From 2018, IITs will start implementing the supernumerary quota for women students by increasing seats in a phased manner.

The womens quota plan in IITs is well thought out but will it address the real problemPhoto by Saikat Sarkar via Wiki Commons
news Education Monday, April 17, 2017 - 17:34

Every year, lakhs of aspiring engineers take the IIT JEE, hoping to secure admission into the country’s premiere science institutes. And according to Timothy Gonsalves, Director of IIT Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, of the 4600 women who qualified for the entrance last year, only 850 of them joined IITs.

To address these dipping numbers of women students in IITs, the institutes’ Joint Admission Board (JAB) decided on April 15 to increase the number of students IITs will admit from 2018 onwards. The JAB gave a go ahead to a proportion of supernumerary (over and above the original intake) seats to be added for women applicants.

Speaking to TNM, Gonsalves, who chaired the panel which proposed the quota, says it would be implemented in a phased manner till 2020: “Next year, we will increase seats by 14%, by 17% in 2019 and 20% and 2020.” All these candidates will have to clear the IIT JEE and be in the topo 20 percentile of their respective boards.

Gonsalves added that the quota will be phased out by 2026.

The move by the IITs is meant to address the skewed gender ratio in the institutes as well as to provide a better chance to women candidates who are already performing well to access better education through IIT.

According to Manish Gohain’s report in TOI, of all the students going to IITs in 2014, only 8.8% were women. While the proportion increased to 9% in 2015, it decreased in 2016 again, coming down to 8%.

Why the skewed gender ratio 

“Many women may not join because of family pressures, where their families aren’t too comfortable sending them away to study. The option then is to look for IITs nearby, but they may not have the rank required to secure admission there. That’s why we have increased the number of seats, so the institute nearby is able to take them in,” Gonsalves explains.

An example is Poorva’s* friend, Nimisha*. Both of them hail from Nagpur, Maharashtra and secured admission in IIT Gandhinagar. Poorva says that while she was able to come to Gandhinagar to pursue her PhD, Nimisha’s parents objected to her going away. Since Nimisha didn’t qualify for IIT Mumbai, she ended up joining NIT in Nagpur itself.

Poorva thinks therefore, that the move is a step in the right direction. But not everyone is entirely convinced. 27-year-old Shalini, who graduated from IIT Delhi in 2011 says that the problem is deeper.

“The general mindset is that girls are more ‘creative’ and boys are better suited for the analytical stuff. So many girls are discouraged from seriously pursuing a technical field seriously. But I do hope that increasing the number of seats helps tackle this problem in some way,” Shalini says. 

Saloni, a 26-year-old PhD student at IIT Gandhinagar says: “I don’t see how the exclusive seats will help on their own. What could help more, perhaps, is a fee concession. Many families may still not be willing to spend huge amounts on the girl’s education. You reduce the fee and maybe you can get more girls to come to IIT.”

But for Gonsalves, the idea behind the increased number of seats is quite clear. “We aren’t claiming to solve the society’s problem. The simple logic behind this is that is 4600 women are qualifying IIT JEE, then they should be able to access the education to hone them better,” he maintains.   

The quota is supernumerary which means the IITs will also have to manage their resources for the higher number of students they will receive. Gonsalves says that resource management is already a part of the plan.

“We have been planning to increase our overall intake by 75,000 to 1 lakh by 2020. Institutes have already undertaken construction of hostel campuses and labs accordingly. This is also why we are implemented the quota from 2018, so that we are prepared with the resources needed for almost 600 more women across IITs,” he says.

(*Names changed on request)

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