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Are you joining the right management/ technical institute?
Binoy Valsan
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April 27, 2007

The All India Council for Technical Education is all set to deliver a lethal blow to private management and technical institutions that are straying away from its prescribed norms. Highly placed sources at the council told that they will be contacting banks and foreign embassies in the coming days to cut off any sort of assistance to such 'blacklisted' institutions.

"A large number of these institutions have tie-ups with banks to provide students with educational loans. As almost all of them have steep fee structures, most students opt for such loans. Cutting off this loan facility will actually save a number of aspiring students from being conned by these institutions," said an AICTE official.

The council is also looking to clamp down on the issue of working visas to non-AICTE approved graduates, and will be getting in touch with various embassies towards this end.

As of now, the AICTE is coming up with an exhaustive list of unapproved institutions all over the country. A whopping 169 institutions conducting technical courses in collaboration with foreign universities, and 104 institutions running technical courses without the AICTE's approval, figure in this list. However, council sources have confirmed that this is not the final number, and more institutions are likely to be taken to task.

"The so-called 'collaborations' with foreign universities that these institutes boast of in their marketing campaigns are just an eyewash. It's very easy to tie up with obscure universities abroad," said another AICTE official. 

This is rather a serious issue, with a large number of Indian students being duped by unscrupulous institutes that are hitching piggyback rides with unknown universities based in the US and UK. "The scenario is appalling in rural and semi-urban areas in the country," pointed out the principal of an AICTE-approved engineering institute in Mumbai.

In Maharashtra, the state government has been directed by the high court to take appropriate action against these unauthorised institutions, and the AICTE is presently compiling and supplying related details.

The council attributes the present boom in the private education sector, especially in technical and management institutions, to the so-called cost cutting strategies adopted by various companies. When asked to comment on the issue, an AICTE official said, "To do away with the huge cost incurred in training a potential employee, some companies are now approaching these institutes and asking them to mould their syllabi according to specific requirements. The students are therefore trained according to the specific demands of the company. But can we call this a complete education?"

The situation is being compared to the IT boom of the late nineties. Back then, anyone who completed a simple computer course was recruited by US- and UK-based companies, only to be fired a short while later, on the grounds of not holding an approved degree.

Most of these private institutions, however, seem unfazed by these developments. "These AICTE officials are just wasting their time; nothing is going to come of all this. We are providing quality education to our students, at par with all the top institutes in India or even abroad, for that matter. We have an excellent placement record," said the branch manager of a popular blacklisted B-school with centres all over the country.
He went on to state that the institute enjoys UGC-approved status in Uttaranchal and Tripura, and has been accorded university status in a number of other states. "Jab baap ka permission liya hai to bete se poochne ki kya zaroorat hai (If we have the father's permission, why should we care for the son's)?" he asks. "Moreover, if you come under the AICTE purview, it gets difficult to upgrade your syllabus." 

The AICTE officials on their part claim that their norms are getting more flexible by the day. They pointed out that the council will go easy on institutes that hire 75 percent of their staff as inhouse faculty, with the rest constituted of visiting lecturers. They also claim that all autonomous institutions can now change their syllabi whenever they feel like, even on a daily basis, while for university-affiliated institutions the syllabus will depend upon the respective university in question.

The latest AICTE norms state that for a technical institution to be set up in a city like Mumbai, three hectares of land have to be acquired, while the minimum for an institution in Pune and Aurangabad are five and 10 hectares respectively. "We may also opt to approve institutions based in building complexes, as it is getting more difficult by the day to acquire land in big cities," said a highly-placed council official, "but other necessary requirements will, of course, have to be met with."

The AICTE, however, remains unhappy with the present situation -- the educational sector is getting more and more diluted with political and commercial interference. "Some of these unapproved institutions have deep-rooted links with national political parties. Even I could not stop a cousin of mine from joining an AICTE-blacklisted institute. These days you find these institutions' marketing kiosks even on government-controlled turf like railway stations!" said an AICTE official on assurance of complete anonymity.

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