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Lowest BTech Enrolment in 5 Years: AISHE Report

Students prefer other undergraduate courses due to fewer seats and jobs in engineering.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The preference for engineering among undergraduates (UGs) has gradually decreased in the last five years. Enrolment for engineering has dropped by 10% from 40.85 lakh students in 2016-17 to 36.63 lakh in 2020-21 even as overall admission for other programmes at the bachelor’s level has increased, according to the latest report of the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE).

Although enrolment for engineering programmes increased somewhat by 20,000 in 2019–20 and 2020–21, absolute admittance numbers were still the lowest in the last five years, the report shows.

Professors pointed to two major factors for the decreasing preference for BTech: the high fee structure and fewer college placements and overall job saturation in the market. 

IT and Software company rat race

BTech is becoming unpopular because students have started to choose the easy way,” Suman, a professor of mechanical engineering at a Karnataka university, tells Newsclick.

Irrespective of the branch in an engineering course, the student would ultimately get a job in the IT sector. Now, they prefer management courses,” adds Suman, who has been teaching for more than 10 years. “Besides, students are increasingly joining the corporate rat race.” 

Furthermore, several colleges have scrapped mechanical and electrical UG programmes. When only 50-60 seats out of the total number of seats in these branches were being filled, colleges either scrapped them or introduced course in IT and data science engineering.

When asked whether there are no jobs in mechanical and electrical engineering, Suman said, “There are so many things one could do. These courses demand time and patience. The first and best option is to opt for government jobs—but a student has to complete the course, fill out forms, go through recruitment stages and finally get selected."

Though there is “no guarantee of selection”, he adds, “the salary is three times more than what one receives in a simple non-technical job in a private company”. 

financial and social pressures

The fees for a BTech course on average is between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 19 lakh depending on the college’s ranking and whether it is a government or private institute. IITs and NITs do not have more than 39,000 seats. Other students enrol in private colleges, which usually charge a hefty Rs 10 lakh. 

Any middle-class person who takes a loan for his/her children’s education would want them to be employed. But when job security is under threat, parents would obviously refrain from enroling them in such courses,” says professor Shell Sinha Choudhary, of Jadavpur University (West Bengal).

Choudhary, who has been teaching since 1999, believes that the recent trend is “not very encouraging”. “Since the job market is rapidly shrinking, why would any parent invest lakhs in a course that yields a low-paying job?” 

There is parental and societal pressure as well. Irrespective of the branch students choose, they train themselves for IT jobs since parents and relatives believe only this sector pays well, the professors said. 

As soon as the student reaches the third year, relatives start asking the parents if he/she got an offer. This ultimately puts pressure on the student. They settle for an IT job to repay loans,” says Suman. 

Five years ago, bachelor’s courses in engineering had the third-highest enrolment behind arts and sciences. Now, they are fourth. In terms of percentage, enrolment in BA courses made up 33.5% of the total admissions in 2020–21. Science enrolment was 15.5% of the total, followed by commerce with 13.9% share and engineering and technology with 11.9%. MTech enrolment declined from 1.6 lakh in 2016–17 to 1.38 lakh in 2020–21.

On the other hand, enrolment in BA, BSc and BCom has significantly expanded in the last five years. BA enrolment increased from 80 lakh in 2016-17 to 85 lakh in 2020-21, BSc from 44 lakh to 47 lakh and BCom from 34 lakh in 2016 to 37 lakh in 2020.

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