Wednesday, June 07, 2006
applications at TIFR come from Bengal and Orissa, that is one more reason why an IISER should be established in Orissa; and if even if one is established in W. Bengal.
Why Arjun needs to drop by TIFR before he imposes quotas
research institute, seat hike no solution: ‘bigger crisis’ is
finding outstanding students and retaining the high talent
MUMBAI, JUNE 7:If HRD Minister Arjun Singh pays his first visit to
the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)—a deemed
university and a national centre for frontier research in nuclear
science and mathematics—he will learn why the proposed quotas with a
mandatory seat hike may not work on this Mumbai campus that
struggles to find quality students despite scouting via a nationwide
entrance test at the BSc-level.
In this autonomous institute funded by the Department of Atomic
Energy, the nation’s future top scientists gain entry based on their
knowledge of basic sciences—not college grades, reservations, or an
arbitrary seat strength.
‘‘We don’t know how quotas will be implemented,’’ says G
Krishnamoorthy, Dean of Graduate Studies. ‘‘So far, our research
does not depend on grades or quotas or a notional number of seats.
Why people are not coming to science is a much bigger crisis for
scientific institutions than reservations, and it needs to be
addressed. Students from the deep south have almost vanished from
science, they go to IITs.’’
The concern here—also faced by top science institutes nationwide—is
not the number of seats, but finding, as TIFR advertises,
‘‘exceptionally talented, strongly motivated’’ students despite a
competitive, merit-based selection system extended up to Siliguri,
West Bengal, last year. Candidates are encouraged to walk-in for the
test without prior notice.
‘‘Every year, we find it more and more difficult to get a fairly
acceptable number of good quality students. We’re worried, it’s
hurting our experimental programmes,’’ says Krishnamoorthy, who’s
coordinating selections for 2006.
This year, about 60 PhD-level candidates were selected from 6,105
applicants, but the Institute ‘‘hopes’’ at least 30-35 accept and
join. On an average, only ‘‘50-60 per cent of students selected’’
turn up to join the programmes, with others preferring the IITs or
more lucrative options.
For admissions here, the number of seats is almost a non-issue.
Last year, for example, 13 PhD candidates students were selected for
mathematics but 10 joined. This year, four were selected for
mathematics. In biology, 10 joined last year, up from two in 2002.
During one year, five were selected for chemistry but none joined.
Director S Bhattacharya told The Indian Express that the institute
has not received any information from the government about the
proposed legislation. ‘‘We’ll be happy to be part of any
decision-making process,’’ says Bhattacharya. ‘‘My hope is that the
legislators in their wisdom devise a plan that won’t affect us
negatively and will ensure our activities remain of high quality.’’
About 400-600 of the test applicants are called for hour-long
interviews during February to May. Last year was a ‘‘better’’ year
with 49 joining, from 85 who were selected.
‘‘It’s a high-pressure environment. Regularly, students in
specialisations like mathematics are asked to leave mid-way if they
cannot cope,’’ says a senior faculty member.
Soon, they’ll start preparing for 2007 selections.
‘‘We can’t think of a substantial increase in numbers,’’ says a
senior faculty. ‘‘Faculty is getting old. The absence of young minds
can be detrimental to science. Even in computer science, quality
students are not joining.’’
Best applications are coming from a ‘‘catchment area’’ of
science—Bengal and Orissa. ‘‘We test knowledge of basic sciences and
understanding of scientific principles,’’ says Krishnamoorthy. ‘‘We
need people with a clear aptitude to seek further knowledge. Some
years ago we stopped selecting based on grades because they vary as
India’s top scientists work at TIFR’s School of Mathematics, School
of Natural Sciences, School of Technology and Computer Science. C N
R Rao, the Prime Minister’s chief scientific advisor, is on TIFR’s
council of management, along with scientists like Atomic Energy
Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar.
Rao recently told this paper: “A difficult situation has been
precipitated without a proper discussion with people who know about
education’’. Some TIFR’s PhD students had joined anti-quota protests
in Mumbai, but the faculty says it’s going to ‘‘wait and watch.’’
TIFR’s 2006 PhD candidates
• 6,105 attempt written test
• 30 selected in physics
• 6 selected in chemistry
• 5 selected in computer science
• 4 selected in mathematics
• 13 selected in biology
"One Billion people.6 IIM’s, 7 IIT’s .Close to 200 seats in a typical IIM and 500 in a typical IIT.One group stands for senseless establishment of quotas. The other group senselessly opposes it. What is going on? Have we lost all our marbles? "