Friday, March 20, 2015

IIT-Madras is India’s Stanford

If you look at some of the more prominent e-commerce and marketplace ventures of today --- be it Flipkart, Snapdeal, Zomato, Quikr, Ola, or Housing --- you will find that many have founders who did engineering degrees at IIT-Delhi or IIT-Mumbai.

But the future of the more technology focused startups --- the kind that institutions like Stanford produce in droves --- may actually be IIT-Madras, and the phenomenal success of some companies like Zoho may be early evidence of that. This has to do with the culture of technology research and industry-academia interaction that the institution has fostered for years, and which has touched a new high with a massive research facility that was launched five years ago.

The IIT-Madras Research Park was an idea conceptualized by Ashok Jhunjhunwala, professor at the electrical engineering department of IIT-M, and M S Ananth, the then dean of academic courses and later the director of the institute, to create a bridge between innovations created in the classroom and industry. It is spread across 1.2 million sq ft, houses almost 100 entities - research companies, innovation arms of large corporates, start-ups and incubators - and has already facilitated filing of over 60 patents.

"We realized that the rewards of R&D are significantly higher if we enable R&D personnel from industry to work jointly with our faculty and students on new ideas," says Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director of IIT Madras and a member of the board at the Research Park.

Innovative Start-ups
The success of the ecosystem can be seen in the quality and utility of the innovations produced by its residents. Take Vortex Engineering, which is working towards financial inclusion using disruptive ATM technology. The company claims many firsts - first biometric ATMs for MNREGA, first ATMs to work without AC, and first commercially viable solar ATMs. Narayanakumar R, the chief development officer of Vortex, is all praise for the ecosystem. "Our research activities here have resulted in almost nine patents for the cash technology used in our ATMs," he says.

Ather Energy is building a smart electric scooter at the Park. Swayambhu Biologics is a biotech firm that uses a patented microbial composting process that results in creation of nutrient-rich biomanure along with the advantage of managing distillery effluents and helping industries achieve zero discharge.

IIT-M's Rural Technology Business Incubator incubated Swayambhu in 2012 and gave them much needed resources, equipment and space at the Research Park. Uniphore, incubated at IIT-M in 2008 and which has filed six patents, has leveraged the institution's technical expertise to develop Akeira, a virtual assistant like Apple's Siri. Akeira can be used on any basic phone and its interactive feature keeps farmers informed of advisory messages.

Start-ups say the presence of R&D divisions of large companies in the same facility enables them to feed into their expertise. TCS has an innovation lab at the Research Park. TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan says the engagement model, the intellectual ambience, and proximity to faculty and students have been a huge positive. "We also get an opportunity to engage and mentor start-ups doing interesting work," he says.

The environment, though still in its nascent stages, has striking similarities with that of Stanford, which has long had a unique and powerful relationship with Silicon Valley. A study by Stanford academics Charles Eesley and William Miller three years ago estimated that Stanford alumni and faculty members had founded 39,900 companies since the 1930s, creating 5.4 million jobs and generating annual revenues of $2.7 trillion. Its students and alumni have founded companies like Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Cisco to the more recent Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla,Netflix, Paypal, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

Unique Model
IIT-M says it has differentiated the model to suit the Indian context. Director Ramamurthi says the Research Park is perhaps the only one that measures the extent of collaboration with clients through a "credit system". The system assigns points to clients for different joint activities, ranging from joint patent development to supporting student interns. "Unlike Stanford, where the research ecosystem is for academia-industry linkages, while entrepreneurship development happens across the board, IIT-M's facility has succeeded in combining research and entrepreneurial elements in one ecosystem," says Rajan Srikanth, co-president of Keiretsu Forum, an angel investor.

Nagaraja Prakasam, mentor in residence at the N S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at IIM-Bangalore, says the IIT-M Research Park ecosystem is creating ventures of high technical quality that are solving real-world problems, going beyond internet and mobile consumer ventures. Prakasam is an investor in Uniphore and is in talks with several other ventures for similar relationships.

Shripathi Acharya, managing partner at seed funding venture AngelPrime in Bengaluru, says he would advise start-ups to have a presence at the Research Park for multiple reasons --- professionalism that comes with being present in such a location, the peer learning that happens at the growth stage, and the visibility that it brings to their ventures.

The Research Park could soon get additional muscle with the IIT Alumni Club proposing an 'IIT Alumni Industry Interaction Centre' at the facility. The centre hopes to help fledgling ventures in their market penetration stage. "As alumni we want to enable this interaction," says Suresh Kalpathi, president of the Club and chairman of Kalpathi Investments.

The biggest proof that the IIT-M model is working is perhaps the fact that others are now looking at replicating it. Devang Khakhar, the Director of IIT-Bombay, says his institution has set in motion plans for a research park. "We have set up a committee to get it going, land has been earmarked within the campus, and talks are on to garner support from industrial stakeholders," he says.

Source: The Times of India, March 20, 2015
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

No Indian university in global rankings

Not a single Indian university has made it to the prestigious world reputation rankings 2015. India with its great intellectual history and growing economic power does not have a single university that is regarded by academics globally as being among the world's most prestigious, according to the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings released on Thursday. Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is the highest-ranked institution in the country, though it doesn't figure in the world's top 100.

The rankings is the world's largest invitation only survey of academics. Times Higher Education distributes the survey in 15 languages to over 10,500 academics in 142 countries.

According to the 2015 list, Harvard in the US is the world's top university followed by UK's University of Cambridge (2nd) and the University of Oxford (3rd) which displaces Massachusetts Institute of Technology by one rank (4th). Stanford in the US is placed at fifth position and the University of California Berkley is sixth. The rest of the top 10 is made up of US institutions: Princeton University (7th), Yale University (8th), California Institute of Technology (9th) and Columbia University (10th).

London and Paris are tied for top spot as the world cities with the highest number of top ranked universities. US dominated the list with 43 universities in the top 100. UK has the second highest number of representatives in the top 100: 12 up from 10 last year and nine in 2013.

In an interview to TOI, Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings said, "It is really a matter of concern that a country of India's great intellectual history does not have a single university that is regarded by academics globally as being among the world's most prestigious. Brazil, Russia and China - the other great BRIC nations, have at least one top 100 university in this list".

Mr Baty added "At this stage the best performing Indian institutions in the reputation rankings are the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) --- they have a strong reputation across the world. However, they are still not receiving enough nominations to make it into the top 100. India needs to support its leading institutions". According to him, strong universities are crucial for the success of developing nations - helping to retain top talent in the country and prevent brain drain, attract investment, develop highly skilled future leaders and create new knowledge and drive the knowledge economy.

Mr Baty explained to TOI how the survey was conducted. To be invited to take part, academics have to be published in a leading academic journal and respondents have an average of 15 years working in higher education. They are asked to nominate no more than 10 institutions that - in their expert opinion - they believe to be performing the most strongly for teaching and research.

"In total, we received over 10,000 responses when we carried out the survey last month. This study is based entirely on a survey of academic opinion, where leading scholars around the world name which institutions are strongest in teaching and research. For the 2015 table, the most responses were from the US (15.8%) followed by China (10.6%) and Japan (7.2%). There were 5.6% responses from the UK and 5.5% from Russia".

Mr Baty added to TOI "There is no way of knowing why these academics are not nominating Indian institutions enough. It could be because Indian institutes are not attracting enough international students or staff, collaborating with overseas universities enough, or publishing enough research papers in English --- the global language".

"All of these factors can influence a university's reputation, so it is likely that by improving their international outlook Indian institutions can not only improve through sharing best practice globally and drawing on the global talent pool, they can also improve how they are perceived by the global academic community. Ultimately the only way to improve in the world reputation rankings is to ensure that scholars across the world recognise you as an excellent teaching and research institution," he added.

Could it be because most academics don't know about Indian institutes? "Yes and no. The survey is representative at a local and global level and based on UN data, so if the academics are not nominating Indian Institutions it is likely because they have chosen not to, not because they are not aware of them," Mr Baty added.

Meanwhile universities in the 'golden triangle' of London, Oxford and Cambridge continued to rank highly. Imperial College London was 14th, University College London moved up from 25th to 17th, the London School of Economics and Political Science rose two places to 22nd, King's College London jumped 12 places from 43rd to 31st and the London Business School was ranked 91-100. King's is one of the rising stars of the rankings, after moving up from the 61-70 band in 2013. The UK also saw two new entrants to the top 100: Warwick and Durham universities both entered in the 81-90 group.

Germany remains the best-represented nation after the US and the UK, with six top 100 universities (the same as last year). France now boasts five institutions in the table (all of them based in Paris), up from two last year.

Asia’s best performer, the University of Tokyo, slipped one place to 12th position. China’s top institution, Tsinghua University, climbed 10 places to 26th, and Peking University leaped from 41st to 32nd place.

Sources: The Times of India; Mint; The Economic Times; March 12, 2015
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Monday, March 09, 2015

Indian students are keeping out of UK

British Indian entrepreneur and life peer Karan Bilimoria has again flagged the issue of the sharp drop in the number of Indian students going to study in UK universities, and has asked the UK government to remove non-EU students from the immigration figures and reintroduce the post-study work visa.

Recently, participating in a debate on UK’s immigration Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Bilimoria said, “The prime minister (David Cameron) talks about Britain having to take part in a global race yet the government’s insistence is on following this madcap immigration cap policy and targeting bringing down the immigration level to the tens of thousands. This is shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Speaking at another event, organised by UK’s National Union of Students (NUS), Bilimoria pointed out that the enormous benefits that talented overseas students brought to the UK were “not just a nice-tohave, but were a vital part of the British economy”. “Recent estimates put the annual value of selling British education to overseas students at £14billion,” he pointed out. In a hard-hitting speech, Bilimoria raised the issue of UK losing out in the race to attract talented students from India.

“In the rush for talent — the most important resource in our economy — we are swiftly falling behind. Take France. The government of Fran├žois Hollande has set itself the target of doubling the number of Indian students in its universities. And is busy snapping up the very students the Home Office is driving away,” he said. Adding that at a recent lecture in London, Australian education minister Christopher Pyne had said that he wanted to thank Britain for its immigration policies because they had driven so many students to Australia’s universities.

According to a report by The Russell group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, intakes of post-graduate students from India at its institutions dropped by 21% in 2011-12, with a further drop of 18% in 2012-13. Lord Bilimoria, who is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, expressed his concern over the 25% fall in the number of Indian students applying to UK universities last year, pointing out statistics gathered by NUS which show that 51% of international students in the UK find the government to be unwelcoming.

One of Lord Bilimoria’s recommendations to the British government is removing student figures from the total immigration figures to send out a clear message that UK did not include them in the government’s “madcap immigration cap target”. “Secondly, a system in which everyone’s passports will be scanned in and out of the country, at all ports of entry, should be introduced as soon as possible and the government should bring back the post-student work visa,” he said. Lord Bilimoria was also critical of the additional National Health Service charge of £150 per year per student proposed to be introduced. “The proposed NHS fees are unwelcoming.

As a former foreign student in this country, I know how expensive it is to study here. The average international student will spend something in the region of £75,000 during a three-year degree programme.”
Even as the number of Indian students choosing UK as a destination for higher education falls, other overseas destinations are gaining an advantage. “While it is still difficult to quantify this in terms of percentages, other countries have gained on the reducing popularity of UK as an education destination.

Developed higher education destinations such as the US, Continental Europe and Singapore have seen some clear gains as expected and new destinations have come to the forefront,” said Rohan Ganeriwala, co-founder, Collegify, consultants for overseas education. Some of the new destinations for Indian students include Malaysia, Japan, Spain, Russia and Korea. “Indian students do not feel welcome to the UK due to the strict visa regime. An atmosphere of negativity has been created and students question the post education employment prospects available to them.

Following the withdrawal of the post-study work visa and tightening of corporates with regard to hiring non EU students as interns/trainees/analysts, post graduate applications from India alone have witnessed a 50% drop since 2013,” Ganeriwala added.

According to Nilufer Jain, cofounder, EduCat, an overseas education consulting firm for medical studies, the UK government should consider steps to open up employability options for international students to repair some of the damage that has been done.

(This article is written by Ishani Duttagupta.)

Source: The Economic Times, March 9, 2015
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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

IITs and IIMs to offer online courses

Premier institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are planning to go the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) way, in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi planning an ambitious launch of the Swayam Bharat programme.

While IIT-Bombay and IIM-Bangalore have already announced the launch of MOOCs with overseas partners, IIM-Calcutta could be next in line, with the institute submitting a proposal to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD). IIT-Kanpur is developing its own platform for MOOCs called MOOKIT, which might soon start competing with popular international MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera.

"MOOCs and  online delivery is clearly the future," says IIM-C Director Saibal Chattopadhyay. IIT-B is currently trying out two courses, the basic computer programming course for undergraduates and a thermodynamics course, in the MOOCs mode. "More are planned. There have been multiple meetings with MHRD and IIT Bombay expects to be a very active partner in the government's initiative," says Narayan Rangaraj, Dean — Academic Programmes.

Apart from working on MOOKIT that will help delivering the MOOCs, IIT-Kanpur is also engaged in developing MOOCs around verticals like agriculture and computer science, says TV Prabhakar, professor at the institute. IIT-Kanpur has just wrapped up its MOOC on MOOCs programme where over 2,300 students participated and is currently offering two more MOOC programmes. It is also running a 'MOOC on Mobiles'. The interest in MOOCs among premier institutions is being attributed to a heightened interest in online education by the new government.

"It is a clear mandate from the government as in the last Budget, Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) was allocated to online education for MOOCs and virtual classrooms," says Rohin Kapoor, Senior Manager (Education Practice) at Deloitte. MOOCs might also help achieve the target of training 500 million people by 2022, he adds.

IIM-Bangalore is planning to launch courses on the edX platform in 2015. The institute is also planning to engage around 15 per cent of its faculty to deliver MOOCs over the next two years, according to its director, Sushil Vachani. IIM-Indore and IIT-Gandhinagar have been running broadband distance learning programmes and are now keen on running some courses on the MOOC platform. "We are looking forward to the creation of a MOOCs platform by MHRD, and plan to use it," says IIM-Indore's Director Rishikesha Krishnan. IIT-Patna is planning to start flipped classrooms wherein a student can study material on MOOCs and then attend a live class anywhere in the country.

"Only to some extent do MOOCs bridge the skills gap, since it's a one-way communication. However, it can be successful in a flipped model as it will enhance learning and build a platform for collaborative discussions," says Ajai Chowdhry, founder of HCL, who also teaches at IIT-Patna. Like IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Kharagpur too is working on solutions around MOOCs. It is developing automatic programmes to grade assignments in MOOC programmes. "We are also working on 'learning analytics', which will help us track the students' pattern of learning. Both these programmes should make MOOCs more interactive," says Plaban Kumar Bhowmick, assistant professor at IIT-Kharagpur's Centre for Educational Technology.

Working on MOOCs, NPTEL, which is closely working with IIT-Madras, launched its first course on programming algorithms and data structures this year and will be launching eight new courses in January including humanities. "We've also introduced the element of proctored examinations wherein students who get 50 per cent in their online examinations are eligible to sit for an exam at our centres all over the country," says Prathap Haridoss, NPTEL coordinator and professor at IIT-Madras. NPTEL provides an online certification at the end of the exam, where IIT representatives act as invigilators.

IIT-Guwahati (IIT-G) has proposed two courses for the Swayam Bharat Platform (managed by IIT-B). IIT-G is also partnering with IIT-M for NPTEL MOOCs. It has participated in the two courses already conducted by IIT-M under NPTEL.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 9, 2014
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Saturday, December 06, 2014

IITs face 37% faculty shortage: Study

Here's some unpalatable truth for a nation dreaming to set up a string of new-age technology institutes: over 37% of the faculty posts in the existing 16 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are vacant. 

According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) in September 2014, only IIT-Gandhinagar has 99% of the sanctioned faculty members working. TOI accessed the data about faculty in the country's premier institutes.

The 16 IITs in the country have 4,308 faculty members against the sanctioned strength of 6,944. IIT-Kharagpur, long considered an ace, reports a 46% shortage. The overall student-faculty ratio stands at 16:1. 

As part of its election promise, the BJP had planned to establish IITs, IIITs (Indian Institutes of Information Technology) and NITs (National Institutes of Technology) across the country. In November, the NDA government announced setting up of IITs in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Chhattisgarh and Jammu. Before moving ahead with the plan, the government needs to tackle the faculty shortage immediately.

Going by the faculty matrix in the existing IITs, the Union government will need 100 faculty members per 1,000 students in the new institutes. Assuming each of the five new institutes gets about 200 students, then the government has to hire 100 faculty members.

On November 21, a group of academicians led by Bharat Ratna Prof C N R Rao met at IISc, Bengaluru, to discuss the science education roadmap. At the meeting, many experts pointed out that the inability of premier institutes to attract quality teachers was impeding the efforts to enhance the quality of education. 

Hyderabad University vice-chancellor Prof Ramakrishna Ramaswamy said: "We're failing to replace teachers who are retiring or resigning even in places like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), IITs or some other top institutes." 

Echoing the view, Prof Rao said: "The problem has to be viewed holistically. It needs immediate attention." IIIT-Bangalore Director Prof S Sadagopan said: "Having a good faculty is crucial. Given the opportunities in other sectors and abroad, finding a good faculty is difficult."

The situation in IIITs is equally bad with a student-faculty ratio of 29:1. IIITs in Allahabad, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Kancheepuram have a sanctioned strength of 282, but only 166 faculty members are working — a shortage of nearly 42%. An IIIT is proposed to be set up in Hubballi.

The 30 NITs across the country, too, are facing a shortage of 28%. The sanctioned strength is 6,467, but only 4,667 faculty members are working.

Source: The Times of India, December 6, 2014
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Friday, December 05, 2014

India's Labour Ministry plans Vocational University

The Union Ministry of Labour plans to open a first-of-its-kind national vocational university that will subsume all Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), seeking to improve standards and bring uniformity among the schools that supply workers to the manufacturing sector. All 11,500 ITIs and hundreds of similar training schools overseen by the labour ministry will come under the proposed National Workers Vocational University, Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya said after a meeting of the ministry in New Delhi on Thursday. 

“It will be an umbrella body,” said the minister, adding that the renewed thrust on skill education in the country had necessitated the need for such an initiative. The university may come up in the next six months in Telengana, home state of the labour minister. The initiative is a part of the government’s effort to boost manufacturing’s share in the economic output of India, and support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make In India campaign aimed at attracting greater foreign investment flows and creating jobs. Manufacturing’s share of gross domestic product has stagnated at around 15% for many years now.

Officials in the ministry said ITIs and Advanced Training Institutes (ATIs), run by both private and government entities, follow some basic rules set by the Directorate General of Employment and Training (DGE&T), but efforts to monitor them and improve quality standards have been lacking. The dwindling standard of ITIs and lack of collaboration between such schools and industry have created the need for an overarching body to oversee them. “Once a university is in place, programme implementation, upgradation and monitoring of such training schools will get streamlined. This university, once in place, can also be a facilitator for providing required apprentices to industries,” a labour ministry official said on condition of anonymity. 

Lack of trained workers is seen as one of the main obstacles in improving the competitive edge of India’s manufacturing sector. “To boost manufacturing and aid PM’s Make In India mission, skill is very important. Less than 8% of our workers are skill-trained, and through new initiatives we are trying to improve this. Eventually, it will lead to better employment generation,” Dattatreya said. The initiative also means the labour ministry will continue to manage the ITIs, which had been facing the prospect of being taken over by the new skill and entrepreneurship ministry. 

“Skill is a huge sector and we don’t have any issue with the skill ministry. But we believe that ITIs should stay with labour ministry as is the case for decades,” the labour ministry official said. Opening a vocational university may be a good starting point to reform ITIs, said T. Muralidharan, Executive Chairman of the TMI Group, a human resource and skill-training company. “But supply-side reform is less important than demand-side reform,” he said. “It means authorities have to keep in mind that supply of trained manpower has to be in sync with industry demand, else it will only lead to further unemployment.” In India, the graduate unemployment rate in the 15-29 age group is 33%, according to official data. 

Germany will hand-hold the labour ministry in its effort to open the vocational university, ministry officials said after a meeting with German ambassador Michael Steiner. The labour ministry said in a statement that other than the university, the ambassador and the minister discussed common areas of interest including the need for joint development of the curriculum for honing some core engineering skills and courses for apprentices.

Source: Mint, December 5, 2014
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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Times BRICS Rankings: Two Indian universities make it to top 40

There is great news for India's universities. For the first time, two new Indian entrants have jumped straight into the top 40 of second annual Times Higher Education (THE) BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings. Also, 11 other Indian universities have made it to the top 100 rankings. Around 18 countries are featured in 2015 rankings released today.

Around 15 universities - from Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey - have entered the tables for the first time. China has cemented its dominance among the emerging economies, retaining the top two places and increasing its representation among the top-100 institutions to 27, up from 23 last year.

India has increased its representation with 11 of the top-100 places, up from 10 last year and it has a new national leader - Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 25th place and the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) in 37th place.

Phil Baty, Editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, said "India is starting to show its potential in these rankings, increasing its overall representation in this new top-100 list to 11, from 10 last year. Only China and Taiwan have more top-100 institutions than India, which remains ahead of Russia and Brazil among the giant developing economies. But this improved showing is partly due to the fact that more Indian institutions have recognised the benefits of being part of the rankings process, and more are sharing their data with Times Higher Education".

"Several Indian institutions have actually lost ground compared with last year. So there is clearly no room for any complacency. The good news is that by engaging with the global rankings and sharing performance data to benchmark themselves against the tough global standards set by Times Higher Education, India's leading institutions have shown a hunger for further development and for sharing best practice. If this is backed by a government-led commitment to support India's top universities to compete on the global stage, with sufficient funding and reforms, there would be plenty of room for optimism."

It must be noted here that Panjab University, which topped the India charts last year at No 13 overall, has slipped in the top 100 list to 39th place this year. Most of the other institutes - with the exception of IIT Madras - have also moved down the list as compared to last year.

The Rankings have been given after accessing all aspects of the modern university's core missions (teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook).

China retains the top two positions (Peking University followed by Tsinghua University) in the rankings. Fudan University follows Peking and Tsinghua, taking ninth place, while University of Science and Technology of China loses its top-10 position, moving into joint 11th place.

Russia has seen a dramatic improvement in its standing - increasing its representatives in the top 100 from just two last year to seven this year, and seeing its number one university, Moscow State University, moving from 10th to 5th.

Some 22 countries classified as emerging economies by FTSE have been analysed for ranking purposes. The methodology of the 2015 BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings is slightly different from the methodology used last time to better reflect the characteristics and development needs of a university in the emerging economies. The weightage to "research influence", judged by publication citations, has been reduced from 30% in the world rankings, to 20%. The weightage for "industry income -innovation" has been increased from 2.5% to 10%, while for "international outlook", it has been increased from 7.5% to 10%.

Sources: The Economic Times & The Times of India, December 4, 2014
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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Nursing degrees from four Indian bodies valid in Singapore

Singapore has agreed to recognise degrees from four nursing institutions in India, a development that comes after nearly a decade of intense negotiations between the two countries and promises to widen overseas employment opportunities for Indian nurses.

India is close to signing a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) for nurses with Singapore under the comprehensive free trade pact signed in 2005, even as talks continue with other FTA partners such as Japan and Korea, officials said.

Nursing degrees awarded by Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Manipal College of Nursing, Christian Medical College (Vellore) and College of Nursing, Trivandrum will be recognised by the Southeast Asian nation, one of the officials said.

"Singapore has agreed to recognise degrees four of our institutes. Just a few more approvals are required for the MRA to be finally inked. This will open avenues for our nurses to go and practise in Singapore at competitive packages," said the official, requesting anonymity.

The MRA for nursing with Singapore had met a roadblock after the Indian Nursing Council (INC) insisted that every nurse trained at any of the country's recognised institutions should be eligible to practise in Singapore. "The idea is to start with some and then scale them up," said the official.

The MRA is aimed at enabling professionals in India and Singapore to offer services in each other's territory as the pact will give recognition to their degrees in both the countries. It will open up a safer avenue for Indian nurses, who also end up in countries like Iraq facing severe security threats. In July, 46 Indian nurses were rescued by the government.

India and Singapore had signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) in 2005, cutting customs duties on goods, but progress is still awaited on movement of professionals. The government is also negotiating MRAs for other professions including chartered accountancy, architecture, medicine and dentistry with Singapore.

India is making efforts to expand the scope of its services exports, beyond information technology. Services sector is a primary driver of the Indian economy, clocking exports of $151 billion in 2013-14 compared to $312 billion worth of merchandise shipments.

Although India has similar comprehensive pacts with Japan and South Korea, there has been no progress on the services front with these countries. "It is a challenge, it require reforms before it can happen. Services trade is a slow process," the official added.

Experts hailed the progress in agreement on nursing. "If the government has reached till here, it is a big positive step in the right direction. Let us be clear that singing an MRA is not easy and requires synergy of standards and matching of qualification, which requires a lot of goodwill," said Arpita Mukherjee, professor, ICRIER. "It will be very good for the nurses and it may also lead to easier access of Indian nurses to other Western nations with which Singapore has an MRA, like the United States," she said.

Source: The Economic Times, December 3, 2014
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Monday, December 01, 2014

Indian MOOC for a global platform

US-based educational technology company Coursera, which offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) from various universities, has partnered with an Indian B-school, making it its first partner institution in India and 115th worldwide. 

Under the partnership agreement, Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) is going to offer online content globally on the Coursera platform. The B-school's first course in this initiative is going to be on `A Life of Happiness and ulfilment.' 

"ISB will work in a similar way as other universities," said Richard Levin, CEO, Coursera, during a visit to Delhi. "It gets to choose what content it wishes to put on the platform. Its professors and resources are used to produce the course and we distribute that."

The company boasts of the largest number of users of e-courses in the world, including 800,000 enrolees in India accounting for 8% of its total enrolment.Overall, their favourite courses are in computer science and business. 

Indian learners are young, mostly teenagers and those in their 20s, unlike their international counterparts whose median age is 30+. Most of them look for courses with job-oriented skills.

About 5-6% of Coursera learners eventually complete a course. Of these, 20-30% go on to earn a certification 10 courses are now available on-demand as opposed to those which are offered as per a schedule. Also, four, six or eight courses related to each other on offer.

Source: The Times of India, December 1, 2014
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

MIT offered help, not IISc

Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy said it was disappointing that Indian universities do not work with domestic industry the way global ones do.

"Today, the software industry brings $40 billion to the city (Bengaluru) and we have Indian Institute of Science ( IISc) which is hardly about 12 kms away...None of them bothered to come to any of the Indian companies. On the other hand, the president of MIT, Cornell, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, name it and they all came to us saying what problems of yours can we solve," Murthy said at the Commonwealth Science Conference in Bengaluru on Wednesday. He was responding to a question from a delegate on collaboration with researchers in the area of software development. 

He, however, said that things had improved after IISc's former Director P Balaram accelerated collaborative research efforts between academia and industry. "In fairness, I must say, Balaram was convinced about the need for this. Therefore, we have now created an ecosystem where researchers in our higher education institutions are interested in solving problems of this industry," he said.

Murthy highlighted many of the software industry's contributions to the country. He noted that the industry had replaced the public sector as the largest job creator in the country. The job creation in turn, he said, created a "positive spiral" in the economy. 

"The software industry in India employs about 3.2 million professionals and adds about two hundred thousand jobs every year," he said. Murthy said the top IT companies had created more high disposable income based jobs in India than any other company had done in the last hundred years.

He said it was thanks to the software industry that India had a strong balance of payments position in spite of oil prices rising. "And wherever you go in the developed world there is a new respect for India thanks to the software industry," he said.

Source: The Times of India, November 27, 2014
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Monday, November 24, 2014

British Council India Employability Survey 2014 - Foreign degree holders better skilled for jobs

Functioning in an increasingly globalised environment, many companies feel that foreign degree holders have better technical skills for jobs compared to Indian university graduates, says a latest survey. As per British Council's 'India Employability Survey 2014', as much as 39 per cent of the companies in India said that foreign university graduates are better prepared for the jobs than those from Indian ones.

Further, the survey conducted in 200 Indian and foreign companies in the country found that 41 per cent have hired at least one foreign university graduate in the last two years.

Sector-wise, consumer goods (60 per cent), services (52.2 per cent), infrastructure, telecom and energy (50 per cent) firms are the most likely to have hired at least one candidate with a foreign degree. Industrial (34.5 per cent) and IT (35.7 per cent) firms are the least likely to hire foreign degree graduates, the survey said.

"As organisations strive to compete and drive business growth in an increasingly global marketplace, they place significant importance on international education in talent they recruit," British Council India Director Rob Lynes said. "Hiring foreign university graduates is an integral part of talent plan for a large per centage of firms," Lynes added.

About 41 per cent of companies surveyed prefer to hire graduates from American universities, while 25.8 per cent do so for universities in the United Kingdom.

Subject-knowledge related to the job was ranked the most important skill by the companies. This was followed by communication skills, the ability to apply one's knowledge to solve real-world issues and critical thinking skills. Inter-personal skills, the ability to work with diverse groups of people, leadership experience and the ability or willingness to work hard, were placed lower down the order.

"Foreign-degree holders appear to be more disposed towards having strong 'technical' skills critical thinking, the ability to use knowledge to solve real world problems," Lynes said. On the other hand, Indian university graduates were found to be relatively stronger on the 'soft' skills, such as working with diverse groups of people, and interpersonal skills, he added.

"While the US leads the way on almost every major skill, the UK is a clear second in terms of communication and inter-personal skills and Germany came close to second along with the UK in most other arenas," Lynes noted.

Source: The Times of India, November 24, 2014
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Maharashtra home to most accredited colleges, second highest number of certified varsities

Nearly 85% of the 34,852 colleges in the country have not gone through the mandatory assessment process by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), and over one-third of the 642 universities (71%) remain unaccredited.

The lack of quality check in a majority of institutes of higher education has been revealed in the latest Deloitte report on the annual status of higher education in states and union territories. For Maharashtra, however, the situation is much better as it has the highest number of accredited colleges in the country, followed by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The state also has the distinction of most numbers of accredited universities, second only to Tamil Nadu. Though Tamil Nadu has 27 accredited universities, the highest in numbers, percentage wise, it is next to Maharashtra.

According to the report, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Assam are the top three states in terms of percentage of universities accredited at 52, 46 and 44 respectively. Jharkhand, Haryana and Bihar are at the bottom with 8%, 14% and 15% respectively. Similarly, Assam, Punjab and Haryana are the top three states when it comes to percentage of colleges accredited at 67, 61 and 57 respectively, while Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar are the bottom three.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has made it mandatory for all colleges and varsities to go in for accreditation for grants. Rohin Kapoor, Senior Manager of Deloitte India, said the sheer number of institutes in the country makes it difficult for the agency to carry out assessment. "There are close to 35,000 institutes and 650 universities in the country. The numbers go up every year," said Kapoor. "Since it is mandatory now, many colleges have been submitting their assessment reports. It will take time for the agency to process all. The government should allow private agencies to assist NAAC. The policies should encourage a public-private partnership model for evaluating institutes in the country," he said.

Kapoor added that the data used from the website NAAC (2011-12) was the latest from the government available for the study. Many colleges have gone for accreditation post 2011-12, but the number of new institutes has also jumped in the last three years. Around 570 colleges went in for accreditation in 2012, 687 in 2013 and 517 in 2014 till date.

H. Devaraj, Vice-Chairman of UGC, said, "The UGC has sanctioned 25 new posts at NAAC, which is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Once that is done, the staff strength will go up to 50. The NAAC is also planning to set up six to seven regional centres that will be equipped to grant accreditation to colleges/universities. The increase in the number of staff will help clearing backlog and expedite the process." He predicted the number will improve in the next two years.

"Most of the unaided colleges affiliated to the Mumbai University are the usual defaulters as they do not have approved staff and their infrastructure is not in place," said M A Khan, Registrar, Mumbai University. The most important parameter for accreditation is to have approved faculty on board, which institutes lack, he added. The MU has recently attached all the benefits granted to colleges to their accredited status. "We allow colleges to increase divisions, seats, or to set up a new course if they are accredited or have applied for re-accreditation," said Khan.

Source: The Times of India, November 24, 2014
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