Saturday, May 02, 2015

Soon, India to have own ranking system

India is set to evolve its own system of ranking of higher educational institutions. Designed with the Indian situation in mind, the new system will stress on outcomes and that ranking of institutions should not be confused with accreditation that is already being done by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

Late last month, senior MHRD officials, directors of IITs, IIMs, NITs and representatives of top industry bodies CII and FICCI met to work out the ranking system. "We have got six groupings of outcomes on which institutions will be ranked," a senior HRD official said.

These will be academic performance, teaching-learning, learning resources, graduation outcome, global MoUs and impact/innovation done by institutions. Ranking for science, engineering, liberal arts, social sciences, medicine, law and business administration will be done differently. IITs, IIMs, School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have been asked to look into outcomes again.

Though the weightage for each of the six outcomes will be finalized in the last meeting of the core team, a senior MHRD official said, "It will be markedly different from ranking system followed internationally." "For instance, Times Higher Education gives 30% to citations, QS Ranking gives 40% to academic reputation and ARW Ranking system gives 30% to alumni award/faculty award," he said.

In the new Indian ranking system, he said, weightage on a factor like 'perception of an institute' will be less. "We do not have too many higher educational institutions that can be on top merely on the basis of perception. In case higher weightage is given to perception factor, few good ones will permanently occupy the top slot," he said.

Instead, more weightage will be given to teaching/learning, graduation outcomes and research. Each of the six groupings consists of various sub-factors. For instance, in case of graduation outcome, sub-factors that will be looked are employment level, percentage of the self-employed, percentage of those pursuing higher education and those who are unemployed.

The official said it also needs to be sorted out how frequently rankings will be done. "Most likely it will be once in two years. We will also finalize if a new body is needed to carry out the ranking," he said. CII has offered to do the ranking.

Source: The Times of India, May 2, 2015
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

UGC taking action against blacklisted universities

The Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani has stated in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament) that the University Grants Commission (UGC) is making efforts in dealing with the issue of fake universities. The UGC has identified 21 fake universities across the country. These universities are carrying out their functions in violation of the UGC Act, 1956.

According to investigations by the UGC, these 21 universities are running several undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which are not accredited from either the state, central, UGC or any other authority capable of granting accreditation. These institutions do not have the capacity to award any degrees.

In her communication to the Rajya Sabha, Smriti Irani has mentioned the steps taken by the UGC in order to resolve the problem of fake universities in different parts of the country.

  • The UGC has published a list of fake universities on its website
  • It has informed all the unrecognized universities that any misleading advertisements by them will lead to legal action under the IPC (Indian Penal Code)and UGC Act and others. Few cases against the unapproved universities have already been filed by the UGC
  • The UGC will defend the cases against fake universities in the courts. However, any action against such universities can only be taken by the state governments and local authorities
  • The UGC has sent notices to the heads of these universities, asking them to close down the universities with immediate effect. It has also sent reminder letters to the education secretaries of states for taking action against the unrecognised universities
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had rejected the UGC proposal to clear 34 out of 44 deemed universities from the blacklist.

These 44 universities had been blacklisted in 2009, by the Tandon Committee set up under the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal. The committee found that these universities were lacking in the quality of education as well as the infrastructure that they provided. It said that they are unfit for recognition and awarding degrees. Only three out of these 44 universities voluntarily surrendered their deemed status and established themselves as institutes. The remaining varsities, however, moved court against the committee's report.

Recently, UGC also prepared its reports regarding the conditions of the remaining 41 universities. And according to its investigations 34 out of the 41 universities deserve to hold the deemed status.

As both the reports had inspected, the universities based on different parameters and the results of both commissions are entirely different, a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra had ordered the HRD Ministry to find out the validity of the two reports; and formulate uniform guidelines for conducting such inspections.

Source: India Today Live, April 30, 2015
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DU, JNU, IITs make it to global top 100 list

Indian universities might struggle to make the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings list, but their individual departments are amongst the best in the world. Delhi University tops the list, achieving the highest rank of all 20 Indian universities that have made the cut, while being placed 17th globally on the development studies subject table.

Nine Indian institutions are listed in the top 100 within nine disciplines. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 published on Wednesday, India has secured 107 places across the 36 subject tables, including the six new disciplines for 2015—architecture, arts and design, business studies, dentistry, development studies and veterinary science.

IIT-Bombay is the most prevalent Indian institute, appearing in the top 100 for eight subjects. IIT-Delhi too has five of its departments in the top 100 while Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) figures on one subject list. "This is a reflection of the progress made by Delhi University in four years. Rankings have improved in several disciplines. If we can keep up the momentum, we would be placed even higher next year," Malay Neerav, media coordinator, DU, said.

Within the inclusion of the new subject of art and design, Shanmugha Arts Science Technology and Research Academy, Thanjavur, has been placed in the top 100, while Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has made it for materials science and electrical and electronic engineering. From Delhi, IIT also appears in the top 100 for civil and structural engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical aeronautical and manufacturing engineering and computer science and information system.

However, in business and management studies, none of the B-schools could make it into the top 100. The top ranks in this subject table are shared by IIM-Ahmedabad, IIM-Bangalore and IIT-Delhi.

Source: The Times of India, April 30, 2015
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Friday, April 10, 2015

AICTE denies approval to 588 colleges

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has denied 588 technical institutions across the country approval to run various programmes. Bad infrastructure, shortage of faculty and poor academic performance are the main reasons, people involved in the approval process said. Thirty one of these institutions are in Tamil Nadu.

Technical institutions across the country, including engineering, polytechnic, management and pharmacy colleges, have to apply for approval from the AICTE every year. The colleges have to upload the details on a portal, which will be verified by the apex body. The approval is mandatory for technical institutions to commence a new academic year.

When technical institutions sought approval for their courses for the academic year 2015-16, the AICTE found that 588 institutions did not satisfy the norms. "This is a routine process and every institution is expected to upload relevant documents and records while applying for approval. If documents pertaining to any norm are not available or not satisfactory, the application is rejected," an AICTE official said.

When asked about the reasons, the official said most institutions did not satisfy the infrastructure norms or were short on faculty. "From 2011-12 to 2014-15, many institutions have applied for an increase in intake. We have found problems like shortage of faculty and lack of enough classrooms and laboratories in many of the colleges," the official said.

Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 107 institutions being denied approval, followed by Maharashtra with 88. States like Haryana, an emerging engineering destination in the country, has 32 institutions that have been denied approval for the academic year 2015-16. Tamil Nadu, the state with the highest number of technical institutions in the country, has 31 institutions that have been denied approval.

Principal of one of the 31 colleges in Tamil Nadu that have been denied approval said, "The demand for the course was depleting, and last year we had applied to reduce the intake. This year we have asked the AICTE to scrap the department itself."

While there are some top institutions on the list, experts say it is because one of their courses has been denied approval. "There are two good colleges on the list. In each, one course did not satisfy the norms, but they are among the top 20 institutions in the state," said a professor of a private engineering college.

Educational consultant J P Gandhi said, "It is not only the college infrastructure and faculty shortage that matter. Performance of faculty, recruitment of fresh faculty, implementation of biometric attendance system for faculty and research activities are also considered. Some institutions think if they have the required number of teachers it is enough. But, AICTE now looks at yearly performance too."

Experts say this is an indication of AICTE's attempts to improve quality in engineering education. "This is good move from the AICTE. In January this year, they made a rule that colleges can apply for an increase in intake only in courses accredited by NBA. Now, a strict verification of documents shows their intent on maintaining quality," said educational consultant Moorthy Selvakumar.

Source: The Times of India, April 10, 2015
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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

India among top nations for MBA aspirants

For those who pursue graduate management education globally, foreign universities top the preference list. While the US remains the most sought-after destination, India is among the top five, show the findings of the Graduate Management Admission Council's Prospective Students Survey.

According to the survey - it explored the motivations, behaviours, programme choices, and intended career outcomes shared by nearly 12,000 individuals across 30 countries who registered on from October 2013 through September 2014 - prospective students can be segmented into three groups based on career goals: career enhancers (34% of survey respondents), career switchers (38%) and aspiring entrepreneurs (28%). Around 28% of survey respondents indicated they plan to start their own businesses, compared with 19% five years ago.

Respondents in Africa (45%), Latin America (44%) and Central and South Asia including India (43%) led this segment. Contrary to popular belief, when students listed their top five consideration criteria for selecting a programme and study destination, rankings didn't count. More than half the prospective students (52%) sought to study outside their country of citizenship, up from 40% in 2010.

This growing preference for international study is most notable among citizens of Asia-Pacific (94% in 2014, up from 88% in 2010) and the Middle East (72% in 2014 vs 58% in 2010). The top 10 preferred study destinations are the US, UK, Canada, France, India, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, the Netherlands and Australia. While 53% Indians preferred studying in the US, 21% and 7% showed inclination towards India and the UK, respectively.

The US remains the top international study destination for two-thirds of prospective students across the globe; however, this is a decrease from 73% in 2010. Among the other top locations, 6% wanted to study in the UK, 5% in Canada, 3% each in France and India, 2% each in Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, the Netherlands and 1% in Australia.

Between 2010 and 2014, the locations that experienced the greatest increase in interest by prospective students were Hong Kong (+2.4% points), Canada (+1.0% points), Germany (+1.0% points), the Netherlands (+0.7% points), France (+0.7% points), the UK (+0.6% points) and Australia (+0.6% points).

Gauging the interest of prospective students across more than 25 MBA and specialised business master's program options, 26% of today's candidates are considering both degree types.

MBA programs are exclusively considered by half (52%), globally. Among these students, the programmes as per their preference are: full-time two-year MBA (32%), full-time one-year MBA (27%), part-time MBA (15%), flexible MBA (7%), online MBA (6%), executive MBA (6%) and joint degree programme with MBA (3%). Specialised business master's programmes are exclusively considered by 22% of prospective students, globally.

Source: The Economic Times, April 7, 2015
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Monday, April 06, 2015

Government portal for facilitating vocational training launched

The government today launched the web portal of National Council on Vocational Training (NCVT), which aims to improve delivery of vocational training and benefit over two million students in a year. "This portal will facilitate over two million vocational training students every year. There are over 11,000 ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) in the country where over one million students get admission every year," a senior official said.

Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya while launching the portal said: "The labour ministry is taking all possible steps to prepare one crore (10 million) youth for employment by providing vocational training in 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17)." He said this portal is yet another step to scale up the infrastructure that can help realise the Prime Minister's Skill India mission. It will also significantly improve government's process efficiencies, increase transparency and reduce leakages and corruption by use of technology, he added.

On the occasion, the minister awarded first set of e-certificates generated from the portal for students who successfully completed training from various ITIs in the past but were awaiting certification from the NCVT. The Council has a huge backlog to clear. According to a Labour Ministry press release, about 160,000  pending e-certificates have been generated through the portal for already passed out trainees. The portal is expected to reduce waiting time from years to days for apprentice to get certificates. Besides, employers will also be able to cross check genuine candidates directly using the portal, it said.

While the Government schemes, delivery and performance can be monitored through his portal, the general public can also access details of various institutions in the country, courses offered and their uptake statistics, number of seats available, examination calendars, etc.

In its first phase, the NCVT-MIS portal has provided an e-governance mechanism for key Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGE&T) schemes such as the Craftsmen Training Scheme (CTS) and Apprentice Protsahan Yojana (Apprentice Encouragement Plan).

Data of about 1 million CTS candidates, who took admission across these ITIs in the country during the session starting August 14, are now available in the portal. The trainees can now print hall ticket, mark sheet and e-certificates from the portal themselves which will eliminate harassment in issuance of these documents and also drastically reduce the turnaround time in availability of these documents.

The employers will also be able to validate these e-certificates directly using the portal. Over 2 million certified trainees who were given paper based certificates can also be verified online, the Labour Ministry press release said.

In its second phase, at present under development, the platform will also provide modules for the centrally funded institutes. In the second phase, the portal will provide an integration with the National Career Service (NCS) portal of the DGE&T) to integrate the training services with employment and Aadhaar.

Wipro Infotech is the implementation agency for the project while National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) are the consultants to DGE&T for this project.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), April 6, 2015
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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

UGC a failure, must be scrapped: MHRD panel

One of the first committee set up by HRD minister Smriti Z. Irani to review the working of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has said that the regulator not only has "failed to fulfill its mandate but also has not been able to deal with emerging diverse complexities."

Headed by former UGC chairperson Hari Gautam, the committee has said any "reshaping or restructuring" of UGC "will be a futile" exercise and so will be amending the UGC Act. Therefore, it has recommended setting up of National Higher Education Authority through an act of Parliament. It has also prepared a draft of the bill but said that till the time such a body is set up, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) can bring about many changes through executive order.

For instance, it has suggested a national research aptitude test for admission to PhD and doing away with 10 years as professor criteria to become vice-chancellors. It has also emphasized teaching of yoga and transcendental meditation. Ministry sources said, "Recommendations are far-reaching and will be looked into seriously."

The two-volume report submitted to the ministry says UGC is "plagued in the main by reductionism in its functioning." The report also states, "It (UGC) has side-stepped its function of being a sentinel of excellence in education and embraced the relatively easier function of funding education." It has specifically pointed out that the UGC staff is unhappy as only "few find favour and are delegated with powers to perform in important areas while many of them are left out with hardly much to contribute."

"It is said that they are pushed around through an element of fear and threat. The overall impression is that there is a man-made crisis which seems to be cause of unhealthy ambience and poor performance of UGC," the report said, adding there should be pay parity with central government employees.

Advising reform from the top, the committee has said that UGC chairperson "should be advised to strictly keep a vigilant track of the various performance areas of the UGC and assess the contribution at all levels." It has recommended that chairperson should spend more time in his "seat" than go around the "country and the world on occasions that have not much relevance for the system he governs." In this regard, the committee has recommended that chairperson be held accountable and "his performance be assessed once after three years and then at the end of his tenure of five years by a committee constituted by MHRD."

As for members of the UGC, the committee said "all kinds of people have been appointed". Eminent educationists or men of eminence in any field should have been the natural choice but at times it is observed that businessmen, hotel owners and even readers in colleges" have been made members. The report has recommended that members be given more active role and asked to attend review meetings.

Pointing out various ills of functioning of UGC, the report said "working structure of UGC is so ad-hoc that many do not know how many bureaus represent various disciplines and activities are currently existing." The report has said regional offices of UGC and even Consortium of Educational Communication (CEC) have failed to deliver and are a waste of "good money and manpower."

Source: The Economic Times, April 1, 2015
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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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