In July 2015, three colleges affiliated wit the University of Mumbai (MU), Guru Nanak College at GTB Nagar, Ruia College at Dadar and Birla College at Kalyan, were selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to start ‘community colleges’, offering job-oriented courses for the students who passed Class 12.
While, in the last one and a half year years, these skill-based courses have emerged as viable alternatives to conventional ones such as BA, BCom and BSc, college managements feel that the community colleges are yet to gain popularity among the student community and parents.
In India, the idea of ‘community college’ was first proposed by the Planning Commission - which has now been replaced by NITI Aayog - as part of its 12th five year plan, with the objective of expanding skill-based programmes in higher education. These colleges are supposed to provide higher education to secondary school graduates who are not ready to pursue traditional colleges but still have the option to go to degree college.
“In the traditional courses, students are not trained and there is no value addition. Comparatively, those who enrol in community colleges are more employable,” said Pushpinder Bhatia, who heads the community college in Guru Nanak College.
While Guru Nanak College offers a diploma in retail management, Birla College has a course in accounting and taxations. Ruia College, which started with a pharma analytical science course has since upgraded the two-year course to a three-year bachelor of vocation (BVoc). It also offers BVoc in tourism and travel management and green house management.
The colleges said that the courses are aimed at providing trained workforce for the companies in the country’s financial capital.
“While many students graduate in commerce stream, there’s a scarcity of good accountants in the market,” said Naresh Chandra, principal of Birla College. “It’s very apt that we have a retail management course. Mumbai is dotted with malls and supermarkets which need people trained in retail management,” adds Bhatia.
The students also get on-the-job training during as part of these courses. For example, Birla college has tied up with local retailers and chartered accountants, with whom the students work and gain practical experience. Guru Nanak College often takes students on industrial visits and conducts small internships.
Despite the usefulness of the courses, the colleges said that they had a hard time getting takers. Nevertheless, they have achieved some success. All the 50 seats available for tourism, accounting and retail management have been filled, although there are fewer takers for pharma analytical sciences and green house management.
“The parents have a mindset that the traditional courses are better than career-oriented courses. The idea of community college needs more publicity,” said Anushree Lokur, a teacher from Ruia College.