Having found it difficult to meet even their operational cost due to dwindling student strength, managements of several engineering colleges in Kerala have filed applications with the government for converting their institutions into arts and science colleges.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) stipulates that engineering colleges that have had a student enrollment of less than 30 per cent of their capacity for five consecutive years need to be shut down. Under that rule, as many as 800 institutions from across the country, including 35 in Kerala, have been told to stop admission procedures.
The higher technical education sector in the state is grappling with several issues other than the drop in students enrolling for engineering courses. Apart from some of the reputed self-financing colleges, the pass percentage registered by colleges offering engineering courses in the state is abysmally low. In most of the self-financing colleges under the Kerala University, the average pass percentage is below 30. Moreover, the number of students opting for MBA courses in search of a better career after passing out from engineering colleges is on the rise.
The government and college managements should take this crisis as an opportunity to initiate consolidated efforts and turn it to their advantage.
Most of these engineering colleges have developed basic infrastructure on their campuses such as buildings, electricity connection, water supply, digital connectivity and laboratories among others. Now, what is needed is charting out plans to use them effectively. Can’t these colleges be converted into tech hubs that would improve the employability of graduates and cater to the needs of the industry? Definitely, it could herald a positive step towards the movement for industrialization of the state.
In fact, they have a plethora of options to choose from.
Engineering colleges that are already shut down or on the verge of closure could be transformed into mini technoparks. They can also explore the options of launching small-scale industrial ventures, establishing a network of electronic product manufacturing firms, or setting up of food processing units and rubber-based industries. Likewise, facilities at these colleges can be effectively used to establish small-scale pharma manufacturing companies and bio-tech industries.
Start-ups, the new fad in Kerala, can also pitch in and tie up with these institutions to leverage their resources and expand operations.
These institutions can also be hubs of multi-skill development by hosting courses offered under the Additional Skill Development Program (ASAP) and the Kerala Academy for Skills Excellence (KASE).
The Non-resident Keralites (NRKs), who have shown keenness to invest in the state’s industrial sector at the first meeting of the Loka Kerala Sabha in Thiruvananthapuram recently, can also make use of this opportunity to spur Kerala’s development.
But, let me be very clear. Only those college managements who are fully convinced of the viability and practicality of such projects need to explore these options. The rest can lease out their institutions to earnest entrepreneurs.