Engineering is the only undergraduate programme in the country that has registered a decline in student enrollment over the last five years even as overall admission numbers have increased at the Bachelor’s level, shows the latest report of the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) released by the Education Ministry Sunday night.

According to AISHE 2020-21, the enrollment in B.Tech and BE programmes in the regular (or full-time) mode has dropped by 10% from 40.85 lakh in 2016-17 to 36.63 lakh in 2020-21. Although the data shows a marginal uptick of 20,000 in enrollment numbers for engineering programmes between academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21, the absolute admission numbers are still the lowest in five years.

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Five years ago, undergraduate programmes in engineering had the third highest enrollment of students, with Bachelor of Arts or BA having the highest, followed by Bachelor of Science or BSc in the second position. Given the decline in admission over the last five years, BTech and BE programmes have slipped to the fourth position. Now Bachelor of Commerce or B.Com (with 37.9 lakh students) has the third highest enrolment numbers in the country.

In terms of proportion, in 2020-21, enrollment in Arts or BA accounts for 33.5% of the total enrolment at the undergraduate level, followed by Science or BSc, which accounts for 15.5% of the total, followed by Commerce which has cornered 13.9% share and Engineering and Technology which represents 11.9%.

A similar decline has been also observed in the MTech (Master of Technology) programme, where the number of students has decreased from 1.6 lakh in 2016-17 to 1.38 lakh in 2020-21.

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Meanwhile, across other major Bachelor’s programmes, student enrolment has been following an upward trend. Programmes such as BA, BSc and BCom have seen a major increase in enrolment over the past five years — BA increased from 80 lakh in 2016-17 to 85 lakh in 2020-21, BSc increased from 44 lakh to 47 lakh, and BCom increased from 34 lakh in 2016 to 37 lakh in 2020.

The data also showed that currently BTech has 23.20 lakh enrolled students, of which 28.7% are women; out of 13.42 lakh students enrolled in BE, 28.5% are women. Overall, computer engineering is the most popular branch among students, followed by mechanical engineering, electronics engineering, civil engineering and electrical engineering among students.

In December 2017, The Indian Express had published the findings of its three-month-long investigation, ‘Devalued Degree’, which found there were no takers for 51 per cent of 15.5 lakh undergraduate seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17.

The investigation found glaring gaps in regulation, including alleged corruption; a vicious circle of poor infrastructure, labs and faculty; non-existent linkages with industry; and the absence of a technical ecosystem to nurture the classroom. All this, it found, accounted for low employability of graduates.

AISHE findings are based on the responses of 1,084 universities, 40,176 colleges and 8,696 standalone institutions. There are a total of 1,113 universities, 43,796 colleges and 11,295 standalone institutions in the country.

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