As lack of jobs fuel foreign dreams, colleges in Punjab grapple with dwindling student strength


Sukhminder Singh, a Class 12 student in Jalandhar, thinks there is no point in pursuing graduation in Punjab. He believes that even doing a diploma or short course abroad can ensure better employment opportunities there, rather than investing three years in India.

“Appan tan bahar jana hai 10+2 karke. Kanu BA vich tin saal gawane. Tad tak utthe tin saal da course poora karke kamm te lag jawange te dollar kamawange. Ithhe BA ki, MA karke vi nakuri nai milni (I want to go abroad after completing my 10+2. Why to waste three years here. I will rather go abroad and do a three-year course and begin earning in dollars. People don’t find a job here even after doing MA),” laments Sukhminder, adding that he is already preparing for his IELTS exam.

Anmol Preet and Damanpreet, both Class 12 students of Swami Premanand Mahavidyalaya (SPM) in Mukerian in district Hoshiarpur, too say that they have made up their mind to study abroad after 10+2.

“You hardly get a good job here after post-graduation, what to say about getting one after graduation,” said Anmol.

In fact, this view is shared by many students and their parents in Punjab, something that educationists say has resulted in progressive dwindling of enrollment in colleges across the state over the last one decade.

Several unaided and government-aided colleges across the state’s three regions – Malwa, Majha and Doaba – that spoke to The Indian Express and shared enrollment figures said that the fall in strength in their degree classes has been in the range of 25% to 70% during the past 5 to 10 years.

They added that Covid-19 had put brakes on this trend temporarily due to travel restrictions, but a receding pandemic was now bringing the situation back to way it was – with students still looking for greener pastures abroad.

In Kapurthala’s Hindu Kanya College, which was established in 1969, the strength of the college has come down from 950 students in 2017-18 to 523 students in 2021-22.

Principal Dr Archna Garg, while speaking to The Indian Express, said, “Not only boys, girls too are going abroad in equal number because students find that there are not big opportunities here. They are clearing their IELTS exams and flying. Also, there is no check on these IELTS centres which are mushrooming. Punjab has great scope in tourism and hotel industry but no attention is being paid in this direction and even a couple of big companies which are opening their businesses here are hiring the employees from outside Punjab.”

She added: “States like Gujarat organise big festivals to attract tourism but nothing is being done here. Student migration continues in a big way and colleges are the biggest sufferers.”

In Lajpat Rai DAV College, Jagraon (Ludhiana district), the strength of students in graduate and post-graduate classes has came down from 1,650 students in 2013-14 to 1,383 in 2016-17. It further dropped to 994 students in 2017-18 to 767 in 2018-19, 650 in 2019-20, and then 519 in 2020-21. It stands at 449 students in the current session (2021-22) – a fall of over 72% from the 2013-14 session.

Principal Dr Anuj Kumar Sharma of Lajpat Rai DAV College too blamed “unprecedented foreign migration” for the drop in strength in his college. He said that “because our college is located in the rural belt the migration is much more here compared to big city institutes”.

In Government College for Science Education and Research, Jagraon, the strength in degree and PG classes has fallen from 830 students in 2016-17 to 549 students in 2021-22.

SCD Government College, Ludhiana, too has witnessed a fall in students’ number from 1,135 in 2012-13 to 924 in 2021-22.

In Lyallpur Khalsa College in Jalandhar, the strength has come down from 7,666 students in 2016-16 to 5,823 students in 2021-22.

Dr Gurpinder Singh Samra, principal of Lyallpur Khalsa College, said that it is difficult to survive when the number of students continues to decline with every passing year.

“Those who can pay fee are flying abroad and colleges are left with majority of those students whose fee is concessional,” he said, adding that “to stop such migration we need to create job opportunities for our youth here”.

Swami Premanand Mahavidalaya College in Mukerian has the same story as students’ number here has fallen from 788 in 2013-14 to 474 in 2020-21. However, the 2021-22 session was good for this college as its strength had increased to 614 students due to Covid. College authorities attributed this to air travel restrictions.

“But this year again we are expecting that the strength will go down because now there are no travel restriction and several students will fly abroad,” said Principal Dr Sameer Sharma of SPM College, which was established in 1971.

Principal Dr. Ekta Khosla of R R Bawa DAV College for Girls, Batala in district Gurdaspur, said: “It is sad that most students when asked about their dreams tell us that they want to clear IELTS and go abroad on study basis.”

“Even students after completing graduation are flying abroad because they do not have any job opportunities after graduation. Earlier, only boys were going but now girls are also going in big number,” she said, adding that creating more jobs was only way to reverse this trend.

Professor Gurpreet Singh Lehal, Dean, College Development Council of Punjabi University, Patiala, said that the number of the students in several colleges gone down over the years.

“270 colleges are affiliated with our university. We got a survey conducted a couple of years back where we found that 50 colleges are there with our university where the number of the students is100 or less. This shows that student strength in these colleges has gone down majorly. Most students prefer going abroad after completing their 10+2. Earlier they used to go after doing their graduation, but now the trend has changed.”

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