All the good students going into industry not only have an adverse impact on research output of the country, and availability of faculty for the academic institutions, but we strongly believe that it may not even be in their own self-interest to quit formal education after an undergraduate degree. The IT industry in India has matured, and as its growth rate starts coming down (now 28 percent), the gap between supply and demand for average technical skills will narrow. But the industry is poised to go up the value chain, and along with it, the demand for higher technical skills is rising faster than what academia can produce.
The number of seats in IT areas (both 4-year Bachelors programs and 3-year diploma programs or MCA) is already far higher than the number of jobs available in IT industry. There are more than one lakh graduates in IT who do not find jobs in IT industry every year. We still have shortage of manpower only because the quality of education in many cases is rather poor, and hence a large number of graduates are unemployable. But over the years, the number of graduates is increasing very fast, and considering the number of quality improvement programs that industry and government support in academic institutions, the employablity will only improve. Hence, sooner or later the gap between the demand and supply of average technical skills will be bridged, ensuring that the salary growth rate comes to a more reasonable level.
But on the other hand, the number of MTech seats in the country is far less (two orders of magnitude less), and there does not seem to be any national movement to increase that number substantially in a short period. If one goes for higher education now, the chances are that s/he will enjoy exclusivity or a large gap between demand and supply of higher technical skills for more than a decade.
The situation in PhD is even worse. As a result the industry salaries for good PhDs have shot through the roof. Till recently, PhD program was equated with a job in academia, and many students did not want to commit to working in academia. Today, the situation has completely changed. Almost every big IT company has a research center in India, and they are hungry for PhDs. Salary wise, PhD has become the most lucrative degree of our times.
We believe that the students today are taking a decision about their careers without adequate information, and many times based on what learn from their peers in the hostels. They have most likely not understood the trends in IT industry and how it will affect their job prospects and careers in times to come. Also, they have not quite understood what all factors should be taken into account in choosing a career.
To counter this, I went around the country last year (Jul-November 2006), and visisted a large number of colleges. I spoke about how Graduate Education (MTech and PhD) can be a smart career move even for those who could get fat paychecks at the end of their undergraduate education. I must have spoken to over 10,000 students in that semester. (Of course, we will want all the smart guys and gals to do their MTech and PhD in our department. So it is not only the national interest that drives this program.)
The colleges that I visited are given below.