Over the last five years, the annual rate of PhD applications getting accepted by the IITs have remained largely the same across social categories, but the pool of aspirants, including candidates from the disadvantaged communities, has grown a little, according to data presented by the Centre in Parliament.
Between 2017-18 and 2021-22, annual applications from candidates from Scheduled Castes (SC) background for pursuing doctoral programmes in the 23 Indian Institutes of Technology rose from 12,476 to 17,814 and from 2,132 to 3,461 among students from Scheduled Tribe (ST) background.
The respective increase for candidates from OBC communities was 27,734 to 40,418, and those from general category from 68,663 to 74,343.
The Ministry of Education shared the numbers in Rajya Sabha on July 20 in response to a question from CPI(M) member V Sivadasan.
During this period, the acceptance rate, or the percentage of applications accepted out of the total number of applications received, however, did not show any major change. In the case of students from SC background, the acceptance rate was 3.4% in 2017-18 and 3.2% in 2021-22; 4.4% and 4.01% for those from ST communities; 4.2% and 3.3% for OBCs; 4.5% and 4.5% for general category applicants.
Overall, the period between 2017-18 and 2021-22 saw 17,044 PhD applications getting accepted by the IITs, in which the share of SC, ST, OBC and general category students stood at 9.3%, 2.2% and 23.3% and 61.6%, respectively.
The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in admission) Act, 2006 mandates 15%, 7.5% and 27% quota for SC, ST and OBC students, respectively, out of the annual permitted strength in each branch of study or faculty. But many IITs maintain that since there is no fixed sanctioned annual intake for PhD programmes in their institutes, they cannot technically follow the reservation policy.
Another written response from the ministry in Lok Sabha, responding to a question by CPI(M) member S Venkatesan on July 18, shows that in some IITs, the skew against the disadvantaged groups was deeper than the overall average in 2021. For instance, in IIT Bhilai, out of 207 applications from candidates from SC background, none was accepted in 2021, while only one each was accepted at Dharwad and Tirupati IITs.
Also, last year, at IITs Mandi, Bhilai, Goa and Tirupati, not one out of 140, 30 and 93 ST applicants, respectively, was selected. Among others, IIT Jodhpur and IIT Bhubaneswar accepted one out of 107 and 149 ST applicants, respectively.