The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are struggling to get the best students. So much so that the cut-off marks have been lowered in the past two years to fill up the seats in the country’s premier engineering institutes.
If a general category student scored 75 out of 372 marks in the joint entrance examination (JEE-Advance) this year, he or she got a rank to get admission in one of the 23 IITs. Reserved category students -- Dalits, tribals and people with disability -- had to secure only 38 marks to secure admission.
The IITs have been forced to lower the bar in the past two years to fill up their seats. This is happening at a time when the IIT Council has decided to increase the intake in IITs from around 70,000 to 100,000 over the next three years, allowing even day scholars to study at the institutes.
The lowing of benchmark in IITs has raised questions about the academic quality. IIT-Roorkee expelled 11 B.Tech students early this year for poor academic performance. Last year, the premier institute had expelled 72 students for dismal academic record, but they were later re-admitted on strict conditions.
Experts say that tough question papers and negative marking in the entrance examination had resulted in the shortfall of candidates meeting the benchmark, forcing the IIT management to lower the bar further to fill up the vacancies.
An IIT director said that there is no dilution of standard in the IITs on account of the lowering of the cut off marks. “The teaching-learning process at IITs is intense, and many students who come with low ranks in JEE turn out as ‘gems’ when they pass out of the B Tech programme,” the director said.
When asked for the reasons for lowering the bar in the last two years, additional secretary in HRD ministry, R Subrahmanyam said that the decision about the cut off is taken by the joint admission board of IITs keeping in view the need to fill up the seats. Sources said that earlier the cut-off was not lowered as enough students had cleared the examination.
A former IIT director said that the government needs to improve the education at the school level so that students appearing for the examination will not require so much of relaxation.
“Maintaining quality is a major issue which is why IITs coach such students so that they are at par with the rest. Students who were expelled by IIT Roorkee in 2015 have done much better now with extra help, coaching from other students and faculty,” said an IIT director.
In 2015, the IITs introduced a new category – Preparatory - as it was unable to fill seats despite carrying out moderation in cut-offs. This year students with as low as 5% marks in JEE advanced have qualified and many have taken admission to IITs. The preparatory candidates would be first given grounding in acquiring conceptual understanding and would join the next batch. Most of the preparatory students are from the reserved category or persons with disability.
To address the issue the IIT council headed by HRD minister has decided to introduce a 3-5 weeks induction programme to help students catch up with the IITs’ standard.
Under the preparatory course students are coached for a period of one year in physics, mathematics and chemistry, for reserved category candidates who fail to make the cut in the entrance. A total of 4923 such students were qualified under the preparatory list.
“We have to follow the quota system and have to admit the required number of students from the reserved category. They will be provided coaching to match the standard of IITs”.
A total of 147678 students appeared for JEE (Advanced) this year, out of which 36566 qualified. A total of 25939 qualified without any relaxation.