The authorities of private engineering colleges in the state have decided to conduct a detailed survey to find out why engineering has lost its sheen among students.
A gamut of reasons, from poor academic standards to lack of employment opportunities, has been cited for the 12,000 vacant seats in the 95-odd engineering colleges in Bengal. The number may be the highest ever but the increase in vacant seats is in keeping with a trend (see graphic).
The decline in interest in engineering education is not limited to students in Bengal. The Telegraph recently reported that engineering seats had remained vacant in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
“We have decided to reach out to the 1.10 lakh students who took the joint entrance this year to know the real reason behind the unfilled engineering seats,” said Taranjit Singh of the JIS group of engineering colleges, who is also the president of the Association of Professional Institutes, an organisation of private engineering and management institutes in Bengal.
As part of the survey, to be conducted by a private agency on behalf of the association in September, all the joint entrance examinees and their guardians will be asked about their views regarding engineering education in the state. The students will also be asked why they refused seats and why they took the trouble of appearing for the entrance test if they were not sure of studying engineering.
The interviews will be conducted face-to-face or over email. The association has sought the contact details of the examinees from the state joint entrance examination board.
“It is good that private engineering institutes are conducting the survey but I don’t think that it will throw up anything new. The students and their guardians will only cite the known reasons, like poor infrastructure, inferior pedagogy and lack of job opportunities,” said an official of the joint entrance board.
“The question is whether the owners of the private engineering colleges will take any corrective action,” he said.
According to him, the authorities should also consider whether too many engineering colleges have sprung up in the past few years.
All the 1.10 lakh examinees who wrote the joint entrance this year were given ranks and allowed to seek admission in the engineering colleges in the state but only 40,000 registered for counselling. Half of those who were counselled actually took the seats that were allotted to them.
Singh feels the survey is necessary because this is the second consecutive year with “high vacancy”. Last year, about 6,500 of the approximately 30,000 engineering seats did not find any takers.
“The survey will ascertain the extent to which the perception of poor academic standard in private engineering colleges is responsible for vacant seats and help us in formulating steps to buck the trend and attract bright students,” said the owner of a private engineering institute.
The owner of the south Calcutta engineering college said that for the first time, seats in premier institutes like Jadavpur University and Bengal Engineering and Science University were lying vacant this year.