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Impossible to run an institute without compromising on quality when there are so many unfilled seats: Anil Sahasrabudhe, AICTE Chairman

AICTE has already announced that institutions with 30 per cent or less admissions over the last five years to close down, said Anil Sahasrabudhe.

In this interview to Ritika Chopra, AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe talks about the measures taken to check vacant seats and says any moratorium on fresh approvals for colleges will be based on perspective plans from states.

What is AICTE doing to check the large number of vacant seats?

We had already announced that we want institutions with 30 per cent or less admissions over the last five years to close down… It’s difficult for a college to meet expenses, maintain standards and pay government-scale salaries to teachers even when 80 per cent of the seats are filled up. So it’s impossible to run an institute without compromising on quality with just 30 per cent seats being filled. There are as many as 370 colleges where admissions have been less than 30% consecutively for five years and as many as 1,490 colleges where admissions are less than 30% during the last three consecutive years.

Since last year, we have also started conducting surprise inspections of technical institutions to check whether standards and norms are being maintained. Last year, 311 institutes were inspected, after which two were closed, 49 were not allowed to admit students for one year and 83 were given a lower number of seats. As a result of this, the number of available seats (for 2016-17) reduced by 74,610 from 16.3 lakh to 15,56,360.

That apart, we have decided that the curriculum for engineering courses will be revised every year instead of once in five years. Engineering students will also go through a three-week induction programme at the beginning of their course. We also plan to introduce summer internships in industries for students — aimed at bridging the gap between industry requirements and students’ vocation.

In 2003, the UR Rao Committee had first suggested a five-year moratorium on fresh approvals for technical education institutes. As AICTE chairman, are you willing to do that now?

Yes, provided it is based on a robust perspective plan. Telangana has categorically told us not to approve new engineering institutions next year. They have backed their argument with a detailed study and we have accepted their request. We don’t want to approve new colleges only to watch their seats go vacant. However, I want to make one thing clear — we will consider requests for moratorium, provided states share a perspective plan mapping their district-wise demand of engineering graduates in future.

If states don’t take it upon themselves, will AICTE be willing to prepare a national perspective plan?

A committee under the chairmanship of Professor H. P. Khincha (former vice-chancellor of Vishveswarya Technological University, Belgaum) has been constituted for preparing a national perspective plan. This requires a lot of data collection and the committee has suggested that we seek help from the private sector.

Did corruption in AICTE contribute to the indiscriminate expansion of engineering colleges?

One does not know if AICTE did its due diligence before approving new institutes back then. The qualifying criteria were probably relaxed to increase gross enrolment ratio, cater to increased demand, but no one followed up to check if the institutes were eventually following the rules. For instance, private institutions are allowed to start in rental premises, but they are required to move into regular buildings in three years. I don’t think AICTE followed up to check if that was happening.

What are the mistakes AICTE made in the past while granting approvals, which you think should not be repeated?

Our inspections have to be honest, transparent and thorough.

Though the total number of engineering seats has started shrinking over the last three years, vacancies continue to rise. How do you explain that?

The problem of vacant seats is not just because there aren’t enough students. There are a large number of private and deemed universities which also admit engineering students, but they are not under the purview of AICTE. Unlike engineering institutes whose intake is capped by AICTE, there is no limit on private universities and deemed universities offering BTech courses.

How is the government addressing this?

This is related to an Act of Parliament, which allows the University Grants Commission to control universities and AICTE to control only affiliated colleges. Government is seized of the matter so as to take corrective steps.

Written by Ritika Chopra


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