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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

IT boom plateauing, admissions dip, many Tamil Nadu engineering colleges face closure

According to information from the state Higher Education Department, out of over 500 engineering colleges in the state which participate in counselling, at least 50 are on the verge of a closure.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: March 2, 2020 5:59:15 pm
 Tamil Nadu engineering, Tamil Nadu engineering colleges, IT boom, Tamil Nadu engineering admissions, engineering colleges, indian express Over two dozen have approached the government to convert their institutions to arts and science colleges. (File Photo)

WHILE TAMIL Nadu has taken many pioneering steps in the education sector, engineering colleges in the state have been gasping for life for nearly a decade now.

According to information from the state Higher Education Department, out of over 500 engineering colleges in the state which participate in counselling, at least 50 are on the verge of a closure, and over two dozen have approached the government to convert their institutions to arts and science colleges.

A senior Higher Education Department official, who did not want to be named, said more than 50 colleges have raised concerns before the Directorate of Collegiate Education (DCE). “Some 30 of them approached us with requests, probing chances to convert to arts and science colleges. Nineteen colleges have written formally; seven sought permission for immediate closure and government’s assistance to shift their students to other colleges, and 12 (have) requested for permission to stop admission process from the next academic year to wind up operations in three years,” the official said.

Read | The rise and fall of the Indian engineering degree

According to this official, managements of many colleges have reached a point where they “cannot manage huge institutions and the cost of running them” given the “significant decline” in admissions. But converting an engineering college into an arts and science college faces multiple technical challenges, experts point out. Shifting students to another college also brings in many challenges for students.

While administrative aspects are much more relaxed in arts and science colleges, the admission process also promises monetary benefits, unlike a centralised counselling system in engineering admissions, according to government officials. “Probably they hope to earn more from donations and the admission process,” the DCE official quoted above said.

Management representatives of engineering colleges were unwilling to comment.

In a state where many politicians have a major stake in running engineering colleges, retired Madras High Court judge K Chandru said this crisis was sparked by a lack of an artificial boost. “For long, everybody was after Information Technology-related courses, and the AICTE gave recognition without even (basic) infrastructure,” he said.

He said managements of engineering institutions were getting “fodder” through centralised admission. “To sustain their fraud, they made use of Government Order 92,” he said.

Through this Government Order (GO), the state government grants free education to SC and ST students, and the DCE reimburses the institutions.

Justice Chandru said when there was a decline in demand for engineering courses, GO-92 came to the rescue — “gullible SC students were roped in… many Dalit leaders (even) canvassed for admissions into these colleges…”

He said the cut-off marks for admissions in some varsities and colleges were lowered significantly, leading to a situation where many institutions saw most students failing. “But that option has also failed since the IT revolution has almost dried up,” he said.

Jayaprakash Gandhi, a prominent analyst of the higher education sector, said many engineering college managements were not able to invest to prepare students for the industry. “Seventy per cent syllabus is outdated and most colleges at the lower level refuse to update the curriculum or invest,” he said.

Maintaining that there is a shortfall of skilled students, he said, “Companies these days are focusing on skills, rather than marks or certificates…”

Even if some colleges manage to convert, only institutions that invest in education infrastructure will survive even there, he said.

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