All India Council for Technical College (AICTE), the apex regulatory body for technical institutes, has granted the state permission to set up 51 new technical institutes, which includes 40 pharmacy colleges. Among the new colleges are two architecture, four engineering, one polytechnic and five management colleges.
The state currently has around 400 pharmacy institutes, which offer diploma, graduation and masters courses to aspirants. The new institutes will add around 4,000 seats to the pool of close to 32,000 seats across the programmes.
On the other hand, around 29 institutes — most of them offering management and engineering courses — had applied to the body to be shut down. Of these, seven have been allowed to shut down permanently, while the others have been closed temporarily, because they failed to procure no-objection certificates from the government.
Experts said that the addition of new pharmacy colleges and the closure of existing management and engineering institutes is in accordance with the recent trends in professional education. While technical courses such as engineering, management and computer application are witnessing a dip in enrolment, the demand for pharmacy courses is on the rise.
Data from the state's Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) also shows that a large number of seats in Bachelor of engineering (BE), MBA and master of computer application is lying vacant. In contrast, most seats in Bachelor of pharmacy (BPharm) courses were filled.
Experts said that a boom in the pharma sector had fuelled the demand for pharmacy courses. "Unlike other sectors, the pharma sector didn't slow down even during the recession. There are plenty of jobs available in the industry, including allied industries such as insurance. In fact, none of the 60 students graduating from our college had any difficulty finding a job," said Krishna Iyer, chairman, Board of Studies in Pharmacy at the University of Mumbai, and a professor at Bombay College of Pharmacy, Kalina.
Gopakumaran Thampi, principal of Thadomal Shahani College of Engineering, Bandra, said that the government was promoting pharmacy colleges to boost the domestic pharmaceutical industry. "The government wants to promote generic medicines in the country," he said.
With a large number of seats lying vacant, many engineering and management colleges continue applying for a shut-down. "Unlike pharmacy institutes, too many engineering and management colleges were allowed to mushroom too quickly, even though they were not needed. As a result, the good institutes are still attracting students. However, the not-so-good ones are feeling the pain," said Iyer.
"Last year was bad for management courses. But with the government's push to manufacturing units, the enrolment in engineering and management will rise. It will still be a while before demand matches supply," said Thampi.