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Thursday, July 7, 2011

IIIT Delhi: An Innovative Admission Process

This appears to be a month when I will write less about my ideas, and write more about the innovation in higher education that some institutes are carrying out. Today, I want to write about the novel and innovative admission process that IIIT Delhi has adopted for its under-graduate program. (Actually, one can learn a lot from their PG admission strategies also, but I will focus on UG admission today.)

First, the mandatory disclosure. I am a member of their Academic Senate. However, I have attended my first meeting only recently, and share no credit for this innovation.

First a bit about Indrapastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi. It is an Institute solely focused on IT education and research, set up in 2008 by Delhi Government, and is a university empowered to give its own degrees. Within three years of its existence, it has built an awesome reputation. Excellent faculty. A visionary Director.

The process for under-graduate admission starts with the question: What type of students do we want. A question that is rarely asked by universities and colleges in India. As a first cut solution, one will argue that we want students who know their science well, and have an aptitude for engineering or more specifically IT. Aptitude! They already are different from everybody else. But they go much beyond this initial answer.

Should we admit students who have reasonable aptitude and are excellent in science. Or should we admit students who are reasonably good in science, and have excellent aptitude. Most institutes would vote for the former (that is, if they at all think about it this way). It is then perhaps assumed that 60% (or whatever) marks in 12th class is sufficient indication of reasonable aptitude. So they will have a test based on Physics, Chemistry and Maths, and rank applicants based on score in the test. But IIIT Delhi is different. They think aptitude is lot more important. So they will consider 80% marks in 12th as sufficient academic preparation, and take an entrance test which tests aptitude. The ranking is based exclusively on this aptitude test. (As an aside, this is the method for selecting students from within Delhi. They do admit some non-Delhi students which is done through AIEEE. They do not ask them to come to Delhi to give the aptitude test.)

The story does not end here. The next question they ask is whether it is really important for someone studying IT to know a lot of Physics, Maths, and Chemistry at the 12th class level. And their answer is that just like engineering colleges are starting to offer basic biology related courses in their curriculum, the requirement of even Physics and Chemistry knowledge is to a minimal level, and if needed, that knowledge can be imparted in the Institute. So, the eligibility is just Mathematics with any other 4 subjects in 12th class. So, they are creating an opportunity for students who have done Maths, Commerce, Economics, etc., in the 12th class, to get into a BTech (IT) Program. It is interesting and I certainly admire the courage of IIIT to conduct this experiment. (I am told that not many people from non-science streams applied this year. Perhaps the message did not go across. Hopefully, more students will take advantage of this from next year onwards.)

The minimum eligibility is 80% marks in Maths, and 80% marks overall in 5 subjects in 12th class. They say that the cut-off is on the higher side since they do not want a very large number of students to apply for a small number of seats. And you fill up their form after the 12th class result is out. They are not in the business of creating a huge profit through their admission process. Their cut-off is high enough that students who only did coaching by ignoring their 12th class completely are less likely to be eligible. In their own little way, they are encouraging school education in Delhi, without burdening the kids with the pressure to get close to 100% as some of the colleges in Delhi University do.

And finally, they seem to have done their home work well in terms of how to judge aptitude for IT. So the exam consists of five areas: Comprehension, Data Interpretation, Mathematical Ability, Analytical Ability, and Decision Making.

The entire process is online. One fills in form, takes the print out of the admit card, and just reaches the examination center. From the last date of filling up the form to the announcement of results, it takes only 18 days. (There is no typo. It is not 18 weeks.)

The admission process and many other innovations being carried out at IIIT confirm my belief that leadership is extremely important for the success of an institute, even more so for a new institute.


Hari said...

Is it not more like SAT/GRE kind of admission process with an additional filter of 12th marks?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Hari, I am excited by evolutionary research as well as revolutionary research.

Hari said...

Of course, as an Idea and an experiment, it is certainly a good tings to happen! As you said, we in academics should do experiments!

Shishir said...

The experiment is worth it.
But only problem is that any entrance exam (for whatever course and for whatever number of seats)in India attracts a sea of students. 80% (under present performance level and examination system) is a very very mild filter. A few months ago, I saw some 1000 students appearing at a centre in Lucknow for IIST,Trivendrum which I am told has just 45 seats!
It appears to be something like BITS,Pilani entrance test which tests language and logical ability of students and on a median level (leaving aside the top bracket that is AIR<250) , BITS students have been at par with IIT students and somewhat better if you compare soft skills.

vivek singh aka vfix said...

Wanted to apply for mtech program here ,but wasn't eligible as the eligibility criteria even for appearing in entrance procedure was too strict (75 % in grads and i had 65%).

Well their coursework and admission procedure (even for Mtech and Phd programs) is really interesting .

Lucky Agarwal said...


It is really a wonderful institute. I have just returned from my summer intern there and had a great research experience.I could see that the entire admission procedure went very smoothly. In addition their MUC(Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing) research group even designed and implemented an IVR system to answer many student faqs

Harry McTavish said...

can 2 year droppers take admission?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Harry, If you have this year's JEE score/rank, then yes.

Vishal said...

Sir I am from outside Delhi,in addition to jeemain which form I have to fill to apply for admission in iiitd for 2017 batch?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Vishal, We have not decided the process for 2017 admissions. We have read in the newspapers that next year there will be no weight for school board performance in the JEE ranks. This would mean some rethinking on our side. I am sure that we would ask all applicants for their JEE Mains performance. Whether we will ask for anything else, or conduct our own exam, it is difficult to say now.