In 2019 alone, 13 professional colleges under the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad (JNTU-H) closed down, including eight engineering colleges. In addition, the university also received requests to discontinue 35 B. Tech and 90 M.Tech programmes.
The year before, in 2018, 11 private professional institutions approached JNTU-H for complete closure and another 44 sought permission to discontinue over a 100 undergraduate and postgraduate professional programmes.
Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) has been getting similar requests since 2014-15. In 2015 alone, 64 applied for closure. Eleven of these were for complete shutdown and the rest for dissolving specific departments or schools, most of them engineering.
This has been a familiar problem. With nearly half the engineering seats going vacant, between 50 and 70 engineering colleges apply for progressive closure every year. In early 2020, the technical education regulator, All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE, decided not to permit new engineering colleges from 2020-21.
While the closure of poor-quality private engineering colleges may help raise standards overall, it has had an unintended consequence. The public universities to which they were affiliated are losing revenue. With over 600 affiliated colleges, Pune University has vast numbers of teaching and non-teaching staff on its rolls. The biggest chunk of government grants go into salaries. But a university must fund other activities too – conduct exams, organise seminars and conferences, fund research activities. The loss of engineering colleges has now impacted all these functions.
‘Cannot fool the public’
Engineering colleges mushroomed over the past two decades, their proliferation coinciding with the growing technology sector and jobs.
State governments permitted new private engineering colleges affiliated to the state universities but paid scant attention to their quality. For long, many of these institutions did not maintain even the minimum standards of infrastructure or learning.
As the industries began to consolidate talent, recruiters grew more discerning.
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