Kolkata: Two out of five candidates to appear for the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination 2018 will be from outside the state, the highest ever. Last year, a little over a third of students were from outside, a majority of them from Bihar and Jharkhand.
Of the 1,25,075 engineering aspirants who have applied to appear in WBJEE, scheduled on April 22, 50,030 candidates or 40% are from outside the state. Last year, around 36% of 1,17,544 applicants were from outside Bengal.
For candidates from Bengal, the WBJEE Board has said it will allot an examination centre within 30 minutes’ travel time from the location of form fill-up. To ensure this, the board has added 100 more exam centres this year to take the number to 339.
Buoyed by the sharp rise in applications at WBJEE as well as the high percentage of students from outside the state, WBJEE Board chairman Malayendu Saha said it was indicative of brain drain being stemmed. “There has been constant criticism regarding brain drain. Vacancies in engineering colleges have led to comments that youngsters are no longer interested in the stream. The number of applicants this year negates both. Also, this is the first time so many students from outside Bengal have evinced interest in studying here.”
Academicians, though, cite other reasons for the spurt in applications. Jadavpur University professor (Construction Engineering) Partha Pratim Biswas pointed out that the catchment area for engineering colleges in Bengal were primarily Bihar, Jharkhand and Sikkim.
“Beyond Bengal, there aren’t too many options to study engineering in private colleges. Hence, there is a rush for seats here. But they are discerning. They aim for branded engineering institutes. Thus, it is unlikely to fill up many seats in private engineering colleges that went vacant last year,” he said.
Another senior teacher from Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur said students aspiring to study engineering at JU, CU and a few quality private colleges was high.
“In JU and CU, apart from high quality education, the expense are relatively less than institutes in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra. As the economy slips into a slowdown, job prospects will get difficult. Hence, there will be a renewed interest in job oriented courses like engineering,” Biswas reasoned.
WBJEEB officials, while acknowledging the reasons cited for the thrust on engineering, said the 6.4% rise in number of candidates showed confidence of students in the examination process, accuracy in schedule and transparency.
“Till 2016, the WBJEEB was involved in taking entrance test for both medical and engineering aspirants. From last year, we only conduct the engineering exam. The number of candidates who applied for admissions in engineering this year gives a more accurate picture of the technology courses and its demand in the state,” said a board official.