Engineering in need of reform to achieve employability

India is one of the major engineering countries in the world, producing more than 15 lakhs (1,500,000) engineering graduates every year. Job creation and employment in core engineering disciplines are a big challenge.

According to a recent NASSCOM 2019 survey, only 2.5 lakhs are getting jobs in the core engineering industry, scarcely 15% to 18% of graduates. Most of these graduates are employed in the electronic and software industries. Others are employed in non-engineering sectors.

This poses a major question about the quality and quantity of engineering graduates in the country. It is time for us to reflect on this problem and to take steps to address it. The major reason for the employment challenges is that many graduates are not skilled enough to work in engineering after graduating.

Almost all Indian technical universities only emphasise and prioritise technical writing skills and memorisation rather than improving technical competence and skills.

Just passing or getting a good mark or grades in certain subjects will not make them employable or skilled. That may work for other arts or law graduates, but it is not good for engineering graduates. They need suitable technical skills training to design and develop systems and to fulfil engineering roles on graduation.

This requires a major change in teaching and learning and the ability to inspire students and build their capacity to adapt well to change. It requires a practical industry-oriented approach to change the system and make them more employable.


Recently, Anna University, one of the major technical universities in Tamil Nadu, which is also a top-ranking university at the national level as well as in the international rankings, failed large numbers of graduates during the pandemic.

In an April-May 2021 online examination, the failure rate was 70%, which is unacceptable in any global examination system.

If you analyse what happened, an important part of the reason for the failure seems to be that the students were told to position the camera in a particular way and they were not allowed to move their heads during the examination.

The examination was monitored virtually and used intelligent monitoring tools through laptop or desktop cameras. It is unacceptable that large numbers of graduates failed based on online monitoring with a single camera. Yet no teaching faculty members are ready to accept the fact that student failure is their failure.

This incident indicates that universities prefer to pass their students based on their memory and writing skills, rather than testing their technical skills. Even 75 years after independence, no engineering university is speaking about the need to reduce the importance of writing and memorising skills.

The need for reform

Engineering teaching and its learning methodology need a major change, based on the theory of learning by doing. That means a major change in the process of teaching and learning, especially in the engineering curriculum and syllabus and the methodology used for teaching, learning and evaluation.

All engineering students need a parallel practical laboratory or a project where they can learn practical skills.

Universities also need to increase the weighting given to practical sessions or projects by devoting more hours to them, the equivalent number of hours as for theory sessions, and giving less weighting to theoretical learning.

This requires a major modernisation and an increase in laboratory facilities to accommodate more independent experimentation.

More emphasis must also be given to evaluating those technical skills and capacity in innovative ways. And every semester students should be encouraged to do projects which will increase their technical confidence.

Engineering education has to take a good look at itself and find innovative skills-testing mechanisms. Technical skills like analysis, design, coding and testing need to be included in the skills-testing strategy. On graduation, students should be permitted to go into industry to do internships and training. More weighting should be given to this kind of activity.

Institutional autonomy

By and large, the main solution for the current predicament is to give more weight to skills training and reduce the weight given to memory and writing tasks. That will make graduates more employable in the core engineering industry.

The engineering curriculum must also permit students to go on to one-year internships or projects in industry. Without improving the technical skills training of students to make them more employable in industry, it is futile to produce more engineering graduates.

Moreover, institutional autonomy means nothing if Indian universities are just following the practices of the British colonial administration.

Another major barrier is having a nationwide curriculum as it doesn’t give universities the freedom to adapt to associated industries’ requirements. The present situation also represents a terrible failure for the regulating agencies who are more broadly responsible for planning, monitoring and controlling India’s engineering education.

Dr R Ponnusamy is professor and dean of the department of computer science and engineering at Chennai Institute of Technology, Kundrathur, Chennai, India. E-mail: