All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the technical education regulator, may reduce over 600,000 engineering seats in colleges over the next few years over concerns about the dismal quality of education across India.
"We would like to bring it down to between 10 lakh and 11 lakh from a little over 16.7 lakh now," Anil Sahasrabudhe, AICTE's chairperson, was quoted as saying by Mint newspaper.
The regulatory body will shut some schools and reduce the intake of students in some others over the next few years in order to stem a decline in the quality of education and address the issue of vacant seats.
According to a 2011 survey by software industry lobby group Nasscom, only 17.5% of engineering graduates were deemed employable.
Aspiring Minds, an education assessment company, said in a report that the employability of engineering graduates in various states ranges between 12% and 42%. The report said only 18.43% of engineers are employable in software engineer-IT services roles and for jobs in mechanical, electronics/electrical and civil engineering, a mere 7.49% are employable.
Leading companies in technology and other sectors too complain about the quality of graduates from the colleges that have mushroomed over the years. They prefer to employ students only from top schools such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and some private institutions.
According to AICTE, it has received 1,422 applications seeking permission to shut engineering departments or courses and as many as 556 engineering courses or departments have closed down this year alone. Many of these colleges lack proper infrastructure and students studying in such college hardly gain employable skills.
"The intake capacity right now seems to be much above the demand," Sahasrabudhe told Mint, adding that AICTE understands the need to balance the demand-supply situation.
Sahasrabudhe told Mint that AICTE will only "facilitate the closure of engineering schools" entirely or in parts to achieve the target. He also said engineering colleges will not be forced to shut down and the regulatory body will "ensure that students are not at the receiving end".
India has more than 3,470 engineering colleges.