Natasha, my 17-year-old niece,
sounded worried when she called me. The reason, I guessed, had
something to do with the AIEEE result (although she secured 87
percent in Class 12 boards). She was unlikely to make the grade in
one of the good engineering schools.
Being one among nearly 10 million of successful school pass outs
is no consolation for Natasha. I asked her to explore college
education in a range of subjects instead of following her father's
education route of a degree in Civil Engineering.
Fortunately, plenty of information is available with career
counsellors in schools and media. Today we may be facing shortage
of seats in colleges in our own cities but nationally seats in
engineering, medical and business schools are empty, as students
are less keen than before to get into third rate institutions that
have mushroomed across the country. These schools are engaged in
high decibel advertising, making it impossible for a 17-year-old
to find out how to sift the truth from the claims.
Here are some guidelines to help choose the right institution once
you have chosen a stream that is of interest to you.
1. Distinguish between a degree and a vocational course.
For a degree course, make sure that your institution has been
created by an act of parliament or a state legislature or been
granted the status of a Deemed-to-be-University.
Vocational programmes in computers, mass media, advertising, sales
training, fashion technology, banking, customer care, call centre
management, aviation and hospitality do not lead to grant of
degrees, but only a diploma certificate. Find out exactly what
will be offered to you.
2. Fake universities
Despite a series of statutory professional councils responsible
for recognition of courses, promotion of professional institutions
and providing grants to undergraduate programmes and various
awards - such as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE),
Distance Education Council (DEC), State Councils of Higher
Education and so on - a large number of fake universities operate
in the country.
University Grants Commission (UGC) prepares a list of Fake
Universities. Check it out on the UGC and Ministry of Human
Resource Development website
http://www.education.nic.in/higedu.asp or http://www.ugc.ac.in/inside/fakealerts.html
Fourteen of the 20 fake universities operate in Uttar Pradesh and
Delhi. Ask questions to identify real institutions.
3. Tenuous foreign connections mean nothing.
Many private universities flaunt descriptors like "International
faculty"... "curricula" and "foreign tie ups", "internships" and
"foreign degree" in their ads. Ask for evidence to back these
4. Learn to identify adjectives and superlatives in claims.
Look for adjectives and superlatives like "reputation for
excellence", "centres for excellence", "exceptional faculty",
"sprawling 100 acres amid lush surroundings" that do not add value
to education delivery and your academic performance.
Find out the educational qualifications and experience of current
faculty as they play a critical role in helping you understand
tough concepts and keeping up your motivation. Check out if the
college prospectus and web site list names of faculty members.
5. Consider placement record of the college
Some universities insist on getting their affiliated colleges to
post placement track record on their website making them
vulnerable. Ask for evidence of claims like "100% placement",
"placement guarantee". Ask for names and contact numbers of some
past students from your school or city.
6. Don't fall for high decibel campaigns
Slick advertisements in media do not assure good academic
standards. An institute that uses larger size advertisements, uses
too many adjectives, charges high fees but has an unimpressive
placement track record may be a place you can ill afford. Unless
you have the family business to fall back on. Don't follow college
rankings by media blindly.
Don't get taken in by offers like 'a free laptop', 'a BlackBerry
phone', 'a business suit' or a visit to a university in a foreign
country. Beware of college counsellors who get paid a fat cut for
each admission that they secure.
7. Consider the lineage of the institute
Find out who are the founders of the academic institution. Who are
For instance, the first five IITs are no doubt good. While the
record of the new IITs coming up is not known you can be certain
that they will follow standard process. At the same time why would
you join a 25-year old institution that has dismal placement
record to boast of?
Sanjiv Kataria, a
Strategic Communications and PR Counsel, was Brand Custodian for
NIIT Limited until 2006. He can reached at Sanjiv.firstname.lastname@example.org