IITs Receive More Applications From Marginalized Communities Than Previously Disclosed, New Analysis Finds


Feb 16, 2021


Image Credit: Madan Mahatta/Photoink

Ph.D. aspirants from marginalized communities apply in large numbers to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), according to three years of Right to Information (RTI) data found by the Hindu. This is contrary to previous statements from the institutes alleging a low number of marginalized applicants.

The RTI data covered admissions between 2015-2019 — 3279 Ph.D. program acceptances from a pool of more than 95,000 candidates. The programs were civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science at IIT Bombay, Kanpur, Delhi, Kharagpur, and Madras.

According to the RTI data, only 238 of 11,019 Scheduled Caste (SC) applicants and 1809 Scheduled Tribe (ST) applicants received admission over the five year period. This means only 9.1% of SC candidates (with 15% seats reserved) and 2.1% ST candidates (with 7.5% seats reserved) received admission, falling well below the mandated reservation percentages, even though there were a large number of aspirants.

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It is common knowledge that the IITs are a selective institution by virtue of academic excellence, and that is why selection rates for Ph.D. programs are low. But, the report also uncovered selection bias favoring general category students. In IIT Delhi, around 63% of the students who applied were from the general category, and around 76% of those students received acceptances. In comparison, around 12% of the students who applied were from Scheduled Castes, but only 6% received acceptances.

This analysis comes amid the recent release of government data that shows a steep drop in the number of marginalized candidates receiving Ph.D. program acceptances. According to the data, 15 of 31 departments at IIT Delhi, and 16 of 26 departments at IIT Bombay did not admit a single person from a Scheduled Caste into a Ph.D. program in 2020. For Scheduled Tribes, five departments in IIT Bombay and 19 in IIT Delhi gave zero admissions.

The IITs had also tried to exclude themselves from reservations in faculty hiring last year. The reason given was that the IITs are “institutes of national importance and are involved in research,” which drew severe criticism from student activist groups within the institutions. IIT Bombay’s Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle put out a statement saying, “There exists sufficient data to suggest that the lack of qualified candidates from the reserved categories was never a reason for their lack of admissions in Ph.D. programs at the IITs. It is the cut-off mark that is used to deny entry to the eligible SC/ST/OBC students in campuses like IITs for years.”


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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