Every year 15-20 per cent of M.Tech seats across Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) go vacant, reveals the response to a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by engineering graduate N B Mishra. In 2018, out of the 301 students who got admission across MTech courses in IIT-Delhi, 74 students dropped out leaving 24.58 per cent of the seats vacant. At the IITs in Mumbai and Madras, the number of seats left vacant were 45.01 per cent and 19.25 per cent, respectively.
The seven old IITs alone had 280 vacant seats across MTech courses in 2017, though a fall from the highs of 669 in 2015 and 639 in 2016, showed data provided under the RTI. The data also highlights the number of students completing the course and being conferred degrees is even lower. IIT-Delhi, unlike others, has provided data of graduating students and admitted students only and the number of dropouts is expected to be a few digits lower for the institute.
There are over 2,500 seats available across IITs. Every year, nearly a million candidates apply for Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). To secure a government job in a PSU as well for admission at MTech courses, one has to crack the entrance examination.
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According to data provided by Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokriyal Nishank, in a written reply to the Parliament, in the last two years, across undergraduate and postgraduate courses, maximum dropouts have been from IIT-Delhi with a total of 782 candidates leaving the institutes in the past two years.
The IITs unanimously blame the unsynchronised admission process by the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) as the major reason behind the dropouts in MTech courses.
To battle this issue the IIT-Madras created a Common Offer Acceptance Portal (COAP) in 2017 under which IITs, IISc and Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) were expected to recruit at a common platform. However, only the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) participated in the process, IIT-Madras said. While IIT-Madras claims efforts are being made to bring more PSUs on board, NPCIL is rethinking its participation.
Talking to indianexpress.com, PB Mishra, who heads the GATE-based recruitment at NPCIL, said: “The COAP was the ideal scenario, had all PSUs been on board. While we joined the process and conducted the medical test of all shortlisted candidates so that offers are generated for only limited few, we also created a waiting list. This did help limit the dropouts, but it could not stop the same since other PSUs did not conclude their recruitment in the same tenure. If this continues we might have to rethink about our participation this year.”
Mishra added, “High dropout ratio is a common problem for all PSUs and IIT admissions as everyone aims to get the top-scoring students. This results in one student getting multiple offers while another getting only a limited or even no offers. Since one person can join only one PSU, the dropouts are high (both for IITs and for PSUs). Also, since the offers go really high, hardly any top-ranking students opt for IITs or those who do, drop out for high-paying jobs.”
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Amongst IITs also the adoption of COAP has been slow. In 2017, only eight IITs joined in COAP, while 16 IITs and IISc participated in 2018. While the data shows a decline in attrition rates at IITs, it is still at high levels, majorly because of PSUs not joining in the cause.
In the recently conducted meeting of IITs with the HRD Minister, it was decided that only relevant MTech degrees will be granted by IITs to put a cap on dropouts. “Dropouts in the middle of the programme leads to wastage of the seats and denies the opportunity to other serious and meritorious students, on the other,” the ministry said, adding, “IITs will offer only those programmes that have demand in the market. This will ensure immediate placement after completion of the course.”
Talking to indianexpress.com, IIT-Mandi Director Timothy A. Gonsalves said, “Which MTech programmes to run is decided by each IIT individually. We will steadily increase the number of students in our existing MTech/MSc/MA programmes and will also open new programmes. These decisions will be based on our assessment of the needs of the country and our areas of faculty strength.”
Meanwhile, the fee of MTech courses will also be brought at par with that of BTech courses to about Rs 2 lakh annually to discourage ‘non-serious’ students from blocking seats, as decided in the recent meeting.