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Sunday, 18 August 2013

Future business of Engineering education in Tamilnadu

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

Now that the business of opening engineering colleges has been well entrenched and lot of money has flowed into this area, the question is how to get good returns. Since too many people jumped onto the bandwagon, we have a glut of engineering colleges. There is excess of supply in comparison to the demand. There is some opinion that there is demand, but due to the lack of quality of the supply there is lot of vacancies in jobs - or substandard recruitment.

Anyway, coming back to the profitability of the engineering colleges, the marketing and sales of the seats were initially pushed hard. Candidates were drawn from other states as well using incentives offered to existing students who bring in such candidates. There are some states, where parents have a view of paying high amounts and getting a degree for their wards. Hence, this is being tapped. But then, this is not sufficient to fill up all the seats available with the glut of colleges.

The next step was to attract more people by giving higher marks in their qualifying examinations. Children who usually got 70 or 80 were given 90s and hence indirectly induced to aspire for an engineering seat. Their parents were also enticed by the bigger picture of the IT and BPO sector employees earning high salaries right out of college. Still, this was not enough - as was seen in this year's engineering college admissions - about 70,000 vacant seats in Tamilnadu.

This evening, I heard on the news that a minister was giving a speech announcing 12 more engineering colleges to be opened. How are we going to put these into good use? Is there a plan for the government? Is there a practical vision / mission for these college management? Are the parents and children who are going to come out of schools in the coming years likely to get a good education that would lead to jobs?

Let us look at the effect of this education for the aspiring students and enticed parents. The quality of education in many engineering colleges are not great in transforming such students (those who have been given liberal marks). Hence, many of the students when they come out of such colleges, which cannot provide true education, with a degree, are not better off in comparison to what they would have learnt if they had not been to such colleges. Moreover, their parents' hard-earned money has now been spent with very little progress to show other than adding a degree to their resume. When they are turned down from many job interviews, it is too late and hits the whole family hard. The business has successfully taken out some hard earned money and given little in return in the colleges that lack the facilities / faculty.

What is the next step in this business? My friend from BITS days, Sreedharan, came up with a simple point. Next year they will introduce Financial Engineering in engineering colleges! What is the goal? The only goal will be to entice even Finance, Accountancy and Commerce students from schools into their colleges, now that they have invested heavily in these engineering colleges! The bigger the candidate pool, the chances of filling up the seats are higher. That would indeed be a master-stroke - the only fear being that it is likely to be true than fiction!

Jai Hind.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Business of College education

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

College education has become a business. We are not sure whether this is true all over India, or whether it is only in Tamilnadu. Some of the points further below are likely specific to Tamilnadu, but the overall sentiment is that the quality of college education is on a heavy down-slide. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes we feel it still has some more way to go (down) before we can expect any change. Of course, there are exceptions and those who are lucky to be associated with such exceptions are likely to do well in getting jobs, becoming scientists /entrepreneurs, etc.

So, what ails the situation now. It is all about the money, honey! Tamilnadu saw a big boom in Engineering colleges in the past few years. Whenever there is a huge leap in quantity, the question of quality immediately rises. General suspicion is that many of these colleges are not likely to meet the minimum standards of facilities and faculty. Now, in that case, don't the students and parents think and analyse before taking decisions of college choice good for them, in the long run? Definitely, they do, right?

Then, why should we worry? Well, the problem is that people are being misled in a web of deceit. After seeing the engineering boom of 1990s and 2000s, some wealthy people and/or those with political connections thought it best to open engineering colleges to make a long term profitable business for their family. This galloped away like a runaway horse, due to greed, where the planning and organization were given a go-by and only up-and-running at-all-costs was put at the forefront. Some colleges lacked facilities and majority of them lacked good "educators".

Naturally, the "business" has fallen flat, especially as seen in this year's 70,000 vacant seats in Tamilnadu Engineering colleges. This is "in spite" of the liberal marks being awarded in the higher-secondary examination. It is not difficult to surmise that the motivation for "encouraging" students with liberal marks is only to fill up the engineering colleges, now that the "connected" people have invested heavily in them!

A few years ago, the same person, who has now got 90s, would have got only 70s or 80s and chosen to do a bachelor's degree in science / arts / commerce. Alas, the parents and children have been misled from top down - high-paying jobs in engineering (more so in IT and related fields) seen in early 21st century, peer pressure and status playing on their minds, and the "sudden boon" of high marks scored. Everyone is hence "subtly coerced to be eager" to get into an engineering college. People had and have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Now, what happens to the (college) business, when so many seats are vacant, in spite of liberal marks encouraging students? All is not lost for those who have invested in such engineering colleges - because they are connected & they can think and work hard to make further (deceitful?) changes. These changes will be again from purely business angle - with no two-hoots given for the students, families, society or nation. More about this, especially, a nice misleading business idea, suggested by our friend from college days, in the next post.