This week was difficult for Bharath Kumar. He had to make a decision: mechanical engineering at IIT-Bombay or a four-year specialisation programme in physics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
“I was not confused. The problem was convincing my family and friends that I really wanted to pursue research,” said the student, who finally decided to go with IISc.
Bharath is not the only one who has rejected an IIT seat. R. Gowtham, also a high scorer, worked rigorously for four years to get into the IITs, but is now enthused about studying at the Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI).
“The CMI test is even tougher than the IIT test because there are just 50 seats available,” he said.
On why he chose CMI over an IIT, he said, “I wanted a course that combined computing and mathematics. Once I realised my love for both subjects, I started focussing on getting into CMI as it offers such a course.”
Spending four years at an IIT is a dream for millions of aspiring engineers, and many of them spend more than three years preparing to crack the test that can get them there.
But after the test, some think it over and often choose another institute if it has a course they really want to pursue.
This year, over 310 students have rejected the prestigious IITs to get into other institutes. Over 76 candidates withdrew their admissions from IIT-Madras, which is the worst-hit among all the IITs. IIT-Delhi was second, having lost 63 students, while Kanpur had the least number of withdrawals at 16.
While most candidates who have rejected their seats had been selected for streams such as mining, metallurgy, and biotechnology, in some IITs, even core departments like civil and chemical engineering have had candidates withdrawing.
“The IITs offer a total of 9,885 seats. The National Institutes of Technology (NITs) offer 15,458 seats. A student who gets chemical engineering at IIT-M may get computer science or electrical engineering in one of the better NITs and so may opt for that,” said R. Raghavan, a former IIT professor.
He added that while a decade ago no one would even think about not accepting an IIT seat, withdrawals were now quite common.
“Also, everyone wants computer science, electronics and communication and electrical engineering, keeping placements and a corporate career in mind, which is not possible with the limited number of seats,” he added.
Another factor is the ‘old vs. new IITs’. Many students who get into the newer IITs – Indore, Mandi, Ropar, Jodhpur and others, chose NITs or reputed private engineering colleges in their State.
“Many of the new IITs function in ‘borrowed’ campuses and I am not sure how good they are. Also, placement reports show big companies still prefer to recruit from the old IITs,” said Ananya Baradwaj, who has taken up in civil engineering at NIT, Calicut.