Employability and placement are moot questions today even as admissions to engineering colleges are a cake walk as self-financing colleges open their doors to anyone who clears the entrance examination. This is even more pertinent as engineering colleges are mushrooming but quality of education is fast deteriorating.
To top it all, the economic slowdown means multinational companies don’t recruit actively from campuses, leaving students with a huge debt burden. “There are 125 self-financing engineering colleges. A large number of engineers are not required here. Jobs in the core sector are coming down and we have to make do with secondary jobs.
Moreover, companies that offered `25,000 are offering only around `10,000 per month now. Opting for research or doing MTech and taking teaching jobs are better bets,” says Tony Rafi, student leader, School of Engineering, Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Kochi.
Students across the state echo the same sentiment. “Campus recruitment has dipped — most companies are not absorbing new hands and new companies are hardly being floated. It is tough for us to find jobs. We have to suffice with whatever comes our way. Most of us have taken educational loans as the fees are quite hefty and we don’t know how we’ll repay them. This will be an additional burden for parents too,” is a common refrain heard from students of other engineering colleges in Kerala.
Jobs in the IT sector have almost reached a saturation point so much so that some colleges in the State want to close their IT departments. This will soon become a social issue, says A Ramachandran, Cusat’s registrar.
Educationist RVG Menon feels opening of more engineering colleges will not solve the problem of quality. The increasing number of seats has triggered a competition to get them filled at any cost, which has led to a lowering of admission standards. Unfortunately, this devaluation is often aided and abetted by AICTE, who is supposed to be the watchdog for quality. The average pass percentage in engineering examinations in Kerala has been estimated as 40 per cent with some colleges scoring below 10 per cent. The P Rama Rao Committee finds a direct link between shortage of faculty and the alarming failure rate in many engineering institutions.
The Kerala High Court has directed authorities to take steps to de-recognise and close down colleges, which have been continuously performing badly for three years; to raise the cut-off marks in the qualifying examination for admission and also to not grant NOC for new colleges.
The other issues are dearth of qualified teachers and book-oriented teaching. The proposal to form a National Commission on Higher Education and Research should address the problem. Unlike in the US there is no national loan guarantee scheme here.
GPC Nayar, president, Federation of Associations of Private Unaided Professional Colleges, says that students with aptitude and passion somehow manage to find placement in other states or abroad. Only the less academically-inclined students face this problem.
He admits that only about 10 colleges offer proper placements and that training for improving soft skills is yet to be full-fledged. The government schemes to promote entrepreneurship will help address the issue to an extent, he believes.
TA Vijayan, secretary, Kerala Self-Financing Colleges Management Association, agrees the quality is poor in many colleges. “Only few colleges have placement cells. Most students are depending on educational loans and only about 20,000 are placed. The number of engineering colleges has multiplied over the years to 154 with a total of 52,000 BTech seats and as a result, quality is coming down. This has brought down placement opportunities,” he said.
When asked, banks say the delay in repayment is more marked now, especially by engineering and nursing students. “We give loans to students of approved colleges who are recommended by authorities. The non-performing assets has increased from 10 per cent last year to nearly 13 per cent this year. This is due to delay in loan repayment,” says Vilasini, a chief manager in State Bank of India, Kerala.