A day after Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi rejected the new entrance exam format, announced by Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal last month, and said it would hold its own entrance exam, much like IIT Kanpur, a worried Mr Sibal has called a special IIT Council meeting on June 27 to address the concerns of students.
The HRD Ministry, in statement, said the special meeting has been called to address the "uncertainty faced by the student community, consequent to the resolutions of the senates' of IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Delhi."
Millions of IIT aspirants find themselves caught between the spiralling row over the new entrance exam format. "We don't know what format it is now. It is very unfair on us. The exams are just six months away. Including Class XII board opens it to a lot of problems," said a worried student.
"We are concerned about the students. They are suffering... we want to work it out," said Professor Sanjeev Sanghi, President, IIT Faculty Forum.
Under the new format which is set to kick in from next year, there will be two tests - main and advanced - on the same day. The main test will be multiple choice.
The new entrance format has met with stiff opposition ever since it was announced by Mr Sibal, who says it's a "decision of IIT Council and not of the Ministry." But dissenting Senates accuse the Ministry of shooting from the shoulder of the IIT Council. (Read: IIT Directors to meet in Delhi today over entrance test row)
The IIT Council is headed by the HRD Minister and consists of the Directors of the seven old IITs. The Directors also head the Senate bodies of their respective institutions. The Senates, as per the IT Act of 1961, are the highest decision making bodies on all academic matters of the IITs. The Council only holds an advisory role.
Sources in the Ministry though point to ordinances which empower the IIT Council to take the decision.
"We don't trust the ministry. The way he has conducted it... This a direct attack... infringing on our autonomy," Professor AK Mittal, Secretary, All India Faculty Federation had said.
Meanwhile, after IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Delhi announcing they would hold their own entrance exam, sources have told NDTV that IIT-Bombay and Kharagpur are also likely to follow suit. IIT-Bombay Senate will hold a crucial meeting on this on July 2. Faculty members in IIT-Kharagpur are also likely to ask their Director to hold a Senate meeting soon to go with the decision of the other revolting IITs. IIT-Kharagpur Director, Professor Damodar Acharya, has so far toed the line of the IIT Council. His tenure ends on June 30.
The government had on May 28 announced the new test format which will be implemented from 2013. Under the new format aspiring candidates for IITs and other central institutes like NITs and IIITs will have to take a common entrance test. Plus two board results will also be taken into consideration.
Mr Sibal says this is to make sure students don't undermine Class XII boards, and reduce the dependence of tutorials, but few including students see reason in that.
"We don't know what the format is and it is anyway unfair to have a new format now. We have already been preparing for the old format," says an IIT aspirant.
"This is double the stress... In Class XII you memorise everything. To clear an IIT exam you have to apply your mind. Can't combine the two," said another.
The IITs oppose the new format contending that the proposed test will increase stress of students instead of decreasing it. They feel students aspiring to join institutes other than the IITs need not sit for two tests -- main and advance -- as proposed. They have also insisted that board examination results should not be taken into consideration while preparing the merit list.
Ironically, what began as an idea to ease the burden on students over numerous entrance exams for engineering is now the very source of it.