Indian Engineering Education – a Critical Look

After 10+2, Engineering stream is considered to be a lucrative choice for most of the Indians. This is mainly due to the prospect of software jobs in India. However, getting admission in the top institutions is a dream for many with a tough competition between coaching classes, students and parents. More than the students, sometimes the parents get more concerned and tensed. It will not be inappropriate to mention here that there are only a few institutes in India which can provide competitive and qualitative engineering studies. With the increase in population, the demand for such colleges has also increased in an alarming way.  One will not disagree to the fact that we need more number of colleges which have basic infrastructure and a strong faculty. This big concern for many became an opportunity for some to open private colleges. Though new colleges are supposed to cater to the demand of Engineering education in India, it became a distant reality in practice.

Private colleges are mushrooming in every part of India. This makes the admission process better and easy but sometimes complicated.  Though there are caps to the capitation fee (which is paid for the admission through management ) in the private colleges, there are open deals under and above the table. Some say, the capitation fees decided by the government is just the minimum fee; pay more and get an admission to a department of your choice, irrespective of your 10+2 percentages or score in the JEE tests. Taking admission through management quota is as usual a big loop-hole in the entire game. Many a times, colleges allow admissions hoping that a few will leave after a month or so, leading to another admission through management quota to fill the vacant seats. There are few cases in which the students are also involved in this kind of scam; they too get a pie from the capitation fee while leaving the college.

So far we have been discussing the admission process. Let us now move towards the advertisements/claims each and every college makes during admission process, campus interviews and JEE tests. Though their list contains many such points, let us look at some of the usual ones.

(i) Excellent facilities available

In a majority cases, the colleges do not have minimally-equipped laboratories and a central computer network. There are even colleges offering Electrical Engineering degree without permanent electricity supply and Computer Science department without a single computer therein. Yes, they do have laptops :), but only to see movies and play games.

(ii) Excellent faculty (from IITs/IISc and abroad) strength

More than 90% colleges do not have a PhD in the faculty and one would not be surprised to find only fresh BTechs as faculties taking higher semester classes. It does not stop here, most join as faculties when they do not find a job of their choice; a very few join with a passion for teaching. There are ample instances where one will find a list of visiting faculties only (no regular faculty !!). Another interesting point worth mentioning here is the list of faculties submitted to AICTE/UGC during academic audits. Many of the names submitted are fictitious, they do not even exist in this world. In some cases, names are shared between more than one department and even more than one college. Do not think that the officials (AICTE/UGC) do not have an idea about this. Yes, they do have this information and mostly it is bargained for some good amount of money or kind; some get very good posts in these colleges/universities as Chancellors, Pro-Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, Registrars, Pro-Vice Chancellors etc. after their retirement, and some even get honorary posts such as advisors, board members, directors etc. including honorary PhDs from these institutes.

(iii) Excellent R&D activities

Except a very few private colleges, others hardly do research work. However, many private colleges mention that they provide world class R&D facilities/activities on their campus. And about publications…  forget about students, even most of the faculties do not know how to write a paper. That is not their fault though; most of them have not gone through the rigorous process of paper writing and even have not attended a single conference of repute. In addition, their academic background also matters a lot. A majority of  them do not even do a post-graduation. What do we expect then? The faculties need to be taught first and then the students. Another interesting point is that of the quality of undergraduate/post-graduate thesis work. In many organizations these do not even qualify for submission/acceptance. However, most of them get excellent grades and the rest get good grades in their colleges. At least 60% students simply copy from Internet (some time entire report and some time in parts) and submit as their own thesis. There are instances even, students buy projects at a cost anything between Rs 8,000/- to Rs 20,000/- depending upon the complexity of project. It turns out to be a very good business for some people.

And surprisingly those thesis are accepted without being cross-checked. If someone does evaluation, then students argue unnecessarily (as they have paid capitation fees and hence are customers of the college/organization) and others criticize. Copy (ctrl + c) and Paste (ctrl + v) goes well with the faculties as well as the students in paper writing, thesis and in internal reports. On a positive note, yes… there are a very few good thesis and research work in some of these colleges. But that percentage is very low, most of the time it is even less that 10%.

(iv) 100% campus placement

This is a very tricky area, one has to go into the deeper root of the system to know the facts; many companies that come for placement  select and dump the selected employees after a 3/6 months training session. Reason – very low performance. But the truth in some (guess what is the percentage of this “some” !!!) cases is that these companies get a sizable amount of money from the parent college per student during selection. And they pay this salary from that money only. In fact, these students pay a considerable amount (sometimes even Rs 200k/-) for sitting in the campus interviews and colleges make a descent profit out of these. Both the colleges and the companies make win-win pacts with the students’ money and future at stake. Again, on a positive note, yes… there are some good and genuine placements happening in some private colleges; but mostly confined to software industry.

Having said all the above, let us now analyze the situation and attitude of students into such colleges. It will be incomplete and in-appropriate otherwise.

One would not be surprised to know that hardly any student comes to class/laboratories in their final semesters; be in 7th or 8th Semester. There are instances where students are allowed to pass (with good grades) even without attending a single lecture in any of the subjects in the semester. The reason is “Mass Bunk” – they have strong unity for it ; no one is allowed to attend the lecture. Those who get job (through campus placement or  other channel) sometimes do not attend; their reason – ‘how is this course going to help in our job ?’. Those who do not get job also do not attend lectures; their reason – ‘we are very busy in finding a job’. But if one verifies (either by going to their hostels/mess or by checkingir their day-to-day activities) irrespective of whether or not one gets a job, the attitude is not to attend lectures/labs; it is usually rather ‘enjoy — movies, treats, parties and datings’. Neither their parents  nor the authority in the college bother to know about these. Sometimes a few students come to class – out of courtesy, or by getting bored in hostels and home i.e. to time pass… not to study. These are just some of the general observations irrespective of the college type. It will not be 100% correct to blame only the students for this. Faculties, college management as well as the society at large are more or less responsible for this sorry state. Some faculties enjoy – no work and pay; some get frustrated… and find alternatives. A very few raise this issue with the management. Management usually keep their eyes closed… because in most of the cases, they do not have quality faculty or do not intend to hire better ones. For others, the organization is only a profit-making account.

With all the above developments in the education sector, especially in the Engineering stream where mostly we have below-standard academic ethics and rigor, how do we expect the country to grow in technology, research, infrastructure development and academics ? How can we compete at the global level ? Remember, software is not the only area where development is required for a country like India. It needs all round growth and development. Moreover, the craze of software jobs and mushrooming private engineering colleges have quite discouraged or stopped students from taking admissions into B.Sc., B.A. or B.Com. degrees. In many old colleges/Universities, seats are lying vacant for these courses. This is definitely an alarming issue to be dealt with. But how and who will initiate – you/ me/ Govt/or the Supreme Court ? We need educated, skilled and committed people in every field – be it in engineering or literature or medicine or  business or production.

Aamjunta – please think over it seriously and do share your thoughts/solutions (methods), if you have any. Do not hesitate to take some action if appropriate at your level. As a faculty or as a student or as a management trustee or as a government official or as a journalist – every one has to support for this cause and then only we can hope for the best, qualitatively and quantitatively. Keep it in mind that our job does not get over by sending our wards to these colleges or by opening new colleges or by taking a lecture or by recruiting young engineers for our companies. It is just the beginning; a beginning for a future – no one knows what exactly lies there but at least we can attempt for a better and firmer one. There is bubbling potentiality in our men and youth. But to build a strong and self-reliant India, we all need to seek genuine ways out and work with integrity.

Jai Hind!

Note: For the benefit/reference of interested readers, this article is a sequel to the following other articles published by aamjunta on the theme “Indian Education System“.

1. Qualitative Expansion of Indian Education System – Need for a Strong and Better India

2. From Single-Seater to Multi-Seater: Vision of Higher Education

3.A Roadmap for the Future of Research in IIT Bombay

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22 Responses

  1. I strongly agree with aamjunta

    There is a social egoistic trend to send a child into engineering rather than arts or science irrespective of the fact that heavy loans may be incurred.
    Fueling it is the ignorance of parents/guardians. They really need to find the actual percentage of truth in 100% campus placement statements.

  2. Well written aamjunta, you exactly portrayed the reality of engineering education in India. I think the vital problem with most of the colleges is the vision and mission with which they are commenced. Many if not all the colleges have their vision and mission as one and only thing “making money”. Most of the colleges management are adamant in their thinking. At least lets try that at an individual level our focus be “striving for excellence”.

  3. Strongly agree.

    Parents/guardians must let children choose their fields. At the same time, institutes/ universities/ society too must encourage and assist them. Because mere rat-race spoils many vital things in the long run !!

  4. it is understandable why students who do nto want to study here due to these situations, go abroad eventually to pursue further studies and then are accepted back in their own institutions as FOREIGN return students who seemingly know better than their Indian counterparts.

  5. why can’t the teachers try to change the world? our ancient past has given much more examples on this. one more point i think you forgot to add is inaction of our industries. they can definitely contribute; why do they become a part of the big political game? i do not understand. may be some one can clarify!

  6. why only private engg colleges? the gov colleges are equally responsible for the sorry state. not only colleges, the industries are also a party to this debacle. one observation: almost all politicians own colleges in Tamil Nadu/AP/Maharastra/Karnataka. then how do you expect quality and honesty?

  7. It’s a good article. We all love discussing issues, without ever attempting to solve them — the range of comments also show that. This is going to be a critique — because as part of a higher education system (technical), i feel .

    What seems very obvious from all your articles is the identification of a disease, not the treatment. Most articles point out to some ‘disease’ rather than giving a cure, or at least an attempt to cure.

    If you study the higher education scenario of United States, they too have very interesting set of problems — so does Indian education. As a researcher you know very well that research problems are out there, obvious, but solving those problems is what a researcher needs. Technical education is a research problem in itself.

    We all want a technical degree at the end of the day — the end only justifies the means. A degree means a lot to people who haven’t been able to dream of engineering studies — private colleges do practice unethical means, but if one gets a 3k or 2k job (a person who would have been incapable of earning 100 rs otherwise), what the harm?

    Who achieves what end through what means, always remains elusive 🙂 . As far as Chanakya neeti is concerned, Chanakya was not a normal vaidya who identified problems — he also gave solutions to Chandragupta. Maybe in your next article we’ll see you as a thinker who thinks out of box solutions rather than as an identifier. That would be true empowering of aamjunta.

  8. Thanks a lot to all of you for your comments and for the encouragement.

    @Anup and SC: I doubt! The socio economic and the competition (Peer pressure) is the key reason for all these problems. And then… the management, take the opportunity at the right time.

    @Ryka: Thanks, hope and wish at least the parents will understand.

    @Edmund: Yes, the Foreign brand is another by-product of this. The economic downturn has at least tried to balance this.

    @Deepakh: In Chanakya’s style! Good idea. Let us try that also.

    @noams: You are right. Event the Govt colleges are far behind. Look at this news, “Govt ‘faking’ teacher count to hoodwink medical council

    @Iris: Thanks, will definitely try to bring some solutions. You are right, Chanakya has created Chandragupta as a solution, but before bringing the solution he tried to bring the problem into light. Moreover for him neither Chandragupta nor Nanda were important; what bothered him was “United Bharat”. His idea gave birth to many Chandraguptas; we also need many such Chanakyas and Chandraguptas now – some through critically analyzing and some through bringing radical changes. 2k or 3k as a salary is not important, they can get even more; even they can be the Chandraguptas also. They are getting killed by the faulty corrupted system like the mama (uncle) of Chandragupta.

    Jai Hind

  9. Nice discussion, thanks for sharing …

  10. Aamjunta,
    I am working to find solution of this problem. Are you interested in joining hands? let me know.
    Send me mail dheerajd5432@gmail.com

  11. the article is hitting the point. And it targets the right audience, the parents of this nation. I would not blame the students as they are a part of this process. And engineering is not in books but working with hands. Somehow the people in our nation thinks that by reading technical books, we can produce engineers. Engineers have to be trained on system, with working models, where the kids also get opportunity to learn about industries, industrial visits must be there regularly, then there is a history also, even technology has history. The inventers name of a machine. But in india, people have accepted the norm. and on IIT, they are good because the test takers are more and seats were less. We THE ENGINEERS ourselves will have to fix this as ENGINEERING is done by ENGINEERS

  12. @noams: it is the mindset of people that government colleges would be good. may be because people don’t trust each other in india. and the only reason that why government colleges are liked are because they would not default on money. But then, the work in government would be like that, bereaucratic, slow and then, low number of seat. Have one look at US/UK and you would see the PRIVATE COLLEGES as A-LISTERS. And see the passing rate of MIT and the dropping rates

  13. @Iris: this is what i don’t like indian mindset. Masters have gone, but still the slavery is in our mindse.t End justifies means. Indians are ready to do anything for some peanuts. The same CHANKYA also has said that your talent must get recognized or else you don’t do any work in life.

  14. @Deepak h: Because they get what they want. They only want such people who can be made to work in a room and writing some SQL scripts and would take solace in this fact that they have a engineering title.

  15. and if parents in our nation are thinking that their kids would become CEO by doing ENGINEERING or MBA, they must take a look at history. It is also wrong notion which have been set. Even graduates in english majors become CEO of MNC. What matters is work not degrees. Even TESLA, EDISON, were school and university drop outs. Even our own VISHWESHVARYA also had backs, yet he is the finest ENGINEER of our nation.

  16. Thats true…so many people are graduating these days every year.

  17. Being a faculty from a local engineering college, let me add some more points.

    1. Most of the times the faculty’s job is to give note or dictate note.

    2. Faculty job in these colleges is not at all lucrative (yes, you get money, but not the due respect).

    3. There are enough cases of black money paid during admissions.

    4. Now a days, we do not get students in India, so we go to Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Srilanka, Gulf for counselling.

    Even though there are many more points to add, I still think there are few good students who are really bright. My suggestion is to make streamline the admission process and academic valuation for the betterment for the people.

    Parents should not think that sending their ward to an engineering college is just enough. It is the beginning. Many more to do.

    Thank you for sharing many valuable information through this post.

  18. The education system in India in general and Engineering Eductaion in particular is becoming worse day by day. More than that, the commercialization and privatization of education system is killing the quality. Very few colleges really offer quality. What others (most) offer is just a degree – which cannot give a livelihood. UPA govt has done nothing on this. Hope the new government will do some thing positive on this.

  19. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was once
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  20. I do not know, where in my life i should apply the formula – a plus b whole square equals to a square plus b square plus two a b.
    To me, formal education system is a farce, less or more. 😦 One does not need to have a master degree in English to be a Shakespeare. Same applies for Engineering degree today.. If a degree, not knowledge, is the passport to a lucrative job and smart life partner, let that be provided to benefit to the students. Any parent must be looking forward for this.
    If the market can not offer more jobs, then automatically most of the private college will be shut down.

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