Mr Sibal convened this crucial meeting after IIT Kanpur and Delhi rejected the new common entrance examination proposal and decided to hold own test. Sensing that other IITs are likely to follow in their footsteps, the minister is said to have floated a new proposal that was discussed at the meeting of the IIT Directors on Saturday. This formula is likely to replace the original proposal.
On May 28, the HRD Ministry had announced that there would be a common entrance exam for all centrally-funded engineering colleges, including the 15 IITs and all the National Institutes of Technology (NITs). This one test format proposed equal weightage for Class XII board marks and the entrance tests. Engineering colleges, it said, would use a 40:30:30 formula - with Class XII board results counting for 40 per cent, and the two stages of the entrance exam counting for 30 per cent each.
The government said the new entrance format would kick in from 2013. But after stiff opposition from some IITs, faculty bodies and students, the ministry made some changes to its original proposal.
According to the new proposal, board examination marks will not count for IIT entrance. Instead, top 20 per cent scorers in board examinations will be eligible to take the main (multiple-choice) IIT entrance exam. And then 50,000 students who score the best there will move on to the advanced exam, which will be conducted by the IITs. This is being seen as a big victory for the IIT Senates, who have been keen on conducting the advance test themselves, but have been against the idea of relying on board marks. The Senates are the highest decision making bodies on all academic matters of the IITs. A senate consists largely of professors who are made responsible by the IIT Act of 1961, "for the maintenance of standards of instruction, education and examination."
Mr Sibal says the decision to conduct a common entrance examination for the IITs from 2013 was a unanimous one, taken by the IIT Council comprising the governing bodies of the IITs, NITs and the IIITs. But the dissenting Senates accuse the Ministry of shooting from the shoulder of the IIT Council. 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 national body of IIT teachers, the All India IIT Faculty Federation, has questioned the haste with which the government is trying to push through the new test format. The faculty federation is leading the battle against the new format along with IIT senates and the alumni associations.
The AIIITFF is also meeting in the national capital today. In a statement released before that meeting began, it said, "AIIITFF feels that the forthcoming IIT Council meeting is crucial in light of the recent resolutions of the IIT Kanpur and IIT Delhi. Federation prefers to have separate examination for IITs. National examination could be used as screening test for IITs preferably from the year 2014. Federation will extend all possible support to the government for the conduct of the national examination.
"In light of our Prime Minister's assurance that the IITs autonomy and its brand will be preserved, we are hopeful that the IIT Council will also appreciate it. Concerns of all the stakeholders including aspiring students, IIT Senates, IIT Council, IIT Faculty and people at large will be addressed."