Spending some time on research before selecting the right engineering college will make sure that you do not regret your decision four years later.
Every year thousands of engineering aspirants face the tough task of selecting the right engineering college that opens the doors to an exciting career. Typically, students go round their universe of 10-odd colleges in the hope of zeroing in on the best-known one. They enquire about the previous year’s placements in terms of median and maximum salaries offered.
Everyone assumes that the answers to these two questions will help them find a college with top quality of education. Two other assumptions are that the college with a high brand recall provides quality education and its alumni are successful in the real world; and employers know which colleges provide better quality education and go to those campuses for recruitment. Unfortunately, both arguments are native.
While some colleges (such as the IITs) have a high brand recall because of their quality of education as is reflected by the achievements of their alumni and the research output of faculty and graduate students, other colleges have high brand recall due to advertising on a large scale. Smaller colleges cannot afford the same advertising budgets and hence lose out on branding even if they provide good quality education.
Smaller (and newer) colleges do not attract enough recruiters either. Companies that recruit thousands of students from campuses every year would typically not go to campuses where they are likely to get 5 - 10 potential employees. And companies that recruit very few students would typically not add a new college to their recruitment drive.
So, how does one find out which college provides quality education? We list some parameters, which will help you compare colleges. Most of the information is available on the website. If not, try to get it from current students and alumni of the college. In a worst case scenario, make a personal trip. This is not easy but it must be done in order to make an informed choice as your entire career will be influenced by this.
How qualified is the faculty? Review the number of faculty members with a Ph.D. degree. While some without a Ph.D. may be very good teachers, they are few in number. Similarly, one should find out the number of faculty members with an M.Tech degree. If the college hires many faculty members with a B.Tech or M.Sc, the quality may not be up to the mark.
Also, check from where the faculty members have received their highest degrees. Prominent names increase chances of a better quality of education. How active is the faculty in research? A faculty member who is active in research will normally have a better understanding of the latest developments in the area, and will therefore be in a position to explain better. Also, find out whether they have research projects funded externally by the industry or government-funding agencies. It shows that others value their research. Also look at college activities or those of the specific department of your interest. Are there many visitors giving seminars? Do they organise workshops and conferences regularly?
This is the second important aspect. How good are the labs in the discipline of your choice? Do they have modern equipment, and in enough numbers so that students can work simultaneously as opposed to just a demonstration by a lab instructor? How good is the common infrastructure? How many books are there per student in the library? What e-journals do they subscribe to? How much bandwidth on a per capita basis do they have? Are lecture halls equipped with PCs, projector, screen and audio facilities? What sports facilities exist for the student body?
So, you may need to talk to a current student or an alumnus you can trust, or make a personal visit to the campus.
Status of the institute: A university status typically would mean greater academic freedom for innovation. A fully-residential campus usually provides a better learning environment.
Curriculum: How often is it updated? How many courses do they teach? Note that an institute that has too many courses is in fact not likely to do a quality job of teaching.
Curriculum flexibility: How many electives does it offer? Do the students go for jobs, or do they go for higher education? If graduates are going for higher education, then it shows that the institute has been successful in igniting the interest of learning in the students.
A related point is the performance of students in third party exams such as GATE and CAT. Is there an active alumni association, particularly for colleges which are more than 10-15 years old? If the alumni don’t care about this college, then why should anyone else?
Campus placements: Of course, it should be considered. Just don’t consider it as the only parameter.
Accreditation by NAAC or NBA is an indication of the quality of the institutions. See whether the institutes groom leadership qualities amongst the students. You may think it’s tough to get all this information. However, if you focus on just the colleges you are serious about, it’s not too difficult. The college website should also come in handy. Most colleges would have a presence on social networking sites where you can connect to people from those colleges. Spending some time on research will make sure that you do not regret your decision four years later.
The writer is faculty member of JNTU-Hyderabad and Convenor of EAMCET-2013.
A faculty member who is active in research will normally have a better understanding of the latest developments in the area.