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The Karnataka engineering college admission process was supposed to the best in the country and has been emulated by many states, including Maharashtra.

But things have changed for the worse now says Saranath Narsimhan.

What is holding the Karnataka education policy to ransom? To home in on an answer we need to look back at the history of a hitherto glorious objective test – The CET (Common Entrance Test).

The CET is an objective paper that tests a student’s skill in Math, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Comprising sixty minutes for each subject and spread over two days, the CET was a marvelous testimonial of punctual and sincere administration. It allowed for a single window system to admit students to various engineering/ medical colleges in the state. Using merit as the sole criterion for admission, the Karnataka CET was complimented as one of the best in the country in terms of its degree of difficulty and its curriculum. Why then is this supposed flawless system challenged?

The CET was completely under the control of the Government of Karnataka and the departments that scheduled and operated it. The top rankers were given the first few seats of merit, also termed ‘free seats’ at a very nominal fee of Rs.10,890 p.a for engineering and medicine. This was deeply appreciated by the student body and the parents. The lower ranks could opt for payment seats at a higher fee which floated around Rs. 50,000 p.a. Thus affordability was a choice.

But for two years now the Government and the Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMEDK) have been involved in a tussle over the seat sharing imbroglio. This consortium evolved an alternative to CET called the COMEDK (an objective test based on the same lines as the CET), which “promises” to allocate seats with the least bit of inconvenience to the students. However the fee to be charged is decided by each institute.

However, in the last two years, students have been spared no hassles. Their seat counseling was postponed. The seats allocated were de allocated. Fees were hiked arbitrarily. In short their futures were taken for a rough rugby game. Soiled and injured. Ad hoc measures and policies abounded year after year. The government was not willing to give up its hold. The consortium demanded more. The students were in a limbo again.

Now, a compromise of sorts has been reached. The consortium has agreed to forsake 60% of the seats to the government’s control. But here’s the catch – only 40% of the seats are at a price of Rs 15,000 p.a. The remaining 20% are priced at Rs 89,000 (these figures are for engineering. The corresponding figures for medical and are Rs 35,000 for 35% of the students, and Rs 2.9 lakhs for the remaining 25%.)

So barring 40% of the seats, the remaining are unaffordable for the average middle class student.

Why are 20% of the seats under government control priced at Rs 89,000, while the consortium charges close to a lakh p.a. for their 40% of the seats with 20% reserved for ‘NRIs’ at $5000 p.a. Is this just a garb to make more money? The admission scheme for this year has been settled. The only people anxiously following the proceedings will be the next year’s aspirants. They have multiple issues to rattle their head about beside the pressure of academics.

The list below makes it clear that the top ten engineering colleges in the state are part of the COMEDK membership.

However in the medical stream, some of the best campuses in Karnataka are sticking to their own entrance tests for admission.

These would include:
1. Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore (constituent College of MAHE, )
2. Bangalore Medical College (a government medical College, considered to be one among the top 10 in the country)
3. St. John’s medical College (deemed, also very highly regarded)

Worthy medical Colleges under the COMEDK:
1. Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences
2. M S Ramaiah Medical College

The Private vs Government tussle
The Supreme Court (TMA Pai Foundation & Ors vs. State of Karnataka & Ors) ruled that state and centre governments had no right to appropriate seats of higher education in private institutions they had not funded directly.

The Centre decided to bypass the SC judgment by amending the Constitution and passing a bill which would :
a) mandate reservation for OBCs
b) bring private institutions back under government control

How will reservations be implemented in private institutions? Will the government subsidize the fees of reserved category students or expect the private institutes to bear it? These questions remain unanswered.

Some of the Karnataka Engineering colleges under COMEDK
R.V. College Of Engineering Bangalore
P.E.S.Institute of Technology Bangalore
S.J.C.E Mysore
M.S.Ramaiah Institute of Technology Bangalore
B.M.S College of Engineering Bangalore
Siddaganga Institute of Technology Tumkur
R.N.S Institute of Technology Bangalore
J.S.S Academy of Technical Education Bangalore
Bangalore Institute of Technology Bangalore
Sir. M. Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology Bangalore

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