Engineering Seats go abegging in Karnataka
In 2009, there were over 11,000 engineering seats in Karnataka that found no takers. Academics and the State Government held discussions to find out what had gone wrong.
The problem was quite obvious : there were simply too many seats and not enough takers. The number of colleges had grown exponentially in the past two decades, and the demand had reduced as the number of colleges in neighbouring states had increased.
Which is why, academics were taken aback when it was announced that 3,000 seats were being added to the existing 35,000-odd seats on offer in the State. “Where is the demand?” they asked.
They were proved right when at the end of the counselling session no less than 8,961 seats were vacant in the private quota in private engineering colleges, allotted through the COMED-K (Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka).
When the government quota admission process was over, 6,400-odd seats remained unfilled.
The government went ahead and offered these seats to students who had only passed their pre-university courses (or equivalent) in the supplementary chance.
While the rules do not state that students are required to clear their qualifying examination in the first attempt, academics point out that this raises serious questions not only on the “quality of students but also their capability to finish a science and mathematics-oriented and rigorous course like engineering.”
Predictably, college managements had no say and did not protest as they were too eager to get more students.
Now, after the completion of admissions for supplementary students, there are still more than 4,000 vacancies.
The Karnataka Examinations Authority, which allots government quota seats, did not share the exact number.
But the total number of vacancies is obviously about 12,000, consistent with last year’s trends. So, given that there is a problem of plenty in the State, how can we go about proposing a solution?
Seeking a Solution
Private college managements too are worried and are eager to find a solution given that more vacancies mean reduced profits. Several colleges suffered losses to the tune of a few crores in the last two years owing to reduced intake.
“Running a college without filling all the seats is simply unprofitable. We haven’t been able to break even. In several branches we are forced to conduct joint classes and find similar solutions given that the occupancy level in some classes is less than 50 per cent.
A long-term solution needs to be found,” said the principal of a Mangalore-based engineering college, who spoke on condition on anonymity.
He added that in the coming years quality will be a benchmark and those who do not rise to the expectations of students will just simply be forced to shut down. “Instead of letting the ‘market’ take a decision should we not simply try to solve this problem within ourselves?” he asks.
Another issue here is the rising cost of engineering education in the State. While 50 per cent of the seats are reserved under the government quota, the other half is under the private quota where the fee could go up to 1.25 lakh per annum. This means that the total cost of engineering education for 50 per cent of the students is 5 lakh.
Even the government quota seats cost 30,000 per annum – the fee was increased by 5,000 this year.
Given that engineering studies is now almost considered a primary degree, to be topped by a postgraduation course in, say, management or master’s in technology, this is simply unaffordable for many.
Which is why, students are getting even more particular about the quality of the education they are promised and of the job prospects at the end of the course, says Nandan Pritam, a placement officer in a leading engineering college.
In neighbouring States, like Andhra Pradesh, for instance, the number of colleges is almost 1.5 times that of Karnataka. However, their seats are filled every year.
This is because the Andhra Pradesh Government offers huge subsidies to students, thereby making engineering education affordable.
Moreover, the ratio of government to private seats in private colleges is balanced in favour of the government, unlike in Karnataka where both share an equal number of seats.