New Delhi: The government and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) dissenting over the process of admission to the elite engineering schools have agreed to a compromise that advances the concept of “one nation, one test”, but effectively makes admission to IITs even more daunting than it has been.
Under a plan adopted on Wednesday, those aspiring for a seat in India’s centrally funded engineering schools have to appear for a so-called Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)-Main. Only the top 150,000 would be eligible for taking a shot at an engineering seat in IITs through another exam called the JEE-Advanced, which would be held a few days later, and the top-ranked among these aspirants will be eligible for the 9,000-odd engineering seats at IITs and other affiliated institutions.
A file photo of HRD minister Kapil Sibal.
Additionally, those in this pool and who choose an IIT seat, must perform well enough in their school board exams to be ranked in the top 20% of the graduating students. Currently, any student scoring 60% in the board examination is eligible for a shot at an IIT seat.
This format will be in force for engineering aspirants from 2013; the JEE-Advanced exam will be conducted by the IIT body that now administers the current engineering admission test.
The plan was adopted unanimously by an apex board consisting of government representatives, IIT directors and other experts, seeking to end a controversy that erupted in late May after human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal announced a single entrance exam for admission to engineering colleges after a meeting with the the councils of IITs, the National Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology.
Sibal, who chairs all the councils, said his motive was to reduce the stress on students having to write multiple exams, lend weight to the class XII board exam and reduce the influence of coaching centres that prepare students.
He said applicants will be selected on the basis of three tests—the class XII board examination and a JEE-Main as well as the Advanced test, with varying weights allotted to each.
Faculty and alumni associations from several IITs had protested the initial proposal, saying that an inordinate weightage for school examinations could dilute the quality of IITians. The current compromise was effected after two IITs—Kanpur and Delhi—said they would conduct their own entrance examinations.
Sanjay Dhande, director of IIT-Kanpur, said there was “near unanimity” on the current proposal. “Today’s meeting had everyone on board and what we have now agreed on is after consulting faculty who were dissenting,” he said. “The only difference is that you can’t get into IITs by neglecting school. Everything else remains basically the same,” he added.
To be sure, the IIT Council is made up of the chairmen and directors of IITs, but members of the IIT senates, which consist of senior faculty, could still oppose its decisions.
Alumni associations of several IITs, which were belligerently opposed to Sibal’s initial proposal, were only partially mollified.
“While we are glad that the senates’ wish to have complete control (academic as well as administrative) over the JEE-Advanced has been accepted, their wish that no change should be forced upon the IIT system until 2014 has not been addressed,” said Somnath Bharti, president of the IIT Delhi Alumni Association. “Also, restricting the eligibility (for) JEE-Main to the top 20 percentile of school boards, we perceive, is pro-rich and will be detrimental to the interests of students from rural India.”