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EECS weighs change to 5-year program



Undergraduates Would

Receive SM Under Plan



(By Reuven M. Lerner)


A committee of faculty members in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is considering a plan that would effectively replace the four-year bachelor's program with a five-year master's degree.

The EECS Committee on the First Professional Degree (CFPD) has been meeting since early this year to determine which changes, if any, are necessary in the undergraduate Course VI curriculum. Their initial proposal, which EECS Professor and committee member Leonard A. Gould '48 described as "more administrative than academic," would let "the vast majority" of EECS undergraduates receive a master's degree after a fifth year of study.

Gould said that the changes are unlikely to take effect for news1

at least four or five years.

According to a memorandum written by CFPD chair David H. Staelin '60, the committee is considering changes because "EECS SB students are not adequately mastering the fundamentals." The report adds that since it would be impossible to exclude material from any of the current EECS core courses, the only remedy for this situation is to add more required subjects.

The committee considered extending the bachelor's program by one year, but rejected the idea because previous attempts at "five-year accredited SB programs . . . have failed." The only solution, they decided, would be to offer a new master's degree at the conclusion of five years of study. An unaccredited bachelor's degree, without a thesis requirement, would be available after four years.

Staelin's report acknowledged that "a great deal of weight is being placed" on the idea that all of the material in the current core subjects is relevant and necessary. "The single most important thing we must do, therefore, is review the basic core curriculum and collectively validate that crucial assertion," he added.

The memorandum explains that the program would be "presented for faculty review," and that students would "also be asked about these individual proposed changes to the degree programs."

Gould said that CFPD members had spoken with between 40 and 50 EECS faculty about the proposal, almost all of whom approved of the idea.

One potential problem with the proposal is how students will finance a fifth year of study. While most undergraduates pay for their own education, Gould said, graduate students usually are paid for through a teaching assistantship, research assistantship or fellowship. The committee report suggested that fifth-year master's students be restricted to "three terms as an RA or four terms as a TA prior to completion of the SM program," in order to make the funds available to more students.

The report describes the revised master's program as one which would take "the equivalent of one-half term of effort . . . spread over a longer period." Theses written under the new system would generally be shorter than they are now, though their quality would remain a major factor in a student's admission into the doctoral program. Students entering the MIT graduate EECS program would "generally proceed directly to our PhD program," although "less qualified students" would have to complete a masters program either at MIT or at another school.