A recent order by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), prohibiting engineering colleges from offering science courses, has led to much dissent among private institutions, many of whom have offered such courses for over a decade.

Courses such as applied physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer technology and integrated courses in software engineering and theoretical computer science are offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at 43 engineering colleges across the State.

College professors say these courses, especially the integrated ones, are very popular among students who want a mix of science and engineering.

AICTE officials however, justified the move saying that many engineering colleges were using same resources for their engineering and science courses, which led to faculty being burdened and students getting a raw deal.

Saying a blanket ban of this kind was unfair, college authorities said these courses were time-tested, and offered a unique skill set to students.

“Some of the CEOs of leading IT companies studied applied mathematics at our college. We offered the course at a time when most of today’s famous engineering colleges had not even opened,” said a senior official of PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore.

The college has been running graduate courses in various sciences as well as integrated courses since 1997.

“For admission to the science courses, we hold interviews with applicants. Only the best 40 out of 1,000 applicants are taken in,” said a senior professor at the college.

“Last year, two of three students recruited by Google were from the M.Sc. IT course. The average annual pay students who are recruited from our colleges get, is Rs. 8 lakh,” he added.

An official at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, said the framework of many of these courses had been laid out by faculty from the Indian Institutes of Technology.

“The syllabus is very comprehensive,” he said, adding that their college has been offering M.Sc. courses in applied sciences from many years now.

“You cannot separate engineering from the sciences. Having courses that have aspects of both is necessary for students to develop various skill sets,” said a city-based professor of applied mathematics.

Past students of these courses say they are great alternatives to engineering.

“I wanted to study computer science, but not as a branch of engineering,” said V. Sharadha, who after her M.Sc. in software engineering from PSG college, launched her own company in Chennai.

“I spent Rs. 4 lakh for a five-year course and got a job with an annual pay package of Rs. 9 lakh. Engineering courses charge much more and the salaries may not be as good,” said G. Shyam, another past student of a science course.

He added that many students preferred opting for science courses at reputed engineering colleges, rather than engineering courses at newer engineering colleges.

AICTE officials, while admitting that in reputed colleges these courses were very good, said that in many other colleges, irregularities had crept up. “Many colleges had the same laboratories and teachers for different courses. As we cannot have different rules for everyone, a blanket ban was imposed,” he added

Ramesh Chittiah, a recruiting specialist at a multi-national corporation, said the move would only lead to an excessive rush towards engineering courses. “There are subjects like analytics, statistics, mathematics and logic taught in depth in M.Sc. courses and companies regularly recruit these students for their skills,” he said.

“There are many colleges that run unapproved courses and violate norms. It would be a good idea to check that, rather than closing down all such courses,” he added.

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