Engineering colleges to be upgraded
Only a few elite engineering institutes are recognized outside India today, namely the IITs, the Birla Institute of Technology & Sciences (BITS) and a couple of others. However there are scores of engineering institutes that want that recognition, those that are accredited to the AICTE (the All India Council for Technical Education). If India gets permanent membership of the Washington Accord, this dream may well come true. The Washington Accord is an agreement between the bodies which accredit professional engineering degree programs in the signatory countries. Right now India has managed to get provisional admission into the Washington Accord.
Interestingly, even this had been denied to India earlier. India’s application for provisional membership had been turned down two years ago because there were no sponsors. But this year, India was backed by the UK, Australia and Canada and also by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).
Sri Lanka and Russia are the other countries which have been granted the provisional entry status.
What are the benefits of the Accord?
Well, once India is part of the Accord, Indian engineering graduates will find it easier to get jobs in developed countries, even those who are not signatories to the Accord. The IIT’s may have the brand name, but scores of other Indian Engineering Institutes don’t.
Where’s the catch?
Well, the engineering institutes have to set their house in order. Refurbish, overhaul and revamp are the name of the game. All academic programmes and curricula as well as the syllabus, the evaluation and accreditation systems will go under the scanner. A few important initiatives will include:
1. Continous evaluation rather than simply focus on year-end examinations.
2. Curricula to focus on design, innovation and research. Stipends for research to be hiked.
3. Teaching to become more interactive.
4. The syllabus to be regularly updated.
5. International faculty to be allowed.
6. Research papers to be digitalised to stop cheating and plagiarism.
7. Rigorous admission tests for entry into MPhil, PhD courses.
8. Indian universities to be allowed to set up campuses abroad.
9. Indian universities also to be allowed to bestow dual degrees in collaboration with foreign universities.
10. Universities to develop technology parks and invite industry to set up units on campuses to provide training and placements for graduates.
There are also ambitious plans to set up rural campuses, encourage private sector participation in higher education, reduce the number of colleges per university and plans to ask industry to adopt colleges or universities.
Well, I don’t think these are impossible standards. There are a lot of really good engineering institutes in India besides just the IIT’s and some of them already half way there.
Here is a 2005 list of the top 20 engineering colleges and not all are IIT’s.
Here is a list 2006-2007 list of the top 10, and don’t be surprised that they are mostly the IIT’s.
Here is a more comprehensive list from Outlook India, a 2006 list of the top 100 engineering colleges.
Some of these colleges offer high quality engineering education. Colleges like the Vellore Institute of Technology and NIT are excellent institutes. In fact, even the Cummins College of Engineering for Women, which is number 80 on the list is very good.
If any engineering college doesn’t try and upgrade its education, I feel that college should be temporarily de-listed by the All India Council for Technical Education, not so much because we might put the agreement with Washington Accord in jeopardy, but because there is no point letting educational institutions of dubious merit flourish.
If only 25 percent of India’s engineering graduates are employable, some drastic measures need to be taken. A degree for the sake of a degree is of no use. It has to be useful.