With the score of 99% in Class 10 exams, Mihir Chavarkar could have secured admission in any of the top science colleges in Mumbai. Instead, the 15-year-old’s first preference in the online admissions to first year junior college (FYJC) was Pace Junior Science College, Nerul. The college, run by a coaching institute, does not have an attached degree college.
Chavarkar said he opted for the college as it offered an integrated programme - preparing students for Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) along with Class 12 boards. “I enrolled in the college as I had heard their faculty is good. Their programme will also help me secure admission to IIT,” he said.
Top science colleges are no longer the first choice of Class 10 high scorers wanting to pursue science in Class 11. Those seeking careers in engineering or medicine, are choosing lesser-known, privately-run colleges, raising questions about the future of the junior colleges science sections of renowned institutes.
This year, Pace Junior Science College, Andheri had the highest cut-off for science at 95% in the first merit list for FYJC online admissions. Even a lesser-known institute, Alpha Junior College, Vile Parle, set its cut-off at 94% in the first merit list. Their cut-offs beat those of the top three science colleges in the city - Ruia College, Matunga (93.4%), Sathaye College, Vile Parle, (93.94%) and DG Ruparel College, Matunga (92.81%).
“The standard of students opting to study science at our college has started falling since few years with the entry of (junior) colleges offering integrated courses,” said a principal from a reputed science college, on condition of anonymity.
“Our best professors, retired vice principals are switching to these colleges. Being a government-aided college, we cannot match their high salaries,” the principal said, adding, “Also, they attract toppers by offering scholarships but charge exorbitant fees from the rest of the students.”
Others said competition at the junior-college level does not make much of a difference for degree colleges. “Funding for degree colleges comes from UGC. Even the NAAC grade depends on degree courses,” said Basanti Roy, director, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan and former divisional secretary of the Maharashtra state board. “Small junior colleges will hardly be any threat to their existence.”