JEE Advanced: Not enough interest among foreign students to pursue IIT UG course

For the second year in a row, the council of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) decided to not have an overseas exam centre for JEE Advanced. Last year, the decision to not conduct the exam overseas was taken due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s move was driven by ‘low return on investment’.

The organising chairman of JEE Advanced 2021, Debashish Chakraborty, told that no exam centres were finalised in any foreign country this year, partly due to Covid and majorly because there are no takers for the IIT entrance exam at the undergraduate level.

Overseas centres have low ROI

“Every year, the number of foreign nationals who register for the advanced exam continues to decrease. Like in 2020, this year too they had to come down to India at their expense to take the exam. Often, most of the applicants under the foreign student category are only from the neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal,” Chakraborty added.

Chakraborty said that the institute is still collating the exact number of foreign category applicants for JEE Advanced 2021 ahead of the result. “Very few students applied this year,” he added.

He said that conducting the exam in a foreign country requires financial and human resources but it does not always translate into international students eventually joining the IITs. Hence, it was in the best interest to not fixate on such practices. “Those who are passionate about joining the premier institutes will write the paper wherever they are required to,” he added.

Paramasivan Arumugam, Dean of International Relations, IIT Roorkee, agrees that IITs have not caught the attention of international students yet for UG programmes. The institute has around 144 enrolled international students, but all of them are in MTech and PhD programmes.

Not enough interest to pursue UG degree from India

“Most students prefer European countries along with the US and UK for UG degree, but south Asian countries come into the picture when students move towards specialisations,” Arumugam said.

IIT Delhi professor, Siddarth Pandey, who was the organising chairman of JEE Advanced 2020, said that only a handful of foreign students had applied for the exam last year and none could qualify. IIT Delhi, too, has around 98 foreign students but all of them are enrolled in MTech and PhD programmes.

Miniscule success rate

In 2020, around 209 Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), 23 Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and 23 foreign national category candidates had appeared for the entrance exam. Of which, 4 under the foreign national category, 16 under PIO and 133 under OCI had qualified. In 2019, a total of 807 students (including OCI, PIO and foreign nationals) had applied for JEE advanced, of which only one qualified. In JEE Advanced 2018, only 51 foreign students had registered. Of them, 36 appeared and 4 qualified.

“In 2020, the 4 students who qualified were from Nepal, but they were studying in India for a long time. Foreign students are allowed to appear directly for the advanced exam without having to appear for JEE Main, yet they are unable to get through because of the difficulty level and syllabus followed in their higher secondary classes,” Pandey said.

He added that Indian students start preparing for the exam quite early. The top rankers often put in a couple of years into getting themselves ready for the exam. But, students who complete their school education from abroad do not always have the same syllabus and have to prepare separately for the entrance exam.

Impact on global rankings

V Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi, agreed that not having enough foreign students at the UG level does affect the institutes’ global ranking but “the parameters set by these organisations do not fully understand the challenges faced by Indian institutes”.

IIT Roorkee professor, Arumugam echoed Rao. “Global rankings put great emphasis on foreign students enrolled at all levels and international perceptions of an institute but developing countries do not necessarily attract students from first-world countries. It may take a few more years for rankings to release this and for IITs to become a magnet for UG students,” he said.

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Author: Shirley