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Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

AICTE to cut number of engineering college seats by 600,000

India's technical education regulator is seeking to stem a decline in the quality of education and address the issue of vacant seats

New Delhi: India’s technical education regulator is looking to cut the total number of undergraduate engineering seats by as much as 40% over the next few years by facilitating the closure of some schools and reducing student intake in some others, as it seeks to stem a decline in the quality of education and address the issue of vacant seats.

“We would like to bring it down to between 10 lakh and 11 lakh (one million and 1.1 million) from a little over 16.7 lakh now," said Anil Sahasrabudhe, chairman of the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). The capacity should come down for the betterment of all—students, education providers and employers—he added.

Companies recruiting from engineering colleges in India have often complained about the quality of graduates from institutions other than the top schools such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. Many engineering colleges lack proper infrastructure, and most of their students, taught by poor-quality teachers, gain few employable skills at the end of the four years they spend to get a degree.

In fact, only 17.5% of engineering graduates were deemed employable in a 2011 survey by software industry lobby group Nasscom. India’s information technology (IT) industry spends nearly $1 billion a year to make them job-ready, the report said.

At least 70% of engineering colleges in India are providing poor-quality education and this has led to reduced interest in the subject, said Raju Davis Parepadan, chairman of Kerala-based Holygrace Academy, which runs engineering colleges. “Authorities, especially AICTE, need to be strict with such institutions so that only serious players stay in the space and quality does not get hampered," Parepadan said, adding that the situation in Kerala is bad and that some several thousand engineering seats this year are lying vacant.

“So, closing down is one option, but the other option is due diligence so that serious players and serious students co-exist for mutual benefit. And employers get job-ready individuals."

The employability of engineering graduates in various states ranges between 12% and 42%, according to a report by education assessment company Aspiring Minds. Only 18.43% of engineers are employable in software engineer-IT services roles, the report said. For jobs in mechanical, electronics/electrical and civil engineering, a mere 7.49% are employable, it said.

AICTE will only “facilitate the closure of engineering schools" entirely or in parts to achieve the target, said Sahasrabudhe, who took over as chairman in June. He, however, added that engineering colleges will not be forced to shut down.

However, the large number of vacant seats is already taking a toll on engineering courses. As many as 556 engineering courses or departments have closed down this year alone, according to data available with AICTE. That number is, however, less than half the 1,422 applications that the regulator received seeking permission to shut engineering departments or courses.

“The intake capacity right now seems to be much above the demand," Sahasrabudhe said, adding that AICTE understands the need to balance the demand-supply situation.

For the first time in several years, the overall number of engineering seats has come down by about 30,000 seats in 2015, according to AICTE.

Student intake at the undergraduate level in engineering colleges started picking up from 2006-07. From 659,717 engineering seats in 2006, it jumped to 1.22 million in 2010 and more than 1.67 million in 2015. India has more than 3,470 engineering colleges.

Sahasrabudhe said he would take up the issue in his next executive council meeting after consultations with the human resource development ministry. AICTE will, however, “ensure that students are not at the receiving end", he added. “We shall also ensure that educational lands or properties are not converted into a real estate business by education players."

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