Graduate admissions: An interesting initiative at IISc

IISc logo featuring the Centenary year

If you are a student with an interest in joining IISc’s doctoral program in engineering, you may have missed seeing this stuff which appears in some nondescript location in the admission brochure:

NOTE: Candidates with BE/ B Tech/ M Sc or equivalent degree who may not have qualified in any of the above mentioned National Entrance Tests will also be considered for the Ph D program in Engineering. Short listing for interview of such candidates is based on their academic performance in the qualifying degree (upto 3rd year in BE / B Tech, or 1st year in M Sc), and their performance in 10th and 12th /PUC examinations.

Let me repeat it here with an emphasis on the right things: “Candidates with BE/ B Tech/ M Sc or equivalent degree who may not have qualified in any of the above mentioned National Entrance Tests will also be considered for the Ph D program in Engineering.”

For a long time, many Indian institutions — especially in engineering — have failed to address two key sociological / institutional facts:

  1. Many engineering students simply do not take GATE or any of the other graduate-level entrance exams.
  2. Unlike their US counterparts for which GRE is a requirement, Indian institutions can no longer insist on GATE and still expect a flood of applications from bright students. Those days are gone; the balance of power has been trending in favour of the students (except, perhaps, a blip this year ‘-).
  3. The consequence has been pretty bad for both parties: many bright students, who could have got into a doctoral program in our institutions, didn’t, and our institutions, which could have gained by admitting them, didn’t.

It may have taken IISc a very long time to face these facts; but this hugely desirable move helps the institution in diversifying the pool of potential applicants.

I am just glad that IISc has taken the first step. Note, however, that this step has been taken only for PhD admissions. the ME admissions at IISc continue to be based solely GATE scores.

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Sometime ago, Arunn Narasimhan wrote an excellent post describing some of the problems with GATE and how they may prevent good students from getting into graduate programs in Inda. If you agree with Arunn — I certainly do — then the conclusion is obvious: our institutions must take a step back from using entrance exams as the sole first-level filter, and try to incorporate other metrics in the selection process: performance in their university exams, consistency in academic performance, recommendation letters, etc.

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About Abi

My name is T. A. Abinandanan, and I am a professor of Materials Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
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One Response to Graduate admissions: An interesting initiative at IISc

  1. Ashish says:

    That is a good initiative.

    Irony is that all the competitive exams in India have been instrumental in murdering the intellect of many bright people. For instance, mugging up three subjects (PCM or PCB) and going through numerous problems of Irodovs, Agrawals, Brilliants and of course aided by the coaching which are needed to crack JEE/AIEEE/Medicals, does not necessarily make a person good engineer or scientist and ironically, there had hardly been any radical change at the basic level of entry. I wonder if one subject prodigies like Ramanujan would find any place in our educational system even at UG level?

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