Chennai engineering college teachers turn enrolment agents to save jobs

Ranjith stares at a spreadsheet on his computer which has names of school students, their addresses, mobile numbers and their subject stream in Class 12, among other details. He pulls out his phone, judging which of the hundred contacts assigned to him for the morning session, would potentially join the private engineering college in Namakkal, where he works as a faculty.

He is among thousands of faculty from private engineering colleges, who are being forced by their respective managements, to double as marketing agents, enrolling more students into their institutions.

With the threat of losing their jobs or facing a huge pay-cut hovering over their head, the faculty are deprived of their annual vacation and instead, coerced into canvassing door-to-door for admissions, calling hundreds of students from common databases, sent bulk SMSs, distribute pamphlets and even personally accompany students for certificate verification process for engineering counselling. Some managements have asked faculty members to commonly pay an agent, to whom they can outsource the admission duty.

The management Ranjith works for, has asked all faculty from his college to enroll at least five students, failing which he or she will receive only half the salary for three months. Even as Ranjith, along with his colleagues, have been asked to do “admission duty” since May, he has been able to only enroll 2 students.

“The management has given me only half the salary for the last two months. They will hold back June’s salary as well, if I do not meet the target,” he rued.

He added that his management has already asked nearly 40 faculty members to leave their jobs after they refused to engage in admission duty. Ranjith said that the remaining faculty members who were grappling to enroll more students, were asked to write a letter explaining the reason for not meeting their target.

“When we are on admission duty, we are given the contact details of 100 students in the morning and 100 in the noon. We have to call them and find out if they are interested in joining engineering programme and convince them to join our college,” he said.

Kumaran, a faculty from a private engineering college, that runs both, engineering and arts and science courses, said that he has been asked to enroll five students. This target, however, comes with a catch: each enrollment into the engineering courses will be counted as one point, and each into the arts or sciences, will be counted as half point. This means that, if he only finds students interested in arts and science courses, he must make 10 admissions.

A private engineering college in the outskirts of Chennai, has asked faculty members to provide proof of personally visiting homes of potential students. “It gets very awkward most times. Especially when a male faculty calls a female candidate and asks if he can visit her at her home to talk about admissions, or when a female faculty has to speak to a male parent to ask if she can visit their home,” said Sudha, a faculty member from that college.

The “business” of finding admissions has gone too far in some institutions, said Raman, a faculty from a private engineering college in Madurai. His college, even as it threatens a pay-cut if a faculty does not meet the enrollment target, offers incentives for each student they enroll. This has complicated things lot more in their college.

His college pays him Rs 14,000 as incentive for one enrollment, he claimed, adding that the management pays an outside agent Rs 20,000.

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The private institutions have take the gambit so far, that they have instructed faculty to accompany students to the certificate verification process for counselling. “As soon as we convince a student to join our college, the management takes in their class 10 and 12 academic records and certificates, along with a fee of `5,000 of advance fees. On the day of certificate verification, we have to accompany the student with the certificates,” said a faculty member, who did not want to be identified.

Thousands of teachers lost their jobs after AICTE revised the student-teacher ratio from 1:15 to 1:20. Many more had to take a pay cut to remain employed.

MK Surappa, Vice Chancellor of Anna University, said he has received a few complaints about this rampant problem. “I have passed on these letters to the affiliations director of the varsity. If it is proven that colleges harass teachers, we may even cancel their affiliation,” he said.

State Higher Education Minister KP Anbalagan, speaking to Express recently claimed that he was unaware of this problem.”However, if such complaints come to our notice…If I get to know that a certain private college is forcing teachers to get admission, I will strongly consider closing the institution down,” he asserted. (All names have been changed on request)

‘Admission duty’

Even faculty, who have years of experience, are forced to actively participate in the ‘admission duty’. A private engineering college in the outskirts of Chennai, has asked faculty members to provide proof of personally visiting homes of potential students.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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