With more than half the engineering seats falling vacant every year, a government committee, headed by IIT-Hyderabad chairman B V R Mohan Reddy, has advised the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to stop setting up new colleges from 2020 and review the creation of new capacity every two years after that.
AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabuddhe told The Indian Express that the committee has submitted its report and that its suggestions are being considered by the technical education regulator.
The panel, in a 41-page report, has also suggested that no additional seats should be approved in traditional engineering areas such as mechanical, electrical, civil and electronics and that institutes should be encouraged to convert current capacity in traditional disciplines to emerging new technologies.
This recommendation has been justified on the ground that current capacity utilisation in traditional disciplines is just 40% as opposed to 60% seat occupancy in branches such as computer science and engineering, aerospace engineering and mechatronics. For the same reason, the committee has urged the AICTE to introduce undergraduate engineering programmes exclusively for artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, quantum computing, data sciences, cybersecurity and 3D printing and design.
An investigation by The Indian Express in December 2017, found there were no takers for 51 per cent of the 15.5 lakh B.E/B.Tech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17.
The investigation found glaring gaps in regulation, including alleged corruption; a vicious circle of poor infrastructure, labs and faculty; non-existent linkages with industry; and the absence of a technical ecosystem to nurture the classroom. All this, it found, accounted for low employability of graduates.
A few weeks later, the AICTE had announced its decision to reduce the intake in courses with poor admissions by half from the academic year 2018-19, a move aimed at addressing the mismatch. Following this, the total number of B.Tech and M.Tech seats this year, across all AICTE-approved institutes, dropped by 1.67 lakh – the sharpest fall in five years and almost double of what was witnessed in 2017-18.
However, with enrolment remaining virtually stagnant, the AICTE appointed a committee headed by former NASSCOM chairperson and industrialist B V R Mohan Reddy this year to come up with a medium and short-term perspective plan for expansion in engineering education.
While committee headed by Reddy has recommended no new engineering institutes should be set up from 2020, it has said that concessions should be made for applications already in the pipeline.
“While we take such a serious decision, we also recognize that there could be some applications in the pipeline for additional/new capacity applied in the last one or two years. These may be pending for want of some minor clearances. So, applications made in the current year and the past two years may be considered for starting institutions if the infrastructure is already in place,” the report states.
As for approving additional seats in existing institutions, the committee has suggested that the AICTE should only give approvals based on the capacity utilisation of concerned institute.