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22,000 that’s the number of engineering teachers fired

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22,000 that’s the number of engineering teachers fired | A Ragu Raman | TNN | Apr 6, 2019 |

CHENNAI: Relaxation of the student-teacher ratio by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE ) and falling admissions in engineering courses have forced 22,256 engineering faculty members out of their jobs in 2018 causing concern among educationists that it may further bring down the quality of engineering education in Tamil Nadu . With admissions declining, unemployed engineering teachers with PG degrees are finding it difficult to get new jobs. Some are forced to work for meagre salaries. Data submitted for affiliation with Anna University for the academic year 2019-20 show that 557 engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu have 63,501 faculty members for the sanctioned strength of 2,81,511 seats. During 2017-18, 596 colleges had 85,757 teachers for a sanctioned student strength of 3,20,090. In December 2017, the AICTE relaxed the student-teacher ratio for colleges from 1:15 to 1:20 from the 2018-19 academic year. Tier-2 and tier-3 engineering colleges that were in financial crisis due to fall in admissions immediately sacked a large number of faculty members. The existing teaching faculty were overburdened, which limited the scope for research. “As soon as the announcement of relaxation came, the college forced us out. Of the 80 faculty members, the college sacked 45 for demanding salaries,” a faculty member who lost his job last year told TOI. Instead of sending the poor performers out, colleges laid off senior staff with higher pay to cut costs. “During annual inspection, they hire faculty members temporarily and show them as professors,” another faculty member said. AICTE has prescribed a minimum salary for engineering faculty. But colleges, citing a large number of unemployed teachers, pay only `10,000 to `20,000 a month to new recruits.

“Most top colleges have retained their staff despite AICTE’s relaxation. But some of them have stopped replacing the faculty who are quitting,” said B Chidambara Rajan, principal of Valliammai Engineering College , Chennai. “For engineering colleges, a staff-student ratio of 1:15 is ideal. It would not overburden the faculty and they can pay attention to all students and research projects. Without consulting academics or educationists, AICTE has relaxed the rule,” he said. Many faculty members said complaining to the AICTE was of no avail. “We complained about how colleges sacked faculty members without any prior notice. But the council has not acted on our complaint,” a faculty member who lost her job last year said. However, officials from AICTE said they had not received any specific complaints with regard to lay-offs by engineering colleges. K M Karthik, president of Private Educational Institutions Employees Association, urged the council to bring down the ratio to 1:12 to improve standards of engineering education. “We compare engineering colleges to IITs. The top technical institutions follow a 1:12 ratio. If the council wants to better engineering education, it should apply the same ratio across institutions,” he said. However, some college principals said the relaxation would help average colleges. “Earlier, colleges used to show fake faculty members to get affiliation. Now they can give real figures. It would help at least 200 colleges,” principal of a city-based engineering college said. Senior academicians said AICTE had bowed to the pressure of private engineering college managements. “It’s a wrong move bereft of any logic. It would affect teaching and research in engineering institutions,” said E Balagurusamy, former vice-chancellor of Anna University.  He expressed concern that a single decision has left so many engineering graduates unemployed. “The council could have adopted a different a strategy for autonomous colleges, top engineering colleges and colleges with poor admission. They could have relaxed the rule wherever the admissions were less,” he said. When asked, a trustee from an engineering college said it was difficult to retain the faculty when engineering admissions continued to fall. “Many colleges are in financial stress due to poor admissions. We need financial resources to retain faculty members,” he said. – Courtesy

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