The Indian Institutes of Technology, the country's only world-class centres of higher education, are to become more elitist under plans to raise the admissions threshold.
From next year, only candidates who have scored at least 60 per cent in their school-leaving examinations will be permitted to sit the all-India Joint Entrance Examination, and only two attempts to pass the exam will be allowed. At present, anyone who has passed school final examinations can enter the JEE.
The plans have provoked nationwide protests. Student groups say the move is biased against candidates from state schools, especially in educationally backward states. A Delhi University student union official said: "In states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, school results are generally poor, and students who wish to go to one of the institutes have special coaching after their school exams. They will now be at a disadvantage.''
The IITs said the idea was to encourage students to concentrate on their school studies.
The IITs came fourth in The Times Higher 's survey of 200 top universities last year. They were identified as a potential model for the revitalisation of the African university system in Tony Blair's Commission for Africa report. This year the IITs have moved up to third place in the ranking.