Why Gujarat govt engineering, medical colleges are facing acute staff crunch

In parallel, student interest in engineering courses is flagging; what explains the trend?

Gujarat engineering college, polytechnic, staff shortage
In March last year, the Gujarat Assembly passed the Gujarat Private Universities (Amendment) Bill 2022, allowing 11 new private universities to open campuses in the state at once | Representational image

Gujarat, among the most industrialised states in the country, could be staring at a dearth of fresh engineering talent. At one end, the state is drawing mega investments, from Vedanta Foxconn to Tata Airbus to the nation’s first bullet train. At the other, it faces an acute lack of engineering freshers.

The biggest reason for the situation is the increasing number of teacher vacancies in government engineering and polytechnic colleges, thanks to the raging controversy over paper leaks in recruitment exams. 

But, there are other reasons, too, point out educationists. The Bhupendra Patel government’s moves to push Gujarati medium in technical education, and the resultant wariness of students to take up these courses, is another key factor.

Teaching professionals point out that the state government’s apparent keenness to privatise engineering education is not helping the situation. It reflects the administration’s focus on funds, rather than inclusive education, they feel.


Rising vacancies

The numbers offer evidence for the crisis. As of December 2022, of the 2,744 sanctioned posts in 16 government engineering colleges in Gujarat, a whopping 1,004, or 36.6%, remained vacant. Of the 3,463 Class 1 to 3 posts in government polytechnic colleges, 986, or 28.5%, were vacant. 

Rushikesh Patel, state Higher and Technical Education Minister, revealed these figures while replying to a question from Congress MLA Arjun Modhwadia in the Assembly.  The reasons for the vacancies? “Resignation, retirement, voluntary retirement, transfer to another job, promotion and death, among others,” said the minister.

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The situation is no different in the state’s medical colleges.

“Of the 744 approved Class 1-4 posts, which is nearly 33% of the sanctioned posts in PDU government medical college and hospital in Rajkot district, 249 are vacant. In Sir T General Hospital in Bhavnagar, 61 of the 814 approved posts, that is 7.5%, remain vacant. In Sir Sayajirao General (SSG) Hospital in Vadodara, the number of vacant posts is 121 out of the 1,908 approved posts, that is 6.3%,” read out Patel, who also holds the health portfolio. 

One anomaly

The teacher vacancies are found across the state. LD Engineering College in Ahmedabad is among the 16 government engineering colleges in Gujarat where 1,004 sanctioned posts are lying vacant. At LE College in Morbi, 60.5% cent of the 315 posts are lying vacant. This apart, government engineering colleges in Bhuj, Aravalli, and Patan districts have more than 40% of the total posts lying vacant.

Gujarat Technical University, the largest engineering university in the state, has reduced 4,775 seats across 38 institutes in Gujarat for the 2022-23 academic session owing to the lack of required number of faculties and laboratories.

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There are the outliers, though. The engineering colleges at Godhra in Panchmahal district have zero vacancies. Here, it’s the opposite problem — 56 people have been given jobs against the 52 sanctioned posts in this college. Education Minister Patel did not state any reason for this anomaly.

Growing number of vacant seats

Noticeably, there has also been a 27% rise in the number of vacant seats in government engineering colleges and grant-in-aid and self-financed colleges in Gujarat. In the 2021-22 academic year, 30,829 seats remained vacant, while the number shot up to 39,360 in 2022-23.

The Gujarat government has reasoned that the colleges did not get enough qualified students in time to fill up the seats. In the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, 6,822 seats remained empty in government engineering colleges across the state.

One reason for this is attributed to the Gujarat government’s push for the Gujarati language in higher education from last year.

In 2020, Gujarat Technical University started engineering degree courses in Gujarati language to promote higher education in mother tongue or local language. That academic year, the university saw admission of only two students for the course.

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“Most students feared the lack of acceptance in companies after studying in Gujarati. Besides, the availability of textbooks in Gujarati was also a big issue,” said a student of Gujarat Technological University (GTU).

Principals’ meet

In March 2022, 300 principals of different colleges and industry experts in Gujarat held a meeting to address the issue of the declining popularity of engineering programmes in the state. Following the meeting, GTU rolled out the mandatory 12-week internship clause for final-year engineering students.

Meanwhile, academics and teachers are concerned about aggressive privatisation of education in the state. In March last year, the Gujarat Assembly passed the Gujarat Private Universities (Amendment) Bill 2022, allowing 11 new private universities to open campuses in the state at once. The bill was introduced on the last day of the state Assembly Budget session and passed without much debate or discussion.

“The move affirms that the state is not interested in funding and expanding public education. Gujarat is now the state with the highest number of private universities,” said a professor teaching in a government university in Gujarat.

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“The National Education Policy recommends having at least one large multidisciplinary higher education institute in every district or close to one so that students do not have to travel far for higher studies. But in Gujarat, the policy has been used to push privatisation and PPP ventures,” added the professor.

Noticeably, one of the engineering colleges in the state, the Gujarat Power Engineering Research Institute (GPERI), managed by GTU under the PPP model is on the verge of closure. The organisation is facing multiple administrative issues, as the Gujarat government has not issued separate grants for the college or specified authorisation over the recruitment of staff.