I recently came across a post on the migration patterns of engineering students from India to the U.S. It is authored by Dr Rahul Choudaha & Megha Roy from WES Research, well-regarded for their research around international education. The post said that 5.4m engineers are enrolled in undergraduate education, citing Planning Commission data. This implies that about a fourth of this, barring drop-outs and failures, graduate annually.

Assuming a drop-out + failure rate of 10-15% (now, I am being generous), this implies that there are about 1.1-1.2m engineers generated by the Indian education system annually.

Let us contrast this with the following numbers.

This is a wide range – from 0.7m as per Nasscom to Mint’s 1.5m. What really is the correct number? Surely there is a correct number?!

Here is my take on this. I am also sharing my workings.

From India’s Ministry of Human Resources Development (which oversees Education) website, we have its annual Education Statistics at a Glance report for 2014, which says, there are 23.54m students enrolled in Under-Graduate Programs (pg 13 of report).

From pg 15 of the same report, we get total % enrollement in BE and BTech programmes as 13.27%. This works out to 3.12m (13.27% of 23.54m) enrolled in Engineering (across 4 years), and not 5.4m as per Planning Commission.

Hence, annual intake (divided by 4, since Engineering is a 4-yr degree)= 0.78m. This is the rough admit rate, one can say. How do we now generate the number of graduates or pass-outs?

Clearly we need to exclude dropouts and failures etc. Now, this is not easy data to get. Hence let us look at ‘anecdata’ such as this report from The Times of India which says that just over half of enrolled students graduate on time, and about 10% never pass-out.

Let us assume the above 10% failure rate. I am not assuming any for attrition (non-completion on time). I estimate that the people who do not complete this year are balanced out by past number. Thus 90% of the 0.78m translates to about 0.7m (or 7 lacs).

This is also validated by the All India Survey on Higher Education Report AISHE 2012-13 (last comprehensive report available) which has pass out numbers for BE/BTech at just short of 0.7m. Remember that this also corresponds approximately to Nasscom’s estimates of 0.7 – 0.8m.

Thus we can say that about 0.7m or 7 lacs graduate out of Indian Engineering Colleges every year.

How does this compare to other countries? Now this is hard – it is really difficult to get an apples to apple comparison as this post from Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University states. Still for those looking to get a sense of how the numbers stack up, here is one, though I would again warn you that the definition of engineering education is different from country to country.

And remember, not all of these graduates are employable. To get a sense of the quality of the engineers we generate, it is worth reading this post by WSJ’s Geeta Anand. Aspiring Minds, an assessment co publishes an annual report – their estimate is that less than 20% are employable for software jobs. For core jobs, such as for Mechanical or Civil Engineers, the numbers are even worse. Less than 10% of engineers are ready for such jobs.

To conclude, India does possibly produce the largest number of ‘engineers’ every year at ~700,000, but only about 10% or so (~10K from IITs, ~15K from NITs and a few of the other govt and private college grads) are comparable to the engineers who graduate from the west.