With many involved in the ‘education business’ just refusing to learn, gautam banerjea has suggestions on how to steer clear of disappointment
 FOR engineering colleges in West Bengal, it&’s admission time again but the scenario has changed somewhat. There is a definite downslide in demand, thanks to the recessional trend over the past couple of years that has bresulted in many institutions finding it difficult to fill their allocated quota of students. It was no surprise that seats in colleges located in the districts remained vacant after the final round of counselling, but last year was particularly bad because many institutions in Kolkata found a scant amount of takers for the seats on offer.
   Things are unlikely to change much this time around as prospective students are seriously weighing their options — other than engineering seats — before opting for their respective choices. It was expected at this juncture that colleges would assume the role of guiding students in taking such crucial decisions and, mainly in keeping with this objective, colleges under the West Bengal University of Technology decided to project the prospects of opting for engineering courses.
   However, selfish interests are proving to be counteractive. The idea of organising a fair with colleges as participants is, per se, not a bad idea but what accrues is a veritable competition among institutions to lure students to their respective fold. In the process, tall claims of placement for all students are often made. In the recent past, one college went even further and offered 300 per cent placement for all its students (each getting three jobs). Not surprisingly, promises of refunding tuition fees were also made in case a student failed to get placement.
   Obviously, such outlandish offers can yield results for one year in terms of a higher number of admissions. It is only natural that the placement of a student is connected with several factors. Apart from the global and local economic scenario, the development of a candidate is the key for success. However, a student lured into joining a college without being told about the fallout logically gets restive when reality strikes and he/she is left out after limited opportunities of placement. This results in campus unrest, which is all too common now. Even some of the better-known colleges faced this problem earlier this year.
   But this has not taught any lesson to many involved in the “education business”. Naturally, negative publicity about students being duped makes more of an impact than the success stories. Bigger still, the amount spent on publicity to lure students is reaching dizzying heights. Thanks to television bytes, press advertisements and the fairs and
camps organised, the budget is fairly high. Had the money been spent on infrastructure and training, both students and the respective colleges would benefit.
   From last year, e-counselling was introduced and many students were not conversant with the process. Some were even misled in the guise of offers of help. Some colleges offered the use of their Internet facilities with counsellors and some students complained that the order of preferred colleges was arranged in such a fashion that they missed the opportunity of improving their choice of seats/colleges through recounselling just because their option of a lesser preferred college was placed above a more preferred institution by those “helping” them with their selections.
   The policy adopted by the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination Board (Jeexab) of not allowing any subsequent change to the original option from admission added to these students’ woes.
   As if this were not enough, this time another practice of “rating” colleges by a few unknown entities has surfaced. To make some quick money, they directly approach colleges for favours in return for a higher “rating”. The case of one such incident is interesting. A private college – a leading institution in Bengal a couple of years back – was accorded a high three-star rating. This year, disgusted by extremely low placements, students disrupted functioning of the college for some days, which attracted media attention. Which serves to prove that the present rating is clearly biased. Similarly, the rating of government technology colleges also defies logic.
   Though the situation is better
for the technology departments in these colleges, there are serious infrastructural shortages for computer science and related departments. The placement figures of these colleges are also poor. Even worse, some private colleges that faced penal action by the statutory authorities by way of a reduction of seats did not find reflection in their ranking.
Interestingly, it is learnt that for the rating of private colleges, the controlling university (WBUT) was not consulted. Under such circumstances, students and their parents often seek advice on finding the right approach in selecting a college. Here are a few points worth considering before selecting a college:
– Never blindly trust publicity tricks. Cross-check claims made by a college or its representative.
– Rather than just visiting fairs, consult former students, teachers of other colleges also, to collect information.
– Visit colleges to the extent possible (at least the colleges on your shortlist).
– Go through the websites of colleges and note points for clarification during a visit to a college.
– Do not blindly trust ratings given by any unfamiliar agency. Go with expert advice and your own judgment.
– Use closing ranks of last year as indicative figures only. Ranks change every year, depending on various factors. Do not rule out the possibility of getting a seat even when your rank seems to be lower in terms of the previous year.
– Be very careful in locking choices. Do not trust anyone to enter your preferences or lock your choices.
– Collect information from the websites/offices of the All India Council for Technical Education and the West Bengal University of Technology  (for private colleges) if there is a penal reduction of the number of seats for an institution. Check the lists of the last two years.
– Do not fall prey to the lure of colleges for an allotment against dropout vacancies. Stringent rules are made for decentralised counselling. Non-transparent allocation may lead to cancellation of allotment. Taking admission on allotment is the best available option through e-counselling.
– In case of a group of colleges, do not think all institutions are of near standards. Opt for the college chosen, ignoring the undesired others from your list of preference.
– For admission under management quota seats, make sure the allotment is on the basis of confirmed allotment and in the chosen college only.
– Avoid touts at all costs.