Doing away with multiple tests conducted by central agencies, state governments and private institutions, the government on Friday declared that admission to all engineering colleges will be done through a single entrance examination 2018. A single test for engineering, as well as architecture courses, will be on lines of the National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test, a single, all-India test for entry to medical and dental colleges launched in 2016. However, students seeking admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will have to clear the JEE-Advanced after taking the engineering entrance exam. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the country’s top body which frames rules and regulations for engineering and technical institutes, has been advised to ensure that the testing process is standardised keeping in view the linguistic diversity of the country.
This move will go down well with students if the aim of the process is finally met: A transparent, standardised, and free of corruption and commercialisation structure for a country that urgently needs a large educated and employable population. At present, India has more than 3,300 approved engineering colleges affiliated to universities, with an annual intake of an estimated 1.6 million students. But only about half of the seats are filled. The current admission process at the graduation level is dependent on performance in entrance examinations conducted by various agencies. The Central Board of Secondary Education conducts the JEE-Main for Centre-funded institutions. More than 1.3 million students write this examination every year. A number of states conduct their own tests while some grant admission based on marks obtained in Class 12. Several private colleges also have their individual entrance examinations.
The decision for a common entrance test for engineering and architecture colleges can be viewed as part of deeper structural changes in higher education that the government is undertaking. Finance minister Arun Jaitley made two critical and important promises in the budget: First, the government will undertake “reforms in the University Grants Commission” and that “good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy. He also added that colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and will be given autonomous status and a revised framework will be put in place for outcome-based accreditation and credit-based programmes. Last year, the central government had announced big funding for setting 10 private and 10 government institutions to be taken the world-class level. Such intentions are good but key to their success would be the quality of professionals they hire. The other decision that has been lauded by experts is the plan to use DTH channels to link online courses available on the Swayam platform. In the coming year, there is a plan to launch 350 courses on that platform.