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More gaps in linkages in engineering institutes

Technology colleges have more to lose than B-schools if they do not reach out to industries, says Shalini Sharma, head-higher education, CII

education Updated: Jun 11, 2014 17:06 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

The Confederation of Indian Industry, which, with the All-India council for Technical Education (AICTE) has begun work to collect data for the third survey on industry-linked technical institutes, has enlarged the scope of the survey drastically this year, adding more ­categories.

“We are virtually covering every ­category of institute in the country now. We started with only six streams of engineering in 2012 and expanded it to include management, architecture and pharmacy in 2013. This year we have created 10 different categories ­covering undergraduate, ­postgraduate and ­diploma level institutes.

The first two editions of the survey were not open for diploma institutes,” says Shalini Sharma, head, education, CII.

This year the survey is also mandatory for 190 engineering colleges which are being funded by the ministry of human resource development under the World Bank-funded Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (Teqip).

For both industries and institutes, says Sharma, there is a change in the awareness level. They both understand each other’s problems better and are exploring ways of helping each other.

Recounting her experiences while working on the surveys in the last two years, Sharma says institutes in India as of now seem to not understand the importance of keeping records and documenting facts.

Some of the institutes, she says, have excellent arrangements worked out with industries. “The institutes doing good work do not believe in either branding themselves or see it as something which is not very important. In a way they are simply busy doing what they should be doing.” But is that right? Sharma does not believe so.

“In this age of competition and information overload, it is also important for such institutions to tell the world what they are good at. This is something which they are beginning to learn. The newer players are smarter at projecting themselves even though they still do not have much to showcase.”

Industry experts, academicians and others are selected to visit colleges that had participated in the survey, ­submitting data online, to verify their claims. Sharma says she went on a ­couple of site visits in 2013.

Talking about the setbacks in the first edition of the survey, Sharma and the jury visiting the sites gave the feedback that the institutes were ­exaggerating their achievements.
“There was lot of exaggeration of data. We took steps to correct this and in 2013 introduced two levels of scrutiny. More than 150 institutes were asked to send physical evidence of what they were claiming to do with the industry. These papers were scrutinised by us and a further shortlist was created for site visits.

Last year, the jury visited 37 institutes while in 2012 the number of institutes which were visited was seven. Last year the feedback after visits was that the inputs provided by institutes on the online portal were by and large correct,” Sharma adds.

Did she find a high level of ­enthusiasm among institutes to ­participate in the survey? Sharma answers in the affirmative, adding, “The number of queries which we receive from them every day is an indicator of that.” In 2013, as the survey had added management and pharmacy instead of purely engineering categories, were there any differences between engineering and B-schools when it came to industry-academia interactions? “The gap between ­industry and academia is more pronounced in engineering schools than in B-schools,” feels Sharma.

It is the engineering institutes which have greater need for industry ­interaction because their students form the real backbone of manufacturing. “If the curriculum is not regularly updated as per the requirements of industry or if enough practical knowledge is not given to students, they will not be able to perform to their best when they join the industry,” she says.

Many institutes offering mechanical engineering programmes are not able to set up full-fledged labs due to cost and other factors and hence students are often not able to get any feel of actual machines even after doing engineering. B-schools, however, are a different ­ball-game as they deal only with theory. With some help from case studies they are often able to make up for actual interaction with industry, which is not the case with engineering institutes.

Her biggest challenge, so far, says Sharma, has been handling site visits. “Despite our best efforts we are not able to devote enough time to actual visits (to the institutes) since this part of the survey comes at the end and the vetting process before that itself takes a lot of time. Getting an exhaustive report on the entire process prepared alongside is also challenging,” she rues.