INDIAN INSTITUTES of Technology (IITs) will collectively offer 779 seats over and above the normal intake exclusively for female candidates this year, in a bid to improve the poor gender ratio in their B.Tech programmes.
The “supernumerary seats” are expected to almost double the number of women admitted as opposed to last year — this year’s JEE (Advanced) will be held on May 20.
Of the 779 seats, the largest chunk of 113 seats, is with IIT Kharagpur, followed by IIT-Dhanbad (95 seats), IIT-Kanpur (79), IIT-BHU (76), IIT-Roorkee (68), IIT-Delhi (59), IIT-Bombay (58) and IIT Guwahati (57).
Over the last five years, the composition of female students in IITs has remained more or less constant, hovering between eight per cent and 10 per cent (see box). On the other hand, the gender ratio in PG programmes in IITs is roughly 22 per cent.
Last year, out of the 10,987 students admitted to B.Tech programmes across 23 IITs, 1,006 were women. The decision to introduce supernumerary seats was taken in the last meeting of the IIT Council on April 28, 2017. The Council resolved to achieve a target of 14 per cent female enrollment in 2018, 17 per cent in 2019 and 20 per cent in 2020. The 779 supernumerary seats are expected to take the proportion of women admitted to IITs to 14 per cent this year.
The Council’s decision was based on recommendations of sub-committee of the Joint Admission Board (JAB) chaired by IIT Mandi director T A Gonsalves. The sub-committee observed that there are enough women clearing JEE (Advanced) to achieve a 45 per cent gender ratio in the B.Tech programme. However, it found, their actual representation is less than 10 per cent.
The report attributed the low enrollment to “societal biases”. It also observed that the less number of women in IITs means schoolgirls aspiring for careers in engineering are unlikely to have any female role models in their family who did their BTech in an IIT. Responding to criticism that preferential treatment dilutes quality, the report stated, “Only female candidates who have qualified in JEE (Advanced) are considered. They are in the top two per cent of all students admitted to engineering in India. Evidence such as Board exam results indicates that they are as meritorious as their male counterparts.”
“The ranks of females in JEE (Advanced) are lower due largely to systematic societal biases that deprive them of support for JEE (Advanced) preparation equal to that given to boys,” the report said.