The government is considering conducting a single entrance examination for admission to all engineering colleges, including private institutions, across the country.
The proposed joint entrance examination (JEE) for engineering colleges, which is said to be human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar brainchild, could kick in from 2018.
The test, pending clearance, will be on the lines of the national eligibility-cum-entrance exam (NEET) for entry into medical colleges, sources in the HRD ministry said.
It is aimed at bringing transparency to the admission procedure, including checking the practice in some private institutions of extracting a heavy capitation fee from students.
“The aim is to make the process more transparent, standardised, and free of corruption and commercialisation,” a government official said.
India has more than 3,300 approved engineering colleges affiliated to universities, with an annual approved intake of above 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 (CBSE) conducts the JEE-Main for centre-funded institutions. More than 1.3 million students write this examination every year.
The top-rankers from JEE-Main are eligible to write the JEE-Advanced for the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). In the new system, students aspiring for the IITs will have to pass the nationwide common entrance test with high marks and take the JEE-Advanced.
These apart, a number of states conduct their own test. Others grant admission based on marks obtained in class 12.
Several private colleges have their individual entrance examinations. But “some of them, which are self-financed, charge high fees or sell seats in the name of management or NRI quota at a premium”, a source said.
Only a handful of students crack the tough exams set for top colleges such as the IITs, leaving thousands of aspiring engineers to dash for private institutions, many of which are notorious teaching shops.
These colleges have become a magnet for mostly middle-class families in a country where an engineering degree is considered a ticket to a lifetime of fat pay cheques or jobs in the US.
Some of the private colleges admit students without basic talent and aptitude for engineering, affecting overall quality, the source said.
Of the 737,000 graduates in 2014-15, only half found employment. Most of the students didn’t meet expectations of companies offering jobs.
The proposal for a single, nationwide test is viewed as an attempt to streamline the dysfunctional education system. It was discussed at a recent meeting of officials from the HRD ministry and the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulator for engineering colleges.
The council will issue regulations for the examination. Issues such as the number of times the examination would be conducted in a year and the minimum qualification marks are yet to be worked out.
A source said the AICTE is planning to conduct web-based counselling sessions for admissions to engineering colleges based on students’ all-India ranking obtained in the entrance examination.
“States would be invited to join the counselling process to fill the seats in colleges under their jurisdiction,” the source said.
The states will be able to prescribe their admission criteria, apart from the score in the entrance test. The JEE score will, however, be the minimum eligibility criteria, the source said.