There is a need to reduce pressure and fear of failure and rejection among students and there should be zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination in the premier Indian Institutes of Technology, the IIT Council decided in its 55th meeting on Tuesday.

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan chaired the meeting, held after a gap of two years, and asked the IITs to ensure multiple entry-exit options for students. He also directed the Higher Education department to prepare a detailed report on the issue and raised concerns about student dropouts in the premier technical institutions.

Enhancing support to SC and ST students, raising the tenure of support to female PhD students for an additional year, and filling vacancies in IITs at the earliest were among the decisions taken by the council.

The issue of students suicide, alleged discrimination and ensuring mental wellbeing of students was discussed at length during the meeting.

"IITs should provide all support system for students and should have zero tolerance for all kinds of discrimination. Students in IITs should be face of new India with no discrimination and ready to be global citizens," Pradhan said at the meeting in Bhubaneswar.

"We are concerned. No discrimination, not just in IITs, but in all educational institutions, should take place. It's a social challenge and this has been discussed today. I would humbly say that it's the responsibility of the faculty, deans and directors to address these challenges," he added.

Last month, the Lok Sabha was informed that 33 students have died by suicide at IITs since 2018, nearly half of them from Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities.

The recent alleged death by suicide of Darshan Solanki, a first-year chemical engineering student at IIT Bombay, and two students of IIT Madras sparked a nationwide debate on the issue.

According to officials, the council stressed on the need for robust grievance redressal system, increasing psychological counselling services, reducing pressure and highlighting the importance of reducing fear of failure and rejection among students.

“The council discussed several steps needed to ensure mental health and wellness of students at IITs. The minister expressed his pain regarding recent cases of suicides and called the directors to be proactive in providing all kind of support to students including developing a robust mechanism of zero tolerance for discrimination in institutes,” a senior official said.

The last IIT Council meeting was held virtually in February 2021 in view of the pandemic. This is also the first IIT Council meeting chaired by Education Minister Pradhan.

The apex coordination body of all the 23 premier engineering colleges looks after the administrative and other key affairs at the IITs. It includes directors and chairpersons of all 23 IITs.

While the agenda item about the fee hike was not taken up for discussion, the council discussed the ways that vacancies are filled at the earliest and extension of the PM Research Fellowship programme in view of its positive impact.

The council also discussed the proposals to introduce a four-year BEd (ITEP) programme in IITs. In the context of the changing global scenario, the council discussed the need for the development of the next 25-year vision for the IITs.

"IIT ecosystem is the backbone for not just our country, but for the world. Be it world governance, economy and global management, there is a huge contribution from people with an IIT background. There are no such global corporations where IITians have not played leadership roles. We deliberated on innovation and research requirements of the 21st century," Pradhan said.