“It’s Electronics and Communications at RVCE”, screamed the Deccan Herald, covering the ongoing CET counselling. The paper went on to explain the other “trends” that are popular among students who have cleared the engineering entrnce this year.

My mind goes back seven years. As soon as the JEE results were announced, I was clear that I wanted to take Computer Science at IIT Madras. My parents had made a vain attempt to convince me to take electrical. I had put a “well left” on that and my father watched silently as I filled out the choice form. That a few friends who had comparable ranks had also done the same probably provided some solace to my parents.

Then the vote seemed overwhelmingly in favor of computer science, with Electrical opening only after the last CS seat had gone. And this trend wasn’t restricted to the IITs alone. All over the country, CS opened first, though there were a few who had bucked the trend and taken Elec.

Eight months later, I was home for a weekend and watching some news channel with my parents when reports of the IT slowdown came in. “See, I told you so!” said my mother. “You should have taken Electrical. that is an evergreen subject. Now with IT slowing down you won’t get a good job”.

Three months later, my mom’s stand was replicated by thousands of parents all over. In my batch, E&C at RVCE had opened only after the last CS seat had gone. This time the first CS seat was taken only after E&C had closed (i’m not sure of this statistic, but it was somewhere thereabouts). The IT slowdown meant CS had lost it’s charm. “Electrical, Electronics, Mechanical are evergreen subjects. They will never go out of fashion, unlike CS. Anyways you can learn Computer Science by doing a course at NIIT!!!!” was the popular voice (exclamation marks mine). IITs though had bucked the trend, with CS closing much before Elec in all IITs.

Till that batch (2001), Kharagpur would be the last major IIT to get its seats filled, with respect to CS at least. The last KGP CS seat would usually go much after the last CS seat at Madras or Kanpur, which used to usually be second last. 2002 changed all that. Kgp had suddenly become hot, thanks to some India Today report. It had been ranked as the no. 1 IIT after being in 5th for a while. Students (parents rather) had bought the bait. CS in Madras that year closed somewhere in the 200s, much more than double the closing ranks in previous years (and more than 4 times the closing ranks in 96 and 97).

Recently I got a call from my mother’s cousin’s friend’s cousin’s friend. Her son has cracked the JEE, getting a rank within the top 200. The mother, however, is worried shit that IITs are losing their reputation. Now through the JEE he can also get admitted in X Institute or Y institute (brand new institutes which have opened this year whose names I forget. one in ahmedabad and one in trivandrum and one in pune i think). And she thinks that it would make much more sense to take one of those than join an IIT. And she had asked my mother’s cousin to ask for my opinion (IITians living in India are hard to come by among KTs, so I still have to field such calls).

Thankfully I wasn’t speaking directly to the parents of the person who had cracked, so I could be direct in my opinion. And I asked my aunt to pass on a mouthful to the boy’s parents (and she was in full agreement). Still, it rankled as to why some random personwould think that IITs had lost their sheen. Only until I read some recent issue of Outlook somewhere. The cover story there was about IITs losing their reputation. Imagine the impact the article would have had on thousands of careers. Maybe that’s the reason the IITs this time gave out 8500 ranks, as against 3400 in my batch adn 4500 2 years back.

Computer Science losign to E&C… Kharagpur trumping Madras… Now the IITs supposedly losing reputation…

Students… parents… trends… impact… the media… reports… careers…

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