OVER 30,000 seats in engineering colleges across the state have been slashed in the past two years, hinting at a significant drop in demand for engineering courses. While last year, around 17,000 seats were reduced, this year, the total seat count has been brought down by another 13,000. This year, 2.84 lakh engineering aspirants applied for the state Common Entrance Test for admissions to engineering colleges, but only 1.19 lakh actually took the exam. They are now eligible for admission to around 1.31 lakh seats in colleges across Maharashtra.
Last year, the total seat count was 1.44 lakh, of which over 44 per cent found no takers — yet another indicator of the dipping demand. This year, five engineering colleges in the state were granted permission to close operation by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Amit Dutta, Director, Western region, AICTE, said, “We grant permission for staggered closure. The students already admitted will be allowed to complete their course, but no new admission will be allowed.”
Dutta said that the dip in enrolment and seats was an indicator of self-regulation of colleges. “In the past two decades, owing to demand for engineers, technical colleges mushroomed across the state. Some of them did not have basic infrastructure and teachers, and were producing substandard or unemployable engineers. But today, students are smart and they only choose good colleges, forcing the rest to shut down,” said Dutta.
In 2014, the state government had commissioned an analysis of the drop in demand. GD Yadav, Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, then presented a report suggesting “an appropriate criteria to reduce the intake and closure of some of the programmes including mergers of branches with fancy nomenclature into mainstream.”
“The report was almost prophetic. The AICTE adopted the measures suggested and allowed colleges to close down. Colleges with good infrastructure and teachers have remained unaffected by the drop in demand,” said Yadav. Some experts said the nation-wide job cuts in Information Technology (IT) sector will further affect the enrolment this year. With the global technology industry moving towards automation, machine learning and robotics, demand for coders and software maintenance has dropped, leading to job cuts across the country.
“Given the fear of job-cuts in the IT sector, there is a possibility of students not choosing courses in Computer Sciences and IT. The picture will be clear once the entire admission process is complete,” said Dayanand Meshram, joint director of the state Directorate of Technical Education, which conducts the admission process. However, academicians said that upskilling was the way forward. “Given the focus on automation, we need to improve the skill of students in robotics, machine learning and data analytics. These should be taught to students at high-school levels,” said Yadav.
Dutta also said that colleges must focus on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.