HYDERABAD: The AICTE’s recent measures — be it shutting down courses that have less than 30 per cent enrolment rate, uniformity of norms for all BTech colleges, having a minimum number of labs, or even the possibility of doing away with the regulatory body itself and replacing it with a new umbrella body for all higher education institutions— have made it imminent for engineering colleges to either revisit their course structure or face the risk of becoming irrelevant.
“As a society, we got carried away. We saw the demand and a ridiculous number of colleges started offering the course,” says Ramesh Loganathan of Co-Innovation Lab at IIIT Hyderabad. “All this mostly happened around 2008, by the time these students graduated in 2013 we were hit by the recession. It soon became a problem of plenty: more graduates and fewer jobs. The situation has only deteriorated in the last couple of years.” In this light, he says, AICTE’s policy changes in the form of reduction of seats or stringent teaching and syllabus norms among others are a welcome step.
Pro vice-chancellor, GITAM M Siva Prasad says though there is a need to revisit technical education syllabus, the regulatory body often makes policies that favour IITs and NITs in comparison to State government-run institutions. “There is a need to have an ideal curriculum but inputs should be sought from small private institutions as well, where a sizeable chunk of students from rural areas come to study. Giving two credits for English, for instance, will only add to the burden of such students.”
With ‘qualified but unemployed’ being a perennial problem, it’s not just AICTE but even the Telangana State Council of Higher Education has woken up to revamp its strategies and policies. In a brainstorming session the TSCHE convened with stakeholders to chalk out the mission of higher education in the State, chairman Papi Reddy had said that curriculum revision from intermediate to post-graduation was on cards. “Though the Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education in the state is 36 per cent, students are unable to find jobs, this is because the syllabus being followed is not catering to the current industry requirement, and has to be revamped,” he says.
From being the revered course that promised a plum paycheck and a secured future, has Engineering in the past few years become more of a liability than a degree that begets an employment? Loganathan, while admitting that job growth has fallen from 40 per cent to 11 per cent, says that Hyderabad still has a 5-lakh-strong IT industry where a minimum of 5 per cent of fresh recruitment happens every year.
“Colleges just need to relook at the quality of education they are imparting and focus on practice and practical rather than rote learning,” he says. Prasad agrees: “Experimental and experiential learning” is the way forward if engineering colleges want to remain relevant.