The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur recently announced a new way to apply for admission to the institute. Students that qualify for the internationally renowned Olympiads in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and informatics will be eligible to apply for direct admission to the institute. However, it is up to the various departments and the institute's senate to make the final decision on these students' admittance.
According to Nitin Saxena, head of IIT Kanpur's UGARC (undergraduate academic programme review committee), students who qualify for international Olympiads have already demonstrated their ability and do not require a further check in the form of the IIT-JEE exam. "Each year, six Indian students compete in the internationally renowned Olympiads. They go through a rigorous preparation process in order to compete in several government-sponsored Olympiads," he explains.
Unfortunately, the majority of students choose to pursue their higher education in foreign institutions. He says, "This structure was put in place to try and keep this extraordinary talent."
Partha Halder, head of department, (Chemistry) and academic head (FIITJEE Group), says that currently, there is minimal awareness regarding Olympiads amongst students as well as parents. “We screen candidates who come to prepare for IIT-JEE and introduce the best of the lot for the Olympiads,” he says.
Since the Olympiads is a niche test, many students do not even consider the idea of trying it out. “Thus far, Olympiads are just about the prestige of qualifying for the test, as it is not a mass level exam. Getting direct admission into a few of the nation’s top Engineering institutes through the Olympiads is still a foreign concept to many,” adds Halder.
Parents also tend to confuse the local level Olympiads with the government-held test. “We have a long journey before the concept of Olympiads becomes well-known amongst students and parents alike,” Halder adds.
IIT Bombay had introduced a similar concept for admission to the institute in 2018. Avinash Mahajan, dean (academic programmes), IIT Bombay, says, “Candidates who qualify for the International Mathematics Olympiad are eligible to apply for the Bachelor of Science in Mathematics programme. The institute has earmarked six seats for the respective students. However, final admission depends upon a screening process, post which the decision will be taken by the respective department and finally, the institute’s senate.”
Explaining the reason behind introducing the concept solely for students of Mathematics, Mahajan says, “Generally, Maths students decide early on that this will be their chosen area of specialisation. With the Olympiad route, we give them an option to stay focused by not having to prepare for other subjects to appear in the IIT-JEE exam.”
Since 2018, the institute has taken few admissions based on the Olympiad route, tells Mahajan.