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Experience shows that the earlier single-window system is better than the recent online counseling system in Tamil Nadu engineering admission.

P V Navaneethakrishnan, former director of Anna University Entrance Exams and Admissions, says that rural students have trouble understanding and using the online system. The single-window system is transparent and simple to use. It only requires students to come to the counseling center and get admission to the best possible seat and college available, he says.

The single-window system was first introduced by then Anna University Vice-Chancellor M Anandakrishnan in 1997. It simplified the admission process and only one application was enough. When complaints arose that private colleges were collecting money for allocation of branch of engineering in second year, the system ensured that the branch was allotted as per merit list and availability during the counselling itself.

Until 2000, students had to come to Chennai for the counseling. Starting 2001, they could go to Tiruchi, Madurai or Coimbatore whichever was closer to them. This was called distributed counseling. But given the complexities and cost involved, this was given up. Starting 2005, the old single-window system was brought back.

Much depends on the preference list the students come up with. If this is not properly filled out, students may not get the desired seat that is decided by the software.

When the online system was introduced in 2018, many educationists demurred. Even students from urban areas who go to IITs and NITs have trouble navigating their online admission system. In the case of rural students for whom Tamil Nadu engineering colleges are an easier opportunity, the situation is tougher. Those getting more than 190 cut off have trouble landing colleges and seats of their choice, statistics show. Those with lesser cut off often get those seats. This is inherent to the online system. For instance, in 2018, when the system was introduced 167 students did not get seats of their choice. (Access previous articles in here)

In the single-window system, the government defrayed half the cost of travel of the student and parent. Within a few hours, the student had the admission documents. Since engineering counseling was conducted after medical, vacant seat occurrence was reduced.

Even with a computer and internet connection at home, many students struggle to fill the online form. Quite often, the students need to come to the Tamil Nadu Engineering Admission Facilitation Center (TFC) three times. Though counseling can happen at home, they have to come to the center for scrutiny of certificates. Scanning and uploading the certificates carries a cost. To line up the preference list, assistance of educationists or teachers is required. For this reason, many students end up taking not-so-good colleges and courses despite scoring higher.

Much depends on the preference list the students come up with. If this is not properly filled out, students may not get the desired seat that is decided by the software.

While seats are available, the in-demand seats and colleges typically get filled up in the first round. Very little is available in the second round.  Further, online counseling happens in four phases, with each phase taking one week. Online counseling is not quick either. What may work better is a system that combines the good aspects of both the systems.


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