When the sun of the new millennium came up, shining on the aspirations of a young India, it marked the golden age for professional education. In the early part of the last decade, hundreds of new institutes came up and thousands of aspirants queued up to join them. That was a time when the country added up to one lakh seats to its professional colleges every year.
A decade later, the picture is one of stark contrast in technical professional colleges: since 2011, 225 B-schools and over 50 engineering colleges across India have downed shutters. Many more colleges have trimmed programmes, branches of engineering or streams in the management course.
On the academic floor, the Master of Business Administration programme was once supreme. Arrogantly and unambiguously, it became the final sign-off to schooling, attracting not only those interested in business but also those who wanted to master the tools of management.
Now, for the first time, overall growth of MBA education is negative in the books of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). In 2011-12, 146 new B-schools came up and 124 that were already running closed down. This year so far, 101 management colleges have closed down, only 82 have started.
Similar is the story with the Master of Computer Application (MCA) course—84 colleges stopped offering the programme this year; only 27 started MCA courses.
For students who choose not to apply to an MCA college, the decision is a no-brainer: with many more engineering seats available now, an undergraduate would rather earn a BTech degree followed by a two-year master’s than enrol for a bachelor’s in computer application and back it up with a three-year MCA that would also eat up six years.
Alive to the problem, the AICTE has decided to allow colleges to offer a five-year dual degree programme and also permit graduates of science, BSc (computer science) and BSc (information technology) to jump to the second year of the MCA course. Yet, the small positive growth in the sector is from the engineering colleges where new institutes are coming up faster than closures taking place, largely in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.
S S Mantha, AICTE chairman, said: “This is a turning phase for the professional education sector. Colleges in remote India and institutes of poor quality are not getting students. And for colleges, there is just one key to attracting students: institutes need to be top-of-the-line colleges. There is no payoff in running a bad college.”
Joining a professional college was once the pinnacle of an Indian student’s career for the seats were far outnumbered by aspirants. So students often happily chose anonymous professional colleges. But over time, they were put off by any of three reasons: poor quality of teaching, lack of adequate faculty or no job offer at the end. “A young graduate would rather take up a job or prepare harder for another shot at an entrance exam which is the gateway to a better college,” said an IIT director.
The problem is also linked to the slowdown, said IIM-Ahmedabad director Samir Barua. The job market has been tight for a couple of years. Earlier, many would give up a job to get an MBA and then re-enter the job market after pumping up their CV. “They are hesitant to take such a risk now. The pressure is being felt and applications for MBA are falling. But undergraduate programmes like engineering would not feel the same tension as everyone still at least wants their first college degree,” explained Barua.
‘No payoff for bad colleges’
Similar to the decline in the number of B-schools in the country is the story of the Master of Computer Application (MCA) course—84 colleges stopped offering the programme this year; only 27 started MCA courses.