Has the youth in India given up on the engineering dream? Or has the education system failed the youth? The engineering degree, considered a sure passport for a better life and a dream job is today at crossroads. Higher Education Plus looks into the whys and hows-By Merun Mukherjee
Rohit M, a former Infosys employee in Bengaluru is one among the hundreds sacked last year. He is still unable to get a job that can match his last pay pack. Mohan Mantri, who worked with Cognizant in Hyderabad, was handed out the pink slip last year is now working in Pune at half the salary. Rekha Rao, who was with Wipro Technologies sits at home surfing channels, “I’ve been reduced to being a couch potato, but I’m hopeful that things will turn around,” she says succinctly.
The story of the three employees to a large extent has a bearing on the engineering courses in India. It goes to show that an engineering degree that was once the only passport to a better life, no longer guarantees one. A majority of engineering graduates ended up being absorbed in IT companies but the reduction in intake be it textile, mechanical and other engineering streams by other sectors too has taken a nosedive.
An engineering degree, a sure shot to secure a job in the 80s, 90s and early 2000, has now lost its allure. The mindless expansion of colleges across the country is one reason for the present state of affairs. Signs of trouble started showing even as early as 2015 but no one was ready to accept. Thousands of students were graduating every year but could hardly fit into companies. The National Employability report 2016 warned that 80% of engineers in India were unemployable. Still no one took a cue.
In 2017, when over a lakh of IT employees lost their jobs across India, the repercussions started to tell but the damage was already done. The hundreds of colleges that opened over the last few years still had to run but the students were unwilling to join. Sample this: more than 76% of the Government merit seats went abegging in Thiruvananthapuram as compared to 67% last year. In Gujarat, more than 62% seats in the Masters of Engineering course were not filled. Engineering colleges have even put the vacant seats on sale.
In Bengaluru, a college offered to fill vacant seats at government fee. In Karnataka, more than 30 colleges failed to attract a single student for the undergraduate engineering courses. The data received from the Consortium of Medical Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMEDK), shows that out of 16,236 seats that fell under the COMEDK quota, 10,175 seats were not filled.
The same is the case with colleges offering engineering in Chennai, out of 509 institutions offering engineering, only 239 colleges which comes up to barely 47% have been filled, and that too with only 30% seats, making it very difficult for the colleges to survive. Chennai reports further stated that out of 1, 70, 628 seats that were available for general counselling, only 72, 648 seats were filled, leaving 97, 890 seats vacant across Tamil Nadu.
“We need at least 60 per cent intake to manage the present faculty members and facilities. It is impossible to run the college with less than 30 per cent intake,” said one of the private college principals of Chennai. As per reports admissions were down by around 12,000 seats this year, compared to the last.
Could the decline be because of the high priced fee structure of these engineering colleges? In Hyderabad, the parents formed a Joint Action Committee of Engineering Colleges Parents (JACECP) in order to exert pressure on the college management to roll back their demand for charging an additional fee of Rs 86,500 from the Category B students.
US, the largest economy in the world, produces about one lakh engineers in a year for its $16 trillion economy, whereas India, the fourth largest economy in the world, produces about 15 lakh engineers in a year for its $2 trillion economy.
The parents of students studying in various engineering colleges of Hyderabad, such as Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology (CBIT), Vasavi College of Engineering, and Sreenidhi Institute of Science and Technology (SNIST) along with the Telangana Parents Association (TPA) came together.
Speaking to Higher Education Plus, Prof A Rajnikanth, coordinator, Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Vardhaman College of Engineering, Hyderabad who specialises in Cloud Computing said, “Gone are the days when teaching of engineering was passive. We started an incubation centre in 2016 and have 10 start-ups in the campus. Students come up with ideas and we facilitate funding and provide space for ideation and innovation. If engineering is to survive, we need to make students industry ready; there is no other way out.”
One of the COMEDK officials was even quoted by a leading newspaper saying, “Students are smart these days, and they don’t get fooled by advertisements and tall claims. It is time for engineering colleges in the state to rebuild infrastructure and provide quality education.”
In the last few years there have been batches of engineers still struggling to get in their desired fields. While many are offered jobs in sectors like IT marketing, there are others who by will chose to move to other sectors such as the BPOs and the KPOs. Could that be one of the reasons why India’s engineering colleges are losing their sheen.
As per reports only 1 lakh are deemed as employable out of the 15 lakh engineers that India produces every year. This is a classic case of too much supply. G.P. Vadodariya, member secretary of the Admission Committee for Professional Courses, Gujarat was quoted saying, “Last year, over 31,800 seats had been vacant in engineering. Colleges have increased seats without upping quality, and as a result, these seats are now lying vacant.”
Engineeringis more of apragmatic course that requires the student to hone their logical and analytical skills. Therefore its academic approach should also be a more practical one. Besides, only 25% of these engineering colleges actually pay attention to placements. Rajiv Vastupal, the chairman of FICCI Gujarat State Council pointing out to this flaw has said, “There is a sizeable requirement for engineers, but the industry is not getting suitable candidates. There is a dearth of employable engineers in India.”
This year there will be 80,000 less seats in engineering. If one follows the job search websites, they will see that a minimum experience required to enter a suitable software profile is two years.
As per a report produced by a New Delhi based employment solutions company, that focused on around 1,50,000 engineering students graduating in the year 2013, only 3% were found to have suitable software skills and apart from that only 7% of the entire lot was found capable of handling core engineering based tasks.
Even in the international front, neighbouring countries like China have moved far ahead of India. The major cause is India lagging in terms of research impact. To curb the dithering circumstances and increase the level of awareness among the students and faculty alike, the AICTE has proposed norms for open book test, which means that the question would be framed with a focus on testing the cognitive skills of the candidates, rather than their memory.
This might just be the beginning of a new era, and a step further towards bettering the academic reforms, but a lot more needs to be done on this front. Experts and educationists working in this field say that the teaching reforms need to be revamped, only then will the open book examination pattern fructify.
Elaborating further N.V. Ramana Rao, Director, National IT, Warangal said, “Open book test would definitely be helpful, because the concept of the system is to make use of the available knowledge and generating new ideas and solving problems. There will be questions based on application of the existing knowledge, its learning by experience and intuition. It’s a good experiment and definitely possible. It has been experimented and succeeded in many Educational institutions abroad.”
So far the education system of the country deemed the students to rely more on rote learning methods, the new practice of examination pattern will test the intellectual capabilities of the students.
This might be a solution to students who have the kind of intellect to crack a software career, but just like not all fingers are the same, similar is the case with a 12th pass-out. Does that mean
In the state of Telangana a shift in the trend was noticed, with more number of students opting for medical and agricultural courses rather than engineering. As per the educationists the drop could be due to the uncertaintyover affiliation of the engineering colleges or the quality of education could also be a cause of concern.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has taken a decision to reduce the intake of seats for B.Tech and M.Tech by more than a lakh for this year. Could this be because of in adeptness of the curriculum, or is it because of an uneven ratio between the academicians who have mastered the field of technology versus the number of students who enter the periphery of an Engineering campus to attain the esteemed technical degree.
that we need to explore other options or is India looking into the eyes of a much required revolution to be brought into the field of education?
Need of the hour Soon after Indian independence, path of technological advancement was the priority. By the 80s, the emergence of private engineering colleges was evident. Then the Private Universities Bill was passed by the Parliament in 1995. The Bill gave rise to a lot of private engineering colleges, so much so that by the end of year 2000, nearly 1,400 institutions came into being, out of which a mere 200 belonged to the Government, but that was the time when technological advancement was required for the industrial and economic development of the country.
Today companies like IBM want to hire employees who do not have a 4-year engineering degree, but is rather going for a more skill based hiring.
Social Sciences gaining traction
On the other hand, there is a new found confidence in Social Sciences sector. In the BA Programme in DU (Delhi University), there were a total of 1,889 admissions done across all its colleges. Similarly, for the B.Com (Hons) section 1,602 seats were filled. It went on to the extent of the university releasing a 9th cut off list to accommodate students aspiring for degree courses.
In MU (Mumbai University) a total of 2.8 lakh applications were received, out of which B.Com emerged as the most popular course, followed by self-financed courses like BMM (Bachelors in Mass Media) and BSc Information Technology (BSc IT).
In B.Com too there are subject wise bifurcations, and MU affiliated colleges reported a throng of students going for B.Com with a specialization in Accounting and Finance. On the popularity of the course the former commerce dean Madhu Nair said, “In a city like Mumbai, a graduate of this course gets job easily. Also, the subject is very scoring.”
In Hyderabad, the degree colleges have seen a lot more number of enrolments this academic year compared to previous one. For the 2017-18 batches a total of 30, 517 students had enrolled for the degree courses, whereas for the current year 40, 796 students have enrolled, and the statistics is only of Government colleges.
Gouri Satish who is the convener of KG to PG Joint Action Committee (JAC) was quoted saying, “The strength has increased in government degree colleges as the government has increased the student intake along with the increase in courses.”
There are also courses like a Degree in English that have several career diversions attached to it. In the recent past, Master in Social Work (MSW) that can be pursued after a conventional degree has become a popular course.
Then there are courses like Bachelors in Sports Management or Masters in Good Governance or Corporate Governance that are viewed as lucrative by academia, government and educationists alike.
Have the tables turned for engineering degree? Academicians insist that the world cannot go forward without engineers but what is needed is restructuring the course and making it practical to meet the needs of the modern world. At a time when the world is changing at breakneck speed and climate change looming, the role of engineers is even more important than any time in history.