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IITs, IIMs must take measures to expand pool of SC, ST and OBC candidates for PhD programmes

The number of PhD applications to IIMs from students of SC, ST and OBC communities increased only marginally in the past four years. In case of the IITs, this increase was more appreciable. But the pool of applicants continues to be shallow.

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Tribes, IIT, IIM, Indian express, Opinion, Editorial, Current AffairsThe government’s 2019 data shows that 48 per cent of IIT dropouts were from reserved categories. In the case of IIMs, this was much higher — 62 per cent.

Data shared last week in Parliament by the Ministry of Education shows that India’s elite business schools and technology institutions are way short of fulfilling their social justice-related commitments in doctoral programmes. The number of students from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and OBC communities accepted for the PhD programme in the IITs and IIMs in the past four years were below the constitutionally mandated norms. The Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in admission) Act, 2006 mandates 15 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 27 per cent quotas for SC, ST and OBC students. But many IITs maintain that since there is no fixed sanctioned annual intake for PhD programmes, they cannot follow the reservation policy. IIMs have a somewhat different explanation: Reserved category vacancies are not filled because of the dearth of suitable candidates. In both cases, the troubling spinoff of the deficits is that the faculties of these institutions do not reflect the country’s social diversity.

The number of PhD applications to IIMs from students of SC, ST and OBC communities increased only marginally in the past four years. In case of the IITs, this increase was more appreciable. But the pool of applicants continues to be shallow. This means that even though the percentage of accepted applications is roughly the same across the reserved and general categories, the intake of students from disadvantaged sections is way below the mandated norms. A job, not research, is usually the top priority for a large section of students from marginalised sections. But research, whether in technology, economics, or any other field, is unlikely to make meaningful difference to the lives of India’s weaker sections if students from these communities are not adequately represented in laboratories and classrooms. The government has been aware of this imperative. In 2017, in a letter to IIM Ahmedabad, it asked the institute to “focus on having more fellows from SC, ST and OBC communities so that they can become prospective faculty members”. However, instead of instituting enabling measures, the IIMs, in 2019, requested the government to exempt them from reserving faculty posts for socially and economically weaker sections.

The government’s 2019 data shows that 48 per cent of IIT dropouts were from reserved categories. In the case of IIMs, this was much higher — 62 per cent. A large body of scholarly literature points out the need for providing special assistance — in classrooms and outside them — to students from communities that have a long history of being discriminated against. But the introduction of such measures in India’s elite academies remains patchy, at best. It’s a neglect that a country aspiring to be a knowledge economy leader can ill-afford.

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First published on: 25-07-2022 at 04:07:45 am
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