At a time when the government of India is promoting skill-based training among young people, colleges in Mumbai are struggling to attract sufficient number of students to courses that were introduced to train the youngsters for jobs.
Despite getting grants from the University Grants Commission (UGC) to boost vocational training in universities and colleges, the Bachelor of Vocation (B.Voc) has attracted negligible applicants. Nagindas Khandwala College in Malad recently returned the grant given by UGC to conduct B.Voc due to lack of students enrolling for the course. “There’s need for more awareness among students to explain the importance of this course. We had around 30 students in the first year whereas there were barely five students in the second year. So we decided to return the grant money,” said Ancy Jose, principal. She added the university as well as the UGC needs to introduce some incentive for a limited period to encourage more students to take up this course.
Skill India was one of the biggest campaigns that the central government — spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — had started in 2014, following which UGC launched a scheme on skill-development training at universities and colleges. University of Mumbai was one of the first universities in the country to start B.Voc courses and seven affiliated colleges had started offering the course including Nagindas Khandwala, Ramnarain Ruia (Matunga), HR College (Churchgate), to name a few.
In the first year (2014-15), 354 students had enrolled in various subjects under B.Voc. In 2015-16, this figure was at 280.
Meanwhile, students said that they were not convinced that the course was useful. “The course is extremely slow and it does not seem like there will be many job opportunities after we complete the course. I’m planning to drop out after first year and look up at vacancies in Industrial Training Institute courses,” said Sufiyan Pathan, a first-year B.Voc student of KB Patil College in Vashi.
While six other colleges are still running the course, many are worried about the losing interest among the students. “Students still look at the name of the course and take step back. Vocation is still a ghost term to many and even before finding out what the course entails, they make their mind against it,” said Usha Mukundan, principal of Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College, Ghatkopar. Her college runs two B.Voc courses — Financial Market & Services and Retail Management, and the first batch will pass out from the course this year. “We manage the best from the industry to interact with our students and now we hope to get them good placements as well. Hopefully, once this batch is placed, we’ll be able to attract more students to these courses,” she added.
While the lack of knowledge or interest in the case is just one part of the issue, principals are also worried about the existence of grants to run this course. So far colleges have received a one-time grant for three years to run B.Voc courses but there is no guarantee that the grant will be given to colleges again. “As of now the course fees is equal to that of a B.Com degree, thanks to the grant, but next year onwards if we don’t get the grant, we will face trouble. Finding industry experts to teach students can be financially draining and we are hoping that the UGC will extend the grant to support this course,” said the principal of another college, on condition of anonymity.