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All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), India’s technical education regulator, has announced that it may reduce over 600,000 engineering seats in colleges over the next few years over concerns about the dismal quality of education across India.

“We would like to bring it down to between 10 lakh and 11 lakh (one million and 1.1 million) from a little over 16.7 lakh now. The capacity should come down for the betterment of all—students, education providers and employer,” AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe has been quoted as saying by Live Mint.

According to AICTE, for the first time in several years, the overall number of engineering seats has come down by about 30,000 seats in 2015. The regulatory body will shut some schools and reduce the intake of students in some others over the next few years in an attempt to tackle the decline in the quality of education.

As per the 2011 survey by software industry lobby group Nasscom, only 17.5% of engineering graduates were deemed employable. Anther survey done in 2014 by Aspiring Minds, an education assessment company, found that only 18.43% of engineering graduates are employable for the software engineer-IT services role and a mere 7.49% are employable in core jobs in mechanical, electronics/electrical, and civil engineering sectors.

This concern has been voiced by many leading companies who find it difficult to fill jobs with graduates who don’t measure up to the required standards. Many of them prefer to employ students only from top schools such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and some private institutions.

While employability of graduates has been dipping, there has been a steady rise in the number of vacant seats. As many as 556 engineering courses or departments have closed down this year alone, according to data available with AICTE. That number is, however, less than half the 1,422 applications that the regulator received seeking permission to shut engineering departments or courses.

“The intake capacity right now seems to be much above the demand,” Sahasrabudhe told Mint, adding that AICTE understands the need to balance the demand-supply situation.

Sahasrabudhe said he would take up the issue in his next executive council meeting after consultations with the human resource development ministry. AICTE will, however, “ensure that students are not at the receiving end”, he added.

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