Monday, January 06, 2014

Government seeks common counselling during IIT & NIT admissions again

The government is reviving a plan, which has been thwarted before, to hold joint counselling sessions at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) to avoid seats going vacant. The IITs have previously blocked such a proposal on the grounds that their admissions process ends a month or so before that of the NITs. Others say the resistance stems from the IITs considering themselves a cut above the NITs and not wanting to dilute this branding. But the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has again asked that the 16 IITs and 30 NITs jointly guide students on course choice.

The current system allows candidates to get admission offers from both the IITs and NITs. With the IIT admission process starting earlier, candidates join courses even though they may not have got the specialisation that they want, they are loath to let go of a confirmed seat. But if they get the course they want at one of the NITs, they may give up the IIT seat. By this time, it's too late to offer the IIT place to the next student on the list.

The ministry knows that the IITs are likely to resist the directive once again but ministry officials are of the view that this is killing the chances of students lower down the merit list. "Common counselling will reduce the vacancy of seats," said Ashok Thakur, Higher Education Secretary, MHRD.

Last year, 600 places were unfilled, double what it was in 2012. "Often candidates pay the admission fee for their allotted seats in an IIT and in an NIT, and then decide where they want to join. Very often they don't cancel their admission till the last minute, resulting in vacancies that become clear only after the session starts," a ministry official said. "As a result, many candidates with lower JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) ranks do not get the opportunity for admission."

Common counselling means a student will receive only one offer from the IITs and NITs. A second option will be given only if the candidate rejects the first offer. "A student will receive an offer from only one institute, either an IIT or an NIT, at a time," Thakur said. The IITs said the admission for the two sets of schools being about a month apart makes it difficult to coordinate the process when the joint counselling system was suggested last year.

The IITs have opposed efforts to put in place common processes, be they related to entrance examinations or counselling. "There is a sense in the IITs that any such effort would dilute their brand and undermine their image as the country's premier engineering institution," said the administrator of an engineering college that's not an IIT. The ministry is of the view the qualitative difference between the IITs and NITs is not that wide. "The difference between the IITs and NITs intake marks is a very few percentage points," Thakur said.The ministry plans to be resolute this time around, despite the likelihood that the IITs will resist the plan.

Thakur said a joint counselling system was in keeping with the aim of a unified entrance examination for all engineering colleges. "At the last IIT Council meeting, it was agreed that there would a joint entrance examination for all centrally funded technical institutions from 2015-16," he said. In 2012, the IIT Council decided to move forward with a single exam for admission to centrally-funded institutions.

The IITs opposed the common exam on the ground that it would adversely impact "quality". They argued that the JEE and the admission process was integral to ensuring that the IITs continued to be the country's top engineering colleges. Over the course of a few months and repeated discussions, it was decided that the IITs would select students on the basis of a second test, the JEE Advanced, while the NITs would use the JEE Main scores and the Class XII board exam results as well.

Source: The Economic Times, January 6, 2014

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