Engineering first

Print edition : August 13, 2010

Students of aeronauticalengineering at Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Thandalam, with a model of an aircraft.-S.S. KUMAR

The numerous private professional colleges in Tamil Nadu offer students a variety of job-oriented courses.

TAMIL NADU has 456 engineering colleges, including 431 that are self-financed. Only Andhra Pradesh has more than this number.

The standards of the self-financed colleges have been a topic of debate. Most recently, the question came up when the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) decided to allow 42 more self-financed engineering colleges in this academic year, 2010-11. The decision attracted criticism that pointed to the fact that last year 35,000 seats remained vacant and that more than 20 self-financing engineering colleges in the State closed down for want of students.

Politicians, realtors, textile-mill owners, industrial entrepreneurs and liquor barons are among those who own engineering and medical colleges, schools of nursing and physiotherapy, and business schools in Tamil Nadu. However, very few entrepreneurs want to start polytechnics or arts and science colleges because they are not cash cows.

P. Mannar Jawahar, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University, Chennai, said 35,000 seats fell vacant last year because nearly 50 colleges were sanctioned late. Parents were reluctant to admit their wards in these colleges. But there were very few absentees during the counselling this year. The government is keen on improving the quality of these colleges and having more number of them, he said. Only after the AICTE and Anna Universities in the various regions inspected the laboratories, classrooms, libraries, playgrounds and hostels of these colleges were they given permission to start classes, he added.

The founders of some of these colleges take umbrage at the criticism that education has become big business in their hands, and that they are driven only by commercial motives.

Today, if the information technology sector is doing well in India, it is because of the number of graduate engineers passing out of the self-financed engineering colleges, argued Thangam Meganathan, chairperson, Rajalakshmi Engineering College (REC) and Rajalakshmi Institute of Technology, both situated at Thandalam, near Poonamallee, about 40 kilometres from Chennai. We are contributing to the country's development in other sectors as well. But instead of recognising our role, we are being branded as profiteers, she said. Only a proper understanding of the economics of running an educational institution can help in refurbishing the image of self-financing engineering colleges.

The REC, established in 1997 by her husband, S. Meganathan, is known for the research being done in some of its departments and for the success rate of its students in campus placement interviews.

Just across the road from the REC is the Sakthi Mariamman Engineering College. It offers undergraduate programmes in electronics and communications engineering (ECE), electrical and electronics engineering (EEE), computer science and engineering (CSE), and information technology. It also offers a Master's programme in Business Administration (MBA). Said K.N. Ramachandran, founder-chairman of the college: Thousands of students have found employment in India and abroad because we established these colleges. What the government failed to do, we are doing. It may be true that some self-financing engineering colleges charge more than what the government has stipulated. But you cannot blame the entire community of private engineering colleges for the errant functioning of some of them.

At a laboratory in SRM University.-A. MURALITHARAN

Ramachandran said that if a private engineering college were to be run with a purely profit motive, it would not survive. We have to struggle for about 12 years before we can make our colleges stand on their feet. The running expenditure is high. We definitely cannot run the colleges on students' fees alone.

The college is starting B.E. courses in mechanical engineering and civil engineering, and M.E. in Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) this academic year. Its ECE department boasts an optical communication laboratory, digital signal processing/microcontroller laboratory, and a linear integrated circuits laboratory. The CSE department has multimedia and Internet laboratories, an operating systems laboratory, a Database Management System (DBMS) and a systems software laboratory.

Vel Tech

The Vel Tech group of institutions near Avadi, Chennai, has 12,000 students on its rolls, according to Mahalakshmi Rangarajan, its chairperson. We are a professionally managed group that runs many institutions, including the Vel Tech Technical University, a deemed-to-be university; three engineering colleges affiliated to Anna University of Technology, Chennai; the Vel Rangarajan Sakunthala College of Management and Science; an arts and science college; a polytechnic; a college of nursing; a college of physiotherapy; and a higher secondary school, she said.

The group's institutions are situated on a massive campus at Alamathi village near Chennai. The Vel Tech Technical University, its flagship, offers a spectacular array of engineering courses at the undergraduate, postgraduate, MPhil and PhD levels, and MBA programmes in disciplines such as Venture Capital and Capital Market, Shipping and Port Management, and Retail and Supply Chain Management. Besides the traditional B.Tech programmes, it offers courses in mechatronics, metallurgy engineering, marine engineering, aeronautical engineering and so on. There are M.E./M.Tech programmes in artificial intelligence, and welding technology, transmission and distribution.

Thangam Meganathan, Chariperson, Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Thandalam.-S.S. KUMAR

The Vel Tech Polytechnic College offers three-year full-time diplomas in mechanical, civil, IT, electronics and communication, and computer engineering disciplines.

The Vel Tech Technical University has introduced the Vel Tech National Merit Scholarships 2010 worth Rs.7 crore. These are given to the top three students from each State admitted to the B.Tech programme through the Vel Tech University Engineering Entrance Examinations. They do not have to pay tuition fee for the duration of the course, and board and lodging is also free. This scheme is the first of its kind in India, and aims at national integration, said Mahalakshmi Rangarajan.

Under another scholarship scheme, the top 100 students (with not less than 90 per cent marks in mathematics, physics and chemistry in their Plus Two examinations) in the B.Tech courses will get a 50 per cent concession in the tuition fee. There is also the Vel Tech Mahatma Gandhi joint scholarship, worth Rs.1.5 crore, for 100 students with 85 per cent marks and above in the Plus Two examinations. It is given in collaboration with The Hindu and Hindustan Times. There are also scholarship schemes for students of the three Vel Tech engineering colleges affiliated to Anna University, Chennai.

Hindustan group

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) sends its engineers to our institutions for training. It is a feather in our cap, said Anand Jacob Verghese, Pro-Chancellor, Hindustan University.

The Hindustan group of institutions traces its origins to the Hindustan Institute of Engineering Technology (HIET), started in 1966 by Anand Verghese's father, K.C.G. Verghese, at St. Thomas Mount, Chennai. The institute is a pioneer in aircraft maintenance engineering and automobile engineering education in India. Since its inception, the HIET has trained over 45,000 engineers and technicians.

Today, the group runs, apart from the HIET, the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science (a deemed-to-be university) at Padur, near Chennai; the KCG College of Technology (affiliated to Anna University, Chennai); the Orient Flight School; the Hindustan College of Arts and Science; and the National Institute of Management Studies.

The Hindustan University, as the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science is called on its website, offers B.E. courses in aeronautical engineering, aerospace engineering and automobile engineering; and M.E. courses in aircraft maintenance, avionics, and aeronautical engineering. These are our specialised areas. The requirement in these areas for the defence establishment is huge. Aircraft maintenance and automobile engineering are our other niche areas, said Anand Verghese.

The Hindustan University offers circuit branch courses in ECE, CSE, IT, and electronics and instrumentation engineering, and core courses in mechanical, civil and chemical engineering. It also offers a B.Arch programme, and M.E. in internal combustion engineering, power electronics and drives, and thermal engineering. There are M.Tech courses in embedded systems and VLSI design.

K.N. Ramachandran, founder-chairman, Sakthi Mariamman Engineering College, Thandalam.-S.S. KUMAR

The KCG College of Technology offers B.E. in circuit branches and core disciplines, and also in aeronautical engineering; and M.E. in engineering design and VLSI design, besides an MBA.

Despite the plethora of engineering courses on offer, it is the ECE course that has remained a favourite with students. ECE has always been number one despite the global recession and the subsequent dip in the number of IT jobs, said Prof. Mannar Jawahar.

On the campus of the College of Engineering, Guindy, counselling is under way for admission to the various courses in engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu. Any course with electronics as the base (major) is welcome, says a candidate from Chennai. Another aspirant, from Thanjavur, is bent on the ECE course.

The fear about job loss in the software engineering sector is gone now, said Thangam Meganathan. Software companies have announced that they need more manpower, and this has increased the demand for CSE and IT courses, she said. However, she asserted that there was no drop in the number of takers for the mechanical engineering course. There never will be because it is a hard-core programme, popular particularly with boys.

Amid the rush to join an engineering programme, students seemed unaware of the opportunities that await them in the nuclear engineering sector. With 36 imported nuclear reactors (totally 40,000 MWe) and eight indigenous reactors (5,600 MWe) to be built in India, the sector offered opportunities in its facilities at Kalpakkam and Koodankulam. The majority of the students are not aware because schools and parents generally do not keep them informed on these, said Thangam Meganathan. In contrast, the software sector attracts them because it is always in the news and also because the chances of going abroad to work are greater.

Mahalakshmi Rangarajan said there was no let-up in the demand for the ECS course. While IT is a hot cake now, the demand is not really course-specific, she said. It is college-specific and placement-specific.

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