Saturday, December 13, 2008

Competing colleges

It is a proud - and often debated - contention that south India is the hub of engineering education in the country. While the debate around the quality of engineering research or the funding for higher engineering degrees has some legs to stagger around on, any set of data on the number of 4-year engineering degree graduates will put 'quantity' out of the debate. For sheer numbers, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are way ahead; Maharashtra, in 3rd place, graduates less than 60% the number that Tamil Nadu does. Between them, the four southern states account for about 300,000 of the country's 550,000+ engineering graduates.

Tamil Nadu was one of the early states to open up engineering education to the private sector, through self-financing colleges; over the past 25 years, the early colleges have moved up to becoming well respected institutions. The newer ones come in knowing fully well that they have to hit the ground running with decent infrastructure, faculty and support services if they hope to succeed. That's a far cry from the early self-financing colleges, some of which had palm-leaf roofed classrooms and no laboratory infrastructure to speak of. The first batches of students were grateful that they had the opportunity to work towards an engineering degree, that they thought nothing of clambering on to the overloaded public transport system to reach their colleges on the outskirts of Madras.

Today, it is a competitive disadvantage for a college not to have its own transport service for students and faculty - the early morning roads see the buses of several colleges zooming away from the city, full of students catching up on their sleep. Luxury for the students? More an indictment of a public transport infrastructure that hasn't kept up with the changing needs!

No comments: