Engineering education in Telangana is taking a big hit, as 23 more engineering colleges are set to shut down from the 2017-2018 academic year. In all, 90 colleges have shut down since 2014-2015.
While the individual colleges have cited a variety of different reasons for closure, the essential problem has been a mismatch of supply and demand, made worse by financial shortfalls for which the government shares some blame.
There has been a massive increase in private colleges in the state, with around 80% of them being private educational institutes, according to the All India Survey of Higher Education. While the number of private colleges has been steadily on the rise, student intake has been dropping, say experts.
â€śThe main reason for colleges shutting down is lower admissions in colleges, as most of the students are now opting to go out for a better education. Either they go abroad or go to other states to study. That means the number of students has been coming down, but the number of colleges has increased,â€ť says C Ramaiah, a Hyderabad-based educationist.
He adds that students are looking elsewhere as employability of students from Telangana colleges has been low. Despite studying in technical colleges, only 10% of students are eligible to get employed in engineering-related jobs. The rest of the students do not have the skills to apply for such jobs. The main reason for this, he explains, is a lack of skilled faculty members in most colleges.
â€śThere has been an acute shortage of staff in Telangana colleges. Not just private colleges but even government colleges have been facing the same issue,â€ť says Ramana Reddy, President of the Telangana Private Degree and PG Colleges Managements Association.
He says that most colleges in Telangana are being run with contract or temporary faculty members.
â€śDue to the lack of skilled staff, the students are unable to qualify for better jobs. For instance, an engineer is applying for the job of a constable or other such posts,â€ť the educationist adds.
Private institutions, Ramana observes, have been worst hit by the resulting shortage of students. Several colleges have been suffering a financial crisis and have been unable to offer the remuneration necessary to attract qualified faculty members and, in some cases, even pay existing staff.
One of the main causes for the financial crisis, Ramana states, was the failure of the government to pay out the necessary funds to private colleges under its fee reimbursement programme. This programmme provides government subidies in fees for students pursuing professional and degree courses in Telangana state.
â€śAs many as 80 private colleges have less than 50 students admitted in the year 2016-17. The government is yet to pay nearly Rs 2,400 crore to private colleges under the fee reimbursement programme for the year 2015-16, including Rs 1,400 crore to engineering colleges. The government is nearly 20 months late in clearing the dues, which is why the colleges have been facing several issues,â€ť says Ramana.
In October last year, the managements of several private colleges had announced the boycott of the supplementary exams, demanding that arrears from the fee reimbursement scheme be cleared by the state government. However, despite repeated promises and negotiations by the government, the arrears are yet to be fully paid.