Monday, July 06, 2015

Australia’s fast-track residency is attracting Indian students

Australia is again emerging as a popular destination for Indian students going overseas for higher education with enrolments during the first four months this year having jumped to over 48,000 as compared to nearly 37,000 during the same period last year, according to official government figures released recently. India remains at second place after China in sending students to Australian universities.

The number of Indian students in Australia during January-April this year stood at 48,311 as compared to 36,964 during the same period last year. The sector where enrolments rose was higher education where the number was 25,439 as compared to 17,694 last year. Enrolments in the vocational education and training sector (VET) from India during the same period jumped from 16,772 last year to over 18,350 this year. “Australia offers a world-class, high-quality education for students across the world with eight Australian universities in the global top 100. Australia’s vocational education system is highly respected internationally, with close links to industry, and a high proportion of graduates gaining employment. Five Australian cities also make the top 30 student cities to live in in the world, so Indian students can enjoy the great lifestyle that Australia offers,” a spokesperson for the Australian high commission in Delhi said.

The 2014 International Student Survey in Australia found that over 88% of Indian students were satisfied with their overall education experience, above the average of students from other countries. “Indian students contribute to a vibrant and culturally-diverse Australia.

International education fosters inter-cultural understanding and creates the people-to-people links that underpin Australia’s research, trade, investment and social engagement with the world,” the Australian high commission spokesperson said.

The option of a fast track to permanent residence for international students is probably the most important reason for Indian students to choose Australia as a campus destination for higher studies. “After completion of studies, students can apply for subclass 485 visa category, which enables them to work in Australia full-time for a period of 18 months to four years (depending on which level of studies they have undertaken) along with an option of applying for permanent residency,” said Ravi Veeravalli, principal consultant, Star Global Education Alliance, a consultancy focused on Australian education and migration services. He added that India has been upgraded to assessment level 1 under the streamlined visa processing arrangements, which is another advantage. “This enables students to apply for a visa with lower requirements for evidence that needs to be shown such as eligible funds, eligible sponsors, etc. – this enables more students to apply to Australian universities,” he said.

Another advantage that Australia offers is the acceptance of partners / spouse of the student, allowing them to apply along with the primary applicant (main student). “It also enables the students’ partners to work in Australia,” Veeravalli said. The English language requirements (IELTS) for international students in Australia has also been relaxed by lowering the individual bands for each section from 6 to 5. However, the overall band should be 6.

Recently, Australia’s official migration trends for 2013-14 showed that India was the main source country for immigrants with 40,000 Indian nationals migrating to Australia in that period.

“A large number of preferred occupations (filled in Australia by skilled migrants) such as electronic engineers, telecommunications engineers, software developers, analyst programmers, developer programmers, network engineers and accountants are from India. Students from India choose such related courses. Areas like Melbourne (Victoria), Perth (Western Australia), Adelaide (South Australia) enable the existing permanent residents to sponsor their relatives if they belong to the above-mentioned professions,” Veeravalli said.

Australia’s business innovation and investment programme that was created in 2012 to attract high-quality investors and entrepreneurs to Australia, is finding takers in India. It includes the investor visa, the business innovation visa, the significant investor visa, and the newly-introduced premium investor visa.

This article is written by Ishani Duttagupta.
Source: The Economic Times, July 6, 2015
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MHRD holds fresh talks on IIM bill

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on Monday restarted the negotiations with the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) to build a consensus on the controversial IIM Bill, which the B-schools say will undermine their autonomy and vest sweeping powers with the ministry. Starting with IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), which has been the most forceful in its opposition to the bill, the ministry is looking to consult all 13 IIMs.

IIM-A Director Ashish Nanda, who held a about 90-minute meeting on Monday with MHRD officials in New Delhi, sounded a conciliatory note after the meeting. “There was a bump in between...but the ministry believes in the consultations,” Nanda said after the meeting. The meeting holds significance as it is seen as a sign of the ministry climbing down and a possible prelude to a redrafting of the IIM Bill. Although Nanda did not divulge details of his meeting, he cited news reports that the ministry was planning to rework the bill, terming it a good move.

Mint reported on Monday that the MHRD was likely to redraft the controversial draft legislation to include changes suggested by some of the premier business schools. With the bill likely to go back to the drafting stage, it is unlikely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament that begins 21 July.

A MHRD official, requesting anonymity, said that the ministry is considering all options and redrafting the bill cannot be ruled out. The ministry may drop some contentious clauses, especially from Section 35 and Section 36, which were added without discussions with the IIMs and which empower the Union government to set rules for the elite B-schools.

Section 36 states, “The (IIM) board may, with the approval of the central government, by notification, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made thereunder to carry out the provisions of this Act.” Section 35 empowers the central government, among other things, to “make rules, for carrying out the provisions of this Act”, ranging from the appointment of the IIM chairpersons to terms and conditions of their service.

The official cited above said any decision to this effect can only be taken after consultations with HRD minister Smriti Irani, who is travelling and expected in office only next week. IIM-A has been vehement in its resistance to the legislation, which it said last week would vest “sweeping centralization of authority” in the government. IIM-A Chairman A.M. Naik asked the ministry to take a fresh look at the bill and extend the deadline for public discourse on it up to 31 July, instead of the 24 June deadline set by the ministry. IIM-Lucknow Chairman J.J. Irani warned last week: “If the bill is passed in the current format, then there will be a revolt in the IIM system.”

IIMs have fiercely guarded their autonomy over the years. In 2012-13, when the bill was initially talked about, these B-schools opposed provisions like the formation of an IIM Council to oversee the functioning of the institutions.

India has 13 IIMs and six more will open in the current academic year. The existing 13 IIMs have an intake capacity of about 3,500 students. Nearly 200,000 aspirants vie for these seats through the Common Admission Test (CAT) every year.

Source: Mint, June 30, 2015
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Monday, June 29, 2015

IIM bill likely to be redrafted

The human resource development (HRD) ministry is likely to redraft the controversial Indian Institute of Management (IIM) bill to incorporate changes suggested by some of the premier business schools after criticism that the proposed legislation was designed to erode their autonomy and vest sweeping authority with the government. With the bill likely to go back to the drafting stage, it is unlikely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament that begins on 21 July, two government officials said, requesting anonymity.

The ministry’s retreat on the bill, which has been surrounded by controversy since being put in the public domain in the second week of June, signals a victory for the IIMs. The draft drew sharp criticism from the IIMs and industry, who claim the bill in its current form will turn the premier B-schools into mere “operating centres” with all major decisions being taken by the Union government. “IIMs are doing just fine. If a bill is required at all, it needs to be redrafted,” said Vamshidhar Guthikonda, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore. The ministry needs to disclose why it needs to bring a bill to control IIMs, said Guthikonda.

The HRD ministry, headed by Smriti Irani, is likely to extend the deadline for seeking public comments on the bill, following requests from IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Lucknow. IIM-A chairman A.M. Naik has asked the ministry to extend the deadline to 31 July. The ministry had earlier sought public comments and feedback between 9 June and 24 June.

“If you look at the suggestions of some IIMs, especially IIM-A, then an extension is required. If the 31 July deadline is accepted, then it is very obvious that the bill cannot be tabled in the coming monsoon session,” said the first government official. In fact, it will take the ministry more time to go through the feedback that it has already received and incorporate some of them, the second official said.

“In a way, reworking the bill seems a must at this point of time. If we keep the controversies aside, still some suggestions need to be looked at with favour and this means reworking the bill,” the official said. IIMs have also complained that the draft that was discussed with them and the one that was put up for public comments were different. “If the bill is passed in the current format, then there will be a revolt in the IIM system,” J.J. Irani, chairman of the board of governors of IIM-Lucknow, said in an interview on Thursday.
The first government official said that three sections — 3(k), 35 and 36 — will be given special attention as some IIMs have raised objections to them. These sections empower the Union government to set rules for IIMs. While the first clause reads: “Regulations mean regulations made by the board with the approval of the central government”, section 36 states: “The board may, with the approval of the central government, by notification, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made there under to carry out the provisions of this Act”.

The official said that IIM-A has asked to remove the phrase “with the approval of the central government” from section 3 and section 36 as they believe it will erode the autonomy of the institute. “The HRD ministry shall have a look at it. The HRD minister (Irani) was travelling and is back in Delhi now and the issue will be discussed at the minister’s level.”

The IIMs also want section 35 to be removed as it was not discussed with them. Section 35 empowers the Union government, among other things, to “make rules, for carrying out the provisions of this Act”. “In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely: (a) manner of appointment of chairperson under clause (a) of sub-section 2 of section 11; (b) such other powers and duties of the board under clause (x) of sub-section 2 of section 12; (c) the terms and conditions of service.”“Some of the IIMs feel that the bill should allow them the flexibility to fix compensation to its staff,” the first official said. There has been a growing clamour for IIMs to get more flexibility to decide on the compensation of teaching and administrative staff if they so deserve. There is a clause in the draft bill which proposes that IIMs seek central government permission for such a move.

Naik, who is also group executive chairman of Larsen & Toubro Ltd, said in his 24 June letter to the minister that the present bill needs a re-look as it is favouring a “sweeping centralization of authority”.

The second official said some 14 different clauses were questioned by the IIMs. IIM-A director Ashish Nanda and IIM-Bangalore director Sushil Vachani said they are hopeful of resolving the issues after discussions with the ministry. The basic premises of the bill, including allowing degree-granting power to IIMs and facilitating excellence, will, however, remain unchanged, the government officials cited above said.

Source: Mint, June 29, 2015
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Friday, June 26, 2015

IIMs flag concerns over proposed bill citing threats to autonomy

The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the country’s best known business school, has flagged concern over the proposed IIM bill, saying it will lead to erosion of autonomy of the institutes and vest “sweeping centralization of authority” in the government. IIM-Bangalore, IIM-Calcutta and IIM-Lucknow, too, have expressed their worries over the draft bill.

In a strongly worded letter to Union human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani, A.M. Naik, chairman of the IIM-A board of governors and IIM-A Society, said, “I would like to convey deep reservations on the proposed IIM bill that has been put up for public comments". "If the bill is passed in the current format, then there will be a revolt in the IIM system,” J.J. Irani, chairman of the board of governors of IIM-Lucknow, said over the phone from Jamshedpur.

Naik and IIM-A director Ashish Nanda pointed out that the draft bill that had the approval of all IIMs, including IIM-A, was very different to the one that has been put up for discussion. “From the chairman’s selection to constitution of the board, from deciding the fee structure to formation of a department, even construction on campus, everything will require the government’s approval,” Nanda said.


India has 13 IIMs and six more will open in the current academic year. The existing 13 IIMs have an intake capacity of around 3,500 students; nearly 200,000 aspirants vie for these seats through the Common Admission Test (CAT) every year.

IIMs have fiercely guarded their autonomy over the years, successfully resisting an IIM bill that was proposed in 2012-13 with a provision for a council of the kind that oversees the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and is headed by the HRD minister. The provision for an IIM Council has been replaced in the latest draft bill with a proposal for a coordination forum to be headed by the minister. Naik said that while it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to develop 25 world-class institutes in India, the proposed bill will have the opposite effect.

All hopes of developing IIMs as world-class institutes will be dashed as the new bill will take away the business schools’ autonomy and make for centralization of authority, Naik and Nanda said at a press conference on IIM-A’s campus on Thursday. “We are not against accountability but the government cannot micro-manage day-to-day affairs of IIMs,” Nanda said, adding that different IIMs are trying to work in different ways and innovate in order to excel but the new bill will take away the spirit of competition. The director said his vision of building IIM-A along the lines of Harvard Business School will not materialize if the bill is implemented. He, however, was “hopeful that the issue will be resolved through dialogue with the government”.

Naik, who is also the group executive chairman of Larsen & Toubro Ltd, in his letter referred to two particular clauses in the bill — sections 3(k) and 36 — saying these prescriptions will lead to “sweeping centralization of authority, currently held by individual IIM boards, with the central government”. While the first clause reads, “Regulations mean regulations made by the board with the approval of the central government”, the second states: “The board may, with the approval of the central government, by notification, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made thereunder to carry out the provisions of this Act”.
Naik’s letter holds significance as the HRD ministry has been pushing for the IIM bill, claiming it has held consultations and all stakeholders are on board. The ministry had not put the bill up for public discourse before sending it to the cabinet in March; the cabinet returned the bill asking the ministry to put it up for debate. IIM-A has also asked the HRD ministry to extend the public discourse till 31 July. The ministry on 9 June had asked for comments by 24 June.

J.J. Irani said the “purpose of bringing a bill was to give more freedom and independence to IIMs but the current bill with the addition of two sections — 35 and 36 — has turned all this on its head”. In section 35, for instance, the draft bill empowers the central government among other things to “make rules, for carrying out the provisions of this Act. In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely: (a) manner of appointment of chairperson under clause (a) of sub-section 2 of Section 11; (b) such other powers and duties of the board under clause (x) of sub-section 2 of section 12; (c) the terms and conditions of service”.

Irani, a former managing director of Tata Steel Ltd, said the ministry is trying to “centralize the powers of the IIMs and control them”, which “will not be good” for the system. He said the intention of the bill as mentioned in the initial paragraphs of the draft is fine but the details go completely against that intention. He said all the leading IIMs are in touch with each other and are “opposing” the bill.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson of the board of governors of IIM-Bangalore, tweeted that the “draft IIM Bill 2015 compromises autonomy” and is “not in the spirit of government’s ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ maxim”. Ajit Balakrishnan, IIM-Calcutta chairman, did not respond to calls or a text message sent to his mobile phone. But a professor at the institute, on condition of anonymity, said the concern is over how the government will implement the bill.

Vamshidhar Guthikonda, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore, accused the government of trying to micro-manage the IIMs and said a group of alumni from the institute had sent their feedback to the HRD ministry. “What is the ministry trying to fix when nothing is wrong with the top IIMs? The draft bill has come without enough consultation with alumni groups or industy leaders,” Guthikonda, from the 2000 batch, said.

Source: Mint, June 26, 2015
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IIMs divided over NDA government's new draft bill

IIM (Indian Institute of Management) is a divided parivar over the new draft bill moved by the government with some saying it will turn the institutes into "mere operating centres" with no autonomy while others have welcomed the provisions on grant of degrees instead of diplomas and the focus on research.

On Thursday, A M Naik, chairperson of the board of governors of IIM-Ahmedabad joined the institute's director Ashish Nanda and IIM-Bangalore director Sushil Vachani in protesting against the draft IIM bill. Naik, also chairperson of engineering giant Larsen & Toubro, said the proposed bill will curtail "autonomy", reduce IIMs to "mere operating centres" and give the Centre "sweeping powers". He said the earlier draft agreed upon by IIMs and the HRD ministry was completely changed. Naik said the bill was floated suddenly and IIMs got to see it only now.

However, not everyone agreed with Naik. IIM-Raipur director B S Sahay fully supported the bill. "Without an Act of Parliament, we will not be able to grant degrees and conduct PhD programmes," he told TOI, adding that the fear of losing autonomy was misplaced.

Naik pointed out that as per the bill, each IIM will have to take "prior permission of the government in matters related to admissions, courses, fee structure, new building and regulating powers of the academic council". "Further, we will be required to take the government's permission if we want to form a new department in the interest of the institution, as if expertise for this is available elsewhere rather than with the institute," Naik said.

On his part, Sahay argued, "What is wrong in being accountable? If we spend public money, we better be answerable." At the helm of one of the new IIMs, Sahay said he had faced no interference from the HRD ministry. For Sahay, a far more pressing reason for having a legislation was that it would help IIMs give proper degrees and expand further. "The flagship post-graduate programme is a diploma programme. It should be a degree programme so that IIM degree is accepted uniformly," he said. Sahay also said IIMs should have a strong PhD programme like many prestigious international management institutes. "In IIMs, students do Fellow in Management Programme (FMP). So what? When you do PhD, it is different," he added.

The HRD ministry is closely watching the protest by IIM directors. An official said, "It is the change in the bill that has created problems. The earlier version had near-approval of the IIM establishment." He agreed that the bill, first proposed during Arjun Singh's tenure in UPA-1, emanated as a tool to control IIMs which were not toeing the ministry's line on the fee issue. "The threat worked and IIMs fell in line. During UPA-2, the bill was put in cold storage but it has resurfaced now," he said, adding that the key reason for the legislation was to give more teeth to IIMs so that they could award degrees and PhD.

The official gave the example of Institutes of Technology Act which governs IITs. "How has their autonomy been compromised? IIMs should give their views to the ministry. It has not been finalized yet. We are seeking public opinion and are open to change," he said.

Source: The Times of India, July 26, 2015
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Now, IITs become fertile ground for faculty startups

A new wave of startups are springing up across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) with faculty members turning entrepreneurs. Dozens of faculty members from IITs in Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur and Hyderabad are now working on startups either by themselves or collaboratively with students.

Ravikrishnan Elangovan (33), joined IIT Delhi's department of biochemical engineering and biotechnology as assistant professor in 2010. He met Vivekanandan Perumal and Shalini Gupta, both of whom had also just joined the institute as faculty members after their post-doctoral degrees from the US. The trio wanted to develop a solution for typhoid diagnosis, put up a proposal with the department of biotechnology in 2013 and got funded.

Faculty floating new companies is an integral part of the academia-entrepreneurship intersection in the US, especially in places like Stanford and MIT. But the trend is slowly gaining momentum here.

Nineteen startups with faculty as shareholders were founded in 2014-15 in IIT-Madras, as compared to 11 such companies in 2013-14. "We are witnessing an increasing trend of joint collaboration between faculty members and their current and graduated students, with research being translated into commercial ventures/companies," says Tamaswati Ghosh, CEO, IIT-M Incubation Cell.

IIT-Madras has so far spawned 16 startups that have been founded or co-founded by faculty. Thirty of the 89 tech start-ups birthed at the institute have faculty members as founders or minority shareholders.

Planys Tech, Air OK Tech, Daksha Imaging, Yrs Intuitions are some examples. About 40% of startups incubated at IIT-Bombay's Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship are faculty-student projects, says Milind Atrey, professor-incharge, SINE.

iKen Solutions by RM Sonar from School of Management, Zeus Numerix by GR Shevere from Department of Aerospace Engineering and Vegayan Systems by Girish Saraf are some examples of faculty-promoted start-ups that graduated out of SINE. Sensibol, NanoSniff Technologies and kWatt Solutions are among such companies currently being incubated at SINE. "There has been an increase in faculty interest in entrepreneurship ventures," says PVM Rao, professor, mechanical engineering department of IIT-Delhi.

Investors find it easier to trust faculty-led start-ups. They also play a key role in creating a culture of entrepreneurship, encouraging more students to take the same route. "The collaborative entrepreneurial venture provides a space for students and faculty to combine their perspectives, lean on each other, and build something larger than what would otherwise be possible by either party," says Anil Prabhakar, professor, IIT-Madras, department of electrical engineering. He is also the founder of Unilumen Photonics and co-founder of Enability Foundation For Rehabilitation.

At IIT-Kharagpur, though the first such registration for a joint venture between a faculty member and a student happened way back in 2007, such instances have gained momentum only recently. "For the past two to three years, we're getting registrations from three to four such companies each year," says PP Das, head of Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship at IIT-Kharagpur. One more such company — in the Internet security business — is likely to get registered next month.

"Research can't be taken to people unless it's entrepreneurial," says Das. "Most of these ventures are in information and communication technology, education through IT, or making educational materials or software development consulting. The remaining are in healthcare or in biotechnology."

Even the newer IITs are witnessing a similar trend. IIT-Hyderabad has two successful startups which are joint ventures between students and faculty — Plianto Technologies and AR solutions. A few more are in pipeline, says Sobhan Babu, professor, department of computer science and engineering at IIT-Hyderabad and founder of Plianto Technologies.

Source: The Economic Times, June 23, 2015
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Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan gives away Rs 300 million to set up three brain research chairs at IISc

Infosys co-founder 'Kris' Gopalakrishnan and his wife Sudha have set up three research chairs at the city-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc), continuing their push for brain research in the country's top institutions.

The first of the three chairs — K Vaidyanathan Distinguished Chair named after Sudha's father — was launched on Monday. Each chair will be set up with a corpus of Rs. 100 million funded by Pratiksha Trust, a charitable organisation Kris founded with his wife.

The Pratiksha Trust has endowed three similar chairs at IIT-Madras, where Kris studied. The 60-year old billionaire hopes the chairs can bring distinguished researchers in the areas of computational neuroscience, machine learning, data science and neuromorphic engineering to the IISc to enable collaborative research.

"I hope the launching of these distinguished chair positions will help push the frontiers in these areas. It would be excellent if the collaborations lead to highly creative, new computing architectures and algorithms inspired by the functioning of the brain. These three chairs along with three more at IIT Madras will create critical mass in the area of neuromorphic computing and machine learning in India," Kris said.

The K Vaidyanathan Chair at the IISc will be occupied by Shihab Shamma, a professor at the Institute of Systems Research of the University of Maryland. An expert in neuromorphic computing, neural signal processing and representation of speech signals in the brain, Shamma holds a PhD from Stanford University.

"I am sure these distinguished chair positions will add a new dimension to research collaboration in key strategic areas between IISc researchers and star contributors to these areas anywhere in the world," IISc Director Anurag Kumar said. At IIT-Madras, two of the three chairs — Prof Mahabala Chair and N R Narayana Murthy Chair — on computational brain research have been launched.

Both chairs are occupied by US-based scientists of Indian origin. In early 2014, the Infosys cofounder announced a Rs. 2.25-billion grant over a period of 10 years to develop a Centre for Brain Research (CBR) at the IISc. This philanthropic act is widely-considered one of the biggest contributions to pure science in the country, and one of the single largest donations by an individual to the IISc.

A few months later, Gopalakrishnan doled out Rs. 110 million to foster a partnership between the CBR and Carnegie Mellon University.

Source: The Economic Times, June 23, 2015
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Medical colleges struggle to get good faculty

At a time when 31,000 students battle for 2,200-odd seats in Tamil Nadu this year, the state government's efforts to increase the number of MBBS seats have come a cropper. After an inspection in January, the Medical Council of India (MCI), the apex regulatory body for medical education in the country, cited faculty shortage and poor infrastructure facilities to reject TN's request to increase the seats from 150 to 250 each in Madurai, Tirunelveli and Coimbatore medical colleges. It also turned down Kanyakumari Government Medical College's request to increase seats from 100 to 150.

"In the recruitment conducted by Medical Services Recruitment Board at the end of 2014, only around 300 applications were received for the post of 1,727 assistant surgeons. Hardly 100 joined. Still there are more than 1,500 vacancies for specialists," said Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association President Dr K Senthil.

Even if the state government takes immediate steps to rectify the issue, it will take a few years to get adequate specialists, he said. "It will take time for the existing faculty members to get promoted to associate and assistant professor cadres," he said.

Medical experts said infrastructure facilities could be improved by pumping in more money but it would not be easy to increase the number of teachers in medical colleges in the near future. For example, they said, the Tiruvannamalai Government Medical College, which was started three years ago, was managing with just 50% of the required faculty in departments like obstetrics and gynaecology. Drawing up a long-term strategy and executing it alone will help, they said.

While the shortage of teaching faculty in the Coimbatore college was 17.98%, in Tirunelveli it was 16.73%, Madurai 14.60% and Kanyakumari 18.2%. There are plenty of vacancies in resident doctor categories as well in these colleges. For example, the shortage in this category in Tirunelveli is 26.59 %, while it is 10.20% in Kanyakumari. In October 2014, when the first inspection was conducted by MCI, Madurai had the worst shortage of 30%.

A senior health department official said it was an open secret that the authorities were managing the situation by adopting ad hoc measures like deputation. "Whenever there is an inspection, specialists are deployed from other colleges to evade the wrath of MCI. However, if MCI takes cognizance of the issue, the individual doctors will be in trouble as they stand the risk of being disqualified," he added.

While opening new colleges was welcome, the government should also focus on strengthening the existing institutions, said Doctors' Association for Social Equality general secretary Dr G R Ravindranath. "The important strategy to address the teaching faculty problem is to promote non-clinical courses," he said. Many people shunned teaching as it involved long work hours and the pay was low, he said. "The government should increase their salaries and offer promotions," said Dr Ravindranath.

Source: The Times of India, June 23, 2015
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Saturday, June 20, 2015

World’s 1st kidney transplant varsity opens in Gujarat

The world's first kidney transplant university in Ahmedabad, built by Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) at the cost of Rs 50 crore, was inaugurated by chief minister Anandiben Patel on Saturday.

IKDRC director Dr H L Trivedi will be university's chancellor for five years and IKDRC deputy director Veena Shah will be the vice-chancellor. He said that the university, expected to come up on more than 25-acre land near IKDRC, will offer courses in dialysis technology, anesthesia, clinical nursing, nurse technicians, immunology, biochemistry and other vital organs that are affected due to chronic kidney disease.

The varsity will prepare documentary-based science evidence on transplants and new-age techniques. He said: "We'll conduct research programs in diabetic nephropathy, immunology, cell infusion, cell development and other key areas."

The university will draw research faculty and students from across Indian, American and Canadian universities. Sources said IKDRC is also in negotiation with the health department to use its buildings as laboratory, library and admin office.

Addressing the event, Patel said: "The varsity will help bridge the gap of professors' shortage in the state. Gujarat will also get three new universities this year like Public Health University, Guru Gobind Singh University for tribals in Godhra and Narsinh Mehta University in Saurashtra."

Source: The Times of India, June 20, 2015
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Saturday, June 13, 2015

US may allow foreign students to stay for 6 years after degree

If American corporations can't hire H1-Bs, they can hire H1-wannabes. That in essence will be the outcome of the Obama administration's move to allow tens of thousands international students to stay on in the United States for up to six years after they finish their college degree.

The far-reaching proposal, which will be of interests to a large body of students from India who come to the US for higher education, comes amid continuing resentment in some American quarters about "low-wage" foreigners taking up jobs as illustrated in the fracas at Disneyworld, where native-born US workers, seen as opponents of free trade, are fuming about being displaced by guest workers from India in a trend broadly known as outsourcing, leading to tension in the world's best-known amusement park and an icon of Americana.

On Thursday, the anti-outsourcing brigade, gathering steam in an election season and supported by US lawmakers who back their protectionist stand, persuaded the US Labor Department to open an investigation into two India-based firms, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for alleged violations of rules for visas for foreign technology workers under contracts they held with Southern California Edison, an electric utility. As in the case of Disneyworld, the power company is said to have laid off hundreds of US tech workers after they were forced to train workers from India under the H1-B visa program for guest workers.

But while anti-outsourcing groups were trying to shut down - or at least narrow — the H1-B gates, the Obama administration began the process to open another avenue to retain more high-skilled immigrant work force that many US corporations and experts say is needed in a country that simply does not graduate enough native-born STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) workers.

According to new regulations proposed by the administration and submitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee, students with STEM degrees can stay on in the US for a total of six years under the Optional Training Program (OPT) - three years after finishing an undergraduate program, and then if need be, another three years after a graduate program. This would give them as much work time in the US as foreign guest workers get under the H1-B program.

At present, OPT for international students who finish either an undergraduate or graduate program from a government-certified educational institution in the US is 12 months to 29 months depending on whether their degree is non-STEM or STEM. Typically, graduating students, a large number (upwards of 300,000) from China and India, use the OPT timeframe to land jobs, or internships leading to jobs, during which period employers usually sponsor them for an H1-B visa if their performance is good.

But with the increasing demand for H1-B visas, partly because many are cornered by outsourcing bodyshops, many foreign graduates who don't make the cut in the lottery system are forced to return to their home countries, much to the dismay of free-traders who believe the US is best served when the students it educates are retained in the country.

So the new proposal will essentially expand that window of opportunity to land a job and get an H1-B visa for up to six years, ensuring that a student who comes to the US to study is not under pressure to return. The new proposals, already under fire from lawmakers such as Chuck Grassley, comes on the heels of another Obama administration initiative to grant work permits to H-4 visa holders (spouses of H1-B) who meet certain eligibility requirements.

"The proposed new regulations, while still being internally discussed, are irresponsible and dangerous considering the Government Accountability Office report issued in March 2014 finding that the (OPT) program was full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and that the Department was not adequately overseeing it," Grassley complained a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Source: The Times of India, June 13, 2015
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Friday, June 12, 2015

Government plays safe, puts draft IIM bill up for debate

A draft bill to improve the governance of Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) proposes to set up a coordination forum and formalize a closer scrutiny of the premier B-schools — from directors’ tenures to a corporate-style annual report with details of the highest-paid employees. The draft bill also proposes a four-year term for the chairman of the board of governors instead of the current five years and seeks to keep the number of board member to 15 across all IIMs.

“What the government is trying to do is keep a close watch on the functioning of these institutes without infringing upon their autonomy,” a government official said, requesting that he not be named. The human resource development (HRD) ministry has now put up the draft bill on mygov.in, the government’s crowdsourcing website, inviting comments and suggestions.

A second government official said the draft bill “has tried to explain the role of different stakeholders”, as the 2008 R.C. Bhargava Committee report on IIMs had suggested that responsibility be fixed on “key players” to improve accountability at these institutes. This official, too, requested anonymity. “Divided responsibility for governance, and lack of clarity of the role of government, boards, chairman and the directors has meant that none of the key players has any real accountability for results,” the Bhargava committee said.

The committee had also suggested that the boards of IIMs be reconstituted and consist of 11 members against the present 24-26. Six of these would be independent professionals and the other five would be: a nominee each of the central government, state government, faculty, and the chairman and director. No person should be a board member for more than six years, with a single term of three years. Board members would be expected to have a minimum of 75% attendance. The second government official said the draft bill aims to streamline the functioning and governance of IIMs.

On the director’s role, the draft bill says the person shall function as the chief executive officer of the institute and present an annual report. In the report, the director shall mention the key achievements and targets — from shortfalls in expenditure to surplus of income, appointment of faculty members and officers, performance indicators and internal standards set by the institute, including innovation in teaching, research and application of knowledge.

“The report of the director shall also include a statement showing the names of the five officers, including faculty members and other employees of the institute, who received the highest remuneration (including allowances and other payments made to such employee) during the financial year and the contributions made by such employees during the financial year,” the draft bill said. It shall also indicate whether any such employee is a relative of a member of the board or academic council of the institute and “if so, the name of such member; and such other particulars”.


An IIM professor said though the draft bill has clearly mentioned that a chairman of the board can be selected for a second term, it is silent on the appointment of a director. “It means they don’t want a director to get more than a single term. The logic is ambiguous,” said the professor. He, however, said having a fixed number of board members will lead to better decision-making.

But both the government officials cited above said more than the content of the bill, the HRD ministry is intrigued that the cabinet has sent back the bill for public comments after keeping it with itself for more than 10 weeks. “We had done the consultations with key stakeholders and thought it would be enough, but higher authorities told us to put it up in public,” said another government official, adding that the government is perhaps thinking that after public scrutiny it will be easier to get Parliament’s nod.

The official said the “huge IIM lobby”, in an election year in some states, can create a problem for the bill in Parliament. “Opposition political parties have become very active ahead of the Bihar assembly election later this year and the huge IIM lobby will lap up the issue. Like labour reforms, the government will be accused of going ahead arbitrarily without enough consultation. Public scrutiny may delay the bill by a few more months,” said the official.

Shikhar Mohan, an IIM Indore alumnus, said putting the bill in the public domain is a welcome move. He suggested that the bill should allow one-year courses at IIMs to get MBA status keeping in mind international trends. Mohan said some 400 IIM alumni and students plan to send a petition to the HRD ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office outlining these proposals.

Source: Mint, June 12, 2015
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Wanted: Faculty that fits the bill at IITs

With the undergraduate class of 2019 set to enter India's premier technology institutes in a month's time, here is a shocker. Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are facing a faculty shortage of 30-40%. There is no dearth of people interested in the job, but often these candidates don't match the requirements of the top tech schools.

At IIT-Kharagpur, the shortage based on the ideal ratio of one faculty member for every 10 students is more than 40%. It needs 435 more faculty members for the existing student base of over 10,000. IIT-Bombay, which currently has 687 faculty members including part-timers, has a shortage of 213. Other IITs fare no better.

The problem lies in the availability of quality faculty members, said Kushal Sen, dean faculty at IIT-Delhi. The IIT is usually flooded with hundreds of applications at any given time. “Only three to five of the hundreds of applications that we receive are worth selecting,“ said Sen. IIT-Delhi hires around 30 faculty members every year. It tries to attract talent by doling out research grants of Rs. 100,000 for peripherals and Rs. 1 million for equipment. It currently has 523 faculty members for 7,800 students.

Fearing it will lose competent faculty to competition, IIT-Kanpur recently closed a hiring in less than two weeks compared with the usual three to six weeks. “It was a question of losing out this professor to competition had we prolonged, hence we had to quickly close this with an offer letter,“ explained Manindra Agarwal, IIT-Kanpur's dean for faculty affairs. Other IITs are also working round the clock in getting good faculty talent as well as promptly closing the hiring.

Most of the IITs are looking overseas to meet the demand for faculty. Of the new faculty hired in the past five years, around half are foreigners at IIT-Bombay. IITs in Delhi, Guwahati, Gandhinagar and Kanpur are all trying to grab the best from overseas. IIT-Kanpur has an office in New York while at other IITs, representatives are sent overseas to scout for faculty.

According to Vineet Nayar, founder of Sampark Foundation and former CEO at HCL Technologies, inadequate research opportunities are keeping many competent people away from joining IITs as faculty members. “Unfortunately as a nation we have lost our charm for teaching as a profession Research is great but only in patches at the IITs in India. Corporate interest and funding both are low in research. Demand for these researchers in the corporate world is low and thus for a high potential faculty, it is unattractive to work in such an environment,“ Nayar said.

For newer IITs, attrition is a major problem. Until recently, faculty members were leaving every two to three months at IIT-Guwahati, said Pina keswar Mahanta, head of mechanical engineering. Most of the leading IITs are busy working around making the compensation packages more attractive. In the form of chair professorship or research grants, IITs are trying their best to lure teaching talent with better packages. For instance, starting this year, IIT-Madras is initiating 'Institute Chair Professorship' wherein the chosen faculty will get additional compensation Rs. 25,000 per month apart from space and funding for research.

Using donations largely from the alumni community, IIT-Kanpur also offers a top-up salary of Rs. 25,000 or even more to monthly compensation. Sensing that research is a big draw for competent faculty , IIT-Madras is adding two research centres every year. "We have initiated a ramp-up research centre which would help us to attract and retain faculty," said R David Koilpillai, Dean (Planning).

Subramanian Ramadorai, Chairman of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and National Skill Development Agency as well as former Vice Chairman at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said: "The current faculty at the IITs is world-class but surely they face a severe shortage. They (IITs) have to be bold enough to address this challenge by sprucing up research activities."

IIT-Kanpur has total faculty of 407 for 6,477 students, a ratio of 1:16. It is aiming to reach 450 faculty members next year, but that will still fall short of the ideal ratio of 1:10. At IIT-Kharagpur, the existing faculty strength is a little over 625, while the sanctioned strength is 1,060.

"Retaining good faculty is proving a bigger hurdle than hiring faculty as we are facing a huge problem due to lack of space (office, laboratory, hostel, etc.) and infrastructure," IIT-Kanpur Director Indranil Manna said. Last year, IIT-Bombay conducted two cycles of interviews for faculty. “We will continue to do so,“ said director Devang Khakhar.

Source: The Economic Times, June 12, 2015
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