What reforms you are bringing about at Punjab Engineering College (PEC)? How will this help the university’s status?
When we talk about a regular university, it means you need to have a law or ‘Act’ in place. Chandigarh doesn’t have an assembly, so the law has to be approved by the Parliament. Since 55 years, we have been trying to get the institute to be recoganised under Institutes of Technology Act (IIT) by the parliament. When I joined, I was not in favour of writing a letter to the ministry and requesting it to declare us under IIT because that is something which is not going to happen. So, the question arises what kind of law or act should the parliament pass to help us establish ourselves as a deemed university? It’s easy for us to request the parliament to declare us under National Institutes of Technology Act, Chandigarh. But we have our own history and we want to retain it with our institute’s name- PEC. Bengal Engineering College is like our institute. The college is now under NIT Act but under a provision of NIT Act, parliament can add more universities and institutions, which may be not a part of NIT Council, but they avail the same facilities as other NIT institutions. This is something that we will negotiated with HRD ministry. Our governor has extended his help in getting things done at the political front. A deemed university is relatively more regulated than other full fledged universities. If we get that status, MHRD will provide us with higher budget. With MHRD, we will have higher autonomy. For recruiting faculty, I won’t have to take permissions and the Act lays down a certain faculty-student ratio that needs to be maintained. There won’t be a major change in our name or relation with UT Administration.
Why is it that engineers from our country work at top notch positions in some of the best tech companies overseas but don’t set up companies themselves in India?
I think, saying that our country’s engineers are not working here in India is an exaggeration. According to me, if 10 lakh students graduate as engineers every year, 5-7 per cent of them are very good and atleast 10,000-20,000 will head out of the country. The few people who go, hold up big companies and hence are highlighted a lot more. If we look at Infosys, Vipro, TCS and other such companies, they are all run by Indians and yet we don’t talk about them. If we look at top 20 IT companies in India, only 2 or 3 are MNC’s and all of them have Indian CEO’s. People who have graduated over last five years and have shifted abroad are very less as compared to past years. People are doing great in India and we really don’t need to worry about this prospective.
There is a growing trend of engineers opting for MBA. What is the reason for this and should PEC include management courses in its syllabus to cater to same?
This trend is buzzing because the fact is that among all these students, most did not want to become engineers but were forced to. When they realise that they don’t want to do this, they think of other options. Society has to really look into this and view its two aspects. Can an educational institution like ours somehow figure out whether the student is really interested in this career? The whole concept of a single examination for admissions is not at all relevant in today’s context. We have few exams for admissions into so many courses. The institutions really need to come up with an admissions strategy which encourages those students who are actually interested in pursuing engineering. Also, the parents must also realise that everyone can avail good job opportunities with quality education. Lot of people believe that attaining a degree from a good university creates a brand image and can held them land better jobs. That is not true. Education should be for expansion of horizons and not just for finding better job opportunities. I won’t be bothered at all if my students join non-core jobs. I am not producing them to be engineers. I am creating people who can solve problem and can critically think and analyse. If after being a full-time engineer also they wish to pursue a degree in MBA, there should be no issue. It is their freedom to do so.
Increasingly, we hear of engineering graduates being underemployed. Is it because of glut of engineers?
The reason behind underemployment in this sector is not glut of engineers but poor quality education. Out of 10 lakh engineering students, only 2 lakh are getting real engineering jobs even though there are more job opportunities available. Our focus should be on how to improve the quality of education in our institutions. Institutions should be closed down due to lack of quality education and not by force as that would not serve any justice.
There is a proliferation of engineering colleges in the region. What do you think of them? Should there be stricter regulation?
When we talk to HR people from the industry, they tell us about requirements that are very specific. The solutions is that they ask us to add something new in our curriculum which would make the students more prepared to enter the professional field. I don’t want HR to decide our curriculum. We need to show concern that our students don’t know any particular language or that our students cannot learn new things under training process. A company, however, will mind if you don’t know any language or software. If students assure them that they will learn under training and convince the company by showing other skills, there won’t be any issue. However, the main problem is that our graduates don’t know anything because of the low-quality education and are not able to convince companies about their real potentials.
What would you advise the students preparing for engineering entrance exams?
Most important thing is to keep your mind healthy and stress-free. The only difference between someone doing extremely well and someone not doing well, even though they both prepared well, is a healthy mind. Hard work and practice is an important factor as it keeps your mind stress-free and prevents you from performing under any pressure.