SC, ST student enrolment in Ph.D. programmes remains low in IITs

A view of the IIT Kanpur building, in Uttar Pradesh. Photo courtesy:  

Enrolment of students from marginalised communities, mainly the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST), was abysmally low in Ph.D. programmes in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) from 2015 to 2019, data presented in the Rajya Sabha on Friday showed.

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Of the 25,007 Ph.D. scholars admitted in the 23 IITs over the five-year period, only 9.1% were from the SC communities and 2.1% from the STs. This is lower than the 15% seats reserved for the former and 7.5% for the latter.

Those from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) made up 23.2%, which is also lower than the reservation-mandated 27%. Nearly two-thirds of the admissions (65.6%) went to general category students.

Questions from MPs

The data was submitted by the Human Resource Development Ministry in response to a question raised by Elamaram Karim and K. Somaprasad, Communist Party of India (Marxist) MPs from Kerala.

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Though the total enrolment in Ph.D. programmes went up by 20% during the period, this increase did not result in a corresponding rise in the number of students from the two communities.


While the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 seems to have helped those from the OBCs marginally, the enrolment from the Scheduled communities remained low.

This is shown by the fact that among the 23 IITs, 10 had at least 27% Ph.D. scholars from the OBCs as mandated by the Act. In contrast, only the IIT-Dhanbad ((Indian School of Mines) in Jharkhand had the minimum 15% from SC communities and the IIT-Bhilai in Chhattisgarh met 7.5% reservation for STs.

The IIT-Guwahati came closer with 6.9% of its Ph.D scholars from the STs. These three IITs are located in places with large populations of marginalised communities.

Established IITs worse

Nearly 60% of all Ph.D. admissions happened in the five bigger and older IITs — Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur and Kharagpur. However, these were also the insitutes with some of the lowest enrolments from the Scheduled communities.

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For instance, of the 1,653 scholars admitted in IIT-Kanpur, only 11 (0.6 %) were from the ST communities. With the highest of 3,874 admissions, the IIT-Madras contributed to more than one-fourth (26%) of admissions in all IITs. However, it also had the least representation from the SC communities (6.4 %) among the five. The IIT-Madras was the only one among these five IITs to meet the minimum 27% reservation for the OBCs.

Mr. Somaprasad, who is also the vice-president of Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, said that institutions such as the IITs and the IIMs hid behind their claim that they did not get enough number of applicants.

“However, it is not true. I have requested for some more data. I will raise it in Parliament appropriately,” he said.

Siddharth Joshi, a Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, who has co-authored a paper on lack of diversity among the faculty in the IIMs, said the claim of a lack of applicants had been proven to be a flimsy excuse. “The onus is on the institutes to ensure at least the reserved number of seats get filled,” he said.

The lack of diversity among the faculty, he said, could not be addressed until the lack of representation in research programmes was addressed.

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Stringent process

A top official from one of the bigger IITs, requesting anonymity, said that while the reserved seats in the B.Tech. and M.Tech. programmes got filled, admissions to Ph.D. programmes were dependent on the professors who guided the scholars. “They do not want students to enrol and later drop out. The selection process is stringent, and we often find it difficult to fill even the general category seats in Ph.D. courses,” he said.

However, he said the IITs and the Ministry were keen on addressing this gap and had begun discussions to draw up programmes such as preparatory courses organised for B.Tech. programmes. “We can perhaps take potential candidates as research associates first and later absorb them into Ph.D. programmes,” he said.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 8:12:10 PM |

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