Sunday, August 03, 2014

No takers for women-only engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu

As society becomes less rigid, gender-specific institutions are seeing a setback, particularly in higher education. Take, for instance, the enrolment rate in women's engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu. Of the nearly 38,000 women who have sought admission to engineering colleges through the single window counseling this year, very few have sought enrolment in women-only colleges.

Fifteen of the 18 women's engineering colleges in the state have more than 100 seats vacant each, with just two days to go for the end of the general academic counseling process. One college, with a seat intake that can only be termed ambitious at a time when even co-educational engineering institutions with good brand value are not seeing good enrolments, has more than 450 seats vacant. Those in the know said the institutions have been able to secure very few seats, usually in the single digit.

"Even in rural areas, it is only the parents who want their daughters to study in women-only institutions. It does not matter whether the institution is co-educational or exclusive to women. What matters is the quality of the institution and how it has adapted to the times," said educational consultant Moorthy Selvakumaran.

The trend has held steady for the last couple of years. Poor patronage of the colleges, once thought novel, has resulted in some being closed down or converted to co-educational institutions. Over the last five years, the number of women's engineering colleges has decreased by 25%, while the number of women's engineering colleges that have taken part in the single window counseling has dropped from 24 in 2009 to 18 this year.

This, despite the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) giving concessions to start women-only technical institutions. AICTE approval process handbook said that while the processing fee of a non-minority co-educational institution is Rs. 500,000, the fee for a women's engineering college is only Rs. 300,000. Conversion of a women-only technical institution to a co-educational college or closure of the college will cost another Rs. 300,000. Still, managements are willing to pay the amount and take up one of the options because they have to fill seats.

Academics say women prefer co-educational institutions because they feel the need to accustom themselves to working alongside the opposite gender. "We don't want to feel awkward and nervous and waste time getting used to male co-workers when we should be focusing on our career," said Nandini Sivaraman, who lists this among the other reasons she chose a co-educational college to pursue a computer science and engineering degree. She said that if not in the next four years she would never learn to be comfortable around men, because she was an only child with no male cousins and she studied in a girls' school for 12 years.

Source: The Times of India, August 3, 2014

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