There’s barely a week left for engineering admissions to be completed, but nearly half the seats in institutions across the State are still vacant.

According to official data on this year’s engineering admissions, 46 per cent or 93,982 of the 2,05,268 seats in over 525 government, government-aided and private institutions affiliated to Anna University, have no takers.

Most of these seats belong to private institutions – government-aided colleges and university departments have less than one per cent vacancies. While education consultants say the numbers reflect a trend that began last year, the figures are much worse this year. At the end of counselling last year, nearly 55,000 of the 1.73 lakh available seats were vacant.

“Students and parents are well informed now. They want to go to a college which offers them good training and excellent placement prospects, and so most colleges in tier two and tier three towns have been left with many vacancies,” said Jayaprakash Gandhi, education consultant.

This year, there has also been a slight dip in the demand for engineering courses, Mr. Gandhi said, and many students, especially those with low marks are rejecting engineering seats to pursue a course that is less expensive.

At least 45,800 students did not turn up for counselling this year, despite being eligible. Admissions data shows that the percentage of absentees was lower in the initial weeks of counselling, but over the last few weeks there have been around 1,800 absentees per day.

Engineering branches that were least in demand this year were computer science and information technology, with nearly 60 per cent of seats in these branches staying vacant.

G. Karthik, who had come with his father, Gunasekharan K. to Anna University on Tuesday for counselling returned to his hometown, Salem, without a seat.

“I expected him to get into a good college in Chennai, but his marks are very low. My daughter who graduated from a college near home two years ago is yet to get a job so there is no use spending over Rs. 7 lakh on engineering,” he said.

The number of students transferring from arts and sciences colleges to engineering this year, is negligible, Mr. Gandhi said. “The issue of placements is key and affects student choices. Most students trust their seniors’ judgment which depends on how effective the college is in terms of providing both good teaching and jobs,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Anna University officials said the vacancies have increased because this year, most private colleges surrendered more than the mandated 65 per cent of their seats for general counselling. “We received 2 lakh applications, a little more than last year, and over 1 lakh students have enrolled, which is a large number,” an official said.