There were times when AICTE was a bed of corruption, but from that perspective we are today clean and more transparent.
“Regulation is necessary for any sector, but regulation should be with proper riders. There should be enough autonomy for educational institutions; the regulator should not choke development and innovation that happens at institutions. That is what we will aim to do, going forward,” says Anil Sahasrabudhe, the chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). He speaks to FE’s Vikram Chaudhary at the 25-year celebrations of the IFIM Business School in Bengaluru.
AICTE has decided not to permit new engineering colleges from academic year 2020-21 onwards. But isn’t AICTE itself responsible for the oversupply of engineering seats in the first place?
The steps AICTE took in the 1990s (allowing setting up new colleges) was one of the reasons why so many seats got created. Some of those institutions didn’t even have enough infrastructure; maybe it was too liberal an attitude (back then). But we feel it was necessary also. The reason was a huge capitation fee charged by a few institutions (back then), and many people had to shell out a lot of money to get their kids into engineering colleges. If more colleges are established, naturally because of demand and supply fees come down. And that did happen, but in the process a little more checks and balances should have been there; the increase in seats was certainly necessary, but not as much as it happened.
How will you make sure engineering students remain relevant to industry?
We will have a permanent body that will engage with engineering colleges. That body will be something like a private enterprise that does industry studies. It will be given the task of continuously monitoring what is coming and where we need to curtail. Based on that, we will do our policies. We have to think in advance. For instance, the automotive industry is in a slump, and this may lead to lesser jobs in this sector. Now, if there are too many automotive-related programmes in engineering colleges, some of these should be closed, otherwise those engineers who graduate, say, four years later won’t have jobs. The industry-connect should be stronger. For example, IoT is an emerging area, so if we want to start programmes in this area, we should immediately start these, so that there is no demand-and-supply issue. This body will keep giving us inputs. Along with it, faculty development will be an on-going process.
Why is the NEP taking so long a time to finalise?
It is on the cards, I think. The reason is we have a very long-drawn process, but after this policy was submitted as a draft document by the Kasturirangan Committee, it posted on the website for suggestions, and more than 2.5 lakh people wrote. Experts are relooking at that and fine-tuning, so it has all taken a long time.
The NEP, I believe, will help make better and more employable engineers. The future engineers are expected to have better skills and even be trained in liberal arts to be a holistic personality. If you are good, you will be sought after by the whole world; we need to make the best use of our demographic dividend.
Has AICTE failed as a regulator?
From time to time whatever has been done was with the right intent. Sometimes, it might have partially failed also. There were times when AICTE was a bed of corruption, but from that perspective we are today clean and more transparent. The job is being done better today. We are not continuing to do the same mistakes now. What AICTE was doing very little was strengthening the hands of institutions. That is a focus area now. The Margadarshan and Margadarshak schemes will help. We have made internship mandatory for all technical education.
All these are steps in the right direction? Is HEERA a lot opportunity?
Let’s wait for the new policy to be announced; it is under recommendation. The name may be different, but a body (similar to HEERA) will be there.