An engineering degree is a valued educational achievement, but which is the branch that can remain evergreen?
“The core engineering streams are stable in terms of placement and there will always be demand for good students.”
Sitting on a step opposite the Institute of Remote Sensing in the Anna University Chennai campus, Radha studies her options in terms of colleges in the city. There is some debate with her father on which college she should choose, but she is decided on the subject. “I will take Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) as first choice. The college I get will depend on my marks,” she says.
The distribution of application forms for the nearly 85,000 engineering seats (currently available for counselling) started on May 6 and will go on till the end of the month. With the counselling for the seats set to start by June-end, and at a time when the global downturn is on the back of everybody’s minds, students are worried about making the right choice.
“There has been an increase in interest over the last couple of years in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE). This was due to the performance of the automobile and allied sectors especially in Tamil Nadu,” says S. Mohammed Tajudeen, placement co-ordinator, Crescent Engineering College.
Last year, over 32,000 seats were filled in ECE and EEE, while IT and Computer Science together accounted for nearly 33,000 seats. Only 8,780 seats were filled in Mechanical Engineering and 3,494 in Civil Engineering, but this was due to fewer seats available in those streams. Around 95 per cent of the seats in mechanical and civil engineering streams were filled due to a higher interest in them.
Parents like Santhanakrishnan say they are not against their children taking the course that interests them. But he adds that he wants his son to keep an eye on his future prospects and indicates that IT may be his preferred career choice.
But Rakesh, a final-year student of Computer Science and Engineering, says he would advise his juniors to take up core subjects. “When we joined, we thought we would have great opportunities in the IT industry. Now we see that many students with B.Sc. degrees also get similar opportunities. There are also some B.E. degree-holders who have not yet got jobs,” he says.
Jayalakshmi Radhakrishnan, another final-year engineering student, says that in the current situation, it would make sense for students to take up “core engineering” subjects like Mechanical Engineering, ECE, EEE or Chemical Engineering. “They can go either for jobs in their own field or come to software,” the Chemical Engineering student says.
Mr. Tajudeen also agrees. “The core engineering streams are stable in terms of placement and there will always be demand for good students from the companies. Instead of trying to get into IT alone, students should focus on what they like,” he says.
But there is also the possibility that in the long run, IT may stage a comeback. Sindhu, who joined the B.E. Computer Science course in SSN last year, says that she weighed all her options before choosing CSE.
“I know that the IT industry has been hit badly right now. But I think in the next four years, the situation might be reversed completely. I had no hesitation in taking up CSE,” she says.
P. Mannar Jawahar, vice-chancellor, Anna University, Chennai, said at a recent press meet that engineering education will always be strong. With 140 new colleges in the State awaiting the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) approval, there is clearly lots of supply. And, going by the fact that over 64,000 application forms were bought on the first day of issue, there is also demand.
But among engineering courses, the shift in preference to “core” courses like ECE, EEE and Mechanical Engineering from IT and CSE could continue this year.