The recent decision of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to shut down 800 engineering institutions across the country considering their poor admission rates has had its own set of critics and advocates. But experts and academics say shutting down these campuses may not be the right solution as it would render the infrastructure of the colleges idle.
Is there an alternative? Starting professional courses in other disciplines, running online programmes and vocational courses and merging institutions are options that educational institutions and experts suggest. The AICTE is also studying the legalities behind such options, after a few institutions approached it to reconsider its decision.
Educationalists say closing down institutions is not the way out. “Some colleges in the Erode belt have started paramedical courses after they discontinued engineering courses. Another women’s college in the region is planning to set up a medical college,” says educationist Moorthy Selvakumaran. “As educational institutions are run by a trust, the building can only be used for non-profit or service-oriented purposes, say an educational institution or a hospital. In such a situation, starting another educational institution would be a viable option as it will involve less investment,” he adds.
Some educational institutions have requested the AICTE to allow a merger of such colleges with institutions nearby. “The National Education Policy 1986 promotes merging of institutions based in a particular area. This means the colleges that tie-up can share each other’s laboratories and qualified faculty,” says S Vaidhyasubramaniam, the dean of planning and development, Sastra University. “AICTE will have to formulate regulations to monitor the merged institutions. Otherwise ensuring quality will remain a challenge,” he adds.
Vaidhyasubramaniam says that AICTE can also utilize these campuses spaces for online courses. “Online degrees are the next big thing in higher education. While theoretical education can be imparted through online classrooms, practical sessions can be conducted at these colleges,” he says.
However, the merging of two campuses and imparting online education depends on the reputation of these colleges, says former vice-chancellor of Anna University M Anandakrishnan. “It is important to assess the reputation of the to-be-closed colleges before considering merging them. There will be locational difficulties. I don’t think merging two colleges can address the dropping number of engineering graduates every year,”Anandakrishnan adds.
He feels AICTE could instead use these campuses to run vocational courses. “The largest problem among engineering graduates today is the lack of skill sets. These colleges can run vocational courses in specific areas. The degree or diploma programme can aim at bridging the skill gap.”
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