Published: 01st March 2020
If you want to start an engineering college, take an old one and improve it: AICTE chief Anil Sahasrabudhe
AICTE Chairman, Anil Sahasrabudhe speaks about some of the policies of the AICTE, their biggest achievements and why merging the UGC and AICTE under the New Education Policy is not a problem
Entrepreneurship and innovative ideas are booming among college graduates is what Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), believes. Present at the International Conclave of Learning Ecosystem conducted recently at IFIM Business School, Bengaluru, he says, "20 years ago, when students said that they had an idea that could be converted into a business model, parents did not encourage them. They would instead suggest taking up a job and earning money. Today, we don't see the same response. Times are changing and youngsters are ready to take risks. The culture of innovation, which exists in the US, is now here in India." He also believes that this culture can get India high on the ranks of the International Innovation Index. We chat with him about the new policies implemented by the AICTE and how they will impact the higher education system. Excerpts:
1. The AICTE recently barred institutes from offering PGDM and MBA courses simultaneously. How will this impact students who don't get into IIMs yet want to pursue quality courses like this?
There is a misconception among students about this. What we are saying is that institutes cannot run these courses simultaneously under one name. But they can run them on the same premises under two different names. What's been happening is that the same college that will be affiliated to a university for MBA courses will not be affiliated for the PGDM courses. Hence, there has been confusion among students and also, many institutes were charging the same fee for both courses.
Therefore, AICTE provides these institutes that are running such courses simultaneously with three options:
a. Colleges or institutes can convert PGDM course into MBA course and we will not restrict them for this
b. All MBA courses can be converted into PDGM courses
c. If the institute still wants to run the MBA and PGDM courses, then, spilt the institute into two — call one institute by the old name and the other one by a new name. Then, both the course can be run on the same premises
2. The AICTE has stated that no licenses should be provided to new engineering colleges until 2022. Do you believe the demand for engineering courses has decreased?
The demand for engineering courses has not reduced in any way, as claimed by many colleges. It might fluctuate by 5 to 10 per cent but there is no such thing as less demand. The reason behind restricting the licenses was that 50 per cent of the seats in the engineering colleges were remaining vacant. What is the point in adding more colleges and seats and increasing the vacancy from 50 to 60 per cent? If some individual or organisation wants to start a new college, why don't they improve the infrastructure of some old or poor institute and improve the quality of education? The number of vacant seats has become larger and larger because the number of private universities has gone up and we don't count them. Also, the number of students who would earlier take admission in state universities are now going to private universities.
3. Now that Chemistry is not mandatory to get into engineering, don't you think that the demand for Chemistry courses will be impacted?
This rule of Chemistry not being mandatory to get into engineering is not a new one. It's been there for the last five years. Hence, I don't think it is going to impact the Chemistry courses in any way. Students who want to study Metallurgy, Chemical Engineering and other courses will still choose to study Chemistry in class XI and XII. While we have said that Chemistry is not mandatory, the state governments have to accept the same. Their entrance exams can have subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology and so on. In fact, this is an advantage to students who want to take up electrical and electronics course. In a way, we are opening up opportunities for students rather than limiting them.
4. It is believed that the AICTE and UGC will be merged under the National Education Policy. What does this imply for the future of the AICTE?
This is still in process and we are not sure if it will happen soon. If these organisations are merged together, the new body will still regulate technical education. There will be committees and sub-committees that will be working to impart technical skills among youngsters. Even today, we have experts and different teams who go to institutes to keep a check on the quality of education they are providing. This will never be an issue.
5. Is there any progress on conducting the Single Entrance Test for students who want to take up engineering?
No, there has been no progress on this because a lot of states opposed conducting a single entrance test for engineering stream. But I feel it has a lot of advantages because poor students can't afford to attend multiple tests or pay for their travel and other charges. Hence, by conducting the single entrance test multiple times in a year, this will help students even if they miss attending the exam for the first time. However, before we implement this, states must implement the NCERT syllabus across all schools.
6. How has your tenure been so far at the AICTE?
My tenure has been quite good and I am rather happy. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to answer people's questions about the new policies. At one point in my career, I was the Director of the College of Engineering Pune and the Deputy Director of IIT Guwahati. I got to handle one institution at a time and we made a lot of improvements there. But this gives me the opportunity to make a lot of improvements in institutes across the nation.
7. What have been some of the AICTE's biggest achievements during your tenure?
I have launched the highest number of programmes in my tenure. For example, Hackathon, which takes place across the nation, has given students a platform to come up with innovative ideas. We are happy to see that many undergraduate students are filing patents now; this has not happened before. This is an energising climate for college students and us to take up more programmes. India's ranking in the International Innovation Index is now 52, it was 81 earlier. If we continue at the same speed, then we will be among the top 20 countries.
There is another new programme we have launched called NEAT - National Educational Alliance for Technology. Every student does not have the same interests. For example, if students are interested in a particular stream or want to pursue a particular skill, then they will get the opportunity to pursue the same rather than pursue courses that everyone does. AICTE is an implementing agency for this Public-Private partnership between the government and EdTech companies of India. Companies are invited to showcase their product or service on a national portal which is developed for learners. And our aim is to bring the best technological products in education pedagogy on a single platform for the convenience of the learner. The most interesting part of this scheme is that it includes free seats for students who come from SC/ST communities or weaker sections of society. Even the existing students from higher education institutions can pursue courses or skills that interest them.