate in the campus placements and scout for jobs independently — an option that is not available to the other students.

Placement heads also said that sometimes PhD students don't register for placements when the others do, because while students in the other courses graduate around the same time, research scholars complete the course at different times. "MSc maths, physics and chemistry students don't do as well as dual-degree and BTech students in the placements because most want to pursue PhD. But, they do register for placements as a back-up option," said a member of the placements team at IIT-Kanpur.