The Outlook-Drshti professional college rankings this year saw participation from 400 colleges and perceptual ratings from over 20,000 students, professors, recruiters and professionals. This is the highest level of participation for the perceptual study till date.
The 2018 rankings conclude with almost no significant changes in the top ranks. This shows a remarkable stability in the quality of top institutes. Over the past two years, I have bemoaned the lack of action from our premier institutions in terms of contributions to research, innovation and national development. But I have also observed an increasing drive for R&D among some of the institutions.
Last year, we had noted that multidisciplinary approaches and convergence will drive the future in education. While I still do not see signs of freewheeling multidisciplinary approaches, I can see that institutions are making a beginning.
Most of these changes are visible in top engineering colleges and design schools. Social Work programmes in schools are also very dynamic, as are some hotel management courses.
It looks like the supply side of education is starting to get its act together, by increasing the focus on the overall learning experience of students. Current and proposed policies of the government seem to be driving positive changes in the system—increased focus on internships, increased R&D funding etc.
On the demand side of things, this year saw a reduction in applications for engineering seats. We understand that many seats remain empty in less popular colleges. This shows a sensible assessment of the market for engineering graduates, as India lacks core engineering jobs due the lack of growth in manufacturing and a potential decline in software jobs. In the near future, low-end coding jobs may be replaced by technology, not unfortunate per se, since such jobs anyway provide a poor return on investment for an engineering student, with salary ranging in the 2-3 lakh per annum segment. The startup ecosystem, another growth driver for jobs, is also undergoing challenges.
India will have to focus on increasing manufacturing jobs. At present, government initiatives like ‘Make in India’ are yet to bear fruit. Also, the service sector has to deliver jobs, but may not need as many engineers.
Let us look at the potential results of all these factors: Jobs will be harder to come by; available jobs may not be high paying; high fees for private institutions may not result in return of investment, and if students study with loans, we may, in the long term, have a US-like student debt trap situation.
Thus, student must be careful in selecting their field of study, and not blindly go for engineering. Engineering aspirants too should see if they are getting a reputed college, with a history of good education, industry, cross functional exposure and placements. Companies are more willing to recruit general graduates, and for some students, who are not really interested in engineering but in the BE/ BTech certificate, it may be a better option than paying high admission and annual fees.
There are fields that are likely to grow: infrastructure, renewable energy, agriculture and food processing, nanotechnology, medical services, social services and other services which are technology enabled. Design is another potential growth area. All these fields will need people with cross functional thinking ability.
My advice to youngsters entering the professional streams would be as follows:
- Understand if you are really interested in what you are applying for.
- Assess whether the cost of the type of education that you are seeking will have an equivalent reward, which can also be non-monetary.
- Think about whether you have the requisite talent to do well in the field. And remember that if you are focussed enough, you can make up for lower talent levels.
- Check alternative study options and degrees before jumping into a stream.
- Once you are in the stream, constantly interact with professors, the industry, and if your college/university does not give internship options, go out and try to get them on your own.
The market is very competitive, but it will reward those who constantly improve.
A.K. Balaji Prasad is managing director, Drshti Strategic Research Services