Crowded classes at the oldest Indian Institute of Technology, in Kharagpur, may have spawned an unexpected problem - increased copying among students in crucial tests that determine their overall performance at the premier engineering school.
Senior IIT Kharagpur computer science professor Rajeev Kumar has written to top Institute authorities pointing out "rampant copying" among students, especially in subject examinations held by specific departments.
This cheating is a result of improper seating arrangements, Kumar has written to Director Damodar Acharya and Institute examinations in-charge B Maiti, requesting a special meeting of the IIT Senate to discuss the problem.
But senior IIT Kharagpur officials blame the space crunch caused by the massive 54 per cent increase in total student intake following the implementation of the OBC quota law, to explain their inability to space student test-takers better.
The hike in total student intake -- across categories -- means that the IIT is currently faced with a space shortage in classes, hostels and in examination halls.
This space shortage forces the IIT to seat students appearing for the same subject next to each other, facilitating cheating, the officials argued.
But while curbing any copying is a priority, ensuring students appearing for the same subject test do not sit next to each other will not be easy, they said.
"We have 1400 first year students who appear for the same subjects. We are struggling for space. Fancy seating arrangements are something we cannot afford at the moment," a senior administrator said.
Scores in the IIT examinations all contribute to the cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of students at the end of their course. The CGPA plays a key role in determining eligibility of students in the eyes of companies that come for on-campus placements, and higher educational institutions.
Kumar has suggested mapping the student seating to the subject they appear for, and then ensuring that no two subjects are close to each other. He has argued that this system of seating was followed earlier based on his proposal and had proved successful.
"Kumar's argument appears justified, and his suggestion should be followed. But if space is indeed a barrier in implementing Kumar's solution, the institute's position must also be understood," another senior IIT Kharagpur professor said.
Kumar is arguing that his seating suggestion can be followed despite the space constraints but IIT authorities argue they need an upcoming new academic block to be ready for seating problems to be sorted out.