Even As Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal offered to address the objections raised by certain Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) on holding a joint entrance examination (JEE) for admission to undergraduate engineering courses — though without rolling back the new admission process — the alumni and faculty have welcomed the move.

“As faculty members of the prestigious IITs, we have no personal agenda but to defend and protect the academic excellence and autonomy of these great institutions envisioned by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru from any political interference,” a statement issued by the All India IIT Faculty Federation (AIIITFF) said.

“In opposing the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) test, we are not trying to achieve elitist status but protect the sanctity of academic freedom granted to these institutions by an Act of Parliament (Institutes of Technology Act, 1961) and ensure that only the best students get selected by a fair process,” it said.

Secretary of the federation A.K. Mittal welcomed Mr. Sibal's statement (made in the U.S.) that the government had no intent to impinge on the autonomy of the IITs, but he expressed resentment over the government's “present action and responses” on the issue.

President of the Indian Institute of Delhi Alumni Association Somnath Bharti said that while the alumni welcomed the Minister's assurances on autonomy, they were deeply worried that the decision had not been rolled back.

A JEE would not only ruin the IITs' autonomy but would also be detrimental to the interests of students from rural India. The move, if properly analysed, seemed to benefit none other than the coaching institutes — a fact belying the claims of the HRD Ministry, Mr. Bharti said in a statement.

“Since we are being asked whether we would accept the invitation of the MHRD to discuss the differences when extended, we would like to let the MHRD know that we would surely prefer a solution through dialogues but if solution does not seem coming our way through dialogues this week, moving to the court is always available to be opted for,” the statement said.

“Shocked and pained”

IIT-Guwahati Director Gautam Barua also came under attack from the faculty federation for supporting the ‘one-nation one-test' for admission.

Without naming Mr. Barua, the federation, in a statement said it was “shocked and pained” that an IIT director had criticised the decision taken by the Senate of the IIT-Kanpur to conduct its own entrance exam from next year, opposing the Centre's format.

Mr. Barua told TV channels last week, “I am sad about the extreme step taken by the IIT-Kanpur Senate on such a small issue.”

Mr. Mittal said it was unfortunate that a professor of the IIT system thought that the selection of students and academic autonomy of the IITs was “a small issue.”

Earlier, the federation strongly opposed IIT-Kharagpur Director Damodar Acharya for supporting the Centre's proposal.

“IIT-Kanpur has taken the lead”

The faculties' body has welcomed the decision taken by IIT-Kanpur, saying it has taken “the lead in making the long-awaited, justified action of announcing its own admission test through its Senate Resolution (as sanctioned by the Institute Act).”

“The IIT-Kanpur decision by no means can be treated as an isolated event. In fact, it sets the tone for other IITs that do not agree with the current HRD Ministry proposal to make similar decisions in their respective Senates, and support the initiative of IIT-Kanpur,” the statement said.

The federation accused a section of the media of “trying to project that the IITs are split over the Ministry's proposal about the common admission test.”