“Owing to recession in IT sector, many parents are apprehensive of investing in engineering education''

As the summer heat begins to scorch the city, students who have just completed their Plus-Two examinations are already sweating out their future course of study. And if engineering and medicine continue to be the dream destinations for many, the city has a good number of arts and science colleges catering for thousands of students each year.

“Some colleges have been seeing an increase in the number of applications. Particularly in the last two years, owing to the recession in the IT sector, many parents are apprehensive of investing in engineering education,” says Nirmala Prasad, Principal, M. O. P. Vaishnav College for Women.

Though there is a general concern over courses in the pure sciences losing lustre in the recent years, there could be a change in trend now, observe college heads. “Last year, we received 600 applications for the 70 seats in our Mathematics Department. And all of them had scored really high,” says Ms. Prasad.

Archana Ram, general manager, Smart Training Resources, a centre that coaches students aspiring to pursue a host of courses such as visual communication, humanities, fashion designing, and law, says the number of students enrolling has gone up in the last few years. “Many of these examinations are competitive. Students not only have to do well in the written test, but also be able to present an impressive portfolio. And that requires training.”

The five-year integrated master's programme offered by the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras' Department of Humanities is becoming popular among students, she adds.

Colleges in the city

The University of Madras lists 96 arts and science colleges in Chennai and Kancheepuram districts — many of them accessible from the city — with 8 government colleges, 23 aided colleges and 65 self-financing colleges. Of these 19 institutions are autonomous. The government has announced tuition waiver for all students attending government colleges (extended to post-graduate programmes from this year), but in other colleges the fees paid depends on the course taken and the college offering the course. A senior professor of a suburban college says that students taking popular courses in autonomous colleges pay much more than students in aided colleges. Even in aided colleges, fees are collected under different heads adding up to a significant amount.

University of Madras Vice-Chancellor G. Thiruvasagam says there is the unfortunate practice of collecting capitation fees in private colleges. He advises students to bring these incidents to the notice of the University or the Director of Collegiate Education (DCE). The fee structure approved by the government for different institutions is available at the website of the directorate – http://www.tndce.in.

While there have been complaints about the quality of the government-run institutions, S. Jayabaskaran Charles, DCE, says many new measures have been implemented. “We offer a computer literacy programme for first year students at only Rs. 700 and give a certificate to the students. There are also spoken English courses and many language labs have been set up,” he says. Add-on courses are also provided for practical training to students using tie-ups with nearby polytechnics, which enhances the employability of students, he adds. But a low fee structure alone would not do for even the government and aided arts and science colleges, according to J. Jothikumar, Principal, Dr. Ambedkar Government Arts College, Vyasarpadi. With most students coming from very modest backgrounds, the college has the challenge of making courses interesting and relevant for them, and simultaneously ensuring that they acquire the necessary skills to find a good job, he says.

“We had top companies in the insurance and IT sectors recruiting some of our students recently. Our students fight all odds, take up part-time jobs such as courier service, to be financially independent. We train them for job interviews and they do very well,” he says.

All said, it is no easy task for students to choose the right course. Swapnil Midha, a final-year student of fine arts, recalls how she did it. “I picked fine arts as I love painting. I wanted to have some sort of formal education and knew that it would open up my mind to a lot of new avenues.” Did she worry about finding a job, then? “Yes, I did. I thought of designing, advertising and teaching and even curatorship as possible options. But my ideas have kind of changed in three years, as I have found that there could be other areas too that interest me.”

What they say

G. Thiruvasagam, Vice-Chancellor, University of Madras: Options are very much available both for Arts and Science. Almost all the colleges in the city offer different types of courses. Since the University of Madras redesigned most of them, each course has the core subjects along with other vocational and skill related components like computer, soft skills, communicative English. Therefore, students can very well select the course of their choice.

Suchithra Raman, student who took the class XII examination this year

“Though I was earlier tempted to pursue Physics at a time when the Large Hadron Collider made news, later I felt that a course in the pure sciences might limit my options largely to academics or research. I am not sure if I am cut out for that. Moreover, I am very interested in environmental engineering now. The scope and relevance of the course and what I have heard about it have made me eager. I will still take competitive examinations such as the AIEEE and BITSAT. My final decision will also depend on how much I score in the board examinations.”

P.T.Joseph, Principal, SIGA Polytechnic College

“Many industries prefer diploma holders to engineering graduates as their salary scale could be lower and they have a better hands-on experience in core areas than the graduates. As we are producing only engineers in large numbers, who are suitable for higher positions, the demand for technicians has swelled in recent times. The demand for diploma holders in engineering is set to grow even more, as every new industry needs hundreds of technicians to survive.”

Keywords: educationartssciencecolleges