The AICTE had announced in 2019 a two-year moratorium on setting up new institutes, beginning 2020-21 following recommendation from a government committee.
India’s total engineering seats has fallen to its lowest in a decade amid the recurring theme of colleges applying for closure since 2015-16 and capacity reduction in others. The latest All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) data show that engineering seats at all levels — undergraduate, postgraduate, and diploma — have fallen to 23.28 lakh. This figure is the lowest in at least a decade. Seat reduction this year, either due to closure of colleges or decreased intake, is estimated at 1.46 lakh.
However, engineering continues to account for 80 per cent of all technical education seats despite the drop. Architecture, hotel management, management, and pharmacy, among others, are also part of the technical education space.
Engineering seats at AICTE-approved institutes boasted of almost 32 lakh seats at its peak in 2014-15. Some quarters have attributed the decline to the consolidation in the engineering space that began seven years ago as reduced forced colleges to close. Around 400 engineering colleges have shut down since then. Except for last year’s Covid-induced disruption, at least 50 colleges have closed each year since 2015-16. This year, the AICTE has approved the closure of 63 colleges.
Approval to set up new engineering colleges is at a five-year low. The AICTE had announced in 2019 a two-year moratorium on setting up new institutes, beginning 2020-21 following recommendation from a government committee.
For the 2021-22 academic year, 54 new colleges have been approved by the AICTE. Speaking to The Indian Express, Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe said these approvals were to establish engineering colleges in backward districts and the requests had been pending for some time.
In December 2017, an Indian Express investigation had found no takers for at least 51 per cent of the 15.5 lakh seats in 3,291 undergraduate engineering colleges in 2016-17. The investigation laid bare the regulatory gaps that included allegations of corruption; poor infrastructure and faculty; and non-existent industry linkage. It was found that these led to low employability. Weeks later, the AICTE announced that intake in courses that had poor admissions would be halved from the 2018-19 academic year. The two-year moratorium on new institutes was announced in 2019.