India’s epidemic of lousy engineering colleges, which churned out millions of substandard engineers, may finally be ending.
The country’s technical education regulator, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), is planning to reduce over 600,000 engineering seats in colleges across India.
“We would like to bring it (engineering seats) down to between 10 lakh and 11 lakh (one million and 1.1 million) from a little over 16.7 lakh now,” Anil Sahasrabudhe, chairman of the AICTE, told the Mint newspaper.
The dismal quality of education at many of the country’s existing engineering colleges is one of the main reasons behind AICTE’s decision. The regulatory body plans to close down certain colleges and reduce the number seats in some others over the next few years.
“It is the colleges that are coming forward for closure. We are facilitating closure if the colleges are not able to manage with hardly 20-30% seats filled because these colleges become non-viable,” Sahasrabudhe told Quartz in an email.
This year alone, about 556 engineering courses or departments across colleges in India have closed down, according to AICTE.
The rise and fall of engineering
Engineering has been one of the most sought after professions in Asia’s third largest economy, where more than a million engineers graduate every year. India saw a boom in technical education after it opened up its economy in 1991, which allowed the IT sector to thrive.
The mid-1990s saw a huge spike in the number of engineering graduates, as the demand for them increased in sectors ranging from IT to infrastructure.
The phenomenal rise in engineering degrees also lead to a boom in the technical education sector with private colleges mushrooming all across the country. In the 2015 financial year, India had 3,389 graduate engineering colleges (pdf).
But the quality of engineering graduates in India is woeful. In fact, in 2011, Nasscom, the trade association of IT and business processing units, had estimated that only 25% of India’s IT engineering graduates were actually employable.
The result is that many graduates can’t find employment after earning their degrees. Last year, a study by Aspiring Minds (pdf), a firm that rates and evaluates employment, said that only 18.43% of the total engineers who graduate every year are employable in the IT sector. Only 7.49% are employable in core engineering jobs like mechanical, electronics and civil engineering.
Leading companies in technology and other sectors prefer to hire students only from a handful of engineering schools such as the the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and some private institutions.