New Delhi: Colleges across the country are shutting down courses in technical subjects such as engineering even as India’s apex technical education regulator, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), looks to stem a decline in the quality of such education.

Tamil Nadu and Telangana lead the pack of states that are shutting professional and technical courses, including those in management.

Educational institutions have sought the AICTE’s permission to close down around 1,973 courses in technical subjects, citing a poor employment scenario and flagging student interest in 2015. The regulator has allowed the discontinuation of 757 such courses this year.

“The overall technical education space is awaiting an overhaul to improve the quality of education and address the employability issue of such graduates," said Anil Shahasrabudhe, chairman of AICTE.

Of the 757 technical and professional courses or departments that have been allowed to shut, the overwhelming majority of 556 were engineering courses, followed by 89 in pharmacy, 57 in computer application and 54 management, according to the regulator. In addition, some 83 colleges, including 46 management and 31 engineering colleges, have closed down so far this year.

As much as 45% or 345 of the technical education courses closed so far this year are in Telangana and Tamil Nadu alone, according to AICTE. And even this is less than half the 788 applications the regulator received from these two states for permission to shut down. Technical education consists of programmes like engineering, management, architecture, pharmacy and management in computer application.

In engineering, Telangana-based colleges have sought permission from AICTE to shut 396 courses. Of these, 143 departments were allowed to close down due to various reasons such as vacant seats and lack of interest from students. Similarly, the technical education regulator has received 168 applications to close down courses or engineering departments in 2015-16 from Tamil Nadu, and has approved the closure of 103 courses.

Besides, 52 engineering courses have closed down so far this year in Maharashtra. Engineering colleges in Maharashtra were looking to close some 86 such courses. Similarly, Rajasthan (46), Madhya Pradesh (35), Andhra Pradesh (32) and Gujarat (31) have got AICTE’s approval to shut down non-viable engineering departments.

For the first time in several years, the number of engineering seats in the country has declined by about 30,000 in 2015. Student intake at undergraduate engineering courses started picking up from 2006-07. From 659,717 engineering seats in 2006, it jumped to more than 1.67 million in 2015. India has more than 3,470 engineering colleges. The technical education regulator is looking to cut some 600,000 engineering seats over a period of time, Mint reported on 20 September.

In management education, Maharashtra B-schools applied for closing some 32 departments but have been granted permission to shut 12. In Rajasthan, of the 14 applications to shut management education departments, eight have got the approval.

Professional schools have strong market linkages and unless their graduates live up to the expectations of employers, it will be difficult for them to survive for long, said Harivansh Chaturvedi, director at the Birla Institute of Management and Technology in Greater Noida. There is an awareness now on the need for checking quality and the AICTE may have woken up following questions being raised on its passive role.

The regulator will fast-track the closure of unviable technical education departments, Shahasrabudhe said. To stem an increase in the number of such schools, it may insist on accreditation of courses by the National Board of Accreditation. Education providers and the regulator now have to think of the job-worthiness of graduates.

The overall quality of management graduates is also poor, said Neeti Sharma, senior vice president with hiring firm Teamlease Services Pvt Ltd. “Only the top 25-30 schools pass out good quality students. For the others, the situation is not bright; quality has been an area of concern," she said.

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