Death pangs for the MCA course ?

It is perhaps, the first time that an MCA has risen to the top job in a leading software company. The MD and CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, N.Chandrasekharan is an MCA from REC Trichy ( now, NIT ).  Just when it appeared that the MCA course was getting its due recognition, it appears that there are question marks for its survival.

As per a recent Careers360 article on MCA,  “there are 75,021 seats in 1089 institutions. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu account for nearly 60 percent of total number of MCA seats in the country.”

The MCA admissions for the year 2010 are nearing completion.  The news from Andhra Pradesh which has the largest number of MCA seats in the country is depressing. Deccan Chronicle  reports that :

As many as 367 of the 660 MCA colleges have applied for “closure” due to poor response from students in the current academic year 2010-11. While a total of 34,451 seats were on offer in the convenor quota during Icet counselling, only 13,104 have been filled. This is of course apart from seats in the management quota.

The vacancy data  from Tamil Nadu is not readily available, but preliminary information gathered indicates, that the picture is not very different either. There are nearly 240 colleges offering MCA courses in TN. The total number of seats for MCA would be in the region of 15,000. As per the counselling schedule put up by a web-site, only 8543 candidates have been called for counselling. Even a candidate scoring  3.00 marks out of 100 is being called for counselling. Assuming that a small percentage of candidates called for counselling, do not show up for counselling, a vacancy of 50 % of seats in Tamil Nadu MCA colleges can be expected.

Why this situation has arisen ? It could be a mix of several factors.

Firstly, Information technology and Computer Science as a career is losing its sheen, thanks to the recession of 2008-09. This is showing up even in choice of disciplines in IIT. For the first time, Electrical Engineering has closed earlier than Computer Science at IIT-Bombay, reports TOI.

Secondly, inspite of MCA being a specialised post-graduate course, focussing on computer applications, it is treated at par with B.Tech in Electronics/Computer Science /IT by most IT services companies for the purposes of recruitment. Given the huge number of seats created in the engineering disciplines, MCAs compete directly for placement with B.Tech graduates.

Thirdly, MCA programme competes with the MBA programme. In AP, the entrance test is common. Many colleges offer both MCA and MBA programmes. Many students prefer MBA over MCA because it is one-year less and more importantly the placement of MBA is not dependent on the fortunes of one industry, namely the IT industry.

Fourthly, MCA is competing with its own under-graduate version the Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA) course. Now many universities are offering the BCA course.  Good software programmers can get recruited right after their BCA, without waiting three years for an MCA.

Fifthly, for many science graduates, IT companies are offering jobs just after graduation. TCS , Cognizant  and Infosys hire science gradautes. Wipro has gone a step further. It not only offers a job but an opportunity to get an MS in Software Engineering from BITS Pilani through their WASE programme.

Lastly, the ballooning of seats in MCA was a highly opportunistic response from the private educational institutions, not unlike the NIIT/ APTECH. When NASSCOM and the IT industry kept lamenting about the manpower shortage facing the IT industry, many responded by adding an MCA programme. Both engineering colleges as well as MBA colleges started offering MCA courses. They added seats with little thought about faculty or course or infrastructure. Until 2008, when the IT industry was hiring in thousands, this problem was not visible.

The IT companies continue to hire MCAs but only from the top institutes. It is clear from the industry response that even the top institutes in India, whether MCA or engineering do not prepare the students well for a career in the IT industry. TCS is building a huge training campus in Kerala.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has announced that the company is setting up a new learning and development campus in Thiruvananthanpuram (Trivandrum), Kerala. The new campus will house up to 10,000 professionals when fully completed and will offer TCS’ learning curriculum to those who join the company from colleges.

Whereas, there is surplus capacity in private engineering colleges and MCA colleges, the IT industry is creating its own campuses. This is because of the huge gap in quality.

The shakeout was imminent and augurs well for the sector. This will bring a lot of pressure on the colleges which have managed to fill-in their seats to improve quality. Or else, it could be well their turn to close down in future.

As for the MCA aspirants, it should be understood that the MCA course is a specialised course. It prepares the students for a career in building and maintaining software applications. It should be taken up only by those who enjoy software programming and should be only at the good institutes.



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