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A national test for admission into IIT, NIT & all engineering colleges

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IIT Council defers decision on fee hike, financial autonomy

The IIT Council in its meeting on Tuesday held in IIT Bombay decided to introduce a national test for admission into engineering institutes. Union minister for human resource development and chairperson IIT Council Smriti Zubin Irani expressed concern over extensive coaching classes that prepare students to compete in entrance exams for premium engineering institutes like IITs and NITs. A committee has been set up comprising IIT Roorkee chairperson Ashok Misra, IIT Kharagpur chairperson Pawan Goenka and IIT Gandhinagar chairperson Baldev Raj to come up with a working proposal by October-end to institute one national entrance exam for engineering institutes pan-India. The meeting also decided against effecting a much-anticipated hike in tuition fees for IIT students as it was felt that such a move would impose a burden on meritorious but financially stressed students. Instead the Council decided to set up a second committee to suggest restructuring of funds flow to the IITs and give them autonomy to raise their own resources.

At present, there is a two-step joint entrance exam (JEE) for IITs and NITs. The qualifying list of NIT is derived from the JEE (main), while those selected for the IITs have to clear JEE (advanced). Only students qualifying in the JEE (main) can take the JEE advanced. Over 1.3 million students took the JEE (main) exam in 2015, of whom the top 150,000 went on to take the JEE (advance) exam for admission into IITs and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (ISM Dhanbad). The NITs absorb about 30,000 students and IITs about 9,000. The JEE scores are also a gateway for admissions into 350 state engineering colleges, Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology and 40 other engineering colleges across the country. Highly competitive, as the JEE is, the aspiration to qualify in it has led students to coaching classes. With a view to contain coaching classes and to compel students to pay more attention to their school studies, the JEE policy in 2012 gave weightage to the twelfth board exam scores. This, however, had no impact on the scale of coaching. While a well-designed national test may save students money and trouble, it is not clear how this would stop coaching classes. It is also not very clear whether the national test is for the centrally funded institutes or for all engineering colleges across the country, as the states have the freedom to design their own entrance policies. Although not part of the IIT Council agenda, there is clearly an urgency to introduce it. Under the IIT Act, 1961, the IITs enjoy academic autonomy and have the right to decide their examination system. The senates in the IITs are vested legally with the powers to discuss academic issues and matters of common interest like entrance exams are decided through joint committees that the IITs set up among themselves. Since 2012, the entrance exam issue has been discussed in the IIT council. Several IIT senates had resisted the proposal of a single exam and the IIT council had to modify its original proposal of a ‘one-nation one-test’ for joint exam for IITs and NITs. It is to be seen how the statutorily established decentralised academic autonomy of the IITs will respond to this decision.

Another crucial concern discussed in the IIT council meeting was fund constraints. Even while the government has increased the number of Its and has committed itself to an IIT in each state, plan funds for the old and existing new IITs, this fiscal, have declined from Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 1,835 crore. Tuesday’s meeting decided to set up a committee comprising director IIT Bombay Devang Khakhar, director IIT Madras Bhaskar Ramamurthy, and director IIT Kharagpur Partha Chakravarthy to suggest a restructuring of funds released to the IITs. The recommendations of the Kakodkar committee set up by the ministry of human resource development in its report in 2011, had made several suggestions on restructuring financial support that the IITs receive from the ministry. This included doing away with the plan/non-plan difference, increase budget support for capital and expansion expenses and let the IITs meet their operation expenses from their own resources, mainly by raising the fees. Although the fee hike issue was discussed it was felt that this might impose a burden on the not so well off students. Director IIT Kharagpur Partha Pratim Chakravarthy told Financial Chronicle, “Fee increase without due consideration and deep thought would adversely impact the socially, academically and economically weak students and would devastate the hard work that these students put in to get into IITs. Once these students qualify in the IITs on merit, the present financial model of IITs is such that it takes care of their needs and ensures them the best quality education in the country. This model should not be distorted by a fee hike.” The council felt that before considering the need for a fee hike, an exercise would be taken for restructuring the way funds are released to the IITs. The last fee hike was in 2013 by 80 per cent, raising the tuition fee for undergraduate course to Rs 90,000 per annum. – Courtesy


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