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Epicrisis of engineering education

Once a dream career of every middle class child, the case of few takers in the engineering stream is witnessed across all States

13th September 2018, 06:44 Hrs

The crisis of engineering education in India is now more seemingly visible. Almost 50% of engineering seats in the current year remained vacant as per the AICTE. This trend continued for last five years. Once a dream career of every middle class child to be an engineer is no longer so. The case is not different from seeking admissions to the IIT. This year around 118 seats were vacant in the 23 IITs and this number has been on a meteoric rise for a few years with 121 vacant seats in 2017, 96 in 2016, 50 in 2015 and 3 in 2014; and certainly a cause to worry.

The case of few takers in the engineering stream is across all States. By mid-July in Goa this year, 95 of 1300 seats after the second round of admissions for engineering were still vacant. As many as 56,406 engineering seats remained vacant across Maharashtra out of 1.30 lakh seats while over 29,000 seats of the total 77,500 by in Karnataka remained unfilled. In Gujarat about 48 percent  engineering seats are lying vacant while in the Madhya Pradesh around 60 percent were unfilled in last two years. In Tamil Nadu after the third round admissions over 40 percent of engineering colleges filled less than 10 seats each while 71 failed to fill even a single seat and sadly only 47 of the 473 self-financing colleges filled more than 30 percent.  In Odisha out of 38,200 seats only 10,300 students registered themselves for engineering admission till July-end and the vacancy rate was around 60 percent in the passing year.

The underlying learning is straight and simple that students have shunned engineering seats. The reason cited, there are no jobs worth taking and engineering education don’t guarantee any. According to the AICTE barely half of engineering students find suitable employment. Forget campus placements, most engineering students also struggle to get suitable internships as per the AICTE.

A quick back of the envelope calculations about the enrolment, graduation rates and the placement by this author averaged over last 3 years periods among six popular engineering streams using AICTE data reveal some interesting facts. 

Streams like Mechanical, Computer Science, and Electronics/Communication in that order, found relatively higher takers and there were very few takers for Civil, Electrical and Chemical streams. 

The graduating (pass percentage) rates are higher for electronics, with a pass rate of 74%, Computer Science at 69 percent and Electrical at 57%, respectively while in terms of placements the Chemical, Computers and Mechanical streams fared well with 55 percent, 51 and 50 percent. 

The performance of the Civil stream is relatively very poor at placements with only 38 percent of those enrolled being placed followed by Electrical (at 47%) and Electronics (48%) respectively. The above analysis roughly indicate the current admission choices and talk loud about poor efforts made by students for faring in the subject and the dismal performance of institutions in placements as well.

Taking a serious note of the vacant seats, the Centre has finally stepped in and has asked IIT-Delhi to draft an action plan to arrest the crisis. This effort aims to analyze the situation of job creation and predict demand for technical courses in the near future. 

Appointment of such committees is nothing new. In the last year AICTE had set up a committee with former VC of Vishveswarya Technological University, Belgaum Prof. HP Khincha as its head. Earlier in 2003 the government had formed another committee to find out how technical education was doing in the country under the Prof. UR Rao Committee. Prof Rao had suggested that the exponential growth in technical education is not sustainable in the long run and had called for a five-year moratorium on approvals for new colleges where the student intake exceeded the then national average of 150 seats per million populations. 

This report was never followed and in contrast around 30 percent more students were admitted in 2008-09 over the previous years since 2001. Ironically more than over 700 new colleges were approved in the same year. The higher number of unfilled seats has now led to other issues. The AICTE has mandated a new teacher-student ratio of 1:20 to be followed from this academic year. As a result many engineering colleges have now started to prune the number of their teachers citing this rule and around 12,000 of them have already been laid off in private engineering colleges. This trend is likely to aggravate in the coming years. 

The growing numbers of vacant seats have also prompted several states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Maharashtra to plea with the  AICTE not to approve any new engineering institutes for some time.

Whatever the reasons, the apathy of students for engineering will have its own effects in the long-run. Once a highly decorated career, thriving business of coaching and the investments in engineering institutions is at stake. Also at peril is the future of our industrial and service sector that is highly dependent on technical skills. Though the concerns of high capitation fees, management quota, and concerns regarding waiting lists are over, the loosing shine of engineering as a career in India and its resulting imminent fallouts is a matter of concern. Let us hope that our policy makers deal with this crisis strongly and the pedestal of efficient engineers in India be placed where it once used to be.

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