Finding a job that is well paying and satisfying is widely held to be a reason why students passing out of schools choose the college programmes they do. But according to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 report ‘The Future of Jobs and Skills’, 65 per cent of the children who are in primary school now will ultimately end up working jobs that do not yet exist. Though it may seem like there could be uncertainty among students regarding which course to take, they seem to know what they want.
Khushpreet Singh, a Noida resident, has applied for bachelor’s degrees in computer applications and commerce, because both areas will later open up more vistas for higher education and employment. Smriti Venkatraman knows it will be only economics for her. She hopes to be a “ground-level development economist”. Though Akshita Chowdhary does not have a clear career path in mind, she has decided political science is where her heart is. Samay Dixit has applied for history and hopes to take it forward so that he does a PhD on one of the World Wars or on international terrorism, and enter academia. Prisha Revar wants to study English literature before taking the next step—studying international relations, where her study of German at Max Mueller Bhavan, Delhi, will help. Kamaldeep Singh of New Delhi has applied for computer sciences, but will be as excited to join the merchant navy. And Gayatri Deepak has set her eyes on a bachelor’s in psychology.
The humanities are no more considered to be beneath bright and ambitious students, who have plans other than sitting for UPSC exams and becoming IAS officers or career diplomats. And engineering and medicine are not seen as the only two viable options.
Even in engineering colleges there is a shift in trend. While computer science continues to be the star attraction, it is specialisations like cyber security, artificial intelligence and robotics that are growing.
In its first batch of the BTech programme in cyber security last year, Ansal University admitted 20 students from thousands of applicants. They tied up with Lucideus Technologies to deliver the programme, by making students a part of their live projects and evaluating them. In the upcoming batch, they hope to take 50 students, and are launching BTech in AI, machine learning and data science. Vice Chancellor Raj Singh says universities have to keep track of the changing market and ensure the programmes result in students who can deliver in future jobs.
“Computer science and electrical engineering attract the maximum number of students because many companies like Google and Microsoft recruit them,” said professor V. Ramgopal Rao, director, IIT Delhi. “So, from the jobs point of view, these two branches are doing very well.” Product design is also a hot area, and the institute is introducing a master’s in design this year.
Professor Daniel Fernandes, principal, St Joseph’s College of Commerce, Bengaluru, points to the role played by parents in the choice of programmes for students. “There is a demand for professional programmes from students and their parents alike. They are not happy with a programme with a general curriculum. They seek value-added programmes and hence the demand for professional programmes,” he said.
No subject is a passing fad, but according to Professor F. Andrew, principal, Loyola College, Chennai, higher education is going through a cycle, the current favourites being computer science and biotechnology. But some subjects like commerce have always had much demand.
Most colleges are trying to spot those 65 per cent of future jobs, and rejig curricula and programmes to train students for a brighter future.