The government has decided to lower the total marks required in Class 12 for admission to bachelor's degree courses in engineering, Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy told the Assembly on Thursday.

Replying to a question from S. Peter Alphonse (Congress), Mr. Ponmudy said that the quantum of reduction would be decided in consultation with the Chief Minister. There were many representations from engineering colleges as more than 30,000 seats remained vacant last year.

Mr. Ponmudy said private engineering colleges wanted a mere pass as criterion for admission to engineering courses. This demand could not be conceded. However, there could be some concession in marks, which would be lower than the present level. As of now, students in the open category have to score 55 per cent marks; those belonging to backward classes 50 per cent; and those from most backward communities, 45 per cent. K. Balabarathi (CPI-M) demanded that the government not relax the current norms. If this was done, there would be no takers for courses in arts and sciences colleges.

V. Sivapunniyam (CPI) said reduction in eligibility marks would help students.

Mr. Ponmudy said that it was wrong to claim that arts and science colleges would face a dearth of students. The 67 arts and science colleges run by the government were operating in two shifts every day, and had sufficient intake. Besides, most other States in south India, including Kerala, Puducherry and Karnataka, had reduced the aggregate marks for admission to engineering courses.