As Almost 50% Seats Reduce, Is India Ready To Let Go Of Its Obsession With Engineering?

Engineering has always been a sought after degree in the Indian education context. But, times seem to be changing now. In a recent announcement, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) revealed that the number of engineering seats across the country would see a fall of about 1.64 lakh. This reduction in the number of seats is the consequence of a range of actions taken by the Council as a response to the students’ affinity towards engineering. The foremost step that was taken by the AICTE, which resulted in the reduction of around 1.21 lakh seats stems from the poor demand for mechanical and civil streams, branches that were once considered ‘evergreen.’

A report by Hindustan Times revealed that while a total of 15.87 lakh seats, under both undergraduate and post-graduate courses, were available in 2018-19, this number has fallen to around 14.66 lakh in 2019-20. Although in contrast to this, the AICTE has also approved around 54,000 more seats across diploma, UG and PG institutes this year, yet these seats, most colleges claim, fall under the stream of information technology.

Civil engineering students, hard at work. (Photo: James Famkima/Wikimedia Commons)

Additionally, as reported by the New Indian Express, around 83 colleges have requested closure, which has contributed to the fall of another 20,539 seats. Moreover, a loss of 14,423 has resulted from the withdrawal of approvals and another 8,000 has been lost due to a lack of request of approval of seats by around 207 colleges.

According to the AICTE chairman, Anil D Sahasrabudhe, the council had taken these decisions on the basis of three parameters. The colleges that saw a reduction in their seats had either requested for the said reduction or closure, or could not achieve a 30% admission ratio, or were being penalised for not maintaining quality standards, that included poor infrastructure and unsatisfactory technical facilities. These steps have been taken to ensure the maintenance of proper quality standards in engineering colleges throughout the country, the AICTE claimed.

This series of steps taken by the AICTE paints a clear picture of the scenario that our education system is transforming into. With the saturation of jobs in the non-IT sectors approaching fast, the number of engineering seats has reduced from around 19 lakh in 2014-15 to around 14.66 lakh this year. A similar sentiment is echoed across students in the engineering colleges themselves. For example, in my own college itself, the need for students to get jobs in the IT sector has been gaining wide popularity. This stems from the fact that the jobs in this sector provide with a better form of economic as well as social security.

Furthermore, this reduction in the seats also shows that a significant amount of students are also planning to go towards more unconventional streams of higher education. For example, the diploma in Pharmacy saw an increase from 67,179 seats in 2018-19 to around 1,05,089 in 2019-20. Additionally, a lot of students also decided to study Humanities courses, which, in the current social context of the country, does not seem like a very bad idea. If one tries to apply the basic economics of demand and supply, it isn’t too difficult to see that this upsurge in the demand for seats in these streams will also lead to setting up of better colleges by both the public and the private sector, something that the engineering boom in the 1990s had depicted very accurately.

A more diverse education system definitely provides for better growth of the country’s social strata. With recognition and de-stigmatization of unconventional degrees and courses across the country, the government would also be encouraged to work for increasing better-paying jobs in these fields. In conclusion, this step by the AICTE, and what will follow this reduction in demand, is clear evidence of a feedback mechanism at work. A mechanism that is depicting the changing wind in our education system and the population’s reducing affinity towards one of the conventionally sought after options: the technical sector.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
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