Thursday, June 30, 2011

Home ministry blocks IIT foreign faculty move

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has stalled appointments of foreign teachers by Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), despite the nod of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) — the roadblock hitting plans to globalise faculty at the IITs. The IITs, India’s premier engineering schools, will now need to wait longer to hire foreign teachers even if they hold Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards that give them most economic rights available to Indian citizens.

Hiring even OCI card holders — as IIT, Delhi, was doing — is against the Citizenship Act of 1955, in the absence of a special government order, the home ministry has said, sources said. “It is a setback…and although we expect to sort this out within the government, it has embarrassed IIT, Delhi. It could also end up hurting all the other IITs since foreign faculty — already wary of Indian bureaucracy — may now rethink whether they want to come to the IITs,” a senior official said.

The concerns were raised at a recent meeting between IIT directors and senior MHRD officials, sources said. The MHRD will now approach the MHA and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to try and obtain an in-principle approval from them for the appointment of foreign faculty at the IITs, the sources added.

“Instead of case-by-case approvals, we want to try and get the MHA and the MEA agree to our plan as a general principle, to avoid repeated embarrassments of this nature,” a source said. HT was the first to report — on September 2, 2010 — the proposal by the IITs to allow them to hire foreign faculty on a permanent basis.

The IIT Council — the highest decision making body of the IITs — headed by HRD minister Kapil Sibal agreed to the proposal and decided to allow the Institutes to fill up to 10 % of their permanent teaching posts with foreign faculty. But early in 2011, the MEA raised the first of objections — refusing to liberalise visa norms to allow foreigners to hold permanent jobs in India. It however allowed faculty to be hired on a five-year contract which can be renewed.

Source: Hindustan Times, June 30, 2011
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Tech companies increase PhD hiring for R&D units

Internet giant Yahoo’s recent job notification cries out loud: "Scientists wanted". To meet its requirements in India, the company has even decided to launch a talent hunt with its Yahoo PhD Coop programme in collaboration with major Indian institutes. Yahoo said the programme will allow its employees to work full-time and do research under the guidance of institute faculty on topics of mutual interest.

"We make sure that PhD candidates who join us get to work in labs that are as good as developed countries and are given freedom in developing web products and services for internet users, globally. This programme has a lot of advantages — Yahoos can study full-time, even as they have unrestricted access to the company’s data sets and get stipend competitive with fellowships from the best global universities," said Rajeev Rastogi, Vice President and head of Yahoo Labs, Bangalore. Launched in 2008, the lab is part of Yahoo Labs network that develops innovative technology services and internet products.

Other multinationals like Intel, AMD, Applied Materials, IBM, Bell Labs, Microsoft and Google, among others, are also queing up to hire PhD scholars for their global research units located in India. AMD on its part, has been tapping the engineering colleges – Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata – for the last two years to meet its requirements.

AMD said with an in crease in architectural level work in India, PhDs are in demand. "AMD has doubled the PhD hiring and looking for more. The company usually hires PhDs as interns and grooms them accordingly. In some cases it gives funding to universities for research and faculty or PhD students work on research," said Shiva Gowni, Corporate Vice President (Design Engineering), AMD India.

Rastogi, who has published over 125 research papers, with 40 patents to his name, said: "We already have a Key Scientific Challenge (KSC) programme where the company provides US$ 5,000 unrestricted research seed fund to PhD students. Every year at least two Indian PhD students are selected for KSC, where participation comes from across the globe."

Even computer chip giant Intel is planning to increase the number of PhD recruitments in India from eight last year to a double-digit figure this year. Preethi Madappa, Senior HR of Intel said: "We have even launched a PhD programme for our employees in collaboration with IIT Kanpur. Further, to help retain the talent we hire, we ensure that they are given maximum exposure by allowing PhD candidates to work with Intel’s R&D centres in Israel and the US."

According to the IITs, traditionally, people have been pursuing PhDs to be in academics, but with the technology firms increasingly approaching the IITs and IISc, seeking talent for their R&D functions, more and more PhDs have seen this as an opportunity to earn better and join the corporate sector. "While you are working with companies, not only the motivation level is higher but there are multiple avenues for employment too," said the placement chairperson at one of the IITs.

According to industry experts, with companies paying anywhere between Rs. 600,000-800,000 per annum they are bound to be the preferred destination for many. IITs on the other hand, pay Rs. 300,000 per annum (there are however, benefits which are not monetised). Probably, this is why Applied Materials, service and equipment provider to panel display, semiconductor industry, ensures that when PhDs join them, they do so at a higher salary range and at a higher grade level compared to fresh graduates.

"We do give credit to the fact that they have worked on their thesis over the past two to three years and we do count that as work experience. Also, PhDs are always a targeted set of people that we go after. Our hiring manger identifies certain projects that the candidate will need to work on, projects that need the competency level of a PhD," said Abhay Singh, Director HR, Applied Materials. Applied Materials, which is building the India site as a research centre for the organisation, realised that it needs to begin tapping the higher education talent in India and hire PhDs almost two years ago.

At Bangalore-based Bell Labs, 70 per cent of the staff is PhD. Nurturing its own talent pool, the company also provides research internships to BTech, MS and PhD students regularly and also has a graduate student fellowship programme at IIT Delhi for PhD students.

IBM prefers hiring researchers for computer science and related areas. "PhD recruits who want to work on real-world problems leading to solutions that make a direct and measurable impact are hired by IBM for 12 years now," said Rangarajan VA, recruitment leader, IBM India. IBM runs student internship programmes and PhD Fellowships in India .

Companies like Microsoft allow its researchers to work closely with the academia on various research projects and teach courses at some of the premier research institutions in the country. "Speaking specifically of computer science field, the country currently produces less than 100 PhDs every year, which is just not enough to feed the demand that will be forthcoming from the industry as well as the fast growing education sectors," said Vidya Natampally, Director (Strategy), Microsoft Research India.

At present IITs produce around 1000 PhDs every year against the around 8000–9000 PhDs in engineering and technology scholars annually from the US and China.

Source: Business Standard, June 30, 2011
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120,000 MBA, B.Tech. seats likely to go vacant in Uttar Pradesh

Despite a significant rise in the number of engineering and management colleges in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the number of MBA and B.Tech. aspirants is on a decline. According to the Director of GCRG Memorial Trust, Vinod Shankar Pandey, there is an acute shortage of students this year. He said many new colleges lack infrastructure and have poor placement record and this could be the main reason the students are not interested in taking admission. Experts said this may also force some of the private engineering and management colleges to close down.

Sources in the education department said barely 50,000 students will appear for counseling for engineering and management courses, starting next week, but there are 170,000 seats available. Out of the 660 seats in the 11 management courses in Lucknow University, 223 seats remained vacant this year. Not a single student opted for the MBA courses in Agriculture Management and Rural Development.

According to officials, students who cleared the State Entrance Examination (SEE) and Management Admission Test (MAT) for admission in B.Tech. and MBA are opting for colleges in Noida, Ghaziabad and Meerut because of better placement records. The 600-odd management and engineering colleges in Uttar Pradesh are affiliated to either Gautam Buddha Technical University (GBTU) or Mahamaya Technical University (MTU). About 114,000 seats are available for B.Tech., while for MBA there are 33,600 seats and 965 for MCA. In B.Pharma. there are 8,250 seats available in UP colleges.

Source: Business Standard, June 30, 2011
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bombay Stock Exchange to train millions in financial skills

There is hope for skilled manpower-starved banks, financial services’ firms and insurance companies. The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) says it will train 6.5 million people in the next 10 years to work in the BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) sector, the largest employer in the Indian private sector.

BSE has been brought in by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a public-private partnership created by the Ministry of Finance in 2008, for the job. The pilot project, to include developing a complete work programme, is to begin next month.

NSDC is to extend a grant of Rs. 5 crore (Rs. 50 million) for the first three years to BSE for creating a pilot programme, said sources. BSE would set up at least 200 accredited training centres across the country. Each would train 3,250 people every year. The project will be carried out by BSE's training institute, which till now had been conducting certified courses in capital market studies.

According to a recent estimate by the Indian Banks' Association (IBA), public sector banks alone require at least 400,000 new employees in the next two years. For example, Bank of Baroda is looking to recruit 5,000 employees during the current financial year. India’s largest lender, State Bank of India, which hired 20,000 people last year, is planning to hire 10,000 more this year. Union Bank of India plans to hire 4,000 people.

Says a member of the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), "At present, public sector bank employees’ number almost a million but a large chunk of them will retire in the next two years." Last year, IBPS facilitated the recruitment of 48,000 employees in PSBs.

Madhu Kannan, CEO and Managing Director of BSE, said: "It is one of the most important social causes. The BFSI sector severely lacks skilled workers and there is a vacancy at every level. We will invite other exchanges, depositories, banks and insurance companies to work together and also invest money, if need be."

So far, NSDC has approved 36 projects, involving 30 companies and six sector skill councils (SSCs). It has committed funding of Rs. 1,016 crore (Rs. 10.16 billion) since February 2010 to train five million people. NSDC has identified 20 sectors to train 150 million people by 2022. The six sector skill councils are in the automotive segment, energy, retail, private security; media, entertainment and animation; and information technology and IT-enabled services. The SCCs are to create clear definition of qualifications required to perform a given job and to move into advanced positions.

Source: Business Standard, June 29, 2011
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Everonn to set up 1,000 test prep centres in three years

Education technology firm Everonn Education Ltd. on Tuesday said it will enter India's test preparation market and open about 1,000 centres, named Everonn World, in all districts in three years. "We will be investing around Rs. 400 crore (Rs. 4 billion), but much more investment will come from our franchise partners," said P. Kishore, Managing Director of the Chennai-based company.

While Everonn will provide the technology, faculty and content for the centres, the franchise partners will have to set up the infrastructure. In a large city such as Delhi, a big centre could incur an investment of Rs. 3 crore (Rs. 30 million).

"Everonn will introduce test preparation programmes for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Common Admission Test (CAT) of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)," said Manoj Chawla, President at Edupreneur, an Everonn subsidiary that promotes entrepreneurship in the education sector. "Besides, we will offer university programmes like MBA (master's in business administration) and BBA (bachelor's in business administration) in collaboration with Annamalai University and MS (Maharaja Sayajirao) University," he said.

Everonn also aims to offer coaching in various subjects to students in the US, the UK and Singapore on its satellite platform. "The test prep market is big in India, but it s quite competitive," said Bharat Gulia, Senior Manager (Education) at consulting firm Ernst & Young. "It would be interesting to see how the company will try to get a chunk of it."

India's test preparation market is worth US $ 1.7 billion ( Rs. 7,650 crore) and is growing at 16% a year, according to research firm and brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. A significant portion of this constitutes coaching for professional courses such as engineering and management.


"With about 500 million people aged below 25 years in the country, expenditure on education and test preparation will grow," said Kishore. The 24-year-old Everonn said its recent tie-up with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) will help its skill education segment and overall revenue grow faster. It plans to provide skill training 15 million people in the next 10 years.

Everonn already has an association with the CAT. Last year, the company entered a partnership with US-based test delivery firm Prometric Inc. to help the IIMs conduct the CAT on-line. Kishore said the arrangement will continue.

"Everonn is trying to integrate various verticals of education," said Gulia of Ernst and Young. "Perhaps they want to leverage technology, which is their main strength. I believe other players have not done that so far successfully."

Source: Mint, June 29, 2011
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Australia woos Indian students with scholarships

Ten scholars from India will be awarded 90,000 Australian dollars (about $94,400) each to pursue their PhDs from varsities in Australia's Victoria state starting 2012, the Australian High Commission said Tuesday.

The new Victoria-India Doctoral Scholarships Programme, launched by the state government of Victoria and the Australia India Institute, is among the several strategic engagement opportunities initiated by the Victorian government to woo Indian students.

The nine universities in the state have agreed to provide a full tuition waiver to Indian students, and the scholarships will support living costs and education-related travel. The scheme was launched here by the Australian High Commissioner Peter Varghese and Amitabh Mattoo, Director of the Australia India Institute, Melbourne, along with Victoria's Commissioner to India Geoffrey Conaghan.

"This generous scholarship is a great opportunity for some of India's smartest researchers to pursue their doctoral studies at Victoria's universities," Varghese said. "The academic communities of India and Australia are working more closely together than ever before," he added.

"The scholarships will contribute to global knowledge and help build a closer partnership between India and Australia," said Louise Asher, Victoria's minister for innovation, services, small business, tourism and major events. Asher said that Victoria attracts quality students from around the world because of its strong infrastructure and internationally-known researchers and teachers.


Speaking at the launch, Mattoo said: "This was a singularly important step by the Victorian government to build a real partnership with India."

The universities are Deakin University, La Trobe University , Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, Australian Catholic University, The University of Melbourne, University of Ballarat and Victoria University.


The move was seen to be aimed to woo back Indian students after the spate of racial attacks had dealt a blow to the number of students going to Australia.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 28, 2011
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Monday, June 27, 2011

IGNOU Community College set to empower youth

The community college at Manesar is set to empower the youth by providing them with access to skill-oriented education. The community college at Manesar is established by an autonomous society jointly created by the Technical Education Department of the Haryana government and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice-Chancellor, IGNOU, says, "The aim of starting this college is to provide skill development among the youth and skill upgradation of workers, particularly in the unorganised sector in the state of Haryana."

The Haryana government and IGNOU saw Manesar as the ideal place to start such an initiative for several reasons. It is a fast growing industrial township. More than 125,000 people go to work in Manesar from adjoining places. It is in the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor project and many of the government-sponsored mega industrial development projects are in Manesar.

Besides, it has many factories, offices, hotels and educational institutes. Manesar houses the headquarters of many institutes of national importance like the National Security Guards and its large training establishment, and the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC). The township has a conglomeration of small and medium-size industries, big corporate centres and dozens of manufacturing and production units - Indian and multinational.

Community colleges require strong partnerships with such industrial and training units. Apprenticeship, work-integrated learning and on-thejob-training are integral parts of the IGNOU Community College system. The proximity of the top class facility of the Manesar Polytechnic and its teaching and training faculty add value to the entire proposal for the Haryana-IGNOU Community College at Manesar.

In India less than 5% of the total workforce has some sort of a skill certification. This is in contrast to over 90% in developed countries. Around 500 million youth will need new skill opportunities by 2022. As of now, not even 30% of our educated youth are employable because they don't possess the skill-set required for the industry or the social sector.

The courses that will be provided will include IT, automobile production, textiles, security operations, soft skills, tourism and hospitality management, culinary arts, food preservation and technology, pharmaceuticals sales and management and in the area of paramedical sciences.

"A few industries have already come forward, and we are in dialogue with some of the major hospitals for paramedical areas. The course will be in the modular format, starting with certificate, diploma, advanced diploma and associate degree, respectively for courses ranging from six months to 24 months. The curriculum and content of the core courses will be supplemented with training and content from the partner industry according to the requirements," says Pillai.

There will be a full-time principal for the Community College and one full-time teacher for each of the courses. All the other teachers and trainers for each of the course will be part-time, contract staff adjunct teachers and trainers. IGNOU is also providing training for teachers in community colleges. Talking about the infrastructure, Pillai says, "We have a building with classroom facilities. Lab and training facilities are being built jointly with participating industries. As of now there is no hostel accommodation. The classes will be in shifts starting from 8 am till 8 pm."

Courses will be available for students who have completed their class XII. For working professionals and school drop-outs a preparatory bridge course of six months has been designed to make them eligible for entry into the degree programme, for the community college programme. Admissions are on till July 31. Classes will begin in the first week of August.

Source: The Times of India (Education Times), June 27, 2011
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smithsonian Institute to set up research centre in Rajasthan

The prestigious US-based Smithsonian Institute will soon set up a research centre on environment in Rajasthan. A proposal in this regard from the Rajasthan Government has been approved by the US authorities. The Union Government will extend financial support for the activities at the research centre, which would include research on protection of bio-diversity.

Addressing media persons here this weekend, Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said the centre would come up at Shahpura, some 100 km from Jaipur along the Delhi-Jaipur stretch of National Highway 8. The location is not far from the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The proposal is to house the centre in the existing park, Sanjay Van, spread over 40 hectares.

The Union Minister also announced the decision to create the Rajiv Gandhi Biosphere Reserve, connecting the corridors among major forest tracks in the State to facilitate better movement of tigers and other wildlife species in an area of 11,506 sq km from Dholpur to Jhalawar. This will be under UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme.

The Rajiv Gandhi Biosphere Reserve would cover the tiger reserves of Ranthambhore and Mukandra (proposed) and the sanctuaries, Ramgarh Vishdhari, Shergarh, Darrah, Jawahar Sagar, the Chambal, Van Vihar, Ram Sagar and Kesar Bagh. In Jaipur, Mr. Ramesh held discussions on various issues related to Rajasthan's parks and reserves with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan Forests and Environment Minister Ramlal Jat, National Tiger Conservation Authority member-secretary Rajesh Gopal, Principal Secretary (Forests) V.S. Singh and Head of Forest Forces R.N. Mehrotra.

One of the proposals cleared at the meeting was for a new by-pass for Sariska for which the State and the Centre would equally share an expenditure of Rs. 200 million. Mr. Ramesh also promised Rs. 3.5 million as Central assistance to build a by-pass for Tal Chaapar, the sanctuary for black bucks in Churu district.The Union Minister assured Rajasthan of funding under the Green India Mission.

“The proposal is to increase the green cover of Rajasthan from the existing 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the next 10 years,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Source: The Hindu, June 26, 2011
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Friday, June 24, 2011

How to earn more, spend less abroad

To secure admission in an institute abroad is a long-drawn process and needs diligence and patience. Starting from selecting the right programme, filling up what seems a million forms, tackling fierce competition to finally securing a scholarship or an education loan, the process can exhaust you if not dampen your spirit. But the struggle doesn’t end there. In fact, this is only the beginning.

Once abroad, you are on your own. And among the many challenges you would face, one of the most daunting would be to manage your finances. Often, scholarships or education loan are not enough to take you through your daily life abroad. To manage that, you may need to take a part-time job and also learn how to cut your corners. Here’s how to earn more and spend less when studying abroad.

How to spend less
Accommodation is one of the most expensive cost head in most countries.

US: In most universities in the US, it is mandatory for undergraduate students to stay on campus in the first year but post-graduate students usually prefer to stay off campus since they work out cheaper. The rates vary widely, depending on the location. Metropolitan urban setting such as New York City, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago would be expensive. "One can expect to pay, including utilities, above $750 (Rs. 33,697) per month for accommodation on campus. But if you’re in, say, a college in the mid-West, you may pay only $300 for a full one-bedroom apartment per month," says Renuka Rao, Country Coordinator, Education USA Advising Services, a part of United States-India Educational Foundation, Delhi.

In New York or New Jersey, depending on the proximity to New York City, costs are higher. "So for a one-bedroom apartment, one could end up paying $1,200 per month, exclusive of utilities, off campus," says Rao. You could also consider a single room in an apartment. "Costs for these in the New Jersey area could be as low as $400 per month, excluding utilities," says Rao.

Himanshu Bhamra, who completed his M.Sc from University of Michigan, Flint, last year had to pay around $700-800 per month (including food) on campus for a small personal room, when he had to share the living room, kitchen and bathroom with three students. But he paid only $550-770 per month for a separate apartment which he shared with three students. Such apartments generally have amenities such as a refrigerator, dishwasher, cooking stove and oven. Though more expensive, it may be safer to live on campus. "You can significantly cut costs by staying off campus but factors such as your location in the US, level of amenities, proximity to campus and safety will also play a role," adds Rao. If you happen to live in an area in the US that doesn’t have good public transport connectivity, it may become a problem.

Staying off campus and sharing a private accommodation has other benefits as well. "On-campus housing has restrictions such as you cannot invite friends over the night. You have to vacate the building during holidays, usually for 10-12 days around Christmas. Off campus accommodation offer you greater flexibility," adds Bhamra, who stayed off campus for two years.

UK: "On-campus accommodation is usually about 10-20% more expensive than accommodation available off campus in the UK," says Himanshu Chadha, who pursued M.Sc from Oxford University. "On-campus accommodation in the UK can cost £90-120 per week including utility bills while off-campus accommodation costs would generally be between £60 and £90, excluding the utility bills," says Naveen Chopra, Chairman, Delhi-based The Chopras, an overseas education consultancy company.

Sonali Sengupta, pursuing PhD from Birmingham University, opted for on-campus accommodation during her M.Sc in economics as she thought it would be safer, but moved out once she got into PhD. "In my first year I paid about £370 per month, including utilities. for food and other things, I had to spend another £100 per month. Off-campus, I now pay £200 per month, with utilities and food, the total cost comes to about £350 per month," says Sengupta. Shampa Das, who is going to New Castle for her master’s, has opted for an off-campus accommodation and will be paying £40-55 per week, on-campus charges are around £70-80.

Australia: On-campus charges would be around A$300-400 per week; off-campus cost will depend on the number of people sharing an apartment and the location. "On average, a two-bedroom unit is shared by four students and the cost can vary anywhere between A$80 and A$150 per week per person in Sydney. It’s a bit cheaper in Melbourne and even cheaper in Perth and Adelaide," says Robby Valecha, who pursued MBA from Australian Catholic University, Sydney, last year.

How to earn more?
Part-time jobs: You can subsidize your living expenses by working part time during the course and full time during vacations. Under the F-1 student visa regulations, undergraduate and graduate students are allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week in the US. On-campus jobs could be in libraries, cafeterias, admissions offices, or any other office or department of the university or college. Graduates who get awarded teaching or research assistantships can get $1,200 or more per month.

Off-campus opportunities are possible under the curricular practical training (CPT) or optional practical training regulation. Under the CPT option, you can do a full-time job that is directly related to the programme’s curriculum during vacations, typically the long summer breaks. You can also take up teaching during your PhD programme. "In the US, teaching assistantships typically pay $12,000 per year and more, for an academic nine-month year. You can also work as an adjunct lecturer or instructor," says Rao.

In the UK, part-time jobs are one of the most popular ways of covering expenses. The national minimum wage in the UK is £5.93. You can take up a part-time job depending on how much free time you have outside your studies. Apart from on-campus jobs, you can take up a job in fast food chains and retail shops. There are call centres as well but mostly students choose food outlets or customer service jobs as they have flexible hours. There are plenty of jobs available during the Christmas season, Easter vacations and summer holidays.

Most students prefer on-campus jobs. "My tuition fee is covered but I have to pay for my living expenses from my pocket every month. Now to cover this cost, I teach in the department and I earn around £3,500-4,000 per year, which just about covers my expenses," says Sengupta.

Concession cards and discounts: Most countries offer discounts to students. You need to get into the habit of showing your student identity card at every shop, restaurant, and museum since not every student deal is advertised. There are international student identity cards that offer several discounts. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is available in various countries including India. Visit http://www.isic.org/student-card/the-isic-student-card.html for specific locations and other details. You only need to give a proof of your student identity. The card offers various discounts on shopping and also travelling. It is valid for 16 months and is accepted in over 100 countries; it has over 40,000 discount offers.

But use the university card for local discounts as it would be more effective locally between the two. There are also a range of concession cards one can avail as a student in the US. "One popular option is the Student Advantage Card that can be used across a range of outlets in the US such as retail stores and for discounts on books. You might discover that for products, it’s generally cheaper to buy things online," says Rao. You can purchase the card online at www.international.studentadvantage.comand use it across the US. You can save up to 50% on gadgets, travel and clothing, among other things, but you need to pay an annual fee of about $20.

Also, keep an eye on general discounts and sales. The most popular discount season in the US is after Thanksgiving Day in November, when you can save up to 50-70% on your purchases. Some universities also provide concession cards for metros, bus and food. "A lot of Internet vouchers are available which can be used within a specific time frame and provide excellent deals. Normal range for savings could be 10-50%," says Siddharth Baluja, who is pursuing his M.Sc from Strathclyde Business School, UK.

The UK is very student-friendly and most high-street stores offer discounts. "Students’ university cards show that each student is a part of the National Union of Students. The card gives students around 20% discount in most retail shops over the country. You can also purchase an ‘NUS Extra’ card which can offer further discounts at a wider variety of shops and eating joints," says Exeter University’s official spokesperson. In the UK, you get concession cards known as Oyster cards for buses/train travel, which will reduce your travelling cost up to 30%.

With your college identity card, you can also get discounts of up to 10% at eating joints. "You should try to buy books online as they are cheaper than in the stores. I will recommend Amazon.co.uk. It offers excellent value and very competitive prices. You can also contact previous year graduates and buy second-hand from them," says Baluja. "You can get discounts with stationery, books, computers/laptops, air tickets with your valid student cards. You get discounts almost everywhere," says Chadha.

Though the basic cost of education overseas will remain high, you can pull it down to fit it into your budget. A dollar saved, in any part of the world, is always a dollar earned.

Source: Mint, June 24, 2011
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Call for upgrading FTII to an independent university

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) here may get the status of an independent university if a proposal by the Group of Experts (GoE) appointed by the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is accepted. "The GoE is strongly pushing for FTII to be made into a university. The autonomy that will come with this status is needed for the institute," GoE chairman P.K. Nair told The Hindu over telephone.

Film-maker and founder-director of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), Mr. Nair said the recommendation for university status was one of the major demands put forth in the GoE report which would be submitted to the FTII governing council and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting at a meeting to be held on June 28.


If the recommendation is accepted, the premier institute will be able to award Bachelor's and Master's degrees along with the existing post-graduate diploma degrees, Mr. Nair said. With the proposed changes, the budget for upgrading the institute had increased fivefold, said Mr. Nair. The new budget is expected to be around Rs. 300 crore (Rs. 3 billion).

The proposal speaks about creating a "welfare fund" for the institute, to which the alumni will be persuaded to contribute. "There are a lot of ex-students who owe allegiance to their alma mater, and who are ready to contribute. Even film-makers who have benefited from the FTII talent can contribute," Mr. Nair said. The industry response, according to him, has been very positive. "We have spoken to film-makers like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and even they feel like they owe something to the FTII." This way, the institute will not be completely dependent on the government for its development.

Such contributions should be made tax-free. "We also welcome independent funding from corporate bodies who share our cause," said Mr. Nair. The GoE also suggests that a ‘Special Officer' be appointed as a part of its ‘Outreach Programme', who will be responsible for generating funds, looking after development, and promoting the activities of the FTII.

The report, which took more than six months to be completed, chalks out the future course of action for the premier institute. "We have suggested introducing some new courses. Cinema studies, production management and marketing will be some of the new courses. “The students make the films well, but they also need to know how to sell the film, promote it, and reach it out to the audience. These are specialised skills that are needed today," Mr. Nair said.

On the issue of the backlog of students at the institute, Mr. Nair said a Rs. 50 million budget had been proposed to tackle the problem. "The issue is being dealt on a war footing. The FTII also needs a major infrastructure upgradation to meet the demands of the students." This includes a new theatre, hostel buildings and other infrastructure. The GoE has also proposed setting up of a research centre on the new FTII campus, adjacent to the existing one, in which short-term courses would be conducted for people in the film and television industry.

The GoE was appointed in November 2010 after an earlier project report prepared by the private firm Hewitt Associates was rejected by the institute following protests by students. The GoE includes National Award-winning cinematographer Shaji N. Karun; Director, Comet Media Foundation, Mumbai, Chandita Mukherjee; film director Kundan Shah; film editor Jabeen Merchant; National Award-winning short films maker Hansa Thapliyal and film director Nachiket Patwardhan.

Source: The Hindu, June 24, 2011
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IIM-A to convince recruiters to reveal data about salary

The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) plans to take the lead in convincing recruiters to share data relating to the salaries they offer B-school graduates during recruitment. The details, relating mainly to the guaranteed cash component and variable pay, will be used in a pan-India placement reporting standards initiative that is being adopted by various B-schools. This will help in standardising salaries and making the process more transparent. It will also aim to bring compatibility between business schools.

B-school representatives, who met at a conference hosted by IIM-A last week, said it was not easy to get salary data from recruiters because of confidentiality reasons. To which IIM-A placements committee chairperson, Professor Saral Mukherjee, said his institute would try and convince companies, at various for a, to share the data.

IIM-A had prepared a draft for the placements reporting standards in February, and had sought online feedback from all the stakeholders, like students, recruiters, other B-schools and ranking agencies. IIM-A has already implemented the standards on its campus, informed Prof Mukherjee, adding that the institute was able to get the salary data of 210 out of 312 students.

"We will talk to recruiters to get detailed data about the guaranteed cash and Maximum Earning Potential (variable portion) components," Mukherjee said. "If we prepare placements reporting standards only for IIM-A, they will provide transparency and authenticity, but not necessarily compatibility. For that, we need others to do this as well. We have spoken to other B-schools about this, and are open to suggestions from all the stakeholders for the standards."

Some stakeholders are responding positively. Deepika Pandita, Assistant Professor and Placement Advisor for the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management in Pune, said: "I felt that IIM-A was quite flexible. This is the first time an IIM is going ahead with transparency in the decision-making process, with the support of the other, relatively smaller B-schools."

IIM-A has been trying to bring change at various levels. Last year it replaced the day-based placements process with a 'cohorts' system, which helps reduce pressure on both students and recruiters. In October, it organised a recruiters' conclave in Mumbai, where it invited the placements heads of leading B-schools to give their views on the cohort-based placements process.

There weren't that many takers for this, however. "We shared our experience with Bschools during the Mumbai conclave, and we are ready to help any institute take this up," Mukherjee said. "But no institute has contacted us for introducing the cohort-based process yet." Nevertheless, IIM-A has found that a conference or a large gathering of stakeholders is the best way to gauge reactions to a new initiative. Which is why at last week's meeting, it proposed the pan-India placements reporting standards before the participants.

After taking suggestions from the others, IIM-A has made some changes to the reporting standards draft. For instance, a number of B-schools disagreed that since internships are an academic requirement, this should be guaranteed by the institute. The draft was then modified to say that internship data would, henceforth, be segregated, based on whether it was secured through the institute or otherwise.

The conference was attended by representatives from 33 B-schools including the IIMs in Bangalore and Shillong, Xavier Institute of Social Services in Ranchi, Goa Institute of Management, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Taxila Business School, SP Jain from Mumbai and others.

"It is good to see that a premier B-school is inviting all the reputed as well as the not so well-known B-schools for discussion on an important issue," said Prakash Pathak, of the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad. IIM-A will also organise a two-day event on redesigning the MBA programme in July, and has already invited a number of business schools to participate in this.

Source: The Economic Times, June 24, 2011
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

B-schools see red over IIM-A's placement reporting norms

The attempt of Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) to bring in more transparency with a new placement reporting standard, has left tier-3 B-schools in India worried. B-schools that score low on critical parameters – infrastructure, intellectual capital, industry interface and placements – are termed tier-3 B-schools. Such attempts may result in tier-3 management institutes losing out in placements to large- and mid rung B-schools and could widen the ranking gap between them, said B-schools.

"Traditionally, recruiters have preferred better performing and top B-schools against the smaller ones. Recently, a recruiter firm came to our campus only because it couldn't get students from a top institute in our region. Once the placement reporting standards are implemented, such a scenario may aggravate and smaller institutes may lose out more in the long run," said Sanjeev Bajaj, Chief Coordinator, Placements and Corporate Relations of Ranchi-based, Xavier Institute of Social Service.

Echoing similar views, Hema Sisodia, Dean, Corporate Relations and Campus Placements, IBS Mumbai said: "If the salaries for some B-schools are currently high, more transparency will attract more recruiters to those B-schools. If the salaries are low and variable compensation are not reflecting, then the smaller B-schools may lose out. Corporates are willing to respond to only better institutes."

Last February, IIM-A had proposed to introduce placement reporting norms with the objective of bringing in transparency and uniformity in the manner in which B-schools report campus placements. Last week, many B-schools, led by IIM-A, decided to do away with the concept of cost-to-company (CTC). Instead, B-schools would now look to declare a maximum earning potential (MEP) that would include cash, non-cash and other variable components. IIM-A was of the opinion that CTC did not reflect the guaranteed cash component and gave a wrong picture about variable components, and said that reporting the total guaranteed cash components and MEP separately will provide sufficient meaningful information.

Among other B-schools which were apprehensive about losing out to competition are Pune-based Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies (KIAMS) and Goa Institute of Management. "The moment a B-school states its salary structure, it defines its position in the market. As far as students and recruiters are concerned, everyone would like to move to the better performing ones. This is where the low rung B-schools will lose out. In fact, I also have doubts on how many institutes will go for the standards. The gap will only widen," said R. Nagarajan, Associate Professor, Finance, Goa Institute of Management.

Rating agency Crisil, which has been grading B-schools for a year, however, chooses to disagree with the B-schools. It said B-schools will have an enhanced ability to generate trust with the student community and with recruiters, adding that the standards are still at a nascent stage and their acceptance remains to be seen.

"Leaders of B-schools are likely to be the first to adopt these standards. However, such measures of transparency, must not be viewed in the context of creating or widening gaps within the sector but more as an industry initiative to unite and self regulate. Once B-schools adopt these standards, it will make the sector more transparent, with respect to employment data and facilitate comparability. Tier-3 business schools can also choose to utilise these standards to showcase their commitment to transparency," saids Hetal Dalal, Head-Ratings, Crisil.

IIM-A said such fears are unfounded. According to the institute, if B-schools focus on quality education than figures, which are misreported at present, they need not worry. Moreover, by focusing on quality education and building a strong alumni base, even low-rung B-schools can improve their positions.

"Placement reporting standard is just the beginning in ushering in transparency but this needs to be backed up by quality education. I think the fears are baseless because there is too much emphasis on compensation packages being a performance criterion than quality education," said Saral Mukherjee, Chairperson, Placements at IIM-A.

Sisodia, however, has already worked out her strategy — focusing on maximum earning potential of the student. "The focus should be on maximum earning potential and how the variable portion of the package can be included to stay alive in the competition."

Source: Business Standard, June 23, 2011
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GMAT candidates from India have doubled in 4 years

Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which opened its India office this February, is looking to grow its GMAT volumes in India and get more B-schools to start using the format as part of their admission process. In the first four months, India has seen a 10 per cent jump in the number of students appearing for the GMAT exam over the same period last year. David A Wilson, President and CEO, GMAC, tells Praveen Bose and Pradeesh Chandran why he is bullish on India. Edited Excerpts:

Why are you so bullish on the India market?
The last five years have been very eventful for GMAC in India. It has seen incredible changes during this period. The number of test takers from India has doubled from 2006 through 2010. In the first four months of 2011 alone, the number has been up 10 per cent over the same period last year. For the last five years or so, India has also seen one of the highest numbers taking up the GMAT in Asia.

What do you think is the reason behind the increase in numbers of GMAT takers from India?
There are three factors that have contributed to the growth. The value that India is placing towards higher education, technology driving cutting-edge technology, and spirit of entrepreneurship that encourages entrepreneurship. A prominent trend that the GMAC has witnessed lately is that Indians are now looking at studying in India, as the country has some very good business schools. And, the GMAC products facilitate the platform to connect students to global B-schools. The GMAT gives candidates more choices.

How has GMAC dealt with examination malpractice to improve its credibility?
GMAC is using advanced techniques to root out malpractice. For instance, the GMAT employs the most advanced test security programme in the industry, including palm vein technology to verify the identity of test takers. The GMAT is the only high-stakes admissions test capable of identifying serial proxy test takers.

How does GMAT stand out from similar tests?
GMAC opens doors for Indian students as schools across the globe accept GMAT scores for five years. Hence, they do not need to prepare for the exam every year. That’s the value proposition which can be very enticing for those taking the test.

Source: Business Standard, June 23, 2011
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EdServ enters mobile application space

EdServ, an education services company, has signalled its entry into the mobile application space with the launch of HumThum.com, a mobile handset-based knowledge application store. This store can be accessed anywhere anytime from a mobile smart phone.

EdServ, it may be noted, has been providing online education support services through its business division www.lampsglow.com. Online tuition services, test preparation services, doubt-clearing sessions and interactive sessions between teachers and students through the Internet are among the desktop or laptop-based support services EdServ has been providing through www.lampsglow.com

Students have to register online to access contents for relevant programmes such as CA coaching or test preparation for IIT JEE or AIEEE test. The fee is based on a per-hour basis and includes recorded as well as live sessions. Students are given user names and passwords to help log into his account. The same educational content that has thus far been available through the Internet on www.lampsglow.com will now be available on Samsung smart phones, which, by default, will have the HumThum.com application pre-installed on the phone.

In the pilot phase of the roll out, over 50,000 students have reportedly accessed HumThum's mobile application store. S. Giridharan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, feels that EdServ will reach a user base of 10 million in the next 18-24 months.

EdServ's educational content and tuition services will be available across all Samsung smart phones in their Java application stores in India. According to him, there is no need for any separate registration or payment for the HumThum mobile application.

"All those who have registered on www.lampsglow.com can access the same educational content on the Samsung smartphone," he says. EdServ, according to Mr. Giridharan, has also opened up parleys with other leading makers to lodge HumThum application stores on their mobile smartphones. The company, he claims, has taken over two years, spent several man-hours and invested close to $1 million to make its foray into the mobile application space.

Source: The Hindu, June 23, 2011
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

299 seats in IITs could remain vacant this year

While thousands of students aspire to get into the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 299 seats are vacant after the first round of allotment this year. Except for the handful of vacancies for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and candidates with physical disabilities, the rest of the seats will remain vacant.

After the first round, figures revealed that 9,319 candidates were allotted seats, while the total number of vacancies across various IITs is 9,618. This includes 4,848 seats for general category, 2,599 for Other Backward Classes, 1,441 for SCs and 730 for STs. Currently, three per cent seats in each category are reserved for candidates with physical disabilities (PDs).

While there are two more rounds of admissions left, there will be no new seat allocation. "We are not filling new seats in the subsequent rounds. Hence, the seats unfilled in the first round could remain so," said S. Choudhury, JEE 2011 Chairman, IIT-Kanpur.

"Over 250 seats were not filled in the first round as no one opted for them. Usually, each year, vacancies remain as no one takes admission in certain courses. In the subsequent (two) rounds this year, these vacant seats may not be filled up. This is because admission will be given against these vacancies only if a student drops out and vacates the seat allotted in round one. But if these vacancies are from ST and PD categories, seats will be transferred to preparatory course. At IIT-Bombay, for instance, there are six vacancies in PD and one in ST," said Avinash Mahajan, Vice-Chairman, JEE 2011, IIT-Bombay.

Moreover, as many as 368 seats reserved for OBC candidates could not be filled despite giving relaxations and these seats got converted to general category seats.

Source: Indian Express, June 22, 2011
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Novel project gets marginalized students into top law schools

The Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA) project has reaped the fruits of its labour within the very first year of its operations. In the allotment list released this past week for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admission to under-graduate courses in National Law Universities, at least 11 out of 50 candidates coached by IDIA secured admissions to top law schools in the country.

The IDIA project is aimed at reaching out to marginalised and under-represented communities in the country, sensitise them to the prospects of a career in law and help students from these communities to secure admission to law schools.

IDIA was conceptualised as a pan-India student movement in March 2010 by Shamnad Basheer, currently the HRD Ministry Professor for IP Law at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata. Thanks to dedicated and passionate involvement of over a hundred law students from all over India, the project took off in nearly a dozen States, including Sikkim and Jammu & Kashmir, in the very first year of its operation.

According to an IDIA press release, Shivendu Pandey from Uttar Pradesh is the top performing IDIA scholar. He has secured the 45th rank in the general category (45 out of 23,000 candidates who wrote the CLAT exam), which will guarantee him admission to National Law School, Bangalore. Shivendu lost his father many years ago and his mother is an LIC agent earning a mere Rs.13,000 a month.

In the Scheduled Castes category, two IDIA scholars made it to top national law schools: Mukesh Kumar Kori, son of a retired defence employee, secured the 13th rank in the SC list, which entitles him to a seat at NALSAR, Hyderabad, while Kartika Annamalai secured the 55th rank in the SC list and has been allotted West Bengal NUJS, Kolkata. Kartika's mother is a stone quarry worker from Karnataka while Kartika studied at Shanti Bhavan, a school for under-privileged children.

In the Scheduled Tribes category, Johnson Subba from a government school in Pelling, a remote location in Sikkim, secured admission to NLU Orissa. His father is a clerk for the Government of Sikkim. In the ‘Persons with Disability' category, the IDIA effort paid off with all five visually challenged scholars securing admissions to various NLUs.

Bhimavarapu Mouli Aravind (All-India PWD Rank 10), NUJS; Goram Sivasankar (PWD Rank 12), GNLU; Bandi Sudhakar (PWD Rank 20), GNLU; Arepalli Naga Babu (PWD Rank 25, NLU Orissa PWD Rank 4), RMNLU, Lucknow, and NLU Orissa; Tudumu Andalu (SC PWD Rank 1), Allotted to NLU Jodhpur. All of them are from extremely poor backgrounds and most of their families earn their living through farming and subsistence wages.

Source: The Hindu, June 22, 2011
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Doon’s UPES sets up univ in Shillong

Dehradun’s ground-breaking University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) is all set to open the University of Technology and Management (UTM) at its interim campus in Greater Shillong to address the high demand for specialist professionals in Meghalaya and the north-east in general.

"UTM is an endeavour of the not-for-profit Hydrocarbons Education and Research Society to develop and provide professional education and training in energy management, petroleum, electric power and non- conventional energy sources," says UPES Vice Chancellor Parag Diwan. UTM, though, will offer courses outside the energy sector too.

Its six constituent schools will offer eight courses in media and communications, retail and fashion, travel and leisure, design and life sciences. Each course will include focused study tours, industry visits, internships, industry-based dissertations and projects.

Diwan said the placement prospects of UTM graduates were bound to be good because the courses offered are in sectors experiencing high growth. The university’s Placement Services Team will work closely with students to give them a head start in life.

The vice-chancellor was confident that just like the UPES, which has industry-specific courses in a hitherto untapped area, UTM too will eventually offer more specialised courses addressing specific career needs. "UPES graduates are industry-ready" says Diwan. Shillong has a good reason to say cheers to that.

Source: Mail Today (Education Mail), June 21, 2011
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India to establish foreign trade institute in Uganda

As part of the US$ 5-billion package Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced for Africa last month, India will support Uganda in building a foreign trade institute at Kampala, the country’s capital. To be named India Africa Institute of Trade, it is slated to function through the aegis of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) in the initial years. "The idea will be to develop trade capacities in Africa, for international and intra-Africa trade," said K. Rangarajan, Head, IIFT, Kolkata. He will head implementation of the project and said the institute will host a pan-Africa campus, the primary purpose of which would be to provide a world-class trade policy research facility to the continent.

The trade institute is slated to begin operations by November this year and will initially be housed in Kampala University. In the beginning, the campus would house 100 students, to be expanded to 1,200 over the next five years, within which time the independent campus would become fully operational.

Besides the trade institute, slated to require $20 million of investment, an information technology institute and a logistics institute would also be established as part of the package.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Africa last month, he had announced that India would provide Africa with support worth $5 billion over the next three years under lines of credit. He said the package had been announced to aid Africa in the achievement of development goals, offering an additional $700 million toward the development of new institutions and training programmes.

In his address to the Ethiopian legislature, Singh had said there was a new world order in place, making globalisation a reality. "India and Africa have to work together to make global interdependence work for the benefit of all people and particularly for the millions who live in the developing world. This is our next project," he had stated.

"For India, the establishment of the African institute would mean a networking benefit. IIFT will ultimately benefit Africa by helping in the formulation of a better trade policy regime in the continent," said Rangarajan. The institute would function within the framework of the higher education system in Uganda. "The government of Uganda will make amendments to the set laws if needed to facilitate student movement, helping make the institute truly pan-Africa," Rangarajan said.

According to estimates for the project, the best trade education infrastructure is presently in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Source: Business Standard, June 21, 2011
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Friday, June 17, 2011

IIM Shillong goes local to groom youth from north eastern region

The newest Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in the country, IIM-Shillong, has gone local. In 2009, the coveted B-school in the eastern Himalayas had started the Centre for Development of the North Eastern Region (CEDNER ), to pilot ambitious projects that would spearhead development in the region.

Now, a part of that, it has taken up the task of organising training programmes for managers, executives and defence personnel who live and work here, besides providing consultancy for local firms. The centre is involved in organising both short and long-term programmes that would benefit local communities.

CEDNER, was formerly known as the Accelerated Learning Centre (ALC), was set up a year after IIM-Shillong itself came into existence. There are now plans to have this institute branch out to parts of Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland. Ashoke K. Dutta, Director of IIM-Shillong, says setting up of the centre provides the 'strategic intervention' the region required, and that the institute itself would not operate merely like an island of excellence. "We were very clear that we needed to do something about the hopes and aspirations of the local people," he says. "Otherwise, what are they to do with an IIM?"

The courses offered include management programmes for local retailers, armed forces personnel (of which there are quite a few here), principal of local colleges and hospital staff. The centre also aims to provide capacity building for local NGOs and sick public sector units in the region. To bring local talent up to speed, the institute also plans to offer courses relating to sports management, entrepreneurship and managing family businesses. "We have devised courses for Meghalaya tourism and the Meghalaya Cement Corporation," says Dutta.


"For courses under CEDNER, our faculty does not charge anything. For instance, the course fee for the short-term retail management programme was Rs. 6,000, and the faculty put in extra effort to take classes in the evening. After the course, the students were hired by Pantaloons in Guwahati." For some of the courses, the minimum qualification is a Plus Two or Class XII-level education, and in last two years, the centre has trained at least 275 youngsters through 15 different courses. Professor Keya Sengupta, who heads the centre, says local people, who may otherwise not have access and exposure to the latest methods of training for skill development, are provided the same by the institute. The idea, she adds, is to respond to local needs and make the facilities of the institute, available for the training of local talent.

Among the challenges faced by the centre was to integrate a complex set of socio-economic and environmental factors typical of the Northeast region, with worldclass training facilities that would bring out the hidden talent, skills and capabilities of the local youngsters. So far, the centre appears to have been somewhat successful, given that its programs are much in demand. For instance, Assam Hospitals, which manages several hospitals in Guwahati, has sought IIM-Shillong's advice and consultancy on the human resources set-up in hospitals.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 17, 2011
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oxford celebrates 400 years of links with India

The University of Oxford has had close links with India for centuries, but for the first time the ancient seat of learning will celebrate an 'Oxford-India Day' tomorrow by bringing together scholars and a select group of Indian business, academic and policy leaders .

Oxford --- better known by poet Matthew Arnold's description as a 'city of dreaming spires' --- has been home to thousands of Indian students since the late 19th century, including leading lights such as Manmohan Singh, Indira Gandhi, Amitav Ghosh, Cornelia Sorabji and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

In the current academic year, there are 363 Indian students, mostly postgraduates studying social sciences. Indian students are the sixth largest national group at the university, Ruth Collier, Head of Information at the university, told PTI today. There are 1,100 Oxford alumni currently in India, while Indian academics at the university number 84, Collier said. Besides, there are extensive research and collaborative links between the university and India.

The one-day event tomorrow will include a cricket match, presentations by leading scholars on India, a concert and a reception at the Ashmolean Museum.

Noted historian Ramachandra Guha will present a keynote address on the topic, 'Why India is the world's most interesting country', while Lord Chris Patten, Chancellor, will recount the 'enduring relationship' between India and Oxford.

Patten said the university had four for the day: "To communicate to invited guests and the wider public the breadth of Oxford-India connections through people, research, and historical/artistic treasures; to re-engage with and energise alumni interested in India, to bring together researchers from across the university working on India, and to lay the foundation for new and expanded links with India."

Oxford links with India go back a long way in history. The first recorded Englishman to arrive in India was from Oxford (Father Thomas Stephens from New College, in 1579). His letters lay the foundation of Anglo-Indian literature.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 16, 2011
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IITs may become less relevant to India's needs: Mohandas Pai

The IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) have completed 50 years and have helped build India. They were set up for producing high quality technical human capital for India and have met their objectives. But, as is the character with such institutions, they have not changed with the times and are not providing India with what she now needs. They have remained largely teaching institutions, as they were set up, not transforming into research based, innovation driven agents of change for the India that is now emerging. They seem unwilling and unable to change --- overburdened by work, driven by a small vision, starved of adequate resources and owned by an apathetic master. They seem to be in a state of perpetual decline though there are some bright spots, but not large enough to meet the needs of time.

Very recently, a Union Minister made a statement that IITs are known for their world class students and their world class alumni, of which he presumed himself to be one but not world class faculty. Partly true, but forgetting that he and his ilk are largely responsible for this outcome. The IITs today enjoy substantial academic autonomy but lack adequate administrative and financial autonomy. The IIT boards and the directors are unable to take any financial decision which they deem fit without the approval of the government. Even for an overseas travel of the director or the faculty, permission is needed. They are subject to austerity measures of the government, a perfect situation to emasculate an educational institution.

The demand for an IIT seat is enormous and has spawned a tutorial industry that earns more revenues than the IITs themselves. This has resulted in large number of students spending up to two years of their youth going to cramming schools learning pattern recognition, forgetting the art of thinking and problem solving knowing that their lives are made once they get entry into the hallowed portals. Today about 60% or more of the intake is from the coaching mandis. This has also resulted in many bright young Indians deciding not to undergo the ordeal and go overseas for higher education. 250,000 of them study overseas, over 110,000 in the United States, about 45,000 in the UK spending about US$ 6 billon on fees and costs annually, depriving this country of much needed resources for education and talent, adding to the wealth of those countries. The IITs too have steadfastly refused to change. They remain small by global comparison. They are between 6,000-9,000 students in size, with an annual intake of about 500 PhDs, and about 1,000 undergraduates.

Overall, the 15 IITs graduate 7000 undergraduates, 6000 post graduates and about 1700 PhDs annually. Sadly only about 2% of the undergraduates go on to their masters and PhD in the IIT system. The IITs hold fast to the idea that by squeezing input they can get a quality output, an idea that has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Increasing the scale and size can give them the diversity of talent, the resources, the ability to have more quality faculty and the depth and width needed for an elite educational institution. Even the current increase in size was forced on them because of social initiatives. Contrast this with China. China today has about 1,000 universities, each between 25,000 to 40,000 students, running fully residential courses, turning out over 50,000 PhDs annually. China may, in the next 20 years, it will overtake the United States as the world centre of higher education.

The Top Five Chinese universities, in the global top 50 now, have between 25,000-35,000 students and about 7000 PhD students each. China has invested for growth through quality institutions while India has lost out and is oblivious to it. Even in comparison to the engineering education system in India the IITs have become insignificant today. Ten years ago the IITs made up about 10% of India's engineering output of human capital. Today they are less then 2% and declining further. India currently has about 3800 engineering colleges with an annual intake of 1.2 million, a size to rival China. Yes, about 50% of the colleges are of indifferent quality, some rank bad; but they are offering an answer to India's youth. About 1,000 of them are of reasonable quality, very many have improved over time. No university or college was founded great, they evolved over time, so there is hope for India that these bad colleges will provide the sinews for India's growth and answer the need of India's young.

In the meantime, the IITs will live in their ivory tower and possibly become less and less relevant to India's need as neither are they meeting India's need for more human capital nor producing the kind of PhDs India needs. What needs to be done to change this? The government has all the answers setting up many eminent committees, the latest of which is the Anil Kakodkar Committee of which the author is a member. The solutions are known to all, the government, the policy makers, the academics and the intelligentsia.

Total autonomy to the IITs, driven by a board of governors with a new vision, accountability through public opinion and transparency. Yet there is resistance to change, from government for the fear of losing control, from some part of academia because they become more accountable and lose the shelter of blaming the government for all ills and for inadequate performance and from some opinion makers who believe that the existing feudal system should continue since they have a disproportionate influence on them.

The best solution is to open up the education system and allow competition, the dreaded word in academics, to come forth. India should revise her educational policies and allow the private sector to set up "innovation universities" granting them all that they need. Full autonomy, academic, administrative and financial to chart their own future. Some safeguards are needed, as this is a public good. A large corpus of say Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion), an open merit based admission policy, a faculty compensation policy based on minimum UGC scales and an assurance that they will aim to be amongst the top 100 in the world over the next 25 years. To ensure access to the merited we need a national scholarship scheme which will fund students. India needs to trust the genius of her citizens to create institutions that are world class and not look at them through myopic eyes with suspicion.

India's future is too important to be left to the benevolence of an apathetic, insensitive government which has destroyed academic excellence over the years, driven her young out and even today shows callous indifference. See the state of our universities today, so many have fallen from the high standards they had, see the state of the Presidency Colleges, it is indeed sad! Most policy makers and leaders have solved their personal issues by sending their children out to get a good education, so they are not impacted by the poor quality of higher education in India. It is the middle class and the poor who suffer, because they love their country more and see their future here; maybe they too want to take flight but do not have the resources to. As the saying goes "Yankee go home, but take me with you." But will competition work? Yes, it will indeed.

The engineering colleges have opened up, very large numbers set up by political influence and plain bribery but they have served another purpose. Today there is a flight to quality. The bad colleges are dying since students have a choice, they are voting with their feet. The good ones are expanding and seeing greater demand. The market mechanism has worked, not by design but by serendipity. So there is hope. Look at various other sectors today. Bharti has made BSNL redundant and has given us a choice, Jet has overtaken Air India and given us a choice, the power system in Mumbai is still the best, and in education the Indian School of Business has turned our IIMs inside out. The IIMs actually want reform, expansion and are concerned about their future .

Competition and an open liberal environment for higher education will work. India's best higher education institution, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), was started by a private citizen many years ago and is still the best we have. India's needs in higher education are too large to be met by the government, they need the genius of India's citizens to meet them.

Source: The Economic Times, June 16, 2011
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Indian universities' ranking in Asia slides

Not a single Indian university, including the much-famed and sought-after IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), has fared well in an all-Asian varsity ranking for 2011. IIT-Bombay is the only one to figure in the world top 200, at 187, lower than the previous year's rank of 163.

The QS Asian University rankings reveal a pathetic performance by domestically high-rated varsities in the state, with the University of Mumbai pegged the worst, though it set aside funds to better its ranking this year. A university founded merely two decades ago — The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology — has topped the charts, defying critics who claim that long-established universities have an insuperable advantage. It not only raced past its veteran neighbour, Hong Kong University, but is also the youngest among the top 100 QS World Ranking Asian Universities.

The University of Cambridge got a perfect 100, topping the world chart. "We are doing better than earlier. But at other places, they are improving a lot faster than us. So, we are not static; the number of publications has gone up and research funding has also improved," said IIT-Bombay Director Devang Khakhar. About IIT-Bombay's rank, he said they had done "slightly worse" because student strength had gone up, but faculty numbers had not increased correspondingly. All the seven old IITs have made it to the Asian universities ranking, but their ranks have slid.

"Internationalization takes up 20% of the points. But we are not international; neither do we have international students nor do we have foreign faculty members. In terms of funds, China and Korea are higher than us. Lastly, we don't have medicine and law. So we lose points there too. We are starting off with a handicap," said IIT-Madras Director M.S. Ananth. "In terms of funding and opening doors for foreigners, China has taken right steps." "Hong Kong's continued strong showing in the Asian rankings, with four universities in the top 20 and all six in the top 50, contrasts with continuing disappointment for mainland China," noted the analysis.

Although Peking and Tsinghua universities remain in the top 20, China has only 14 universities in the first 100, having made marginal progress since last year. The much smaller system in South Korea outperforms China. It has four institutions in the top 20, led by Seoul National University, and 16 in the top 100.

However, Richard Holmes, a frequent commentator on rankings, writing in University World News, had a different take, saying more Japanese universities were falling than rising, while Chinese and Korean varsities were on the rise. "This could be part of a permanent shift in the world balance of academic power."

Source: The Times of India, June 16, 2011
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Clamour for Private Investment in Education

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Team-Lease Services, points out that in 1987, 1 million students took class XII exams and SRCC (Sri Ram College of Commerce) had 800 seats then. In 2011, 11 million students wrote class XII exams, but SRCC has the same number of seats. "We need more colleges, more competition," says Sabharwal, who graduated from SRCC. This may also be a perfect opportunity for those clamouring for private investments in education to make their voice heard.

Shantanu Prakash, Managing Director, Educomp Solutions, thinks a 100% cut-off is a reflection of an urgent need for capacity building in higher education. "There is a need for high-quality institutes so that meritorious students are not left out in the cold. This is where private participation becomes important," adds Prakash, who is from SRCCs class of 1986.

Several industry heads criticise India's exam and marks system which puts pressure on students and parents. "Who are the children who get 100% anyway?" asks consumer markets strategist Rama Bijapurkar. "If anybody can get 100%, I think the exam itself begs a revision," she adds. C.K. Ranganathan, Chairman & Managing Director of consumer goods company CavinKare, dismisses the move as "brand-building exercise". "What the college is trying to do is send out a message --- we are a premium college and it's not just the MBBS colleges that can demand such high percentages."

A section of CEOs also believes that scores don't matter. Neither does the college you pass out from especially when the demands are so high. Murthy makes the larger point that "you don't have to go to the best college to succeed in life. Students who study from average schools and colleges work harder and smarter and show higher personal initiative than students from better-known institutes."

Adds Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra: "The key to success is doing something that you passionately enjoy. If you have passion, you will excel no matter what your academic scorecard looks like." Harsh Agarwal, Director of Emami, says he would never force his children into such institutions.

Source: The Economic Times, June 16, 2011
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Cutting Off Competition! HRD Minister calls it "unfortunate" and "irrational"

India's human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal has criticised the Shri Ram College of Commerce, or SRCC, for setting its cut-off for admission to the B.Com. (Honors) course at 100%. Describing it as "unfortunate" and "irrational", Sibal has asked Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh to step in and remedy the situation. Sibal's concern has been echoed by political parties too.

The Congress has expressed concern over the new cut-off for humanities and science students applying for commerce courses. Party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said: "Some serious anomalies must be there. HRD minister has taken note of it. We hope the anomalies are set right. Certainly, it would not be correct for students to suffer unnecessarily." The BJP described the situation as ridiculous. Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: "It is ridiculous. This means that students from some streams cannot get admission to certain courses. The Delhi University should look into the matter."

In a bid to reassure students and parents, Sibal said: "I was sad to hear it. I want to reach out to parents and students and tell them don't worry. We will take care of this irrationality. We are on your side." The minister took the opportunity to push forward the agenda to reform the college admission process. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has already sought public feedback on the idea of a national testing system for admission to higher education or tertiary sector.

A paper, "National Test Scheme for admission into tertiary Education in India: Underlying Philosophy and Principles" ---prepared by a committee headed by T. Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology --- gives a broad overview of the principles that will govern the proposed system. The ministry has put up the paper for public feedback. The committee has argued that a national testing system would help increase the spread of students who can seek admission to higher education institutions. "Majority of youth living in smaller towns and far-flung places as well as economically weaker segments of society are not able to join the competitive stream today the present system seems to be unwittingly promoting a societal behaviour and mindset towards differentiation rather than integration," the report states.

Meanwhile, responding to the minister's intervention, DU V-C Dinesh Singh has promised the government and the students that he would look into the matter and make sure that the cutoffs are revised downwards. Singh said the varsity was looking at reforming the processes.

Students who have not studied any of the papers related to the commerce stream, that is accountancy, business studies, economics and maths, at the class XII level are required to have scored 100% to gain admission to the B.Com. (H) course at SRCC. Students who have studied any one of these subjects are required to have scored 96% to be considered for admission. In effect, science students, who have studied physics, chemistry, biology and English, will find it next to impossible to gain admission. Students from the humanities stream are anyhow not considered for admission to undergraduate courses in commerce and science streams.

"I am informed by the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor that there is only one student in the entire list who has got a 100% mark in science. He may never go to commerce. The idea is to exclude everybody in the science stream and not to allow them an opportunity. This is completely irrational," Sibal said. He added that setting a high cut-off for science students for admission to commerce courses was putting a barrier to keep science students away. Sibal said: "We cannot slot children in a way that those who are in science can't go to commerce."

However, SRCC Principal Dr. P.C. Jain was not perturbed by the HRD minister's intervention. Instead, Jain argued that cut-offs were high because students had performed exceptionally well in their school leaving examination. "The performance of students has been extraordinary this year, that's why the cut-off is so high. There is nothing unfortunate. In fact, it is very fortunate that students in this country are performing so well. The criterion is an old practice that has been followed, so nothing like that it has been done deliberately to keep the non-commerce students out of SRCC," Jain explained.

Even as DU V-C reiterated Jain's rationale for a high cut-off, Singh assured that cut-off marks would be brought down subsequently. "Last year in CBSE examination, students who scored more than 95% were 200. This year there are 800. There are high scoring groups now. Therefore, colleges are being cautious in the first cut-off, The high cut-offs are because of very high percentages. The students have received very good marks in their boards," Singh said.

Source: The Economic Times, June 16, 2011
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India Inc. cut up with SRCC cut-Off: Demand for 100% marks shows lack of quality institutions

The human resource development minister has decried it as irrational. It's unfair on students, but don't blame the college instead blame the education system and the inability to create capacity to absorb top class students. That's the reaction of honchos from India Inc. to Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) demanding a perfect score from non-commerce students keen to graduate from the institution with a commerce degree.

As per Delhi University's first list, the cut-off for admission to SRCC for non-commerce students is an outlandish 100%. At a few other colleges, the cut-off is 5-10 % higher than a year ago. Doubtless the cut-offs will decline in subsequent lists but, Mr. Minister, there is certainly a problem.

"It is a wake-up call to the education system," says Sanjeev Sanyal, an economist with a foreign bank who graduated from SRCC in 1992. "There is a huge demand for tertiary education in India. It is not a college-specific issue but a reflection on India's education system," he adds.

"I think it is a demand-supply situation and the best solution is to increase the number of colleges and seats and make sure there is no dearth of good teachers and right education for students," says N.R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder and till recently Chairman of Infosys.

Source: The Economic Times, June 16, 2011
India Inc. cut up with SRCC cut-Off: Demand for 100% marks shows lack of quality institutionsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

IIT-Hyderabad, students' last choice

Three years after its inception, the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H) remains one of the least preferred Indian Institutes of Technology in the country. While several state students figure in the top 1000 in IIT-JEE exams every year, the starting and closing ranks of candidates at IIT-H for the past two years range between 1,600 and 2,916.

It is not just the older IITs like Bombay and Madras that are preferred over IIT-H, even new IITs set up in 2008 like Patna and Mandi are opted by more students than IIT-Hyderabad. Most of the top 100 rank holders opt for Bombay, Roorkee and Madras. Among the new IITs, IIT-Patna and IIT-Mandi are catching up, bagging students with top ranks ranging between 985 and 1,500. In 2009, the highest JEE rank on IIT-H campus was 1,159 and in 2010 the top rank dropped to 1,715. While counselling for admissions to IITs this year will go on until the third week of June, sources say that the highest rank this year too would be around 1,500.

Rank holders from the state said that they are not aware of the quality of education offered in the institute that does not even have a permanent campus. "When you think of IITs in the south it is IIT-Madras you would want to join. IIT-H has not established itself as a premier institute," said Shaimak Reddy, the second rank holder in IIT-JEE. IIT officials stated that just about five to 10 per cent of the students from the state opt for IIT-Hyderabad.

Infact, students who have taken admission in IIT-H admit it was one of their last choices. "My first choice was IIT-Bombay and IIT-H was my second last choice, the last being IIT-Gandhinagar," said a student of IIT-H, whose not-so-good JEE rank got him a seat in IIT-H. The students complained that the institute has not tried to build its image in the past two years. "IIT-H, academically is doing well. It had started even student exchange programmes in collaboration with foreign countries. But the institute does little to promote its image unlike some of the IITs from the north," said a third year student, who said that he was worried that the low brand value of the institute might affect placements.

The administration also does not seem in any hurry to bring about changes, sources from the higher education department said. While the state government had allotted land in Kandi village in Medak district for the IIT, the institution has not started construction of buildings yet. IIT-H has recruited about 70 per cent of its staff, but the remaining 30 per cent slots are filled by faculty from IIT-Madras, the mentor institution. Ironically, the state led by former chief minister late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had lobbied much with the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) to get an IIT of its own.

IIT officials, however, seemed optimistic about the institute's future. "Every institute has teething troubles. We are doing better than many IITs set up and we hope to do better," a Chennai-based faculty member of the university said. The director, of the institute, U.B. Desai was, however, not available for comment.

Source: The Times of India, June 16, 2011
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