Bulk of increase in seats should come from new IITs, say institute heads

All the 23 IITs were asked to assess their capacity and resources and come up with a roadmap on how to achieve the proposed increase.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: October 20, 2016 9:23 am
IIT, IIT seats, IIT undergraduate seats, IIT selection, IIT BTech seats, IIT seat increase, IIT news, Education news P Banerji, Gautam Biswas

With the government pressing for a significant increase in the student strength across all 23 IITs, the older institutes insist that a bulk of the proposed hike in BTech seats should come from the 16 IITs set up in the last decade.

Speaking to The Indian Express, IIT Roorkee director Pradipta Banerji said admitting more undergraduate (UG) students would be “unsustainable” for the institute. “Our current BTech strength is already at an unmanageable level. We admit the third highest number of undergraduate students among the seven older IITs. We take in 970 undergraduate students each year. Even if we build more hostel rooms and lecture halls, how do we build laboratories? Engineering education is not just about classroom lectures. There are now 16 new IITs and that’s where you should increase the BTech numbers significantly. IIT Roorkee will focus on taking in doctoral scholars,” he said.

For IIT Delhi, too, admitting more BTech students through the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) is a big ask. “It will be difficult to increase UG seats as we are already saturated. IIT Delhi will soon start a department of design soon and any increase in UG students would to be by virtue of that. But admission to the design programme will not be not through JEE-Advanced. Moreover, from the world ranking point of view, we are being pushed to improve our research output. So hiking BTech numbers will not help us. We now need more PhD students,” he said.

“All the 16 new IITs, except for maybe Indore and Hyderabad, admit less than 200 students every year in their undergraduate programmes. If they double their intake, the IITs can collectively meet the government’s target of 1 lakh students by 2020. We (the older IITs) need to focus on research. We can add a few BTech seats, but it won’t be a significant change,” said IIT Guwahati director Gautam Biswas.

The IIT Council – the highest decision-making body of the engineering schools – had on August 23 given an in-principle approval to the HRD ministry’s suggestion to increase their total student strength from 72,000 to 1 lakh by 2020. To achieve this, the ministry had suggested that the IITs could waive the condition which makes students stay compulsorily on campus. In other words, they will admitting more non-resident students. All the 23 IITs were asked to assess their capacity and resources and come up with a roadmap on how to achieve the proposed increase in seats.

However, as first reported by The Indian Express on October 18, the older IITs, citing stretched resources, did not agree to add more seats to their four-year BTech programmes. They were more keen on increasing research and MTech students, they said. The idea of having non-resident students also didn’t meet much approval from their end.

According to the feedback received by HRD ministry this month, only second-generation IITs in Hyderabad, Mandi, Ropar, Patna and Jammu will increase their undergraduate student strength from next year.

“It’s probably easier for the IITs in Delhi and Bombay to accommodate non-resident students as they are situated in city centres and rented accommodation is available close to the institute. But not for IIT Kanpur students. We are keen to increase the student strength, but we cannot upset what we have built over so many years with a hasty decision. We will admit more BTech students once we have arranged the infrastructure for them,” said IIT Kanpur director Indranil Manna.

IIT Roorkee director Banerji added: “Admitting non-resident students is not feasible. A 1,500 square feet apartment in Roorkee costs close to a crore today. Even if three-four students were to reside in that space outside the campus, any landlord would expect each of them to pay at least Rs 10,000 per month. That exceeds the HRA of a PhD student. This is too expensive for undergraduate students.”

However, IIT Madras director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said the council’s decision to increase seat strength by 2020 will be implemented. IIT Madras is heading the Joint Admission Board 2017 and is in charge of the conduct of the JEE Advanced 2017.

A clarification issued by HRD ministry Tuesday quoted him as saying, “Undergraduate intake in 2016, the student strength in the IITs stands around 76,000 (including the post-graduate and research students). For 2017, IITs have promised to admit nearly 11,000 students in the undergraduate courses. Keeping up this trend, the IIT system is well on its way to raise the undergraduate student intake to about 13,000-14,000 by 2020. Added to this, an equal number of Post graduate and research students would be admitted raising the total IIT strength to 1 lakh by 2020. The IITs are committed to implement the decision of the IIT Council taken in this regard.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Ramamurthi said, “I think the council’s decision has been misunderstood. The IITs collectively have to increase the number of students to one lakh. It’s not that the older IITs will not admit (more), but the bulk of the increase has to come from the new IITs.”