I have the closing ranks of all the programs offered through JEE from 2003 through 2010. I thought I will spend some time studying the trends and see what patterns emerge as a result. I have done two kinds of analysis. One, comparing 2003 preferences to 2010 preferences. This gives us the longer term trends. Two, comparing 2009 preferences to 2010 preferences to capture any sudden or recent trends. This was particularly done for programs in recently started IITs.
Please note that there are far too many variables which could have affected the preferences and the closing ranks. First of all, in these 8 years, the number of seats in IITs have almost doubled. We now have reservation for OBC (Non creamy layer) candidates. We also have two rounds of counseling to fill up vacant seats after the first round. There have been several new programs started in these 8 years. Also, the number of selections from each zone influence the closing ranks each year, as people tend to prefer the IIT of their zone. All this would affect the preferences and closing ranks. But the hope is that if consider the closing ranks for programs which have continued in existence for all these 8 years, the changes in other conditions should have roughly affected them in similar ways, and therefore, this study is at least indicative of what the students and parents are thinking about.
I did briefly notice the trends from one year to the other for a few popular programs in various IITs. I noticed that such changes are minor in nature. However, the changes over the 8 years' period are very significant. This happens mainly because most candidates fill up their choices under the influence of their parents. And the parents have generally no idea about various programs (not that candidates are much better at it). So the parents insist on looking at last years' closing rank and barring a few minor changes (generally related to geographical preference), ask the candidates to fill up in that order. A few brave souls do things differently, talk to a lot more people to seek advice, and actually follow that advice. These small changes become a trend over longer duration.
For the 8 year trends, I have only considered those programs which have been in existence over these 8 years.
First the programs where the closing ranks have gone down. Architecture programs are the worst affected. BArch (Roorke) closing rank has gone down from 4365 to 9490, and BArch (Kharagpur) closing rank has gone down from 3624 to 8721. Next the Design program at Guwahaty, where the closing rank has gone from 3773 to 6582. Almost identical decline is in BPharma (IT BHU), going from 4349 to 7087. All programs that have anything to do with Bio (Bio Science, Bio chemistry, Bio technology, etc.) have seen the closing ranks becoming worse in this period. (This is surprising as a large number of academicians believe that this century belongs to Biology.)
Generally, the science programs (resulting in MSc degree) have lost popularity, but where the science departments have started offering an engineering like programs, they have done better. So the programs in Engineering Physics, and Maths and Computing, have done better than programs in Chemistry and pure Physics.
The programs that have really improved their perception and ranking are those of Civil Engineering. None of the Civil Engineering programs closed within 2000 ranks in the year 2003. Now, despite such a massive expansion of IIT system, the BTech programs in Bombay and Madras closed around 1500, while at Kanpur closed just before 2000 in the year 2010. In fact, Civil Engineering has shown the most consistent improvement of closing ranks throughout this 8 year period.
There are some interesting short-term trends about other engineering disciplines, but that is later.
In terms of locations, the preference for IIT Bombay kept increasing throughout this period. Popularity of IIT Delhi has also improved quite a bit in this period. While IIT Madras has shown some improvement, IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur have not been the favorites of today's generation. In general, increasing number of students are preferring bigger cities over smaller ones. (This is not to say that the meteoric rise of IIT Bombay in this period is only due to its geographic location. Far from it. There are some solid improvements in their programs, faculty, and infrastructure, last decade.)
A decade ago, when IIT Kanpur started its decline and IIT Bombay started its rise, Metro IITs offered a very regional experience, with most students from nearby areas, and non-Metro IITs offer a more cosmopolitan experience, with students coming from all over the country. And I used to recommend that people should prefer non-Metro IITs for a more diverse experience. But that has changed now. Metro IITs are offering an equally (or even better) cosmopolitan experience, with people from all over the country preferring them over non-Metro IITs.
Comparison of 2009 with 2010
If we just compare the closing ranks of 2009 and 2010, one thing that comes out strongly is the improved closing ranks for lots of programs of IT BHU. I would attribute this to the news at that time that IT BHU would be soon converted to an IIT. Since, now the bill to convert IT BHU to an IIT is already in the Parliament, I would expect this trend to continue this year.
IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi continued their improvement in closing ranks. Many more people showed willingness to opt for Guwahati last year. I think this is because of the improved connectivity through cheap airlines as well as a few more trains to the city. IIT Madras could not maintain its closing ranks, primarily due to decreased number of selections from nearby areas. Surprisingly, the number of selections from Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala are minuscule, and that affects the closing ranks of IIT Madras. IIT Kharagpur continues to get bad press, and hence fewer preferences. Given that this year, it has probably seen more scandals than ever before, I would expect even more candidates to avoid IIT Kharagpur in 2011.
In terms of programs, some of the longer term trends continue. Decline in Architecture, Design, Sciences, Bio-related programs, and so on. The core engineering branches were on strong upsurge, primarily Mechanical, Chemical, and Civil. Surprisingly, Aeronautical and Metallurgical engineering were in less demand, despite the fantastic news from ISRO and continued upturn in metal industry - primarily, aluminum and steel making. I guess the problems in setting up greenfield plants due to land acquisition and environmental concerns has been causing concerns amongst the students. So no hope for Metallurgy this year too.
Computer Science lost its sheen this year. For the first time in over 30 years, the first closing program was not computer science. BTech program in Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay closed at 98. But besides IIT Bombay, everywhere else Computer Science was preferred over Electrical or Electronics. But the gap has narrowed down significantly. I expect Electrical/Electronics to continue gaining over Computer Science in 2011.
Amongst the six new IITs started in 2008, the size of the city certainly appeared to be the main draw. Both Hyderabad and Gandhinagar saw improvement in their closing ranks in Electrical (compared all IITs on Electrical, as everyone had this program). The surprise was IIT Ropar, which has improved the most in terms of closing rank. I expect this year too, candidates will prefer IITs at Hyderabad and Gandhinagar.
Amongst the IITs at Indore and Mandi, Indore showed much greater improvements in the closing ranks.