As you prepare to enter the portals of engineering education, here are some tips from academics on what to consider before choosing the institute.

As the counselling for Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions 2012 (sports quota) begins today, the students have to find answers to numerous questions before they select the college and course of their choice.

Over 1.70 lakh seats are to be filled up in various streams of engineering offered by the 500-odd engineering colleges in the State. Anxious moments await students as the engineering college they choose will propel them on a successful career path. As they step into the portals of engineering education, the students, and in a sense the parents, have an important task of checking the parameters for which they need to make the necessary homework on the colleges and courses to avoid last minute confusion.

Here’s some expert advice and guidelines to help students choose an engineering college that will provide quality education.

“Spend a lot of time to visit the college campuses you think you may end up choosing. Get an impression of the overall environment of the institution. Speak to the students studying in that particular institute currently. It is only through them can one get first-hand and authentic information,” says E. Balagurusamy, Member (Education), Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission.

“While interacting with students in a college, you can seek information about infrastructure and faculty. Check if the canteen and hostel facility are excellent,” says C. Thangaraj, vice-chancellor, Anna University of Technology, Chennai.

When it comes to choosing an institution, the dominant factor that influences one’s decision should be the quality of faculty as it is the most important component that goes into the making of a good institution, say academicians. Students will have to check the number of full-time faculty and part-time faculty, their qualifications, the number of Ph.Ds and postgraduates in an institution.

“A single factor that determines all other parameters of an institution is the faculty strength and their qualifications. The academic culture, stability of the institute, curriculum and students’ performance and much more depends on this particular aspect,” says Mr. Thangaraj.

At present most self-financing engineering colleges function with only 50 per cent faculty.

“Placement record of an institution need not be over-emphasised. In my opinion, placements are stage-managed in many engineering colleges and therefore, it can be considered, but need not be all that important,” he adds.

Instead of taking placement too seriously, students should give a lot of weightage to pass percentage as results of the institute are a direct indicator of the strength of faculty, say academicians adding that infrastructure such as library, laboratories, classrooms, canteen and safety features of the institutions could be easily assessed.

“Study the governance of the institution. Is it ethical? Is there transparency? Is there integrity and objectivity? Do a thorough check on all these. One must not go by what is printed on the prospectus,” says Mr. Balagurusamy.

“It is very important for engineering colleges to have co-curricular as well as extra-curricular activities. Apart from seminars and conferences, students also need to participate in sporting activities and quiz contests and in other creative pursuits. All this will contribute to well-rounded personalities of the students and enhance their soft skills as well,” he says.

As before, the craze for courses like Electrionics and Communication Engineering (ECE) is expected to continue this year. Computer Science Engineering (CSE) and Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) also are on top of the list in the minds of engineering aspirants.

A Coimbatore-based senior academician says that mechanical engineering stream, which has seen a revival in recent years, has lot of job potential but does not promise a huge pay packet, compared to IT industry.

“Our country provides maximum jobs in core engineering sector, and then comes IT. Students must be clear about this first and make the choice. But if during counselling they get one of the top 50 engineering colleges, then they could compromise and take the branch offered. For, where you study matters a lot,” he says.