Priscilla Jebaraj

CHENNAI: The last day of 2008 was a busy one at the southern regional office of the All India Council for Technical Education in Chennai. From 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., applicants queued up to submit applications to start new colleges and courses.

This year, the rush was not just to start new engineering colleges, although about 70 applicants were there for that purpose, according to officials. Last year, over 75 new engineering colleges were opened in Tamil Nadu alone. About 40 applicants also applied to start new institutes in management education this year. This year, institutions were also applying for several new AICTE schemes. In a move that could potentially double the number of polytechnic seats in the State, AICTE has allowed both engineering and polytechnic institutions to begin second shifts offering polytechnic courses for up to 300 students. Almost 100 institutions have taken up the offer in the region, with about 50 engineering colleges and 50 polytechnics applying to start second shifts. This does not include government institutions, which will take a decision on second shifts after a meeting later this month, according to the Director of Technical Education V.K. Jeyakodi.

“There are about 1.02 lakh polytechnic seats in the State, and they are all almost filled,” said Mr. Jeyakodi, explaining the high demand for expanding polytechnic education. “Unlike the fall in engineering placements, placements are almost 100 per cent in polytechnics. Employment in industry is very fast,” he said.

Industry demand

Industry demand is one reason that colleges are considering the scheme favourably. With the number of engineering college seats in the State higher than polytechnic seats, industries are scrambling to find skilled labour for the shop floor. “We are located in an industrial area, with the SIPCOT complex and several large companies along with their suppliers nearby. Several industries have [earlier] asked us to start part-time courses for their employees,” said P.S. Rajeswaran, a professor at Rajalakshmi College of Engineering, who will take charge of its second shift polytechnic programme if approval comes through. He hopes that companies will take advantage of the evening timings – between 2 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. – for their employees. For colleges themselves, the chief attraction of the new scheme is the chance to make optimal use of their resources.