Technical education in India is passing through a critical phase despite the government’s serious efforts to improve it both quantitatively and qualitatively. There is a bitter criticism of present status of technical education in the country. There has been a negative growth of number of technical education institutions by more than 3 percent, total Intake capacity has gone down by 4,08,000 i.e. gone down by more than 3 percent every year and enrollment rate is now 50 % of the approved intake capacity (sanctioned strength) for the last 3 years since 2014-15 while Indian economy is growing at the rate of about 7 percent during this period. The current situation in the technical education is alarming and appears to be against the present government’s policy of promoting education, generating employment, and “Make in India” successful. It is a matter of serious concern and deserves immediate attention on the part of Government.  

India’s gross enrollment ratio (GER) is dismal. It is just 24% of the 18-23 years age group of eligible candidates as per MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) report for 2016-17 despite phenomenal growth. This is quite dismal as compared to China 43.39 % and USA 85.80%. India needs to take necessary steps to improve its GER through public private participation. It is important to mention that Non-government education sector at higher technical education in India, has made significant contribution in terms of total number of institutions, students, employment, quality of education and developing educational infrastructure, without the government aid but unfortunately it is viewed by the regulator defiantly and with suspicion, leading to all ills of erstwhile licensing of pre nineties. It is also observed that growth in technical education has been witnessed since 1993 despite the controlling, constraining, prevailing corruption, discouraging the expansion rather than facilitating and ensuring quality in all aspects of education except since 2014-15. when it has recorded a drastic fall.

It is unfortunate that there has been a constant drastic fall in the number of technical institutions and the total intake capacity (sanctioned strength) and also enrollment of students since 2014-15, In the last three years the total intake capacity has gone down by 4,08,904 i.e. about one lakh thirty six thousands students per year, while the enrollment is just about 50% of approved intake capacity.

In 2014-15 the total intake capacity was 39,61,622, In 2015-16 the intake capacity was 38,35,793 (gone down by 1,25,829), In 2016-17 it was 37,01,674 (reduced by 1,34,119), and in 2017-18 it was reduced to 35,52,718 (gone down by (1,48,956 ) . Instead the intake capacity in technical institutes should have been over 52 lakhs at the growth rate of 7% per annum. (see graph below). The total enrollment has also fallen to about 50 % of the approved intake capacity. A large number of technical colleges/ institutions have been closed down because of the wrong policies of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) ever since 2014-15. This is despite the GDP growth of about 7 per cent and the economy doing very well under the present government. Given the GDP growth in the last 4 years there should have been an increase of number of technical institutions, total intake capacity and enrollment by about 7 percent, instead of such drastic fall. 

The current situation in the technical education is alarming and appears to be against the present government’s policy of promoting education, generating employment, and “make in India” successful. This requires a serious concern on the part of AICTE and also the government.

Refer to enclosed AICTE web portal Approval Process Handbook 2018-19 p.13

Often, it is argued by AICTE, that substandard technical institutions are being closed. As these institutions have been given approval year on year basis by AICTE based on satisfying its norms and standards, it is the responsibility of AICTE to ensure quality of education. If these institutions are sub standard, then there is something grossly wrong either with norms and standards or the approval process. AICTE cannot absolve of its responsibility. As per the latest order of the AICTE “ Notwithstanding anything contained in these regulations, all PG Diploma courses shall not initiate admission process before 31st March of the admission year” While admission process in terms of advertisements, receiving applications and processing begins in September for the next year by most institutions and universities. These Institutions offering PG Diploma courses are placed in a disadvantaged position and should be allowed to initiate process admission with other institutions.  

Closure of an educational institution or forcing institutions to close down using bizarre reasons, results in a national loss besides heavy losses to charitable trusts or societies setting up these institutions in terms of retrenchment of staff both academic and non-academic (causing unemployment) , denying the opportunity to young people from pursing their desired course of study, non-usage of other resources such as land, buildings, laboratories, library books & library equipments, computers, office equipments like photocopiers etc on which trusts and societies have invested heavily to conform to AICTE norms and standards. All the assets would be worn out, depleted and loose their usefulness when a college is closed just because there is a lower enrollment of 30% or less. Closing down means the college loses its chance to revive and serve the society. The employment and business of suppliers of peripherals, goods and services to these colleges would also be adversely affected. Instead of closing down a college due to lower enrolment the AICTE requires to relook at its own norms and standards and approval process and policies. Lower enrollment is a weak argument for closing an institution, as these institutions are self financed and there is no financial burden on the government. In any case even when the college is closed it has to incur fixed costs like lease rent, electricity and water expenses, security and cost of permanent staff etc. How would a charitable trust or society afford such fixed costs? It also diminishes the opportunity of revival in the future in case the government decides to improve on GER. AICTE should mentor deficient institutes rather than order closure to manage desired quality and standards of education in the technical institutions. Closing of an institution is also against the interest of students who have passed out or other stakeholders, as to who would verify various documents (the certificates, diplomas or degrees) issued by these institutions in future when an alumni, or an employer, or other institutions where an alumni wants to study requires such verification of documents.

AICTE fails India’s technical education by using illogical and impractical policies and extraneous considerations to close down institutions, responsible reduced intake capacity, resulting in 50% enrollment and substandard quality of students being churned out. Some of the factors responsible for AICTE failing India’s technical education are:

1. AICTE ever since 1993 when it approved as many as 200 technical institutions for the first time after the notification was issued by government did not have proper planning in terms of man power requirements and there is a lack of coordinated development. It is widely believed that approvals are granted on extraneous considerations rather than on merit and based on appropriate planning and coordination. AICTE was given statutory powers by the AICTE Act of Parliament in 1987 with a view to ensure the proper planning and coordinated development of Technical Education System, qualitative improvement of such education in relation to the planned quantitative growth and the Regulation and proper maintenance of norms and standards in the Technical Education System and for matters connected therewith. AICTE failed to live up to the letter and spirit of law. However the legislature in its wisdom, restricted the AICTE powers to grant approval to new institutions or new courses or programmes u/s 10 (k) of AICTE Act. To quote AICTE to “Grant approval for starting new Technical Institutions and for Introduction of new courses or Programmes in consultation with the Agencies concerned”. AICTE enjoys absolute powers by virtue of statutory status. Often Power corrupts and absolute powers corrupt absolutely.

2. AICTE approval process is grossly wrong. It is arbitrary and lack transparency. It is focused on physical infrastructure rather than focusing on quality of education. An architecture member and an advocate member plays more predominant role in the approval process than an academics – professor or professors of the concerned discipline who may better assess an institution’s academic standing and academic contributions.

3. AICTE expects a technical institution to have faculty strength and other resources to be created based on approved intake capacity in the ratio of 1:15 and now 1:20. It is very illogical and impractical when the total enrollment in the country is about 50 % of the intake capacity. Enrollment is even falling year after year. AICTE granting approval on a year on year basis creates complete uncertainty both for staff and management of the institutions. It is pertinent to mention that even central universities like Delhi University, AMU, BHU and prestigious institutions of national pride like IITs and IIMs are not able to recruit adequate academic staff because of non-availability of qualified academic staff despite easy access of funds to pay for their salaries. As per the news paper reports about 40 to 45% of the academic positions in central universities and IITs and IIMs are lying vacant.

4. AICTE has a 650 page instructions manual for approval process with frequent changes in approval process expected to be effective with retrospective effect.

5. AICTE regulatory service charges are very high i.e. fee of Rs 1,00,000 for online approval year after year. AICTE TER charges (fee) for different services are ranging from 1 lakh to 8 lakh for different activities. (page 22 of APH 2017-18). AICTE is collecting hundreds of crores of regulatory charges from technical institutions every year officially.

6. The composition of governing bodies is more stringent than even in the government funded or government aided higher education institutions where the interest of government funds is to be protected.

7. Seeking information from technical institutions both online and in hard copies of important documents year after year and not maintaining these documents safely makes the institution submitting these documents vulnerable. In one case (at one of the regional office) these have been stored (thrown) on the roof top exposed to vagaries of nature to fly around to land in the hands of some unscrupulous person.

8. Educational institutions set up by charitable trusts and societies are treated inappropriately. Even commercial organizations set up with profit motive are treated better in India and enjoy better ease of doing business.

Both AICTE and Government need to act and take necessary corrective steps in the technical education immediately, before it is too late to correct the current situation. Industry as well as general public is already disillusioned with the quality of technical education imparted in India. It is the sole responsibility of AICTE to maintain high quality of education and enforce proper standards.

Prof. J.D. Agarwal is currently Chairman and Professor at Indian Institute of Finance. His views and comments have had significant bearings on national and international policy decisions by different governments.

Prof. J.D. Agarwal
Chairman and Professor
Indian Institute of Finance
45A, Knowledge Park III
Greater Noida