Seats Vacant and Applications Unfilled; Are IITs Loosing Their Charm?

classroom-2787754_960_720Indian Institutes of Technology, once the Holy Grail for engineering in the country, is now known to be losing its charm. As many as 121 seats out of an approximate total of 11,000 were left vacant, which is quite an unexpected phenomenon.

This was the highest number of seats being left unfilled in the past 4 years. In 2014, the number of seats left vacant after all 7 rounds of counseling was only 3. This increased to 50 in 2015, and 96 in 2016, and thus last year, the number touched an all-time high of 121.

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Those who suffered the most were IIT-BHU (Varanasi) with 32 vacant seats, IIT (ISM) Dhanbad with 23 seats vacant and IIT Jammu with 13 seats vacant. Even the oldest and most sought after IIT branch- Kharagpur had 9 seats left vacant after the final round.

 “Are IITs losing their charm?” or perhaps “Is studying at IIT, no longer the dream of new generation high school kids of the country

Further, IIT Bombay had 1 seat vacant and IIT Delhi had 2. All seats were filled up at IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad and IIT Jodhpur. On the other side, one seat each was vacant at IIT Madras, Ropar, Palakkad and Goa.

This is certainly a matter of concern for the premier engineering institutes of our country as the scenario is affecting its good will and making people question “Are IITs losing their charm?” or perhaps “Is studying at IIT, no longer the dream of new generation high school kids of the country?”

It will definitely be too early to say that IITs have lost the charm that they earlier had. But, there is no denying in the fact that there has been a cultural shift in the education scenario of the country. Students have decided to move away from mainstream career options such as Engineering and Medical to more out of the box streams such as advertising, media among others. So one can say that over the years, not only IIT but engineering itself has lost its charm.

A few years ago, engineering was sought as the most viable career option by Indian parents and students. In a country which has IITs, NITs, and CFTIs, engineering is a not a bad option as these institutes do offer great quality education, which further promises a great career.

But the problem lies in tier-2 and tier-3 level colleges. Spare the top 200 or maybe 300 engineering colleges of the country, the remaining ones do not have quality teachers, infrastructure or even curriculum to train students properly. India produces more than 1 million engineers every year, but does it really have the capacity to produce 1 million engineering jobs every year? The answer is a clear- No.

A lot of engineering graduates are finding it hard to attain a job due to the increased of engineers in the industry. As per a news dated January 29, 2018, about 2.81 lakh people applied for 738 peon posts. What is more astonishing is that majority of these applications were of engineers, MBAs and Law graduates.

The overproduction of engineers, along with low-quality education has reduced the employability rates dramatically. According to a report by Aspiring Minds, only 7% of India’s engineers are actually skilled to handle core engineering jobs. This plainly shows the poor state of engineering education in India.

Due to this lack of opportunities and employability in engineering, students have started looking for other streams rather than engineering. According to a Times of India article in 2017, 54% of the undergraduate and postgraduate seats in private engineering colleges were left vacant. Also, the number of candidates appearing for JEE Main, which is the largest engineering entrance test in India, has fallen from 1.4 million in 2014 to 1.2 million in 2017.

Therefore, it is not the fault of IITs that has resulted in this vacancy in seats. The culprit is falling popularity of engineering itself.

“No one wants unpopular courses”

Another reason for seats remaining vacant at IITs is the unpopular courses being provided by them. Specializations like Pharmaceutical Engineering, Ceramic Engineering, Biochemical Engineering, Chemistry, Mining Engineering, Biotechnology, Physics and Architecture are not being preferred by many students. This has resulted in seats remaining vacant for these courses.

In the world of technology, branches like Computer Science Engineering and Electronics & Communication Engineering have become the favorites of students, rather than the fields mentioned earlier.

And it is seen many a time that students end up rejecting offers from IITs due to the courses which they get. For instance, a student getting a CSE seat in PEC Chandigarh might leave an offer from IIT Ropar for a course like Mechanical Engineering, if he/she wants to specialize in Computer Science.

While no one can force a student to take a specific course, the only solution to this problem is scrapping of such courses which do not get the required response. And if scrapping is not viable, at least the intake in such courses can be decreased, so that the seats do not remain vacant.

“More Colleges, Higher Intake”

Until 2001, there were only 7 IITs. The demand for a seat in these IITs was huge and the competition was fierce. Seeing the huge demand, the number of IITs was increased. The number became 13 by 2008, 18 by 2015 and now we have 23 IITs in all. Not to forget that we have 31 NITs and 23 IIITs as well.

This increase in institutes was definitely a welcome move, but these ‘new’ institutes are yet to establish a strong image of them. According to a report by The Wire, the number of research papers published by the 7 old IITs (in period 2010-2014) ranged from 1900 to almost 6000 for each IIT. But for newer IITs like Varanasi, Jodhpur, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, and Patna, this number did not even reach 1200. This reflects that the newer IITs are still to establish the academic or research excellence that is expected from an IIT.

As a result, students scoring high in entrance exams do not prefer them despite the fact that these are IITs. Therefore, the cutoffs are falling and seats are remaining vacant. In the meantime, other non-IIT colleges like BITS Pilani, PEC Chandigarh, and VIT Vellore are also getting stronger and better. This could well be one of the reasons for the vacancy at the IITs.

Despite all the questions, IITs are still amongst the best engineering colleges globally. With a 14% supernumerary quota coming for female candidates, it will be interesting to see how IITs tackle this problem of vacant seats in future.

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