UGC’s notification should not come in the way of IIT degrees, says IITs

September 16, 2014

Remaining firm on their conviction on the IIT-UGC row over four-year undergraduate courses, the IITs on 12 September decided at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council (SCIC)  that the UGC's July notification on recognised degrees should not come in the way of IIT degrees and it should instead be expanded to include IIT degrees. The SCIC recommendation will be taken up by the IIT Council that is scheduled to meet on September 22 under the chairmanship of the HRD Minister Smriti Irani.


That apart, a recommendation made by the IITs Joint Admission Board (JAB) to relax the eligibility criteria for JEE Advanced- the exam that determines admissions to all 16 IITs will also be taken up at the IIT Council meeting. JAB has recommended an alternative to the percentile based IIT admission formula in view of legal wrangles and to ensure a level playing field for students from across states.


As of now only students who are among the top 20 percentile in their board examinations and have cleared the JEE Main examination are eligible to appear for JEE Advanced. However, the JAB has now recommended that alternatively students who may have scored 75 per cent marks in their Class XII exams should also be seen as eligible for JEE Advanced. This will apply where the last cut off for top 20 percentile is more than 75 per cent marks.


Several students from Andhra Pradesh could not make it to IITs last year as while some had scored over 90 per cent they still could not be among the top 20 percentile- the issue even went to court. Reason being that some school boards are more generous in their marking system than others inadvertently putting their students at a disadvantage when it came to JEE Advanced that has started relying on percentile based screening mechanisms. CBSE also faced similar problems. The JAB is of the view that a relaxation is necessary to ensure that all candidates are at equal advantage when appearing for JEE Advanced.


On the UGC-IIT row, the Standing Committee said in its meeting last weekend that the controversy can and should be resolved at the level of the union Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) itself. While among ways to sort out the standoff were suggestions that the IIT Act, 1961 be amended to expressly mention that its provisions will override those of any other Act or law that may come in conflict-moving an amendment, however, can be rather lengthy process. Sources told India Today that the IITs are of the view that the issue can be sorted out by requesting UGC to expand its list of recognised degrees as put out in its July 5 notification, so that the IIT degrees are also included in it.


The UGC had sparked a furore when it suddenly shot off a communication to the country's 16 IITs last month asking them to ensure that the degrees they are offering are aligned to those recognised by them. Taking strong exception to the higher education regulator dictating degree specifics to them, the IITs had written to the Smriti Irani-led HRD Ministry complaining about what they viewed as interference in the IIT system.


The IITs are autonomous engineering institutes of national importance governed by The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 that lays down their powers, duties, framework for governance etc. They have argued that the UGC Act does not apply to them at all - with some IITs even refusing to take cognizance of the IIT communication. Several IITs may have to restructure or rename their four year Bachelors of Science (BS) programmes or dual degree programmes if the UGC directive is imposed on them.

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