The past few years have seen a rapid proliferation of colleges offering professional degrees with the implicit promise of good jobs for graduating students. As long as the world economy was in fine fettle, the going looked good. But the global economy went into a tailspin last year, making jobs rarer and recruiters choosy.
Premchand Palety, Director, C-fore, and Mint columnist
In many colleges, placements have been below 50%. Institutes are now competing aggressively for recruiters and also students. There are reports of many colleges not being able to get enough students. This is primarily because of a significant increase in seats for many professional courses. In engineering, for example, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) approved at least 200 new colleges in the last one year. Now, there are close to 2,000 engineering colleges in India, up from about 1,300 four years ago.
The liberal grant of university status to many private institutes has also given them freedom to expand capacity even if they don’t have matching physical or academic infrastructure. This has left many lower-rung colleges unable to fill their sanctioned quota of seats. According to AICTE officials, in Andhra Pradesh, which has about 400 engineering colleges, at least 5,000 seats went vacant, the highest for any state.
It’s a period of churn for professional colleges in India. Colleges need to wake up to the competition from within and abroad and improve their teaching systems to survive. The major lacuna associated with professional education in our country is a lack of experiential pedagogy, or learning by doing. This is because of a dearth of well-trained faculty and little interface with industry. I recently interacted with a civil engineering graduate from one of the top branded colleges. In his four years of college, not once was he taken to a construction site.
This kind of teaching, which is based primarily on theoretical inputs, is not sufficient to mould students. A senior human resources executive at a reputed information technology firm told me that the company had to train fresh recruits even from premier institutes for at least six months to make them fit for the job. This is primarily because students don’t get hands-on training.
For experiential learning-based pedagogy, or teaching method, it is essential to have a strong interface with industry. A supportive environment for faculty, which includes encouragement to do research, is also important. Involvement in research is essential for faculty to have close interaction with industry and remain updated about new developments in its area. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on the teaching-learning process of the institute.
At the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, for instance, it is mandatory for every faculty member to do research and it is mirrored not only in its research output, which is perhaps the highest in the country, but also in the learning process of the students. Undergraduate students of this institute are involved in the highest number of research projects under way in the country and also get good placements. This model should be followed by institutes that intend to excel.