IIT admission board to meet today, vacant SC/ST seats on agenda

Anubhuti Vishnoi, August 13, 2008 , Indian Express

New Delhi, August 12: When the IIT Joint Admission Board (JAB) holds its emergency meeting on Wednesday in Delhi, topmost on the agenda will be the recent suggestion by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) asking that all new IITs also introduce preparatory courses for SC/ST students who failed to qualify. Now, armed with statistical data to show how this is going to “stretch things too far¶ not only in terms of inadequate infrastructure and faculty but also potential dilution of the premier institute’s standards, the IIT directors will be putting forward their case at the board meeting which also has MHRD officials as members.

 The existing IITs— all mentoring six new IITs started this year either from their own campus or from temporary campus elsewhere — are already facing a daunting task arranging infrastructure and faculty for the new institutes. The ministry’s latest advisory, in such a situation, has not gone down well with the IIT community.

The issue of holding prep courses for the six new IITs started this year has been tossed back and forth between the MHRD and the IITs and last heard the IITs were not holding prep courses for the new institutes. However, at a meeting with all IIT directors held last week by the ministry, the latter asked that the course should be conducted for new IITs also to help fill vacancies.

“The ministry’s stand has been very unclear. They tell us in May to start/mentor a new IIT and then when it is done against all odds despite infrastructure and faculty constraints, they insist on preparatory courses as well. This really stretches things too far. That apart, the question of bringing down the cut- off further is not a very good idea and is widely opposed¶, says a source.

IITs have been conducting preparatory courses for students from reserved categories if they are unable to qualify the JEE but have scored certain minimum marks. Preparatory classes are then held for them in IITs for a year. If their performance in the ensuing exam is adjudged on par with other IITians, they join in from the next academic session.

While all existing IITs already conduct year-long preparatory courses, it was expected that at new IITs, this process would only start from the next academic session. However, the ministry feels that this should not be put off as the highly sought after IIT seats will then go to waste.

While the only mid-way between the ministry’s point of view and the IITs’concerns is likely to be found with existing IITs offering to hold the preparatory courses for new institutes on their own campus, that is clearly not going to be easy.

“We are barely managing the temporary IIT Gandhinagar campus, given the shortage of faculty. There is no way we can hold the preparatory course there, but it isn’t feasible in our Mumbai campus either as we are short of space,¶ says professor Ashok Mishra, director, IIT Mumbai.

“At IIT missing a single day’s classes matter. How will students manage missing weeks of prep classes? Also one needs senior faculty for the prep course as these students come from different boards with different sets of sensitivities. Also even if the cut-off is brought down further, it is not necessary that all vacant seats will be filled,¶ says an IIT-Mumbai faculty member.

Statistical experts from the JEE will help IIT directors decide on just what is the ‘absolute minimum’ of marks that should be allowed to enable admission to an institute.

“The big question is how these vacancies can be filled without compromising the quality of education. While at IIT Kanpur it is not such a big problem, those working out of temporary campuses will have a harder time,¶ said professor S K Dhande, director, IIT Kanpur.

That this is a challenge for the new IITs operating out of temporary campuses is quite clear. IIT Patna operating with far from state-of-the-art facilities, for example, is hardly in any position to hold preparatory classes. “No…we will not be able to hold prep classes. But we will look into taking the IITP preparatory students into IITG. If this happens, next year these students will join IITP,¶ said Gautam Barua, director, IIT Guwahati and acting director for IIT Patna.

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