The Telegraph
Monday , October 15 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tech colleges seek closure

Hyderabad, Oct. 14: Several private engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh are struggling to stay afloat with 100 students or less, prompting an SOS to the government, as a slump-spurred job crunch takes the sheen off such courses.

“We can’t run an engineering college with only 100 students,” complained the head of one such institution. In all, 223 of the 687 engineering colleges in the state, or almost a third of the total, are facing such a predicament and most of them are corporate-run entities.

They have written to a state council on higher education seeking to have the handful of students shifted to other colleges. But the 100-student institutions are better than off than others — 23 colleges have no students, 48 have less than 50, 25 have five students and 12 have only 10 on their rolls.

According to the council, a lakh of the 3.4 lakh general category seats in the state are crying out for students, with vacancies on the rise in the high-fee management quota too. Officials have blamed falling demand for software engineers because of the global recession and the resultant plunge in campus recruitments.

Many private colleges — which account for 75 per cent of the total — have pressed the panic button, pointing out that they have no option but to shut down if they do not get enough students. Each of the colleges has had to invest up to Rs 15 crore in infrastructure and spend around Rs 3 crore on maintenance annually.

“I can not appoint 15 faculty members for just 100 students,” said Gopikrishna, the principal of a private college on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Of the 2.10 lakh candidates eligible for admission this year, only 80,000 enrolled, and council officials feared the vacancies could increase to over 1.5 lakh soon.

Technical education commissioner Ajay Jain cited three reasons for the problem: the soaring maintenance expenses, the Telangana agitation which has scared off students from others states and, finally, prolonged uncertainty over a government programme to subsidise the fees of students from weaker sections.

The scheme was announced when Y.S.R. Reddy was chief minister but his Congress successors have not followed it up since his death in a chopper crash in 2009.

The college vacancies stood at 40,273 seats in 2009-10, the year after YSR’s death. They increased to 76,310 in 2011 and now stand at over 1.21 lakh. “We have confirmed admissions for only a third of our capacity,” said K.R. Chowdhary, a member of an association of private engineering colleges.

The bleak job market is the biggest factor. According to the Hyderabad Software Engineers’ Association, close to 4.7 lakh techies are jobless at this juncture.