With counseling for engineering seats coming to an end, several colleges have been unable to fill seats even for popular courses.
"Around 37 colleges could not fill a single seat for electrical and electronics engineering, while the same was the case for IT in 30 institutions across the state," said Moorthy Selvakumaran, an educational consultant. Several institutions have failed to fill a single seat in the computer science branch too.
While the top engineering colleges have been able to fill seats, lesser-known ones are left in the lurch. This is a clear indication that there are more engineering seats than needed. Data available on Anna University's website indicates that a little less than 80,000 seats have gone vacant this academic year.
Clearly, engineering education is facing a crisis. The economic downturn has affected the intake of students. And with employability no longer assured, students are increasingly careful about choosing the course, the branch of study and the college.
Colleges that are unable to make the right pitch for students are falling by the wayside, forcing managements to put up their institutions for sale.
Many academics blame the glut in vacant seats on the increasing number of technical institutions in the state. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has been liberal in granting permission to start colleges as well increasing seats in the existing ones. The result is that there are fewer takers for the lesser known colleges.
While AICTE officials maintain that allowing colleges to increase their intake will aid in the 'survival of the fittest', there are many academics who feel otherwise. They say that established institutions increase intake without enhancing their facilities, allowing them to increase profits while the students from poor backgrounds are left to choose the lower rung institutions.
"Many of these colleges unable to fill seats have been established in the last two years," says the chairman of a new college who spoke on condition of anonymity. According to him, colleges should either be established or have established 'business networks' to. "Ability to organize attractive programmes and having a network of agents capable of luring students through advertisements are essential for a new established institution," he said.
"It is only natural for students to opt for the best institutions. However, there may be other reasons why colleges are unable to fill seats," said V Balusamy, an engineering lecturer and the zonal chairman of the Association of University Teachers (AUT). He says that the permission to increase seats in the leading colleges have eaten up the share of those in the lower rung. "Though healthy competition is good, this has led to many unhealthy trends," he said. Many of these institutions have started taking in more students without increasing the faculty or increasing infrastructure. This increases the advertising expenses of colleges which are eventually borne by students, he said.