More than 50% of engineering seats in Tamil Nadu remain vacant at the end of counselling for admissions for 2019. The counselling process for 1.72 lakh seats, this year conducted by the Directorate of Technical Education (DOTE), included four rounds of counselling for regular class 12 pass-outs followed by counselling for students who had cleared class 12 after taking supplementary examinations.
The total number of students who have been issued allotment letters by the DOTE stood at 83,396 in which 76,364 were students had participated in the four rounds of regular counselling.
This number is, however, marginally higher than the number of students who were allotted engineering seats in 2018. According to a report in New Indian Express, 72,648 students were granted admission into engineering courses through Anna Universityâ€™s counselling process in 2018. The corresponding number in 2017 was around 89,000.
Engineering education in Tamil Nadu
The reason for this high number of vacant seats in the state is attributed to multiple reasons like lack of a decent-paying employment after graduation, too many colleges for too few takers and a general decline in interest among students for engineering education.
According to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) website, there are around 500 colleges in Tamil Nadu which offer undergraduate engineering and technology courses for academic year 2019-20. â€śWe have almost double number of colleges we need in Tamil Nadu,â€ť begins Jayaprakash Gandhi, an educational consultant with 20 years of experience tracking and analyzing higher education trends in Tamil Nadu. â€śBased on the admission trends the state needs only around 250 engineering colleges but we have around 480 colleges. Only if the excesses die a natural death, the quality of education will go up,â€ť he adds.
â€śThough lower cut-off marks might have contributed to this slight increase in the number of admissions this year, the increasing realization of students to pursue engineering only if they get into top colleges is one of the major reasons for the dip in the demand for engineering courses among students,â€ť he explains. True enough, almost all the engineering seats irrespective of the departments in the top tier engineering institutions in the state like the College of Engineering and Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai, Government College of Technology, Coimbatore Institute of Technology and PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore and Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai stand filled as on Wednesday.
Recruiters feel the quality has slumped
â€śThe quality of engineers graduating is going down day by day,â€ť says Jude Bruno, Manager, HR and Operations in Corporater Asia Technologies, Chennai. He says that many engineering colleges in the state does not have qualified faculty members to impart the knowledge necessary for the students to become employable.
â€śA lot of colleges have their own students who might have passed their post-graduation exams as teachers. The colleges have become business-oriented too,â€ť he adds.
Another pertinent point that Jude explains is that companies and recruiters noticed this decline a few years ago and have significantly tweaked their hiring criteria. â€śThere was a time when companies looked into qualifications and made an engineering degree compulsory for candidates to apply for jobs, but these days it has changed. For example, in our organization, I would hire a B Com graduate even if he is able to code,â€ť he explains. He says that the reason top engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu get all their seats filled is because they have experienced faculty members and great infrastructure, which equips the students will skills needed to survive in a job.
Another Chennai based recruiter with around 20 years of experience interviewing candidates from engineering campuses attributes the unemployment among engineering graduates to the gap in demand and supply dynamics of the market.
â€śThe employment opportunities in the market has not grown at a pace that matches the increase in engineering graduates. This means that we donâ€™t have enough jobs to cater to the number of students coming out every year as engineers,â€ť he explains adding that this mismatch needs to be attended to in order to ensure placements in colleges.
Engineering colleges cut intake
In June, around 90 colleges were directed by Anna University to reduce intake due to lack of infrastructure in the campus. The instruction was given after teams of professors from IIT, NIT and IISc conducted inspection in around 537 private engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu and submitted their report.
Moving forward, Jayaprakash Gandhi expects around 30 to 50 engineering colleges to shut shop by the next academic year. â€śTill now they survived because they had good number of students in the third year and final year. But moving forward, they wonâ€™t be able to sustain and take in first year students. Some colleges will survive because the management has other businesses to sustain the finances and operations of the college,â€ť he points out.
He, however, emphasizes that jobs are abundant and it is the skill-set in engineering graduates that are missing. â€śI have always said that it is not lack of jobs, it is the lack of skills among graduates that is not getting them employed. We donâ€™t have skilled engineers. All we have is engineering graduates,â€ť he says and adds that more practical exposure needs to form a part of the curriculum to bring in some value to the course.