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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Joint Counseling of IITs and NITs: Delhi High Court Decision

IITs will change only when they are forced to, particularly when it relates to their holy cow, the Joint Entrance Exam. In the last several years, Dr. Rajeev Kumar of IIT Kharagpur has been on a crusade to force IITs to improve their UG admission process. Latest is a decision by Delhi High Court where Dr. Rajeev Kumar had petitioned that IITs be forced to have a joint counseling with NITs.

Here are the relevant portions of the judgement:

11. It is otherwise rather intriguing to know that the IITs and the NITs which are providing consultancy to others on technical matters, are unable to themselves find a solution for synchronizing the admissions to eliminate or at least minimize the issue of vacant seats. The said institutions themselves and their students are best equipped to, in today's time of technology, when software programmes developed by IITians are serving nearly every human need, to find a solution to the malady which admittedly exists and cure whereof has eluded all. Certainly they do not need years together to develop a programme for such synchronization of admissions. They cannot afford any red-tapism in this regard and which if becomes known to the world at large, may make them a laughing stock in the eyes of their clients. We have wondered whether it is a proverbial situation of it being darkest beneath the lamp.

13. We therefore dispose of this application with the following directions:

(i) The MHRD to ensure that the Technical Committee constituted vide order dated 13th March, 2014 aforesaid holds regular sittings/consultations, as frequently as required, and sorts out the process for common counselling for admissions to NITs and IITs and the said process is implemented for admissions from the academic year 2015-2016. To ensure the same, the MHRD to call for regular reports from the Committee and fix a date for the Committee to submit the report and ensure that the suggestions in the said report are incorporated in the admission procedure published by the IITs and the NITs in the academic year 2015-2016;

(v) During the hearing, we enquired whether there exists any provision for lateral entry into the IITs in the second year, as exists in some Universities/Colleges. We were informed, there is none. The MHRD as well as the IITs to also on or before 30th November, 2014 consider, whether a provision for such lateral entry into IITs in second year from the students of NITs and other engineering colleges can be made and to place a report on that aspect also before this Court.

My comments:

Joint Counselling will help only a little bit, but it will help. The real problem of vacant seats is that we are trying to complete the admission process to 3-4 million college seats in just a couple of months, and there is absolutely no penalty in the name of socialism to withdraw from a seat till very late. Neither of these real issues are being addressed. We simply refuse to do college admissions before 12th class exams. And to charge fee to someone who withdraws late is considered anti-poor.

But while the joint counseling does not solve major problems, it will still be an improvement over the current system, and hence should have been adopted long ago. I am sad that a court had to intervene in admissions, but there did not seem to be any other option.

I am also quite excited about the lateral entry part of the judgement. If IITs can come up with some mechanism, it will resolve a major stress issue for the students. Now, even if they could not perform well in that one day, they will have another chance to enter IITs. But I am not rejoicing yet. I will bet on IITs reporting to the Court on 30th November that they can't do it, or that they are still working on it, and will take more time to come up with a scheme.


Saurabh Joshi said...

Dear Sir,
This is a good step in the right direction. However, I wonder why IITs do not conduct a common counselling for MTech.

Many students have to travel long distance without any researvation ( thanks to peak summer traffic ) to different corners of the country for MTech admission. I myself had travelled 24hours in a general bogie as I could not secure a reservation. On top of that, attitude at many IITs is apathetic to this situation of students. Sometimes no flexibility is given in the time of interview so that a poor fellow can finish the interview and catch his/her train in time to go to the next IIT.

The issue of seats remaining vacant arises even during MTech admissions. Alas, no IIT bothers about it.

gautam barua said...

I have been advocating joint counselling for the last several years, but the IIT system has not budged. The reasons given have been operational (there is no time, the software writing and testing will take time), but nothing is done between examinations. This shows a lack of will on the part of the system. Now that that a Court has issued a directive, maybe something will happen in 2015. As I am now involved in an IIIT, I have first hand experience of the NIT counselling process (the JEE-main counselling is the better term to use as many institutions other than NITs are also involved) too. Dheeraj is right, the merger will not help the IITs much, but it may help the students and it may help the JEE-main institutes start their session earlier. Students getting into IITs will not fill up JEE-Main seats only to relinquish them later on. The number of rounds of counselling in JEE-Main can then be reduced.
However, there is a caveat. This year, the announcement of JEE-main ranks were delayed by a week and so the JEE-main counselling was too. Had there been common counselling, the IIT seat allocation process would have been delayed too (since IIT JEE only uses cut-offs, I suppose a few seats alloted in the earlier rounds may have been re-allocated due to candidates failing the cut-off; but the process did not get delayed, as far as I know). So, unless the Board marks are available on time, things are going to be problematic. Should we press for a change in the system in JEE-Main? The current formula for arriving at ranks is anyway very controversial ( especially to those not in the CBSE system), and so rather than have a lousy ranking formula (which the CBSE lobby is unlikely to allow a change in), it may be better to abandon it altogether. I have noticed that Boards like CBSE have Physical Education and other such “easy” subjects which “distort” the rankings. Why not go back to the tried and trusted methods of having cut-offs (but percentile within a board now, instead of absolute marks) for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) rather than for an aggregate? I have noticed that some of the JEE-Main low rankers, have very poor Board results, especially in Mathematics, and eliminating such cases is going to be useful. Some may point out that I have been advocating just the opposite – include Board marks of all subjects and also have an aptitude as part of JEE so that the ill effects of coaching are reduced. But then, “one step forward, two steps back” for now, in the face of opposition from stronger forces!

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Saurabh, If IITs were admitting students on the basis of GATE alone, then it would make sense to have common counseling. But in many departments, that is not the case. A lot of departments believe that an interview is a better mechanism to select students.

Of course, the admission committees can be more accommodating and interview students early if they have a train to catch. But please note that we are required by law to interview reserved category candidates before general students, and hence our flexibility is limited.

There are vacant seats even during MTech admissions, but it is not true that IITs don't bother about it. Please understand that the number of seats are decided by us, and there is no incentive for us to leave the seats vacant. If we wanted to recruit less students, we could have just announced less number of seats. Unlike UG admissions, where there are lots of pressures to increase seats and at least keep it same as last year, there is not much pressure for MTech programs. And your definition of vacant seats may be different from our definition of vacant seats. For example, if we want to have 50 MTech students and we know that not every one will join, we may announce that we have 70 seats. So if we finally have 55 students, we would be concerned that we have got more than what we can handle well with our resources, but you would see this as 15 vacant seats.

The real problem in PG admissions is that unlike UG admissions where very few students leave the program, there are lots who leave the PG programs after admission. Based on an MHRD rule of having to refund all the money, there is absolutely no incentive for a student to tell us in advance that s/he is not joining. Also, the GATE results are so late (in March) that PSUs can not complete their recruitment before our semester starts. So, if there can be a financial disincentive to keep multiple seats, and GATE exam can be given early, we would have an easier time with MTech admission.

Prashant said...

I have very interesting observations from the CBSE and ISC12 data which I am sitting on.

Economics (which is compulsory for Commerce and most humanities students) has extremely low scores and a high failure rate (country average of 50, when PCM are between 65-70 or so), perhaps to push as many people as possible (from PCM group) above the 20 percentile mark since it includes everyone?

Secondly, there is a massive difference between scores of (CS and Physical Education) where averages are almost 90 versus someone who opted for Economics or Bio (where averages are significantly lower).

Clearly people are becoming smart about gaming the boards; even boards themselves.

The fraction of people taking PhysEd as sixth subject is now huge. Board exam inclusion has made everyone "fitness conscious" from what it seems :)

But if just PCM aggregate is considered the benefits of including the board exam almost entirely get wiped out (since PCM is tested by JEE anyway). Plus, one incorrectly graded paper could create havoc for no fault of the student. Maybe, English + PCM or something like that is better.

Prashant said...

Also, shouldn't percentile cut-offs be capped at some percentage. The data shows 2% jump in subject averages for both CBSE/ISC year-on-year which is huge.
One might say, but hey, the scoring is becoming lenient for everyone - largely that is true, but then relative rankings of students also get distorted when boards are inflating scores rather randomly.
I am quite sure that the most generous boards are the ones where good candidates are actually left below the X-percentile cut-off. Because those are exams which have simply lost their resolution to discriminate.

Akshay Chorge said...

I am a polytechnic student and we all polytechnic diploma student want a lateral entry to direct second year in IIT as other institute offers.
can they?....

Sandeep said...

Wonder how joint counselling would be synchronised in a fair manner. Whether JEE mains or JEE advanced rank would take precedent for those who qualified for both Advances and Mains?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Sandeep, which ever rank give you your higher preference will be used.