A small window opened on Tuesday for the resolution of the ugly row between the HRD ministry and some of the IITs over the new format of the common entrance exam for admission into the elite engineering institutes.
In Washington to attend the India-US Education Dialogue, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday offered to address the objections of some Indian Institutes of Technology to the new test even as he strongly defended the new system.
The minister said he believes the new system doesn't jeopardise the autonomy of the IITs.
"If I am enlightened on how it will be jeopardised, I am always open to be empowered," he said, adding that he was willing to address the issue after he returned to India.
Reacting to Sibal's statement, Somnath Bharti, president of the IIT-Delhi Alumni Association, which is at the forefront of the stir against the new exam, said: "We welcome the assurances on the question of autonomy of IIT. We will surely prefer a solution through dialogue."
At the heart of the controversy lies the HRD ministry's decision to push through a new format of exams for admission to the 17 IITs in the face of stiff opposition from various quarters.
* Of the 7 older IITs (Kanpur, Kharagpur, Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Roorkee and Guwahati), the senates of 5 IITs had demanded that the 2012 pattern should continue in 2013;
* Several IITs objected to the inclusion of Class 12 board marks in the selection criteria; and
* Six of the seven IIT senates said IITs should conduct a separate test to select candidates;
However, the HRD ministry disregarded all these views and decided to implement the new exam pattern from 2013, based on support from the IIT council, which included institute directors and chairmen.
IIT-Kanpur has already come out openly against the new system. Its senate, which met on June 8, decided to junk the joint entrance exam and conduct its own admission test. Its new admission committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday.
"The new JEE will not only ruin IIT's autonomy but will also be detrimental to the interests of students from rural India," said Bharti.
IIT-Delhi senate will meet on June 21 and discuss the issue, while the IIT-Khargapur Teacher's Association will on the same day decide its strategy. IIT-Bombay is also planning a senate meeting later this month.