The Delhi High Court, in September, fined the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Shillong Rs 1 lakh for leaving 22 seats vacant in its Post Graduate programme in the current academic year till 2013. Reports say the High Court reprimanded the educational institute for not filling up all 120 seats available and thus “wasting public money meant to hand out experience to students.” IIM Shillong is the 7th IIM in India, in the heels of the well-known IIMs in cities like Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

But vacant seats are a problem plaguing other Government run institutes as well, such as technical education institutes which suffer from shortage of seats to offering courses that don’t have many takers. As is evident from a Comptroller and Auditor General’s Performance Audit of the Regional Engineering Colleges (REC) now known as the National Institutes Of Technology (NIT). SPR's Danielle Collaco studies the report.

There are about 45 engineering colleges in India this year that are covered by the All India Engineering Entrance Exam. There are about 10,371 seats in total. Of these 45 engineering colleges, 30 are National Institutes of Technology which have a total of 9,415 seats.

The National Institutes of Technology (then RECs) were established between 1956 and1987 to teach technical education. The Government’s rebranding exercise was part of a larger effort to improve learning and research in branches of engineering, technology, management, education and sciences. This hasn’t entirely happened.

Government funding for education, including technical education, has always been in short supply. And yet, the NITs still have money left over from the past 5 years, specifically a balance of Rs 293.69 crore un-utilized.

Apart from finances, the NIT haven’t planned their student intake well either. The 10 institutes under the scanner have an average of 300 to 450 seats. In the 10 institutes that were studied, 5 to 63 seats in Under Graduate classes were vacant in various years during the 2005-2010 periods. The Post Graduate classes saw a vacancy of 2 to 348 seats during the same time period.

New courses introduced by the institutes didn’t have many takers. Of the 16 new Under Graduate courses introduced anywhere between 2 to 62% seats were unused. Some 73 new Post Graduate courses were introduced during the period of study, 68 of them saw a vacancy ranging from 3-83% of the total available seats.

A rush to start new courses without adequate assessment seems to have been the key reason for vacant seats. Not surprisingly, the infrastructure designed for these courses remained un-used too. NIT Kurukshetra, one institute said half its Post Graduate seats were vacant thanks to a high demand for civil engineers who obviously went away after their graduation. They also said that fewer M. Tech students were sponsored in civil courses by companies/colleges and institutes.

Some courses weren’t even accredited by the National Board of Accreditation. From the 10 institutes surveyed, 45 Under Graduate and 137 Post Graduate courses hadn’t been accredited.

Infrastructure wise, the NITs aren’t doing too good. Of the 17 NIsT, there was a shortage of between anywhere between 3 and 25 classrooms. There was a shortage of lecture halls ranging from 2 to 37. These institutes are supposed to provide hostel accommodation, but within the study period, quite a few students were left out in the lurch.