Calcutta University’s BTech degree has lost its sheen in the job market because of new market realities the 150-year-old institution has woken up to late and the proliferation of engineering colleges.
CU’s three-year (six semesters) BTech degree once fetched lucrative jobs. But not anymore as private companies and even public sector units prefer the four-year (eight-semester) degree offered by Jadavpur University, Besu and the IITs.
The BTech courses of the private colleges in the state, affiliated to the West Bengal University of Technology, are also of four years.
Students as well as a section of the faculty at CU have long been demanding that the three-year BTech course be turned into one of four-year duration but the authorities were unmoved.
Following Monday’s 14-hour gherao, CU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das said on Tuesday that a move was on to convert the BTech course into one of four years to bring it on a par with the courses offered by other engineering institutes.
“We have accepted in principle that our BTech course should be of four years,” Das said. “A move is on to introduce the four-year course from the 2014-15 academic session.”
Some of the final-year engineering students at CU held the vice-chancellor and other senior officials and teachers hostage on Monday demanding placements, though academicians conceded that few employers were interested in hiring BTech students of the university.
The main grouse of the protesters was that only 38 of the 300-plus students in the 2012-13 batch had got job offers through the placement cell of the university. In previous years, they pointed out, many more had been placed.
The students also demanded that there be a permanent placement cell, like the one at JU or Besu, and a whole-time placement officer. At present teachers and some officials organise placements at CU on the basis of their contacts, the students alleged.
A CU official said the university does not have the sanctioned post of a placement officer. CU has to fulfil certain parameters in order to get funds from the state government for a permanent placement officer, one of them being increasing the duration of the course from three to four years.
Even a few years ago, some companies preferred recruiting CU graduates for their research and development wings because they were considered theoretically stronger as they had a BSc degree along with the BTech.
The organisations that hired CU graduates through campus interviews were Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Reliance Chemicals, Tata Chemicals, Hindustan Unilever and the railways.
“But most organisations now are selecting students who have studied the four-year BTech course because of the failure of Calcutta University to update its courses,” said a teacher of an engineering department at CU.
There are several reasons why the CU course is becoming unpopular and a restructuring is immediately needed to attract recruiters, a CU official said.
Ten years ago, there were around 25 engineering colleges in Bengal. Now there are close to 75.
The number of IITs has gone up from five to 16. The seat count at the premier institutions is up from 4,000 in 2006 to around 10,000.
The four-year degree courses offered by other engineering institutions are designed in a way that students completing them are armed to find a place in the demanding job market. The CU courses, however, do not impart such training to the students.
Following the demand from many companies that the potential recruits have sound knowledge of computer software, engineering students at JU and Besu are made to attend software programming language classes relevant to the subject concerned. There is no such training at CU.
Age is another reason for the BTech courses of other institutions to score over that of CU. A student is at least in his mid-20s by the time he completes the BTech at CU, after three years of graduation in science.
In a four-year course, students are admitted after Class XII. They are around 22 by the time they graduate.
A human resource professional with a Calcutta-based company said they did not hire three-year BTech graduates to avoid “certain technical problems.”
“Since bulk of the candidates are from the four-year BTech programme, it is difficult for us to accommodate applicants from the three-year course. From the selection process to in-house training, everything has to be different for someone with a three-year degree,” said the official.