As engineering education hits a plateau, the All India Council for Technical Education’s decision to relax the teacher-student ratio is no surprise. The national body had to give in to persistent demands of private technical institutions which are reeling from massive drop in admissions year on year. According to the AICTE, the total enrolment in undergraduate seats in private engineering colleges during 2016-17 stood at about 6.89 lakh against the intake capacity of 14.42 lakh—roughly 48 per cent, down from 60 per cent five years ago.
With admissions dwindling, private colleges have argued that the prescribed 1:15 teacher-student ratio left faculty members with little work. Originally devised to provide scope for research work to teachers and their interface with students as well as industry, it was not followed or enforced in true spirit. Experts believe the relaxation of the ratio to 1:20 may not impact the quality of engineering education because a large number of colleges, as it is, make do with part-time faculty and even fresh graduates.
Though the decision is aimed at providing some relief to private engineering institutions, the AICTE must look at the big picture and act tough to ensure that the latter provides outcome-based education to students. Over the years, the exact opposite has happened. The quality of engineering graduates has nosedived, while industry demand has plunged due to sluggish economic growth. But there are too many engineering graduates—with too little skill. Campus placement of BE/BTech graduates was barely 45 per cent last year.
This is what the U R Rao Committee had forewarned in 2004 in its review of technical education.
Its recommendations are more relevant than ever. The AICTE has made a start by going in for progressive closure of institutes and courses faring badly but strong decisions like imposing a moratorium on new institutes should be considered. It’s time to focus on the quality of education or India risks losing the demographic advantage.