More than 70% COMEDK applicants are from outside Karnataka: Officials

COMEDK is an exam for admission to engineering colleges in Karnataka but its appeal is no less than a central exam. Officials tell us how this came to be
The big interview | (Pic: EdexLive and sourced)
The big interview | (Pic: EdexLive and sourced)

The Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMEDK) conducts entrance examinations for admission to many renowned engineering colleges of Karnataka. Following the increasing demand for engineering seats in Bengaluru among the aspirants, the entrance exam has become one of the most popular entrance exams after Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main.

This year, a combined examination for COMEDK Undergraduate Entrance Test (UGET) and Educational Rating and Assessment (ERA) foundation’s Uni-Gauge will be conducted on Sunday, May 28 for 22,000 seats in 153 member institutions of COMEDK and 55 private, self-financed universities under the ERA foundation. The test will be conducted in online mode at 410 centres in over 180 towns and cities across India.

With the exam fast approaching, we reached out to Dr S Kumar, Executive Secretary of COMEDK and P Muralidhar, CEO of ERA Foundation for a discussion on the entrance examination, future trends in engineering admissions and the popularity of colleges in Karnataka among the aspirants.

The duo also commented on the subject of a prospective merger with the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (KCET) which was proposed last year, the future of state-specific entrance exams and the delay in the counselling process last year as well as advice for the students who will be appearing for the exam soon. Excerpts from our conversation:

COMEDK, starting out as a state-specific exam has considerably expanded its reach to other states. How is the interest around COMEDK like when it comes to other states?

Dr S Kumar: COMEDK was started in the academic year 2004-05 and since the beginning, it has been a pan-India examination. We never restricted the exam to be available for Karnataka students alone. This year, 71% of students who have registered for the examination are from other states while 29% are from Karnataka.

How has Karnataka positioned itself so that students from other states are attracted towards seeking admission in the state for higher education? What do you think are the main reasons behind this attraction?

Kumar: Most of the engineering colleges in Karnataka have been established about 30-40 years ago. That is one of the strengths of Karnataka colleges. The state also provides a very convenient ecosystem for technical education. For example, when one has to opt for an internship during their course, most industry and IT giants are available here in Karnataka.

P Muralidhar: For every college or university, it takes a few years to establish itself and gain maturity. Karnataka started early on while other states were still catching up. So, obviously, due to this factor, colleges in this state have a better intake of students and the faculty is better too. That’s why, 1,10,000 students are vying for 22,000 seats via COMEDK this year.

Recently, COMEDK introduced innovation hubs called COMED KARES. What are these centres and how does it help the students in your member institutions?

Kumar: It is a major initiative with an investment of nearly Rs 25 crore that COMEDK has established eight innovation hubs called COMED KARES. These centres have all the facilities for modern-day engineering training whether it is artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, 3D printing and so on. We want students to identify problems in the community, discuss solutions with the facilitators at our centres and kickstart the project. Out of the eight centres, four are in Bengaluru as it has 73 engineering colleges. All the training programmes are approved by Visvesvaraya Technological University and they have even assigned credit points for student participation.

What is your advice for the students who are going to appear for the COMEDK exam?

Kumar: There are no shortcuts while choosing and preparing for college admissions.

Muralidhar: COMEDK UGET is a moderate exam, unlike JEE Main or Advance where only 20% of the students get good seats. Anyone with a good hold on basic fundamentals can secure a COMEDK seat. There is nothing to worry about or any special preparation required. Consistency is the key that will help.

Focusing on the exam itself, are there any major changes when it comes to COMEDK UGET this year?

Kumar: During the pandemic, there were talks about how a few topics could not be covered in schools. In order to not handicap the students, during those two years, those chapters were deleted from the question bank. However, now, from this year, we have gone back to the regular syllabus.

How many engineering courses does COMEDK offer admissions to? There have been discussions about how IT courses are preferred a lot more over others. What are the other trends one can trace when it comes to engineering via COMEDK?

Muralidhar: The number and description of courses are different in different institutions, there are so many variations of the same courses. Surprisingly, the top five courses preferred by students are all computer-related courses, namely, Computer Science with Data Science, Computer Science Engineering (Internet of Things and Cybersecurity), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Sciences, AI and Machine Learning, and Infor mation Science and Engineering.

However, with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, one important trend that will be noted is the whole idea of interdisciplinary studies. So tomorrow, just because you’re pursuing Mechanical Engineering does not mean you cannot pursue Computer Science. With that, Computer Science and Data Analysis will become a common thread across many branches.

Recently, there has been a push for bringing all entrance exams under one umbrella, especially under NEP. In such a situation, what do you have to say about state-specific exams like COMEDK and their future?

Muralidhar: Unlike medical courses, there are more engineering seats in India than the number of aspirants. So, looking at the situation, I do not think there is a need for one single exam for engineering courses or a merger. COMEDK is the only central exam for colleges in Karnataka as there is a high demand for these colleges.

Last year, there were talks about Karnataka Common Entrance Test (KCET)-COMEDK merger. Though the talk was that it was turned down by COMEDK, do you think there is a scope for the same in the near future?

Kumar: No, I don’t think there are  any plans as such.

Muralidhar: The important point is that KCET is only for domicile students while COMEDK is pan-India, which is why there are two exams. Also, we are not competing at all. KCET and COMEDK conduct their admission process in a well-synchronised manner. 

In 2022, the counselling process for COMEDK was delayed due to a delay in the KCET admission process. What can candidates expect this year? Would the two admission processes go hand-in-hand?

Muralidhar: Earlier, we were synchronising our counselling process so that a Karnataka student gets both choices. On the other hand, now we do not need to do that since if the KCET process happens later and one of our candidates gets a government seat, we would be more than happy to return 100% of the money.

Any future plans for COMEDK, COMED KARES or member institutes?

Muralidhar: For COMED KARES, we have started these eight centres and we are already seeing reasonably good traction. But looking at the numbers, we have almost four lakh students just for engineering courses. So, from a capacity point of view, we are still falling short. This is why we are considering the expansion of this model within Karnataka.

Secondly, we might consider setting up extra research centres for dental and medical institutes.

Kumar: We are also contemplating a faculty training programme at all our centres so that the faculty can update themselves with modern technology. We have not structured a very detailed programme but we will do that shortly.

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