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Smart Higher Education Choices for Engineering Graduates in the Post-NEP 2020 Era

Smart Higher Education Choices for Engineering Graduates in the Post-NEP 2020 Era

Over the last two decades, information technology companies grew exponentially; thanks to technology development in digital space and applications across domains and industries. This transformation included companies registered and promoted in India, and MNCs of Europe and North America who set up their facility to address the global market. Further, the technology industry's growth led to growth of other sectors like consumer-packaged goods, FMCG, consumer electronics, automotive, and services like Banking and Finance, travel and tourism, entertainment, and infotainment.

These industries recruited graduates and postgraduate who had a basic engineering degree and a postgraduate degree in Management or, in some cases, in applied engineering.

After qualifying for such postgraduate programmes, those engineering graduates could move to a level or two above technology and business services. More importantly, the economy's growth, especially of the service sector, fuelled the career prospects of engineering graduates with a Master's in Management, Engineering, and Science. Not only Master's programme, even a few Postgraduate diploma courses like data science, analytics, and data engineering, gave humongous opportunities. The author believes such opportunities are likely to be more and aplenty in the years ahead.

Such higher education programmes allowed passing out engineering graduates and those who had a couple of years of experience with information technology and knowledge process outsourcing companies to look for high-order skill and capability development.

Especially in India, engineering graduates who learn as per the NEP 2020 may have to apply their minds in greater detail of higher education choices. They now have an option of four years undergraduate programme and look for admission to a Master's abroad.

The change in the law allowing four years of graduation and one year of the post-graduate programme is likely to impact engineering graduates' higher education choice. Instead of two years management programme, they may choose a one-year programme. Under the current format, one-year higher education in management is available only for those who have a minimum of five years of work experience and are looking forward to repositioning their careers. AICTE approves most of such programmes as a Postgraduate diploma programme. Since only the institutes of excellence were offering such programmes, it was easy for both the market operators, namely aspiring students and recruiters, to patronize. However, with the universities' options to offer one-year master’s for four-year degree students, it will open the market for engineering graduates and institutions to offer a one-year management programme; time can assert the demand and evolution of such a choice.

Nevertheless, what an engineering graduate should understand that there is a difference between a one-year or two-year programme of Master’s in Management. There had been institutions like Chennai Business School, which offered a one-year diploma programme. The graduates passed from such programmes are also doing well in their careers. At this instance, it is essential to know the difference between a one-year and two-year programme, which offers certain number of core courses in Business communication, Accounting, Organisation Behaviour, Marketing, Operations Management, and more importantly, quantitative decisions in Business. Such courses will stretch over from 2 to 3 terms. One may even perceive it as being conventional; yet a minimum of two terms, that is, six months is required. In the period of six months, one can learn a specialization course in any functional area or capability development, like data science or logistics. This will be good for the aspirants who want to pursue a managerial career or above.

Now, we shall look at what it means to students who would have taken those courses. Their career becomes razor-focused in that area, Irrespective of their success or failure in the chosen area. They can move from one corporate to another or across a limited functional breadth rather than repositioning from marketing to a service operation. Even if they do, the recruiters may discount their postgraduate education and treat on par with other complementary skills and insist that they must perform any job. Hence, the engineering graduates who opt for one year's Master's in Management must learn this.

The system could develop one-year core courses learned through the open education system or Flexi-learning mode before an engineering student registers for a Master’s. In such a case, institutions offering masters must design for those who come after completion of certain threshold courses. How does it help aspiring students? The Flexi- learning model will help them figure out their interest in pursuing a management career. Secondly, there is no need to give up a current job to pursue a two-year programme. Hence, the cost of higher education for a student comes down as they will spend one year on campus instead of two. The third advantage could be that there will be a lot of maturity and understanding of the business world before coming into a programme as a fresher or a drop out from an IT developer job. The ownership choice of higher education is more evolved and responsible, making them do well.

Such changes may impact the institutions on certain aspects. First of all, the revenue drops from that of a two-year programme, which should be balanced by increasing the batch size of the one-year programme.

 Two, there will be a set of faculty members will be more inclined to deliver only the two-year programme format and a set of electives in their area of specialization.. However, such change would be advantageous for such faculty members who are focused to deep-dive into certain areas and contribute through research and consulting in those areas. In case of faculty members losing interest to adapt to the changes, institutions can encourage them taking up more research, consultation, and develop executive programmes in their chosen area. Third, the institutions may have to redefine their model of existence. This is an excellent opportunity to develop focused institutions and relate to the local area and country-focused research and consulting.

What is discussed above is also true for higher education in engineering and technology. The students who exercise such a choice will have to be clear about the skill and competency they are looking for and sharpen the same in a year. Those who want to pursue research may probably use such opportunities better and identify faculty and institution to associate for the long term. Such opportunities will also be contributing to the economy.

Further, there are some changes in the research programme as per the NEP 2020. The intermediary Master's in Philosophy is abolished. The same could be right for engineering and technology. This fulfils the requirement to make a research degree as life-long career commitment rather than asserting a job or a decoration. There are several positives in the proposed policy change, including localizing the research and orienting ethics in learning and development.

To conclude, the engineering graduates are likely to be benefited, and options are widening for them, and the companies are recruiting the postgraduates too. Making a well thought out choice is critical for one's own future and contributing towards the economy.

About the Author

The article is written by N Chandrasekaran, Professor, Operations Management Area, IFMR Graduate School of Management, KREA University. He can be reached at chandrasekaran.nagarajan@krea.edu.in