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The dubious allure of engg. college ads

Vasudha Venugopal
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With counselling around the corner, institutions are going all out to entice students

Caution neededWhile these ads and pamphlets boast of state-of-the-art facilities and record placements, experts say many of these claims are exaggerated —Photo: S. S. Kumar
Caution neededWhile these ads and pamphlets boast of state-of-the-art facilities and record placements, experts say many of these claims are exaggerated —Photo: S. S. Kumar

“Come join us and transform your life,” say the advertisements. They boast of ‘100 per cent placement’, ‘full wi-fi’ and ‘best teachers’. Everywhere one looks — on buses, in train compartments and on walls — engineering colleges are proclaiming their merits on bright flex boards.

Admissions to engineering colleges through general counselling are still a fortnight away, but institutes are going all out to ensure that the 35 per cent of their seats allotted to the management quota, are filled.

The advertisements are also aimed at ensuring that students who go in for counselling remember the institute’s counselling code — each college has one and students are supposed to click on the code if they want to opt for the institute.

According to advertisers, most colleges have spent at least 30 per cent more money this year on advertising, as they are worried about a decrease in the demand for management seats.

“This time, the enquiries for management seats have come down by 60 per cent. The fact that the number of engineering seats across the State have increased by about 50,000, has been a boon for students, as they have more options now. But as it is only through management seats that we get revenues, we do our best to get the maximum number of students,” said S. Rajan, managing trustee of a group of engineering colleges in the city.  

Many colleges are issuing pamphlets that besides promising free laptops, fee waivers and free books for first-year students, also detail their facilities and placement rates. Colleges also have brochures and advertising material in Tamil to appeal to parents.

These pamphlets are distributed outside schools, colleges, in playgrounds, libraries and even malls.

“Computer centres are a good place to spread the word because many students go for various short-term courses during the vacation. Internet cafes are also popular, because students come there to check their mail. This time, we also distributed pamphlets outside temples on Sundays,” said R. Ramasubramanium, principal of a self-financed college.

Most colleges have spent at least Rs. 30 lakh on print advertisements alone. Online advertising has taken another big chunk of money.

“The expenditure on Google ads by these colleges has increased significantly this time. Colleges want their ads to be run on at least 10 educational forums and are spending at least Rs. 5-10 lakh on it,” said R. Srivatsan of education forum, Colleges in Tamil Nadu.

Prime slots are from 9 p.m. to midnight because that is when students surf, he said, adding that only engineering colleges indulged in such expenditure. Some colleges have revamped their websites, while other colleges have inspiring verses from Thirukkural as part of their advertisements. Some others have creative mottos to go with their brand name: “A name to reckon”, “Think ahead, stay ahead”, “Here leaders are made”, are a few such taglines.

Practically all institutions have also tied up with educational websites, so when students log in to check for options wit their cut-off marks, the list they get are mostly colleges that have advertised with the website. “So even if you have a high cut-off, you will get a list of colleges that cater to medium cut-offs,’ said A. Rajeev Ansari, an education consultant.

The promises are lavish and the claims staggering. But experts say many of these claims are exaggerated and the promises should be taken with a pinch of salt.

“A college that offers a 24/7 helpline and has been advertised on all buses, has less than 10 per cent pass percentage. Some colleges that hardly have permanent teachers claim to have a student-teacher ratio of 1:14. The top 20 colleges affiliated to Anna University hardly ever advertise. Students should go only to Anna University’s official website to get details about cut-off marks, and vacancies. They must not be misled by these advertisements,” a senior Anna University professor said.


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