In the posh locality of Vasant Kunj, past one of the biggest shopping malls in the national capital, lies the home of the All India Council For Technical Education (AICTE). The tall building with its grey facade and modern architecture houses India’s apex regulatory body for technical education. And yet, the building lacks the hustle and bustle one would expect for a body overseeing 5,926 engineering and technology institutes, in addition to 3,071 other technical institutes in the country. “It’s a huge building, but it’s really empty,” a senior professor from a leading engineering institute in south India tells The Ken.

Established in 1945, AICTE’s raison d’etre is to evaluate and improve the quality of technical education across India. This includes, for instance, surveying the various fields of engineering and management education, collecting data, and forecasting the growth and development needs of the space.

In reality, though, the body is run a bit like a secretarial office, with those involved just following orders from the top. “You don’t see a lot of education theorists or engineering experts thinking about what the nation really needs. It’s like a bubble,” says the senior professor.

This may be the year the bubble bursts. India’s Ministry of Education (MoE) is planning the formation formation The Economic Times Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan looks to dust off draft bill on HECI Read more of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). Not only is the HECI expected to simplify the thick layer of bureaucracy currently wrapped around higher education in India, it would also enforce standards and delegate autonomy to these institutes to operate under said standards.

Even as AICTE has been regulating and overseeing technical education in the country for decades, its disinterest in its original purpose—surveying the landscape to make informed decisions—meant it dropped the ball on that front. The Ken repeatedly requested the statutory body to participate in this story but received no reply.

Humble Beginnings

AICTE was initially established as an advisory body in 1945 to conduct surveys on the facilities available for technical education and to promote its development across the country.

Over the years, AICTE made a slew of decisions that didn’t align with reality of India’s technical education institutes. For instance, in 2015, it capped capped The Indian Express AICTE accepts panel proposal on fee cap for private institutes Read more annual fees for private institutions affiliated to the AICTE. “If a college can’t charge [fees] more than Rs 1-1.25 lakh ($1,300-1,600), what kind of education quality are they going to provide?” asks Dheeraj Sanghi, vice chancellor at the JK Lakshmipat University in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

AUTHOR

Arpit Arora

Formerly a researcher at CivicDataLab and Pratham Books, Arpit tried to understand and unravel the Indian education system as a statistician. Now he's doing that as a writer at The Ken, reporting on India’s $180 billion education market.

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