Dr.S.S.Mantha – AICTE Chairman

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A recent Supreme Court order declared that MBA and MCA would no longer fall  under the purview of AICTE. Please comment.?
 
Dr S S Mantha: I will not be able to comment much, as the matter is sub-judice. All the same, there are certain things, which are known to all, yet can be highlighted here: AICTE has been in force since 1945. The AICTE Act was passed in 1987, which appointed it as an apex regulatory organisation for all engineering and management education institutes, private and Government-run as well. The Act is clear about what is technical education and what constitutes setting up a new technical educational institution, etc. All points are succinctly spelt out in the Act. About the disciplines also the AICTE Act is quite clear: under technical education it says engineering, technical, management, architecture, hotel management, pharmacy, applied art, etc all come under the purview of AICTE. We have a mandate to set up new institutions, provide rules and regulations for them, while setting up new institutions and also overseeing management of existing ones. AICTE has been doing this for all these years. MBA and MCA programmes are an essential part of the provisions of the Act. AICTE will file a review and we hope we will be able to get a positive response from the esteemed Supreme Court.
 
Since 2009 when you took over the reins of AICTE, could you highlight some milestones?
 
Dr S S Mantha: We have achieved many milestones since 2009. The first and the most important one would be tuition fee waiver for needy and deserving students. Five percent seats in every institution; private or Government-run are reserved for economically challenged students, who have the merit and these students are given complete tuition fee waiver. This provision has been worked out within the regulatory framework of the Act and under this provision currently, AICTE is supporting education of about 1.5 lac students across the country. Second most important aspect is that, before 2009 we had fewer M Tech faculty members as compared to B Tech professors. So we allowed a second shift M Tech programme for faculty members, who need not give up their full time job, they can join the second shift M Tech programme and upgrade their qualifications, while teaching graduate students. This has changed the equation of faculty members so much that number of M Tech professors is now higher than that of B Tech professors. This singularly improves quality of education.
 
We are introducing methodologies to improve PhD qualifications. We are tying up with industry research bodies, central and state research labs and our 100 quality improvement programme (QIP) centres, which are state-of-the-art research facilities functioning across the country. All these setups are being used to upgrading our faculty members as well as outsiders, we have laid down guidelines as to who can be a guide for PhD, what is the eligibility criteria for PhD and also what is the eligibility criteria for an institute to become a QIP centre. In the near future we will have a common entrance test for interested candidates, and allow all eligible students to pursue their PhD. Alongwith this research students will be given a stipend of Rs 16,000 per month as scholarship, for the first two years and Rs 18,000 for the third year, which will extendable for one more year.  We are in the process of enabling these provisions. PhD programmes in universities are restrictive in nature, either because of lack of adequate research facilities, or guides or some such hindrance.
 
 
·        AICTE is providing a workable option for all M Tech students to pursue PhD. We are tying up with industry for real time internship programmes. Currently, AICTE is actively involved in creating thorough transparency in the system and intensely pursuing quality enhancement in its existing institutions.
 
·        Common management admission test from 2012 for admission to all management institutes. It has got excellent feedback from students and parents. About 2.5 lac students have registered for this test.
 
·        Direct cash transfer of scholarship to students’ accounts. M Tech students get a stipend of Rs 8,000 per month for two years, earlier money used to go to institutions and they had to distribute it to students and there used to be a lot of complaints in this process.
 
·        Last three years, AICTE has introduced complete egovernance, a lot of transparency in terms of appointment, transfer, promotions, etc of faculty is available a lot of data is now freely available in the public domain. A link on the AICTE website can also display land documents of the land on which the institute stands.
 
·        Foreign institution bill has not been passed, in absence of which, there is a regulation, which allows a twinning programme, under which students can complete their last semester in the foreign institute. Degree is procured from the foreign country.Last four years is proof for how AICTE has evolved. Systems should be strengthened and provisions should be made more stringent so that no one misuses them.
 
Where does technical education in India stand vis-à-vis its counterparts in say USA, UK and Europe?
 
Dr S S Mantha: All education institutes in this country can be categorized in three groups: the first is top one where we have some 1000 institutions across the country. These are elite institutions with excellent facilities, faculties and more. They are at par with any technical education institute abroad. At the next level we have 1500 institutions, which have the potential to move into the top group, provided they upgrade themselves at every level. At the base level there are about 1000 institutions, which will need a lot of improvement. We have about 3,500 engineering institutions in this country accommodating about 1.7 million students at the entry level and another 1 million students at the polytechnic level. We have tried to provide access to all engineering aspirant. 
 
The single most important differentiating factor here is that in India industry-connect is weak. In foreign countries industries fund research, students’ projects are implemented by the industry, a lot more value addition happens because of this and it provides a natural impetus to quality education as well. Now, we are talking to FICCI, CII and are trying to workout how we can strengthen this connect, so that Indian students too can have similar benefits as their counterparts in foreign nations. We are amending our regulations so as to allow industries to setup private engineering institutions. We have instituted national award for each institute, this will create a healthy competition among institutions.
 
Admission to engineering colleges in India is still plagued with corruption and high capitation fees – what should be done to correct the situation.?
 
Dr S S Mantha: We have 20-25 percent vacant seats at the entry level in most engineering colleges. There is a state level fee committee, headed by a retired high court judge and every institute gets its accounts examined. We have a regulation for an ombudsman, every university should have an ombudsman, and every institution should have a grievance committee. What happens in reality is that all parents want their child to get admission in a city college, therefore seats in distant colleges remain vacant and overcrowding in city-based engineering colleges gives rise to malpractices. It’s a tug-of-war between givers and takers. Convenience therefore gets priority over regulation and all parties: students, parents, and institutions overlook regulations. If caught,however, the repercussions are bound to be severe.
 
There are very few ‘engineers’ left in India, the good ones migrate to advanced countries, some others pursue management education and later shift their focus from working on the shopfloor to becoming managers – how is this transition affecting the nation and its productivity.
 
Manufacturing sector in the ultimate analysis does take a beating. Having said that IITs and NITs produce best quality of engineers. Today’s shopfloors are quite different from a shopfloor say even ten years back. The industry shopfloor no longer needs those many engineers today. The real requirement of the industry is a mix of engineering and management qualification. Migration percentage is in single digit. The supply-demand scenario, today needs to be assessed correctly. It’s not only the education sector. We have to map the industry sector as well. So that we can create a win-win situation that will truly help increase our GDP.

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