Dr. Pradeep Kumar Singh
The institutions must focus on diversified career prospects of students while designing the programme structure. The specialized programmes should be avoided at UG level.
Engineering is a diverse field of study with many disciplines. At UG level, more than 100 disciplines are flourishing in various engineering institutions in the country. A large number of these have similar nomenclature. In general, many of the UG programmes are broad based with further specialization at PG level. On the other hand, a few specialized programmes at UG level do exist, which may sometimes open up better job opportunities, but in general they narrow down the scope in overall engineering career spectrum. In general the engineering disciplines can broadly be categorized as (a) Broad-based fundamental disciplines (b) Derived/ inter-disciplinary disciplines, and (c) Specialized disciplines. The inter-disciplinary disciplines have also been evolved to yield specialized knowledge in various engineering domains.
The fundamental disciplines are the conventional disciplines of engineering, being practiced over the millennia, and are being studied as part of the university curriculum over the centuries. Most common and popular fundamental engineering disciplines are civil engineering, mechanical engineering, metallurgical engineering, chemical engineering, agricultural engineering, mining engineering, textile engineering, etc. Three more disciplines, the electrical engineering evolved over last one and half century, and the computer science & engineering and the electronics engineering evolved over last 80-year, are also considered to be fundamental engineering disciplines. Also, the information technology evolved a few decades back, appears to be similar to the computer science & engineering. All these disciplines follow standard nomenclature, are curriculum wise broad-based; and well recognized all over the world. Most of these disciplines provide plenty of job opportunities both at public and private sector industries, and research centres. These also offer good flexibility for pursuing higher studies in domain specific and inter-disciplinary areas.
Although, individuals may have varied opinion about the disciplines, yet based upon the diversification of career opportunities, pay package in private sector, and preference of the nature of jobs, these disciplines can broadly be segregated in four classes. Class A – computer science & engineering and electronics engineering, Class B – mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, etc., Class C – metallurgical engineering and chemical engineering, etc., Class D – textile engineering, agricultural engineering, mining engineering, etc.
Other engineering disciplines such as bio-medical engineering, bio-technology, electrical & electronics engineering, energy systems engineering, environmental engineering, instrumentation & control engineering, marine engineering, mechatronics engineering, ocean engineering, safety engineering, etc. can be treated to be derived disciplines. Some of these disciplines have evolved over the millennia, while others have evolved over the decades by combining the contents of fundamental disciplines. The disciplines viz. bio-medical engineering, instrumentation & control engineering, mechatronics engineering, etc can be useful specialized disciplines at PG level corresponding to relevant fundamental disciplines. However, a few enthusiastic institutions offer these programmes even at UG level, which may not be appropriate, as the flexibility to job opportunities in these disciplines is not the same as that in fundamental disciplines. Also, there are very limited options to choice of programmes for higher studies.
Similarly the marine engineering and the ocean engineering are also inter-disciplinary areas, and can be useful options at PG level for their specialized nature of study. Normally at UG level, the students need minimum uncertainty in getting a suitable job, and thus specialized disciplines are less preferred. In general the job opportunities for the specialized programmes are industry specific and thus restricted to very limited portion of the spectrum of opportunities.
The compound discipline electrical & electronics engineering apparently looks to be attractive, with the expectation to enable to hunt more job opportunities, but it may not be so. Definitely, for the job requirement of the electrical or the electronics engineer, there are plenty of qualified candidates available in both the disciplines. And thus the candidature for the one qualified partly in electrical and partly in electronics engineering gets weakened. Thus the compound “electrical & electronics engineering” discipline does not seem to be much useful, as the student undergoing this programme can neither acquire sufficient knowledge in electrical engineering, nor in electronics engineering.
Other derived disciplines mentioned above do not seem to be much useful at UG level. Also the safety engineering and the environmental engineering do not seem to be useful as a separate discipline; rather the relevant component on safety and environmental protection should be made an integral part of all other engineering disciplines. However, the environmental engineering and the energy systems engineering can definitely be useful at PG level in appropriate areas of engineering & technology.
A few other important disciplines are aerospace engineering, automobile engineering, industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, production engineering, welding technology, etc. In general these disciplines can be considered to be the specialized sub-disciplines of mechanical engineering. Similarly other disciplines, such as, paper technology & polymer technology, appear to be the specialized sub-disciplines of chemical engineering. The ceramics engineering appears to be specialized sub-discipline of metallurgy and chemical engineering disciplines. Being specialized in nature, these disciplines offer relatively restricted job opportunities, and thus are normally not preferred at UG level. However, definitely these specializations can be useful at PG level in appropriate branch of engineering & technology.
The institutions must focus on diversified career prospects of students while designing the programme structure. The inter-disciplinary/ specialized programmes should be avoided at UG level. The students or parents are normally not aware of the career scope of various engineering disciplines at the time of admission. Also, a large number of institutions mislead the students for taking admission so as to fill the vacant seats, especially in the inter-disciplinary/ specialized programmes. The students come to realize the actual position of the job market during their studies in 3rd year or final year only, and become helpless. Thus, in case the inter-disciplinary/ specialized programmes are offered at UG level, the Institute administration must take the responsibility of providing appropriate placement to the students.
There has been tremendous growth of knowledge in different areas of engineering studies, over the decades and centuries. Improvement in the nomenclature in existing disciplines and evolution of new disciplines can be the part of academic growth. However, carving out inter-disciplinary and specialized disciplines as academic programmes arbitrarily at UG level to attract more & more students cannot be considered appropriate. This is abuse of academic autonomy prevailing in higher education. The regulatory bodies should interfere in the matter. They should finalize the nomenclature of disciplines to be offered at UG level, after a nationwide debate with focus on broad based job opportunities (both in public & private sector, and government departments) to students, flexibility in choice of discipline for higher study, and international acceptability. Any other arbitrary nomenclature should not be permitted to safeguard the interest of the students.
(The author is Professor & Former Head, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Former Dean (Research & Consultancy) Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering & Technology, Longowal)
Dr. Pradeep Kumar Singh