Engineering colleges functioning with minimal faculty or inadequate infrastructure need to shape up.

In a public advertisement issued on Sunday, the All India Council for Technical Education asked technical institutes to write to them before December if they want to close down.

Notifications have been sent to colleges asking them to apply for new courses and programmes, but the AICTE also expects at least a few colleges to seek closure.

“The processing of applications will take about two months, after we will start the audit and review. Every year we get an increasing number of colleges that don’t adhere to AICTE norms of running an institute,” a senior official said.

He added that among the rules being flouted by colleges are requirements of infrastructure and faculty members. “In many colleges we find students who are awaiting their final-year results teaching the junior classes.”

AICTE officials say that it is only rarely that colleges approach the council seeking closure. “But we expect them to because it will make the system easier,” said an official, adding that it would also give more time to the council to decide on the future of the students and faculty members enrolled with it. This will always prevent colleges on the verge of closure to hurriedly sell off the institution to other managements or lease it away to parties.

Tamil Nadu has the largest number of engineering and management institutions that have received a show-cause notice from the AICTE for violating norms, in June this year. Of the 324 higher education institutions that were issued notices across the country, 71 are from the state. Show-cause notices were issued based on two processes, reviewing the institution on receipt of complaints or PIL, and after surprise visits by AICTE officials.

The council, however, had also approved 20 engineering colleges this year, many of which have less than 50 per cent of their seats filled. These new colleges had surrendered 60 per cent of their seats to Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions when counselling began. In 2011, 140 institutions were served show-cause notices after surprise inspections and four were debarred from admitting students.

“Paying the deposit is not as much a problem as getting faculty and even students,” said a principal of a college near Ariyalur that started three years ago. “We depend on lateral entry – students join after the academic counselling, but the number is only declining,” he added.

To attract students, a few colleges had offered students laptops, and some, the provision to pay fees in instalments. “We allow lateral entry students to start paying after two years but now, we get only those who are not even eligible for engineering. There is no money to invest in facilities because there are not enough students to pay fees,” says S. Kanakarajan, former principal of a four-year-old institute on the outskirts of the city.

AICTE officials point out that many colleges have been focussing on the infrastructure for the few courses that were in demand. “Even the mechanical workshops do not have advanced infrastructure. These are things we want to be strict about from this year,” an official said.

College over course

Officials at Anna University also cited the practice of students choosing college over course. Educational analyst and consultant Moorthy Selvakumaran said, “Earlier, AICTE used to advertise in the newspaper only for opening new technical institutions in our country. This might also help to check the number of unfilled seats in engineering. What is also needed is a mechanism to convert or revamp the existing infrastructure and facilities into research units, so that they are not wasted.”

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012