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Campus placements: students have no choice?

Vasudha Venugopal
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Scenario governed by unspoken alliances between companies and colleges

KEY TRANSITION: Students wait for their turn during a campus interview programme. — FILE PHOTO.
KEY TRANSITION: Students wait for their turn during a campus interview programme. — FILE PHOTO.

It is that time of the year when young men and women, clad in formals, sit outside offices on their college campus revising their much-rehearsed answers to anticipated questions on technology and applications.

The campus recruitment drive this year, especially by Information Technology companies, which started as early as in the first week of December has been encouraging, say the placement records of many engineering colleges. However, the recruitment processes of many colleges that involve bulk recruitment by a single company are conspicuous by the absence of other major companies.

With the placement scenario increasingly governed by unspoken alliances between companies and colleges, the freedom of a student to pick a company from a basket of choices could be under threat, say experts.

The Campus Placement at SRM University saw Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) roping in a whopping 1,091 students last month, with Wipro, HCL, and Accenture following suit. But it was also marked by the absence of two other top-notch companies. Similarly VIT University had Cognizant taking in as many as 1,500 students with other companies recruiting in smaller numbers.

‘The best harvest'

While companies maintain that they insist on the first slot only to get ‘the best harvest,' colleges say that it has become mandatory to show 100 per cent placement, and bulk recruitment by IT majors is a boon for their healthy branding and survival.

“It is natural for colleges to lose out on two to three main companies, because they give the first slot to one big player,” says. S. Ganapathy, dean, SRM Placements. Some of these bulk recruiters also relaxed their eligibility criteria by allowing students with up to two arrears.

NASSCOM regional director K. Purushottaman does not see anything wrong with the phenomenon since students can choose not to be part of the campus recruitment, and make a start with smaller companies or apply in companies that don't come for recruitment, if they want to.

Infosys HRD and Education and Research head T.V. Mohandas Pai, on the other hand, says the lack of transparency on the part of college managements sometimes leads to abuse of the tie-ups between companies and colleges. “Many colleges succumb to pressures from certain companies, and get into unhealthy tie-ups with companies that leave students with little choice,” he says.

Others point out that latent contracts and invisible ties between management authorities of private colleges and HR professionals of companies result in companies dictating terms to the college. “Since colleges are responsible only till the students are placed, companies with their rigorous training, demand-driven strategies, posting and transfer mechanisms make sure that the people who do not perform are removed whenever necessary,” says Anand Venkatesh, a HR placement consultant with many IT majors.

For students, these tie-ups and placements in previous batches largely determine a certain college's worth. “But we often feel that a large part of the recruitment process is kept hidden from us, all we know are numbers,” says Abhishek Tareja, a civil engineering student of VIT University.

What MoUs mean

There are also those who argue that agreements between corporate players and the academia must not be seen through the prism of placements alone. The Memorandums of Understanding signed between companies and universities reflect in infrastructure development, faculty enhancement programmes, capacity building, projects and internships, says S. Selvam, Director, Centre for University- Industry Collaboration, Anna University, which saw 88 companies recruiting candidates in 92 working days. “Placements are just a spin-off from these regular programmes, but unfortunately they figure at the top of the list for many colleges,'' he adds.

It is also the relationship a particular company shares with a certain college that determines their association. “Most colleges give us their first slots willingly because we managed to recruit even during the downturn. It is that rapport that counts,” says R. Chandrasekharan, President and MD, Global Delivery, Cognizant.

Time-bound associations between companies and colleges, Dr. Selvam says, are an indirect, invisible investment for the future. They not only save cost for the companies, but also help them groom their candidates for future, while the branding works well both for the college and the employer, say experts. This could prove crucial at a time when, according to Mr Pai, the expenditure on training is rising with increasing costs of technology, infrastructure, and compensation.

Many academics also insist that traditional tie-ups fostered by colleges with companies wherein students are granted projects and internships depending on the prototype or design they submit, are what that go a long way in kindling the spirit of engineering in them. “Students look forward to such associations because it gives them an opportunity to work in real-time projects and showcase their potential to gain employment in companies that normally do not come to their campuses for placement,” Praveen Vishakantaiah, President, Intel India, who also believes that such recruitments are often overshadowed by the bulk recruitment that IT majors indulge in.

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