Teaching quality, lack of job behind rise in vacant private engineering seats: Experts

Nearly 45% seats in first-year UG courses vacant in Maha; ban on new institutes did little to tackle problem, say experts
For representational purpose only. (HT FILE)
For representational purpose only. (HT FILE)
Published on Feb 21, 2021 12:43 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

As admissions to engineering colleges have been on the decline in the past five years, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) called for a two-year ban on new engineering institutes from academic year 2020-21. However, the move seems to have done little to arrest the problem of vacant seats.

Data by AICTE has shown that the total intake capacity of engineering institutes across India has reduced by more than 21% in the past five years. From 3 million engineering seats (undergraduate, postgraduate and diploma included) in 2015-16, the intake capacity has dropped to 2.4 million in the 2020-21 academic year.

Figures shared by the Maharashtra common entrance test (CET) cell have shown that nearly 45% seats in first-year undergraduate engineering (BTech) courses were vacant across Maharashtra this time. While seats in government-aided and university-managed institutes still found takers, almost 98% of the total vacant seats are in private unaided engineering institutes in the state this year. Of the 55,444 seats gone vacant across engineering institutes this year, 54,667 seats have gone vacant in unaided engineering institutes. Similarly, the vacancy in MTech courses stands at 55.2% this year.

“Just putting a ban on new private engineering institutes will not be enough. The need of the hour is to ensure employment for engineering graduates, which is still not happening. The government has come up with various skill-based training courses but there needs to be more focus on ensuring employment,” said a senior official from the state CET cell.

As per the figures shared by the AICTE, over 605,000 engineering graduates in the 2019-20 year were placed through campus placement against the enrolment of over 1.4 million.

“Less than 50% engineering graduates are being placed every year and this definitely makes a big impact on the demand for engineering courses altogether,” added the official.

Admissions to most professional courses got delayed by a few months this academic year, especially with the Covid-19 imposed lockdown affecting routine functions. While admissions in Maharashtra colleges are over, several states are still struggling to fill up even 50% of undergraduate engineering seats, and therefore, continue to conduct admission rounds.

While AICTE is yet to collate admission and seat vacancy data for all the states (many are still conducting institutional admission rounds to fill up vacant seats), reports have highlighted the plight of engineering colleges across the country.

In December 2020, nearly 60% of engineering seats in West Bengal institutes were vacant after three rounds of admissions. Similarly, around 75% seats in engineering institutes at Tamil Nadu remained vacant after three admission rounds, while in Karnataka, colleges approached AICTE for an extension in the admission deadline to fill up over 50% vacant seats in the last week of December 2020.

“In most of the states, the seat vacancy is higher in private engineering institutes, especially because of the high fees demanded and the low quality of education imparted,” said a senior official from AICTE.

With the implementation of the two-year blanket ban on new engineering institutes, AICTE witnessed closure of almost 100 institutes, while 32 others applied for withdrawal of approval. A staggering 595 institutes around the country did not apply for continuation of approval for the 2020-21 academic year.

“The hope is that slowly, this ban on new institutes will control the increasing intake capacity, while at the same time, introduction of new-age courses will attract more technically inclined students to opt for engineering courses. Only time can tell how this move changes the demand for engineering courses in the future,” said Anil Sahasrabuddhe, director, AICTE.

While demand for the new-age courses are continuously growing and more and more institutes are showing interest in wanting to introduce these courses at their institutes as well, experts have highlighted how this move could be short-lived, especially for newly introduced courses like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science and Analytics due to the evolving technology in these fields.

“Most of the new-age courses introduced by AICTE this year are application-based technology and with every passing year, these sectors evolve and new trends emerge in them. At present, these courses might be in the position to offer many jobs to graduating students, there’s no guarantee the trend will stay for very long,” said SS Mantha, former chairperson of AICTE.

Though core courses such as civil and mechanical engineering have witnessed a drop in applications in the past few years due to the lack of job opportunities after graduation, Mantha said an undergraduate degree in core engineering is very important for the students.

“The shelf value of new-age courses could be limited, while basic knowledge in core engineering sectors will take students a long way,” he added.


    Shreya Bhandary is a Special Correspondent covering higher education for Hindustan Times, Mumbai. Her work revolves around finding loopholes in the current education system and highlighting the good and the bad in higher education institutes in and around Mumbai.

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