Industry 4.0 and the expanding digital economy has raised the demand for Engineers skilled in emerging technologies. This has led to an increasing craze for branches such as computer science, Data Science, AI while few streams are getting obsolete. This trend, says educators, is driven by jobs opportunities.
Evolution of streams
Santhi Natarajan, associate professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Shiv Nadar University, Chennai, says, “Initially, Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering were identified as the core Engineering branches. The IT revolution of the late 80s introduced Engineering in Computer Sciences, Electronics and Telecommunication and more. Today, Artificial Intelligence has entered every aspect of our lives, making AI a popular branch, with the combinations of Data Science, Digital Engineering, and others.”
However, the rise of one branch does not affect the importance of others, she adds.
Factors affecting decisions
Sankaranarayanasamy K, director, NIT Puducherry, says, “Parental pressure pushing students to become Engineers is a big issue. Such students tend to take up any available branch, with or without interest in it. As mediocre professionals, regardless of the branch they choose, students land up with minimal or no job opportunities. This affects the way the specialisation is viewed.”
Anil Sahasrabudhe, chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), says, “Job availability is the basis of measuring ‘popularity’ of any particular branch of Engineering. For example, about a decade ago, Biotechnology Engineering was hailed as a big thing, attracting many students to join the stream. With the supply of professionals in the stream superseding the demand, the ‘popularity’ was affected.” This is the case with every branch, he tells.
Traditionally, certain streams such as Ceramic Engineering were available at postgraduate (PG) level, with few colleges offering these super specialisations at the BTech level. “Understanding that this would limit their job options, students are not keen to take up these streams at the BTech level, affecting their ‘popularity’. Opting for traditional streams while experimenting with various major and minor courses is what students prefer,” tells Sankaranarayanasamy.
Traditional branches are forever
V Ramgopal Rao, former director, IIT Delhi, says that over the years, the traditional branches of Engineering have evolved. “For example, Civil Engineering today is more than just about building bridges, it has become synonymous with Environmental Engineering. Thus, today, opting for one branch does not necessarily mean specialising only in it,” he says.
Sankaranarayanasamy says that the introduction of major and minor courses within the broader stream under the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 will also act in favour. “Rather than be limited to the branch they take up, students will now be able to try their hand at various options. This will bring all streams at a common platform, removing the concept of ‘popularity’ of certain branches altogether,” he adds.