A joint meeting of councils of IITs, NITs and IIITs has come up with two different patterns of admission to undergraduate engineering programmes, even while emphasising weightage for performance in Class XII board exams.

Nearly two-and-half years after being first considered, the proposed national common entrance exam for admission to undergraduate engineering programmes in the country continues to be a contentious issue.

The Joint Meeting of Councils of IITs, NITs and IIITs held under the chairmanship of Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal has come up with two different patterns of admissions — one for IITs and the other for all other Centrally-funded institutions.

A strong body of opinion amongst the members of the council was that the importance of the schooling system has to be revived in larger public interest by giving due weightage to the performance of students in Class XII Board examinations and at the same time maintain the credibility and integrity of admissions to higher institutes of technical education.

As per the present proposal, a Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for admission to undergraduate programmes in engineering would be conducted in two parts — JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced.

For IITs, the Class XII Board/equivalent marks normalised on percentile basis through an appropriate formula plus the marks obtained in JEE-Main, with equal weightage, would be used for purpose of gating/screening.

Only a fixed number of candidates (five times the number of the seats for admission in the IIT system or a pre-fixed cut-off) screened on the basis of cumulative score of normalised school board marks and JEE-Main exam would be eligible to be considered for admission.

The ranking for admission to undergraduate programmes in IITs would be based entirely on the performance in JEE-Advanced exam from amongst the candidates screened through this process. (JEE-Main tests will have multiple choice objective type paper whereas the nature and modalities of the JEE-Advanced will be determined by the joint admission board of IITs).

For all other Centrally-funded institutions, there would be 40 per cent weightage performance in school board marks normalised on percentile basis through an appropriate formula, 30 per cent weightage for performance in JEE-Main and 30 per cent weightage in JEE-Advanced and a combined merit accordingly.

The proposed changes are expected to be effective from the year 2013.

However, the views of the IIT Senates clearly indicate that majority of the IITs are for the current practice to continue in 2013, with five out of seven voting for the present system of admission for the next academic year also. While IIT-Madras had nothing to comment, the views of IIT-Roorkee were not made clear.

Six out of seven IITs agreed to use National Common Exam as a screening test from 2014. Similarly, six out of seven IITs have decided to conduct their own test to select candidates from the screeened list from the national test. They are not for adding board performance in final JEE rankings of IITs. The consensus was that the mechanism of overall inclusion of board performance could be considered only for the cut-off or for the screening. IITs are likely to carry out a detailed analysis of the board data to decide on whether to use board marks as cut-off or as part of the initial screening process.

According to the minutes of the Meeting of Council of IITs, it is clear that IIT-Bombay wants to retain the present system with minor modifications and IIT-Kanpur seeking substantial modification to the proposal. (Now, IIT-Kanpur Senate has resolved to go it alone.) Other IITs gave a qualified support to the proposal. All India IIT Faculty Federation has also asked the MHRD to uphold the collective majority views of various IIT Senates.

Autonomy to States

After the Joint Meeting of Councils of IITs, NITs and IIITs, the MHRD has decided that the States would have the freedom to join in the process and have the autonomy to determine their own relative weightages to normalised Class XII Board marks, performance in JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced.

This has given a breather to States like Tamil Nadu where no entrance test is being conducted for admission to professional courses, including engineering, to ensure rural students gain more access to higher education. “Now, the States have three options. Join the MHRD's national entrance exam or conduct their own tests or like in Tamil Nadu, no tests,” says T.S. Sridhar, Secretary, Higher Education.

Students have the option, as before, to appear in JEE for admission to IITs.