Saturday, June 30, 2012

Banks going slow in granting education loans

There is considerable delay in processing and sanctioning of educational loans by banks, according to feedback received by Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). The delay affects students from the rural areas more than their urban counterparts, reveals the feedback, which was obtained by the apex banking association through six interactive sessions with over 150 reputed educational institutions.

No awareness
Even for loans up to Rs. 400,00, banks insist on collateral and there were cases of rejection of applications on this account. There were some complaints that banks were charging monthly compounded interest on education loans and were insisting on insurance cover, which is not mandatory. According to the IBA, some of the representatives from the institutions have pointed out that frontline staff in banks lack awareness about loan schemes.
Banks were not using any common criteria. For instance, while some banks consider giving loans to students wishing to pursue a one-year post-graduate course in hospitality, some take the stand that such courses are outside the scheme. There were cases where banks stopped loan disbursements in subsequent years when the student failed in one or two subjects but were still attending college.

Loan recovery
The progress reports might not be ready when students have to pay fees for the new year/term and refusal by the bank to release instalments would cause inconvenience to students and educational institutions, the report states. To improve the situation, institutions express willingness to assist in loan recovery to the extent possible by helping trace students and to share their academic progress with banks. “Some even offered online access to academic records. And some colleges were willing to sign MoUs with banks,” the IBA said.

The feedback also shows that the system of fixing uniform EMIs throughout the loan recovery period was not always appropriate. Flexibility might be brought in by progressively stepping up instalments, starting with a relatively smaller amounts.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 30, 2012

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Students in coveted IIT-Bombay departments unhappy lot: Study

Happiness does not have anything to do with getting into the most-sought-after courses in IITs. Instead, it may have an inverse relationship. A survey conducted at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) on the happiness quotient of students reveals that the ones in the computer science engineering and electrical engineering departments are not as happy as their counterparts in other departments. Incidentally, these two courses are most preferred by students in the first year at IIT-B, almost every year.

This year too, IIT-B's courses in these two branches were among the highest preferred choices. The survey conducted in the institute also shows that the students on the campus, in general too, are not happy as compared to the average individual's happiness score (4.3). While the average happiness on the campus is found to be 3.43, girls are slightly on the better side, with 3.44, but boys on the campus are lower than average, with a score of 3.34.

The survey was conducted using the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire developed by psychologists Michael Argyle and Peter Hills at Oxford University as it is considered as the accurate technique to measure psychological well-being.

In the department wise survey, aerospace (3.76), civil (3.67), energy (3.64) departments managed to get a better average than the chemistry (3.40), chemical (3.34), electrical (3.29) and computer science (3.27) departments in the happiness survey. Metallurgical (3.49) and mechanical (3.45) departments take the middle positions. Students in the electrical and computer science departments are the least happy on the campus. The survey also shows that 80% students agree to 'there is a gap between what I would like to do and what I have done' question.

Statistics taken of students from each year, revealed that students are happiest in their third year (3.56), though not happier than the average score. The lowest score was achieved by students in the second year (3.21). A student on the campus claimed that 'the pressure factor hits students only after clearing the first year, which could be one reason why they are not happy in their second year'.

The survey which was conducted by Akhil Srivatsan for the institute's in-house students' magazine had more than 200 respondents, with at least 10-15 on an average from each department. "We wanted to conduct this survey at our institute to check the average lifestyle of an individual on the campus. On how the life is going on the campus. The Oxford questionnaire was already available to us, so we picked up specific questions which were also true for students on the campus and conducted the survey," said chief editor of the magazine, Saideep Sudi.

Some of the questions included how optimistic students feel about their future and how happy they are based on the departments they belong to. "Though we don't claim that the figures could be exact depiction of the reality, we tried to have quite a representation from each year and from each department.

Source: The Times of India, June 26, 2012
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8 university tie-ups picked for Obama-Singh awards

A series of institutional partnerships aimed at propelling research and training in the field of energy security, climate change, agriculture sciences and health services are part of the Obama-Singh Initiative announced recently. As part of the bilateral education partnership, eight collaborative efforts have been awarded. Among the India-led partnerships include tie-ups between Rutgers University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to establish a national vocational school in India that will eventually train up to 1 million people every year.

The vocational school has been designed to assist up to 80% Indian graduates considered unemployable by multinational companies and to increase the number of young people taking part in formal vocational education and training (just 4% of the population). For India, the most pressing need is to reform its higher education and widen the skill development system, developing scalable solutions that can rapidly enhance the quality and quantity of educational opportunities available to the 550 million Indians under the age of 25.

US-led partnerships include University of Montana and Bangalore University addressing impact of climate change and changes in socio-economic structure on traditional agriculture and development of sustainable communities among indigenous populations. Cornell University with University of Agricultural Sciences , Dharwad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology, Meerut, will work on implementing reformed curriculum in emerging areas of agriculture and food security. University of Michigan has tied up with Maharashtra University of Health Sciences to jointly develop a masters degree for health profession faculty in the US and India. The programme will include public health, nursing, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and Indian systems of medicine.

Other India-led partnerships were between Mahatma Gandhi University and Brown University, Duke University and Plymouth State University to study an interdisciplinary and community oriented approach toward sustainable development. Banaras Hindu University will partner with University of Pittsburgh to research the paradigm shift in energy scenario for the 21st century toward renewable energy sources required for both India and the US. While IIT-Kanpur is expected to join hands with Virginia Tech for an international programme on sustainable infrastructure development, its Delhi counterpart will work on resource building for ecosystem and human health risk assessment with special reference to microbial contamination with Drexel University.

According to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), each project will receive an award of $250,000 that can be utilized over the three year grant period, with the aim of encouraging mutual understanding , educational reform and economic growth. PM Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama had committed $5 million each as part of the endeavour to build an enhanced India-US partnership in education.

Apart from the Obama-Singh Initiative, India has also planned to establish 100 community colleges. It has also announced the C V Raman Fellowship with the first tranche of 300 junior faculty members to be placed for post-doctoral research in American higher education institutions in October. About 10,500 faculty members will be sent over five years.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 26, 2012
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Top Australian and Indian scientists to collaborate

Top scientists in India and Australia will receive funding for cutting-edge research in fields that include environment science, materials science, stem cells and vaccines as part of a joint multi-crore rupee program. The Australian and Indian governments will support thirteen new collaborative projects and seven joint workshops through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. From a total Australian commitment to the Fund of AU$64 million, the Australian government has committed Rs. 23 crore (AU$ 4.37 million) to these new projects and workshops. The Government of India will fund the Indian teams' participation.

The Australian High Commissioner to India, Mr Peter Varghese, said, "This program brings together leading scientists in both countries for truly world-class research. This is Australia's largest science fund with any country and one of India's largest sources of support for international science. This commitment is a measure of our strong belief in the quality and future of the science relationship, which we see as an important element underpinning the overall Strategic Partnership."

Participating institutions in India include, but are not limited to, Banaras Hindu University, National Chemical Laboratories, National Centre for Cell Science, IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Roorkee, Immunology Laboratory Institute of Microbial Technology Chandigarh, and Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. The partner institutions in Australia include the University of New South Wales, Melbourne University, Southern Cross University, Australian National University, Queensland University of Technology, CSIRO and Deakin University.

The research to be supported includes development of new batteries for electric vehicles, developing an approach for recycling hazardous e-waste to reduce harmful emissions and coming up with a process to manage wastewater discharged from ethanol distilleries.

The areas cover new tools for identification and purification of stem cells in the human liver, pancreas and oesophagus, identifying the molecular pathways in ovarian cancer as potential therapeutic targets to prolong survival time and improve the quality of life of women with this cancer and designing new vaccines against tuberculosis using a novel delivery system. Other projects supported by the fund are in the fields of renewable energy, marine and earth sciences, food and water security, biomedical devices and implants, and bio energy.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 26, 2012
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Friday, June 15, 2012

IIT Faculty Federation's suggestions to the Prime Minister

Restore IITs autonomy by officially seeking ratification / acceptance from the various IIT Senates on the CET decided by IIT Council: Since the Council / MHRD has announced officially the new CET, each IITs should now be given the following choices: (a) accept the proposed CET as it is, (b) accept the proposed CET with specific conditions or riders and (c) reject the proposed CET and have its own admission process (the IIT Kanpur model). This action and process is mandatory to uphold the autonomy of each of the IITs.

Changes should be only from 2014 or later: Current test pattern (JEE and AIEEE) should continue at least for the year 2013. Sufficient time (at least two years) must be provided for kicking in major, sweeping changes in any admission process of such high stakes. The entire processes and procedures should be tested as a dry run during 2013 for which data is presently not available even as of today. In addition, the normalisation scheme should be analysed and validated for consistency.

Proposed CET increases stress: The concept of One Exam for India will be a make or break test, as candidates not faring well on that particular day/test due to whatever reason will need to wait for one full year before he/she can compete again. It is clear that such a make or break CET will only add to stress, far from reducing it.

Normalization of board marks needs more studies, as suggested by Indian Statistical Institute. In general, IIT Senates are in favour of considering board performance, but the exact mechanism needs to be finalized jointly by IIT Senates.

The coaching may increase: Coaching for board examination will also start, as evidenced by the recent advertisements. This will make it difficult for students from financially weak backgrounds, and from rural backgrounds.

Who will conduct the examination? IITs have been conducting JEE since last 4 decades. JEE has established itself world over. So, taking the JEE out of IITs is not justifiable.

Specific Requests
No change in the year 2013, present system to continue.
Senates of IITs be allowed to take decision on admission in IITs (considering all relevant aspects like format of examination, modalities etc) ensuring the academic autonomy of the IITs.
Consideration of board marks from 2014 to be worked out over a period of time after analysing the board data and results from the dry run.

Source: www.ndtv.com, June 15, 2012

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Autonomy of IIT has to be respected, says PM

The All India Indian Institutes of Technology Faculty Federation (AIIITFF) met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today at his residence. The meeting comes after two weeks of dissent following the 'one nation, one test' proposal announced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) headed by Kapil Sibal.

The AIIITFF submitted a letter to the PM, opposing the decision of a Joint Entrance Exam (JEE). In the hard-hitting letter, the dissenting body says the autonomy of the IITs must be restored. The letter requests the PM to let the IITs decide whether to accept, change or outrightly rejects the new proposal by the MHRD along with the IIT Council.

The letter also states any changes to the admission process be brought into effect in 2014 or later, stressing the current IIT-JEE and AIEEE must continue in the coming year. The letter written to the PM rejects all reasons given by the MHRD, saying the stress of exams will increase with all students made to take the Common Entrance Test (CET) in the new proposal, the number of tutorials centres are bound to increase and normalisation of marks would need more research to make it a sound idea.

AIIITFF is among other bodies opposing the idea. The minister, though, has maintained that it is a unanimous decision that came about after two years of deliberations.

Source: www.ndtv.com, June 15, 2012
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Indians can dominate workforce of future, but may lack the skills

First the good news: China will be replaced by India and the young developing economies of South Asia and Africa as the leading source of new workers in the global market. The bad news: India will produce 58 million low-skilled workers, who will find it difficult to get jobs.

The mixed tidings come from a labour report by McKinsey and Co. that was released on Thursday and comes amid gloomy prognostications about the slowing Indian economy, including a warning that it risks becoming a laggard among the BRIC grouping that also comprises Brazil, Russia and China.

“While China will be eclipsed as the world’s major source of low-cost labour, it will assume a new and potentially more important role as the largest supplier of college-educated workers to the global labour force,” the report said. “Between them, China and India will contribute 57% to the world’s new workers with some college education through 2030.”

As for the countries of South Asia and Africa, “these nations will supply 60% of the more than 600 million net new workers that we project will be added to the global labour supply, bringing the total global labour force to 3.5 billion in 2030”, the McKinsey report added. The report underlines the dichotomy that while there could be a surplus of nearly 94 million low-skilled workers across the world, global economies will need some 40 million skilled workers.

What is most striking about the report is that more than half of these 94 million workers will come from India. That could erode the country’s competitive advantage and undermine its bid to get the service economy to become an engine of growth. India currently has a pool of some 469 million workers and is adding at least 12 million new workers to the labour pool every year, according to official data.

From 1980 to 2010, the world’s labour force grew 1.2 billion to approximately 2.9 billion. Almost 90% of the growth occurred in developing economies, including 500 million new workers in China and India. “If these trends persist—and absent a massive global effort to improve worker skills, they are likely to do so—there will be far too few workers with the advanced skills needed to drive a high productivity economy and far too few job opportunities for low-skill workers,” it said. “Developing economies could have too few medium-skill workers to fuel further growth of labour-intensive sectors and far too many workers who lack the education and training to escape low-productivity and low-income work,” it added.

The report is the latest reality check on the Indian economy, which is already struggling with slower growth, a widening deficit and political roadblocks to economic policymaking. On Tuesday, rating agency Standard and Poor’s warned India it could be the first among the BRIC nations to have its investment-grade rating slashed to junk status. India is undergoing a demographic bulge, said Anu Madgavkar, Senior Fellow at McKinsey Global Institute, one of the lead authors of the report. In many advanced countries and even in China, additions to the the labour force are slowing, while in India, the overall pool is increasing. The problem is the lack of skills. “By 2020, our report says the country will face a shortage of 13 million medium-skilled workers required to boost labour-intensive sectors,” she said.

The report stressed that industrialization will boost demand for workers with secondary education and vocational training in India and the developing economies of South Asia and Africa. “But because of low rates of high school enrolment and completion, India could have 13 million too few such workers,” it said. Madgavkar said what “the country needs to do is build up on the good work that it has done in primary education (near 100% access). It needs to improve its secondary education as well as vocational education streams”. This bulging workforce provides an opportunity as the “labour cost is growing and the labour pool is shrinking in China”, she said. “You will find many manufacturing semi-skilled jobs coming to India,” she added.

Retirement could mean the loss of some valuable skills unless adequate replenishment is ensured. “Over same period (the next two decades), we project that the total population of people over 55 who are not in the labour force could reach 360 million,” the report said. “Some 40% of the expected retirees would be in the advanced economies and China, complicating the challenge of filling skill gaps in those nations. Of these retirees, approximately 38 million would be college-educated workers, who will take with them valuable skills.”

E. Balaji, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of human resource firm Randstad India, said: “India is adding over 12 million people to the workforce every year and here the country needs to think how best they can be employed. All cannot get white-collar jobs, so the way ahead is to boost sectors such as manufacturing and organized retail.” That’s why the relaxation of rigid labour rules is critical, he said. “Our labour policies are not conducive for manufacturing growth as there is little flexibility in labour laws and mobility of labour force is not encouraged,” he said. “Since the farm sector is not contributing much to our economy, people engaged in that sector are largely underemployed, which is a bigger problem than unemployment.”

Balaji said the country needs to look at an integrated solution, “which comprises reform in labour laws, incentivizing manufacturing, improved skill training and of course allowing more FDI (foreign direct investment) in retail. Walmart is one of the top recruiting firms in the world and if such companies enter our country, it will create jobs and that too in the organized sector”.

Source: Mint, June 14, 2012
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Executive education on global B-schools' radar

An increased supply of executive education programmes by the Ivy League institutes and other international B-schools, including Harvard Business School (HBS), Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Tuck School of Business, INSEAD, Oxford University’s Said Business School and Duke University, in Indian the market is set to add pressure on management institutes in the country.

B-schools Business Standard spoke to said though there will be pressure, the only way is to deliver quality products and services. “Executive training at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) is changing with the competitive pressures from Ivy League global B-schools such as HBS and INSEAD turning their heads to the Indian executive education market. The impact of executive programmes by international B-schools on management development programmes, offered by IIMs, is likely to be on quality and nature of programmes conducted in the executive education domain,” says Keyoor Purani, Chairperson, MDP, IIM-Kozhikode (IIM-K).

The pressure will be felt in different areas by different B-schools. For some, there will be added competition in the vertical of open enrolment management development programmes (MDP), wherein B-schools offer an open invitation to working executives on a set topic. There are some who say the pressure would be felt in customised MDPs demanded by companies exclusively for their employees. “Others, especially IIMs, may feel the pressure in open enrolment MDPs. Our focus is mostly on customised progammes, which is where we will have to up the ante,” says Bibek Banerjee, Director, IMT, Ghaziabad.

India’s growing Rs. 3.5-billion executive education space continues to attract B-schools. US-headquartered Harvard Business School opened a classroom at Taj Lands End, at Bandra, in suburban Mumbai. The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, is scouting for a centre in India, preferably Mumbai. “I think international B-schools will give competition to Indian B-schools. With their deep-rooted global research, highly-experienced faculty, exhaustive curriculum and attractive price-points, the programmes from schools such as INSEAD, Wharton and Tuck offer tremendous value proposition,” said Chaitanya Kalipatnapu, Director, Eruditus Executive Education.

Eruditus, promoted by alumni of INSEAD and Harvard Business School, delivers executive education programmes to Indian corporations and participants. It is at present working with INSEAD and Tuck School of Business in India. “More research from these schools is being focused on India such as The India Way (Wharton), Top Indian CEOs (INSEAD), Reverse Innovation (Tuck). This makes their programmes more compelling,” he added.

With competition building up, how do Indian B-schools plan to counter it? “We will invest heavily on faculty research and go for international accreditation. We will have to open up ourselves for scrutiny as per international standards,” adds Banerjee. Also, increased engagement and collaborations with the industry and “heightened participation in international peer review journals” are some of the other steps.

According to Purani, open-enrolment programmes, pre-designed by the members of faculty based on cutting-edge research and formulation of new practices to upgrade senior executive know-how, are likely to be impacted the most. “Senior and top-level executives from private organisations have started moving to training at foreign B-schools or have executive coaches to keep abreast of new management perspectives and techniques. Even top- level executives from government and public-sector organisations are choosing to go abroad or participate in programmes conducted by top international B-schools in India,” he says.

Indian B-schools believe the challenge will be to continue to draw corporate nominations in high-impact, cutting-edge, research-based, open enrolment programmes which prepare senior executives for emerging challenges. “Such programmes have a smaller market and, hence, the pressure from international B-schools would be felt the most, since the latter may eat into this small pie significantly if IIMs get lured by a large number of middle-level, generic programmes. We will focus on specific development themes, demonstrate expertise through new research and publications in contemporary areas and develop more relevant programmes targeted at senior executives. Another way is to create strategic difference through ‘Indianising’ the content and programmes, making them more relevant to Indian companies,” adds Purani.

In other words, while foreign B-schools are attempting to develop India-specific content through their local research centers, IIM-K will look to focus on adaptation of global models in Indian context. However, Indian B-schools disagree there will be added pressure on fees as well. “We are not under pricing pressure, in fact, we had around 12-18 per cent increase in the fees from previous financial year. MDPs were focused on the needs of the industry. The trend we see is that of increased demand for customised programmes. And from an international audience to understand India through programmes of IIM-B,” says Shyamal Roy, Chairperson, Executive Education, IIM-Bangalore.

Source: Business Standard, June 14, 2012
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HRD Minister's two key plans run into roadblock

Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal appears to have hit a rough patch with two key plans - introduction of the common test for IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and the implementation of the minority sub-quota in central educational institutions - running into opposition.

The minister is currently in Washington for the Indo-US Higher Education Dialogue even as the All India IIT Faculty Federation (AIIITFF), which is on the warpath over the Centre's 'one-nation one-test' proposal, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday. "PMO's has responded to our request. We will meet PMO officials tomorrow (Thursday) and PM on Friday," a top official of AIIITFF said.

The meeting assumes significance in the wake of Sibal virtually ruling out going back on the Centre's new proposal. Opposing the Centre's new format, the AIIITFF had written to the PM on May 31, saying that "each IIT is an individual and independent academic entity and should reserve its right to follow its own norms with regards to admissions and other academic matter".

Seeking the PM's intervention, AIIITFF had said that the IIT system should be preserved not only as per the provisions of the acts but beyond. Sibal, who is currently on a visit to the US, has said that the government has no intent to impinge on the autonomy of the IITs.

The ministry also suffered a setback on Wednesday after the Supreme Court refused to stay the Andhra high court order to carve out a 4.5% sub-quota from the 27% OBC reservation pie. The high court order led to confusion and concerns for the 325 students already shortlisted under the minority sub-quota. After instructions from the government and IITs, students were asked to widen their choice of courses.

Source: The Times of India, June 14, 2012
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325 IIT aspirants to get seats; not choice of course, institute

The IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and other centrally-funded educational institutions will now have to put on hold the minorities sub-quota following the Supreme Court order. Students in this category who had already been counseled are likely to lose their choice of course or the IIT. IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) organizing committee chairman Prof G B Reddy said, "The minority quota will not be implemented this year but all the students who have been shortlisted will be accommodated in the OBC quota list. The first list for allocation of seats will be released on Thursday.''

There are a total of 9,647 seats in different IITs including 4,722 for the general category students. A total 17,464 candidates were shortlisted for counseling this year. Under the proposed sub-quota, 441 seats were reserved for minorities, but only 325 candidates were shortlisted.

Former member secretary to the National Commission for Backward Classes P S Krishnan denied that the sub-quota was worked out for religious considerations. He said, "The sub-quota from the OBC quota is not based on religion. It seeks to reserve seats for those from a religion or caste who are socially and educationally backward as well." Krishnan said an indicator of the backwardness within the minority communities was the fact that despite reservation there were not enough deserving candidates who made it to IIT. He referred to the Sachar Committee report that has documented the social and educational backwardness of Muslims in India in extensive details. For instance, while the Muslim population forms 13.4%of the total population, it accounts for only 6.3% of graduates.

The counselling for 15 IITs, Institute of Technology-Banaras Hindu University (IT-BHU) and the Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad was on till June 10 with the first list being announced on Thursday. The counselling website had been opened for the shortlisted candidates from May 18, giving them a chance to opt the courses of their choice. Online counselling ended on June 10.

The first round of seat allotment will be intimated online through the counselling website on June 14. Seats not accepted in the first round will be allotted on AIR (All India Ranking) basis. The second round of allotment will be done on June 25. The final round of allotment will be done on July 6. This year a total of 479,651 candidates had appeared in both the papers of IIT-JEE, conducted on April 8. Out of the total number of candidates, 24,112 have secured ranks in various categories and 17,462 had been shortlisted for counselling for admission to 9,647 seats in 15 IITs, IT-BHU and ISM-Dhanbad.

Defending the sub-quota, officials cited the Mandal Commission which placed backward Hindus to form 43.7% of the population. At that time, the Hindu population was 83.84% of India. So, 43.70% in 83.84% is same as 52 out of 100. Therefore, the commission applied a rule of the thumb and assumed that the percentage of BCs among non-Hindus would also be 52% of the population of minorities.

Source: The Times of India, June 14, 2012
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IIT faculty federation seeks roll back of common entrance test

The IIT faculty federation, opposed to the proposed common entrance for admission in IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and other centrally-funded technical institutes, today met senior officials of the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) and sought a roll back of the decision. "We are encouraged with the meeting and are hopeful of a positive outcome," Secretary of All India IIT Faculty Federation (AIIITFF) A K Mittal told reporters after meeting PM's advisor T K A Nair.

The federation is also expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow expressing reservation to the common test. Today's meeting assumes significance in the wake of HRD Minister Kapil Sibal virtually ruling out going back on the Centre's new proposal. AIIITFF had written to the Prime Minister on May 31 saying that "each IIT is an individual and independent academic entity and should reserve its right to follow its own norms with regards to admissions and other academic matter".

Sibal, who is currently on a visit to the US, has said that the government has no intent to impinge on the autonomy of the IITs. The government had on May 28 announced that from 2013, aspiring candidates for IITs and other central institutes like NITs and IIITs will have to sit under a new format of common entrance test, which will also take the plus-two board results into consideration.

Sibal had claimed that it was approved without dissent at a council consisting of the IITs, the IIITs and the NITs. Delhi IIT alumni association today shared a letter with the press and addressed to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal which shows IIT Kanpur's dissent over the council's decision of adopting the new test format.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 14, 2012
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IIT faculty to meet PM to object new common entrance exam

The IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) faculty is taking its fight against the new common entrance examination all the way to the Prime Minister. A group comprising members of the All India IIT Faculty Federation and Alumni Association will be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.

The protesting faculty members and alumni had earlier written to Prime Minister Singh explaining their objection to the common entrance examination that had been approved by the IIT Council in May. They had sought the Prime Minister's "direct and immediate intervention" to settle the issue.

The move comes after human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, who is currently in the United States, virtually ruled out a roll back of the decision. Sibal has made it clear that the decision to adopt the new admission procedure wasn't his or his ministry's but an "unanimous decision" of the joint IIT, NIT and IIIT Councils.

The HRD minister also made it clear that he had no intention of interfering with the autonomy of the institutes. He said that the rationale for the the common examination system lay in the need to reduce the stress of multiple examinations and to restore the importance and central place to school education.

The protesting faculty has argued that in matters of admission, the Senate was supreme. This is an argument that is contested, as the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 clearly states that the IIT Council has the final say in matters such as admission. The law, which details out the functions of the Senate, doesn't list setting admission standards among them.

The IIT faculty and alumni have said that any "unnecessary meddling" with the current format of entrance exams could seriously jeopardise the prestige and standing of the IITs "respected across the world". Urging the Prime Minister to use his "good offices" to thrash out the contentious issue at the earliest, IIT-Kanpur has also asked the Prime Minister to order cancellation of the new common entrance examination system.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 14, 2012
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Kapil Sibal trying to persuade deemed universities to adopt new common entrance exam

Protests by the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) faculty and alumni notwithstanding, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is reaching out to states and deemed to be universities to consider adopting the new common entrance examination for engineering programmes. HRD minister Kapil Sibal is trying to persuade the 130 deemed universities to accept the "one nation, one examination" principle. The minister will be meeting representatives of the deemed universities on June 25 to discuss this possibility. Most of these universities have engineering colleges.

At present, many of the deemed universities conduct their own entrance examination, while some are part of the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE), and some institutes may use scores from state examinations or IIT-JEE (Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Exam). Either way it means that aspirants to an engineering programme have to appear for multiple examinations.

"While some deemed to be universities admit students to engineering colleges on the basis of the AIEEE scores or state-level engineering exams, in other states, some deemed varsities get together to organise an entrance examination. There are some deemed varsities which also hold individual entrance exams or even admit students on the basis of their Class XII board results. The ministry will discuss with them the possibility of joining the common test," a senior official said.

Sibal has consistently argued that a common entrance examination would reduce the stress of multiple tests. Given that the new system gives weightage to school board results, it would also restore the importance of school education. Getting the deemed universities to adopt the new common examination would be a big step in the effort to replace multiple tests for admissions to undergraduate engineering courses. "Convincing the deemed universities, especially the private ones to join is a big challenge," a senior member of a centrally funded technical institution said.

While the IIT Kanpur Senate has rejected the new common test and IIT faculty and alumni continue to protest, several states have already indicated their willingness to adopt the common test for state run engineering institutions. States such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttarakhand have indicated that they will adopt the common test for admission in state engineering colleges. States like Bihar and West Bengal are willing to consider it. All states have been requested to inform the ministry by June 30 whether they plan to adopt the common test and if so from which academic session. The meeting will also urge deemed universities to adopt uniform accounting standards in 2013 to bring in transparency regarding accounting and investments.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 14, 2012
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

IIT-Delhi alumni open to talks on CET row

A day after HRD minister Kapil Sibal said that the government had no intention to impinge on IITs' (Indian Institutes of Technology) autonomy, IIT Delhi Alumni Association said that while a legal recourse was an option, it would be willing to discuss the differences.

IIT Delhi Alumni President Somnath Bharti said that it was deeply worried about Sibal's decision not to rollback. "The new JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) will not only ruin IITs' autonomy but will also be detrimental to the interests of the students from rural India and the move, if properly analyzed, seems benefitting to no one but coaching institutes — a fact belying the claims of MHRD [Ministry of Human Resource Development],'' he said. Bharti added that the alumni were willing to discuss issues but seeking legal recourse would remain an option.

When asked about the controversy over the common entrance test for IITs, Sibal, who is Washington, said, "Quite frankly this is not the minister's decisions. This is the unanimous decision of the IIT Council, consisted of all the IIT Directors and Chairmen. Then we have the IIIT (Indian Institute of Information Technology) Council representatives there, we have NIT (National Institute of Technology) Council representatives there. All of them decided unanimously for a particular course of action," he said.

"In terms of the IIT Act, there is an IIT Council. In terms of that Act the Council is entitled to take certain decisions by virtue of a statue. The Council has endorsed those decisions. I do not know what the exact objections to it are? I will go back and find out the exact nature of these objections and will surely address it," he said. "But one thing I want to make clear that there is no intent to impact on the IIT system's autonomy. That is quite clear. The academic autonomy of the IIT system has to be maintained and must be maintained. The exam that is being contemplated is going to be set by the IIT, not by the government, not by anybody else," he added.

Meanwhile, All India IIT Faculty Federation Secretary Prof. A K Mittal on Tuesday said that IIT-Kanpur's decision had "set the tone for other IITs that do not agree with the current MHRD [Ministry of Human Resource Development] proposal of common entrance test.'' Mittal said the faculty members had no personal agenda and that it was their responsibility to "defend and protect the academic excellence and autonomy of these great institutions envisioned by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru from any political interference...In opposing the HRD ministry's test, we are not trying to achieve elitist status but protect the sanctity of academic freedom granted to these institutions by an act of Parliament (Institutes of Technology Act, 1961) and ensure that only the best students get selected by a fair process," he added.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 13, 2012
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Kapil Sibal rules out rollback of common exam, no intent to impact IIT system’s autonomy

Even as members of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) faculty and alumni continue to protest over the new common entrance examination, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal virtually ruled out a rollback. The minister, who is currently in Washington for the India-US Higher Education Dialogue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stressed on the need to reduce the number of examinations that students have to take for admission to colleges and universities and to accord the integrity to the school system.

"In India, each child has to look for a university or a college and then he has to sit for 30-35 exams... the mental stress and torture of having to go to 30-35 exams, I think, is not fair to the parents as well as to the children. Then, the other thing is that the school system must be accorded its integrity. The class XII board is a very important milestone in the life of a child and how he does in the class XII Board is exceptionally important. Any process of admission should take that into account. So these are the objectives," Sibal said while explaining the rationale for the common entrance exam.

Sibal told newspersons the 'one nation, one test' proposal was a unanimous decision of the IIT Council taken in accordance with the IIT Act passed by the Indian Parliament. "There is no intent to impact the IIT system's autonomy. The exam that is being contemplated is to be set by the IIT itself. It is the JAB ( Joint Admissions Board), which will actually set the examination. We have no desire in any way (to infringe on the autonomy)."

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 13, 2012
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

IBA approves vocational education loan scheme

The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) approved a vocational education loan scheme that provides an impetus to the country’s skill mission, part of a thrust to improve the efficiency of the labour force and boost the economy. With India targeting to teach skills to around 500 million people by 2022, the scheme will help not just students but also skill providers complaining of low enrolment due to financial reasons.

“IBA has finally approved the scheme and we see this as a very important ingredient to achieve the goal,” said J.P. Rai, Executive Director, Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development (NCSD), confirming the development. The model loan scheme for vocational education and training, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint, will not require any collateral security from students and there will be no age bar for availing of the loan.

India needs to teach its people skills to take advantage of a likely rise in jobs that will need such knowledge or risk losing the advantage of growth-led employment generation. According to the loan scheme, the interest rate to be charged will be linked to the base rate of banks as decided by the individual banks or at reduced rates, if an interest subsidy is provided by the central or state government. “Simple interest will be charged during the study period and up to the commencement of repayment,” the scheme said.

For courses up to a year, the repayment can be made between two and five years after the moratorium period and for courses above one year duration, it can be repaid in three-seven years. The Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development, the apex body overseeing the skilling target, has already written to all IBA member banks, Rai said. He hopes that the loans will be available from July onwards.

As per the scheme, which will be an extension of the current education loan portfolio, the skill loan amount will be roughly in the range of Rs. 20,000 to Rs.150,000. Those pursuing a skills course of up to three months duration can seek a Rs. 20,000 loan. For courses longer than a year, students can seek loans of Rs.150,000. However, “banks may consider sanction of higher limits for courses with duration above one year, if required, for specific courses offered by reputed institutions having regard to the nature of such courses and employability (ability to repay out of job earnings)”, said the scheme document.

To be eligible, students need to study in an institution recognized by the government either at the Centre or in the state, and at institutes supported by the National Skill Development Corp. (NSDC). “A universal vocational loan scheme will increase financial accessibility,” said an NSDC spokesperson.
Vocational training in India is a $20 billion (around Rs.1 trillion) business annually, according to a July report by Kotak Securities Ltd. Around 475 million people will need training by fiscal 2022, it said.

“There was need for a separate scheme for vocational training courses as sometimes bank officials may be wary of lending to students pursuing such courses in the absence of a specific scheme,” said M. Narendra, Chairman and Managing Director of Indian Overseas Bank. “Polytechnic and other vocational courses of short-term nature provide good employment opportunities,” he said.
Banks have to “get approval from the individual boards for rolling out the scheme. It could be operational by 1 July”, he said, adding that the default rate in education loans is around 4-5%. “But NPAs (non-performing assets) may get covered under the credit guarantee fund that the government is planning to set up.”

Muralidharan Thyagarajan, Managing Director of TMI e2E Academy, which has a tie-up with NSDC to train 520,000 people, said all skill providers are struggling to bring enrolment levels up. For a sustainable model of skill development, access to funds is important. “While the scheme looks great, it should be hassle free and quick,” he said. “If the processing time for a Rs. 20,000 loan takes 30 days, then the purpose will get defeated.” Ashok Reddy, Vice-President of staffing and training firm TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd, said the value is well understood but there is little mention of funding. “With the loan scheme, more students will complete courses and the employment and retention factors will improve.”

Source: Mint, June 12, 2012
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Financial studies set to become part of school curriculum

India's school curriculum is set to get a serious make-over with the inclusion of financial education. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the SEBI-led National Institute of Securities Market (NISM) have embarked on developing course material on financial education for high-school students. Mr. K. Sukumaran, Dean of School for Investor Education and Financial Literacy, NISM, said, “It is still at a nascent stage. The talks with the stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Human Resource Development and others, started in August last year.”

Mr Sukumaran added that the capital market regulator is taking the lead in co-ordinating with other regulators, such as the Reserve Bank of India, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and others. “The biggest challenge is that the school syllabus has so many different subjects. We are trying to examine if financial education can be embedded into the existing school curriculum. If you are looking at comprehensive financial literacy then we need separate text-books,” Mr Sukumaran added.

NISM has started designing the course modules for school, which would include topics such as savings, investments, banking, financial planning and other subjects. The subject is likely to be introduced in schools over the next one to two years, he said, adding that once the resource material is ready and NISM will also train school teachers. Meanwhile, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has agreed to incorporate financial education as part of school syllabus and it has appointed a committee in this regard.

SEBI officials said that they would like to make it a part of the regular school curriculum, making it necessary for every student to study the subject. “Last year we had 3,000 programmes for various target groups, including school students,” he added.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 12, 2012
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UK tightens post-study work rules for Indians

Odd jobs are not going to be an option for Indian graduate students once they finish their studies in UK. UK has made it clear that under the changed visa rules — aimed at cutting immigration — after getting their graduate degrees Indian students can only work in jobs there that match their qualification and only if the employment offer is from a recognised employer.

This was conveyed to India at the annual Foreign Office Consultations held between Foreign Secretary Rajan Mathai and UK Permanent Under Secretary Simon Fraser in New Delhi on June 1. In simple terms, a graduate will not be allowed to work as a pump assistant --- a job that doesn't require a degree --- in the UK.

Earlier many Indian students would take up small jobs under the post study work clause, which allowed them to extend their stay in the UK after completing their studies, official sources familiar with the discussions said. But this doesn't mean that Indian students cannot work in UK at all, they added.

Indian officials said getting a chance to work in UK for sometime after the studies had been a "major attraction for Indian students" many of whom come from middle-class backgrounds. Many, including top British universities, had expressed reservations that doing away with this visa category would deter overseas students.

But British officials explained that this change in visa rule under Tier 1 will in no way prevent Indian graduates from finding employment there. The rules under Tier 2 of the point-based system will allow all students who graduate from UK universities to apply for working visa provided they have "graduate level job offers". "They can work for three years under this and can extend it for another 3 years," an official said.

The UK has also promised to look into the India's concerns over the issue of "mobility of Indian professionals in UK". India had taken up similar concerns with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited India last month. New Delhi has maintained that barriers on the free movement of professionals were against WTO norms.

In 2011, UK issued about 32,000 visas to Indian students and it was estimated that the non-European Union students bring in 9 billion pound annually to the British exchequer.

Source: Hindustan Times, June 12, 2012
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Want to join AIIMS admin? Will need MBA!

In a bid to modernise its services, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is all set to adopt a corporate model of functioning with the introduction of new recruitment rules for its non-doctoral staff. Hospital authorities have taken the help of private firm Deloitte India to help frame the first draft of its recruitment criteria and promotion requirements for the 300 posts in the administrative and support staff. If all quarters of the staff give their consent, these draft rules, which make it mandatory for administrative officials and human resource staff to possess MBA degrees, will be brought in force from the next financial year.

Deloitte India was given the task of studying practices in Indian hospitals and abroad and provide the recruitment and promotion criteria best suited to AIIMS. The recommendations of the private agency were evaluated by a committee appointed under Dean of Research at AIIMS Dr A B Dey, and the cumulative draft is now being circulated among the staff for suggestions.

According to a senior official at the institute, “The need for revaluating our recruitment criteria to match the required skill sets at a premier medical institute like ours was felt after the 6th Pay Commission. After pay scales went up, we felt the need to hike expectations from our employees.” These moves, the official added, were being brought in without affecting the prospects of existing employees. For posts where qualification criteria is being made more advanced than those possessed by incumbents, AIIMS will hold a qualifying or eligibility exam for employees to continue in their existing posts.

IT and engineering staff now need a BE or B Tech or MCA with 10 years of work experience to apply to AIIMS. Accounts officials need to have an MBA, post-graduation and graduation degrees as per their seniority levels. A Human Resource Department is being instituted with a staff strength of three. The minimum qualification for these posts is an MBA. A Public Relations department is also being set up, with posts of PR managers for which post-graduation degrees in communication is required. For the pharmacy staff, post-graduate degrees in the discipline have been made mandatory.

Among support staff, for posts of technical officers in speech and hearing, Dental departments, physiotherapy, radiotherapy and lab medicine, a post-graduation degree and clinical experience in the field has been made mandatory. For laboratory technicians, the cap has been raised from school pass-outs to graduation degrees in lab medicine. For nursing superintendents and posts of nurses in sister grade II and III, the eligibility has been raised from matriculation pass, to BSc and MSc in Nursing, with a mandatory proficiency in computer use. OT assistants now need at least five years experience to apply to AIIMS.

A mandatory requirement for promotions is production of some research projects, or participation in assignments of continued education, in the respective areas of work for employees. According to the official, “We are trying to incentivise promotions, rather than follow the laid-back approach, characteristic of government set-ups.”

Sections of the staff have expressed displeasure over upscaling the qualifications. “We need to ensure that the existing staff who have been here for a long time do not lose out in this rat race. Nobody denies we need to improve services, but this should not be at the cost of existing employees,” a member of the staff union at AIIMS said.

Source: The Indian Express, June 12, 2012
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Centre weighs legal strength of IITs’ stand

In a bid to thwart the growing opinion against the common entrance test (CET) within the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the government is examining the legal strength of the position taken by the IIT Senates. So far, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has adopted a wait-and-watch policy even as senates of IIT Kanpur and Kharagpur rejected the government's decision to participate in the CET.

Sources in the MHRD said that according to the IIT Act the Senates are neither autonomous nor do they have unfettered rights in the matters of academic concerns of the Institute. "It is the IIT Council, rather than the senate, who is empowered to set the admission standards and other related academic matters," a source pointed out.

The decision taken by the IIT-Kanpur will have to get the nod of its board of governors in keeping with the IIT Act. According to section 13 of the Act, the Board of Governors (BoG) has the right to review the acts made by the senate, by another clause modify and cancel ordinances.

While Section 15 of the IIT Act gives control and general regulation responsibility for maintenance of "standards of instruction, education and examination in the Institute" to the senate, sources said that the function of the Senate did not include 'admission standards', which is in the exclusive domain of the IIT Council.

The ministry has been caught in a bind. While endorsed by the IIT Council, the "one nation, one test" issue has been close to HRD minister Kapil Sibal's heart. Sources said that the ministry would have to take a political decision on postponing the exams to 2014 or will face the risk of alienating the powerful faculty lobby. "While the BoG can overrule the senates, it will put the faculty on a path of direct confrontation with the administration and management which is best avoided," a source said.

Meanwhile, IIT Delhi Alumni Association and All India IIT Faculty Federation — the two organizations opposing the government's move most vehemently — have sought a meeting with the Prime Minister to apprise him of the situation that has arisen out of the ministry's announcement of new JEE on May 28. Sources said that IIT Kanpur professors had also written to the PM protesting against the new format.

Source: The Times of India, June 12, 2012
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New Exam: Since 2010, IIT Senates kept objecting but MHRD ignored

The controversy over the proposed new entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) may seem to have suddenly boiled over with IIT-Kanpur’s boycott, but a scrutiny of records shows that senior faculty from the IITs had raised several questions about the new exam’s timing and content as early as in 2010. But first discussions with the faculty were held as late as in April-May this year, after which the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) peremptorily brushed aside these objections.

In 2010, the MHRD constituted the Damodar Acharya committee — Acharya, Director of IIT-Kharagpur, over-ruled his Senate to back the exam — to propose a common engineering exam with weight to Class XII board scores. Here is a chronology of major developments:

July 9, 2010: IIT-Kanpur faculty rejected this committee’s report saying it was short on detail and didn’t consult specialists and stakeholders.

September 2011: A new committee, headed by T. Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, brought another proposal to the IIT Council meeting recommending weight to Class XII marks through a normalization process. Its recommendations were the basis of the new exam: a two-step JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) Main (for screening) and JEE Advanced (for the final IIT merit list) with 40% weight to Class XII scores at the screening stage.

November 14, 2011 and November 18, 2011: Endorsed by the councils of IIITs (Indian Institutes of Information Technology) and NITs (National Institutes of Technology) respectively and, in principle, by state education ministers on February 22, 2012. This proposal was also rejected by most IIT Senates.

February 15, 2012: IIT-Kanpur Senate said the IIT Council’s approval to the proposal was “disappointing” and that its role was strictly advisory.

March 12, 2012: The MHRD set up a core committee to interact with older IITs to reach out to the IIT academic community.

April 11, 2012: The first discussion with the All India IIT Faculty Federation (AIIITF) was held and with IIT Senates from April 25 to May 5.

April 25, 2012: IIT-Guwahati Senate, broadly agreeing with the proposal, said that no changes to JEE should be brought in before 2014.

May 2, 2012: IIT-Delhi Senate submitted that the Ramasami Committee recommendations may not be sufficient to reduce stress on students and there was need to strengthen school education. It said that holding a new JEE in 2013 would be unfair to students. IIT-Roorkee Senate said that the JEE Advanced should be a subjective exam.

May 3, 2012: IIT-Khargapur Senate said that a “minimum of two years lead time” was necessary to examine the effect of board performance on JEE ranking.

May 5, 2012: IIT-Bombay Senate said that the changes in examination style should only be implemented from 2014 and that JEE Advanced should be subjective in nature. It also said that it was not feasible to give weight to school board scores as of now. IIT-Madras, largely in agreement with the government -backed proposal, said that JEE Advanced could see problems in numerical answers.

The IIT Council meeting on May 9, 2012 recorded these varied recommendations of IIT Senates and how they wanted the changes to come into effect only in 2014. On May 14, AIIITF wrote to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal requesting participation from Senates and AIIITFF at the Council meeting on the exam issue and argued that “the Senates’ views should form the basis for the decisions pertaining to any academic matter, including the admission process”.

On May 25, 2012 AIIITF met Sibal who told them that while Senate inputs would be taken, “(a) final decision will be taken only by the IIT Council which could be different from the IIT Senates’ majority decisions”. The Federation then wrote to Sibal clearly saying that a 2013 test was not acceptable to all Senates and the plan to hold JEE Advanced as an objective type test was also against the majority decision of holding a subjective JEE Advanced.

On May 28, however, Sibal chaired a Joint meeting of Councils of IIITs, IITs and NITs and announced a new test format starting 2013.

For the record, Sibal last week said that the IIT Council had agreed to two points raised by the IIT Senates: ensuring that the test for admission to IITs is controlled by IITs alone and that school board weight should not decide the final merit list for IIT admissions. “The only area where there was variance was that the Senates wanted the new exam format to come into effect only in 2014 while the IIT Council said they were ready to hold it in 2013,” the minister had said. Sibal is currently is Washington for the 3rd Indo-US Strategic Dialogue.

Source: The Indian Express, June 12, 2012

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IIT-Kharagpur teachers to seek West Bengal Chief Minister's help

Faculty members of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur have decided to seek West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's intervention to put on hold the proposal of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for a common entrance test for undergraduate engineering courses across the country.

“We will bring it to the notice of the Chief Minister how the common entrance examination will undermine merit and dilute the academic standards of the IITs. The teachers will urge Ms. Banerjee to communicate her views to the Union Ministry in this regard,” said a senior faculty member of the IIT.

The proposed common entrance test has created divisions between the administration and faculty members of IIT-Kharagpur. While the Institute's Director Prof. Damodar Acharya has welcomed the proposal, representatives of the IIT-Kharagpur Teachers' Association have opposed it.

May agitate
“The faculty members of the Institute will do everything possible through democratic means to oppose the common entrance test,” said a faculty member. Referring to the protests in the past when the IIT teachers went on a hunger strike over implementation of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, he said that the teachers' association is contemplating similar protest on the issue.

“The faculty members never agreed that the Institute should admit students on the basis of a common entrance test from 2013,” he said, adding that the views of a majority of teachers had not been incorporated into the resolution of the IIT Senate. “IIT-Kharagpur is willing to expand the ambit of IIT-JEE to other institutions,” said the resolution taken by a special Senate meeting on May 2.

Earlier also, representatives of the teachers' association had expressed their apprehension about the common entrance examination to Ms. Banerjee. In a letter addressed to her in April, the association had argued how the students from the State will find it difficult to get into IITs once the performance of the school board is considered. “We could not agree to the proposal to consider marks obtained in the Higher Secondary Board Examination for the JEE selection process since we felt that it is very difficult to attain even 60 percent marks in our State Board Examination (10+2) compared to many other States,” the letter said.

Source: The Hindu, June 12, 2012
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India announces scholarships for NRI students in Saudi Arabia

India has announced a scholarship programme of as many as 100 grants for students of Indian origin in Saudi Arabia who are willing to pursue under graduate courses in several disciplines in their home country. The Indian Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has announced the details of a scholarship scheme offering 100 scholarships to assists children of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in pursuing under graduate courses in several disciplines ranging from science, economics, law, architecture, humanities, media studies, management, hospitality, and Agriculture/ animal husbandry.

The scheme "Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children" (SPDC) was launched by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in 2006-07. The eligibility of candidates applying for the scholarship would be judged on the basis of their performance in an qualifying examination (equivalent to plus 2 stage in India). The programme is open only to PIOs/NRIs from the specified 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia, having a larger concentration of Indian Diaspora.

The amount of scholarship admissible would be 75 per cent of the total Institutional Economic Cost (IEC) or $ 4,000 per annum, whichever is less. IEC includes tuition fee, hostel fee and other institutional charges. According to a Consulate statement, NRI candidates would be eligible for the grant of the scholarship only if their total family income per month does not exceed an amount equivalent to $ 2,250.

"Children of NRIs should have pursued at least three years of education, inclusive of 11th and 12th or equivalent (not beyond), in a foreign country during the last six years, and should have passed the qualifying examination abroad. The last date for receipt of duly filled-in application forms in the prescribed format by Ed.CIL is 18th June," it said. Ed.CIL (Educational Consultants India Limited), established in 1981, is a Government of India enterprise under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 12, 2012
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Online portals helping students in getting dream internships

Swapnil Khetan, a third-year student at Sardar Patel Institute of Technology here, wanted a medium to connect with top companies to secure an internship and was finding it difficult. That is when he stumbled upon www.Letsintern.com. In the two years of his association with the portal, he has done internships with Philip Morris, Channel V and the Zee Group. Several college students are opting to engage with online portals that help get them internships with companies. Portals such as www.Letsintern.com, www.Hellointern.com, www.Twenty19.com and www.letmeknow.in have come in to fill the gap between companies’ expectations and students’ needs.

“In India, according to various reports, 75-90 per cent of our graduates lack employability skills. These are best learnt on the job and our endeavour is to promote the internship culture in India by making it easier, accessible and covering a larger cross-section of job profiles,” says Rishabh, CEO and co-founder of www.Letsintern.com.

For the founders of www.HelloIntern.com, the idea was conceived out of the personal experiences of the founders when they were in pursuit of internship opportunities as students. They found getting a good opportunity was, in most cases, pivotal on the single question of, “Do you have a contact in the company you are going to apply?” The portal, founded six years earlier, now has a little more than 35,000 students registered on its website. Snehal N, co-founder of www.HelloIntern.com, says the students are mainly from engineering and MBA institutes. Daily, he said, the portal got five companies looking actively for interns. Students can upload their resume and apply for positions directly through the portal, without paying anything. Companies can glance at these profiles or search through the database, also for free. Also offered is a premium service called InternExpress, where they charge companies for complete intern recruitment solutions. About 1,600 companies, of which 75 per cent are start-ups, have recruited interns via HelloIntern.

Karthikeyan Vijayakumar, founder and CEO at www.Twenty19.com, would help students on an informal basis to get internships, in his initial days. He later launched a portal to streamline this process.It helps companies screen the appropriate candidate for their requirements. “Companies post their requirements on the portal and also have a quiz challenge tool at their disposal. Through this tool, the companies post the requirements, with some questions for prospective candidates. It becomes easier to select candidates on the basis of the answers they’ve provided to the questions. Here, too, it is free for students. Companies pay an annual fee for posting.

There are others, like www.letmeknow.in, which offer more services than internship. The portal offers internship opportunities, information about college events and scholarships, among others. It charges a fee for premium services for companies, but is free for students. Ankur Kumar, CEO, said the portal had 75 college ambassadors and had conducted orientation sessions across colleges in India. It has a 25,000-user base and gets the highest traffic from tier-2/3 college students, with no internship opportunities at college.

Demand
Students and companies have their own reasons for using the portals as a medium. Arnav Choudhury, a third-year student at Bharatiya Vidyapeeth University College of Engineering, Pune, said his reason for choosing www.Twenty19.com was the huge scope in terms of the number of companies advertising on it. He is pursuing an internship with Aspirare Ventures, a start-up dealing with corporate training assessment and offering marketing/sales solutions. Another student, Sanyam Agarwal, in his third year at Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Gwalior, wanted an internship in the mobile application segment and got it through www.Twenty19.com. He chose the portal because it offered more options than offline modes.

Young organisations like Social Heart, a portal hosting creations from non-government organisations and artists, found it convenient to source talent from a www.Twenty19.com rather than physically visiting a college. Similarly, Vinay C, CEO of WebSide, a platform involved in digital and social media marketing, found it easier and faster to choose candidates through the screening procedure at Twenty19.com. Soaib Grewal, co-founder of Waterwalla, has almost outsourced all its internship requirements to this portal. “We are a small organisation. It doesn’t make sense for us to go to colleges for internship requirements,” said Grewal. Waterwalla is a not-for-profit organisation, working for clean water in urban slums.

On an overall basis, the portals are seeing year-on-year growth of 80 to 100 per cent in the number of users."When we started, people said the entire industry is very small and we would barely survive. Not only did we survive and scale up profitably to a 20-people team across three offices, many other smaller players have emerged in the last two years and everyone’s been surviving and collectively growing the market," explained Rishabh.

While some are looking to add more students and companies to their list, while others like www.HelloIntern.com are looking to consolidate the business. “We feel the sector itself is not that attractive to build a large and scalable business like, say, Naukri or Monster, but it can be an excellent add-on to a recruitment portal and other student-focused services, as it will help them lower user-acquisition costs and also get a competitive edge. HelloIntern is actively looking for this consolidation and to become a part of an organisation which shares the same vision as ours,” said Snehal.

Source: Business Standard, June 11, 2012
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IIT-Delhi to go to Haryana, new campus in Sonipat

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi will soon set up its extension campus in Sonipat, just a few kilometres from the capital's border. IIT-D, which has the second highest number of students but the smallest campus, has been searching for land in NCR as it doesn't have enough space in Delhi. Responding to a letter from the IIT-D director, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has announced that his government will provide 50 acres to the institute in Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Sonipat. The 2,000-acre Education City, which was launched on Sunday, is the first-of-its-kind in the country, housing dozens of campuses of higher education institutes.

IIT-D Director R K Shevgaonkar's letter was handed over to Hooda by his son and Rohtak MP Deepender Singh Hooda, the lone parliamentarian on the IIT Advisory Council. Shevgaonkar has said the extension campus would not only facilitate the institute's much needed expansion but also provide an additional impetus to the economic and technical growth of the state. "The land at Sonipat will be used for activities like faculty development, incubation and setting up science and technology park, which would contribute in the growth of Haryana. We have also asked for land in Jhajjar, which would be used to set up a campus for research activities," he said.

Earlier in the day, Hooda laid foundation stones of 10 educational institutions that would come up in over 168 acres in the coming Education City. Among the institutions whose foundation stones were laid include Ashoka University, Asian Educational Society, Skyline Business School, Bharti Vidyapeeth University and SRM University, among others. The Haryana government estimates that once fully functional, Education City would have over 100,000 students. "You can imagine the impact it would have on Sonipat's development and the state and Sonipat would compete with Gurgaon," the chief minister said.

Education City is being developed on the pattern of Oxford University, the government claimed. Besides regular courses like management, information technology and computer sciences, it would also house institutes offering courses in bio-medical engineering, bio-technology, nano-technology, defence research and film and media studies.

The state government has reserved 25% of all seats for students from Haryana. Outstanding students from the state will also get a special rebate in fees.

Sources: The Times of India & The Hindu, June 11, 2012
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New engineering test format: IIT-Kharagpur Director's support irks IITs' faculty

The ongoing row over the joint entrance examination (JEE) for undergraduate engineering courses intensified on Sunday with the All India IIT Faculty Federation virtually rejecting the common test and expressing “shock'' over the IIT-Kharagpur Director's statement in support of it.

“The Director has made public statements which are in contradiction of the resolutions passed by the Senate of the IIT-Kharagpur. The resolutions did not recommend inclusion of board exam marks and the conduct of a joint entrance exam by a third party. The Senate said categorically that till 2014, no change should be made and status quo maintained,” A.K. Mittal, secretary of the Faculty Federation said in a statement here.

On Saturday, two Directors — Damodar Acharya of the IIT-Kharagpur and Gautam Barua of the IIT-Guwahati — backed the Ministry of Human Resource Development's decision and criticised the IIT-Kanpur's Senate for its decision to hold a separate entrance test in 2013. IIT-Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande had backed the government plan, but the Senate overruled his decision.

However, Mr. Damodar Acharya told The Hindu that at a special meeting held on May 2, the Senate agreed to open the JEE to all other institutions which would like to use it; but it came with a rider: the policy decisions, including paper setting, model answer preparation, printing, evaluation and the merit list preparation should be under the control of the IITs through a Joint Admission Board (JAB).

Core syllabus
The Senate wanted a common core syllabus in physics, chemistry and mathematics across the Boards, which was done through the COBSE (an apex body of all State Secondary Education Boards) and two years of lead time to examine the effect of the Board performance on the JEE ranking and the availability of Board exam results in time. It had already been agreed that for the final ranking, the inclusion of the Board's normalised score could be considered only in 2015.

“It may be noted that the proposed examination in two papers, JEE-main and JEE-advanced, are not very different from the current one. The perception that it will adversely affect the quality of input to IITs is without any basis. In fact, students with better Board performance will now get a chance to get into IITs. These students shall perform better than students who have cracked the JEE with poorer school performance, Prof. Acharya said.

‘Continuous evolution'
The faculty of the IIT-Kharagpur also issued a statement, rejecting the Centre's decision. “The trust that the IIT-JEE has earned over the last five decades is due to the continuous evolution of processes and unflinching devotion of the faculty and staff of the IITs. Any test leading to ranking in IIT admissions must be wholly owned by the IITs,” it said.

Source: The Hindu, June 11, 2012
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Single engineering admission test formula hangs in balance over dissent

Differences have surfaced within the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, whose senate on Friday opposed a country-wide common entrance examination for technical colleges. If this dissent cascades — a section of the IIT-Kharagpur faculty is the latest group to express reservations — the plan for the common entrance test for all engineering and technology schools may come undone.

“One nation, one test, is a desirable objective. While IIT-Kanpur senate has passed a resolution, we have to look at its implications,” M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman of the Board of Governors (BoG) at IIT-Kanpur, said on Sunday. “One IIT cannot run the IIT exam. We have to think whether all the IITs will go along. IITs are a close group and decisions need to reflect the view of all.”

But for the exception of two states, India is poised to move to a single entrance test for admission to engineering colleges across the country, possibly as early as next year, Mint reported on 6 June. This was decided at the state education ministers’ conference convened by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in the capital on Tuesday. The country has around 4,000 engineering colleges and at least 1.5 million students enter them every year.

After the senate resolution on Friday, IIT-Kanpur’s Director has already formed an admissions committee, and the first task of this panel will be to coordinate with other willing IITs to conduct a separate admission test in 2013, a senate member said on condition of anonymity. A section of the IIT-Khargapur faculty on Sunday also expressed dissent over the proposed common entrance exam, said A.K. Mittal, secretary of the All India IIT Faculty Federation.

In the worst-case scenario, there could be two different tests for the 15 IITs; those who support the common admission examination devised by the IIT Council can go for the single test and those with IIT-Kanpur can have their own admission process, the Kanpur senate member said. Anandakrishnan said the government, the BoG and the senate cannot behave like “different political parties”, and it is possible to have a “harmonious relationship”. The BoG of an IIT is its highest decision-making body.

Meanwhile, IIT Delhi is set to hold a senate meeting on 21 June after its director returns from a vacation. Some of its faculty said it is “possible to have a similar resolution like Kanpur”, but others said a clear picture will emerge only within a week. The teachers declined to be named. Both IIT-Delhi and IIT-Kanpur have expressed their dissatisfaction over the IIT Council’s 28 May decision to hold a common entrance exam. The Council is headed by HRD minister Kapil Sibal and comprises of all the directors, the chairpersons of the board of governors of IITs, industry experts, a few ministry bureaucrats and officials from the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The Council decided that applicants will be selected on the basis of three tests—the class XII board exam, the joint entrance examination (JEE) main test and the JEE advanced exam. All the centrally funded technical institutes except the IITs will give weightage to these three sets of examinations in the proportion of 40:30:30. The ministry says a uniform national test will reduce the demand for capitation fees that many engineering colleges demand, just as it will reduce stress on aspirants, who now write multiple entrance tests. It will also diminish the influence of coaching centres on entrance preparation and re-emphasize the importance of class XII board exams across India.

At least two officials of the MHRD said they were yet to receive any formal communication from IIT-Kanpur. “Despite all the noise, we expect to find a common ground. At the maximum, we will sit down for another round of dialogue with the IITs and things will move on from next academic year,” said one of the officials. “When he (Sibal) is back in action (on 18 June), we expect things to settle down and a clearer picture to emerge,” the second official said. Both officials requested anonymity.

Somnath Bharti, President of IIT Delhi Alumni Association and a Supreme Court advocate, said IIT-Kanpur can hold its own entrance examination. “The IIT council’s decision is not binding on individual IITs,” he said. “It (the common admission test) looks like a populist decision by the minister.” The IIT Delhi Alumni Association is set to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week and is weighing legal options to “protect the autonomy of the IITs”, Bharti said.

Source: Mint, June 11, 2012
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IIT faculty, alumni step up opposition to 'One nation, one examination' system

The face-off between the government and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Council on one side and the IIT faculty and alumni on the other over the common entrance examination is getting fiercer. Despite the "unanimous agreement" of the respective councils of IIT, NIT (National Institute of Technology) and IIIT (Indian Institute of Information Technology), human resource development minister Kapil Sibal is finding it difficult to put in place 'one nation, one examination' system. The IIT faculty and alumni have stepped up their opposition.

The loud protests from the IIT faculty and alumni against the government's education reform efforts come at a time when the beleaguered Manmohan Singh government least needs it. Friday's rejection of the common entrance examination by the Senate of IIT-Kanpur has been followed with rumblings among the faculty members of IIT-Kharagpur that they too are opposed to the common entrance examination.

Faculty members at IIT-Kharagpur claim that their objections to the common entrance examination have not been properly conveyed to the IIT Council. IIT-Kharagpur Director Damodar Acharya denies this. "This is totally wrong. The resolution of the May 2 meeting of the Senate was widely circulated and I have received no complaints. Moreover, on May 30, I held a meeting of the Senate to convey and explain the decision of the joint councils of IITs, NITs, and IIITs on the common examination. There were no murmurings or objections," Acharya told ET.

The IIT-Kharagpur director explained that the Senate had at its May 2 meeting said that "a minimum of a two-years lead is necessary for examining the effect of the Board result on JEE ranking and the availability of the Board results in time." An IIT-Kharagpur faculty member said that this does not reflects the views of the majority of the senators and faculty present at the May 2 meeting. They were of the view that during this lead period, the present IIT-JEE system should continue.

Acharya says that for now the board results will not impact the IIT ranking. "This is what was agreed to at the Council meeting of May 28. For the next three years, the IITs will admit students on the basis of their own examination, the JEE advanced. The Board results have no bearing on the ranking for admission to IITs. We will observe and study the common system being used by the NITs and IIITs during this time," the IIT-Kharagpur director said.

In a statement, the All India IIT Faculty Federation secretary AK Mittal said that the Federation "is shocked to learn that the director of IIT-Kharagapur has made public statements which are in contradiction to the resolutions made by the Senate of IIT-Kharagpur. Resolutions of the IIT-Kharagpur Senate did not recommend inclusion of board marks, and conduct of JEE by a third party. IIT-Kharagpur Senate categorically said that till 2014, no change should be made and status quo be maintained." Stressing that the fear about quality raised in connection with the normalisation of State Board results was not tenable. He said that at present about 52% of the students are getting into IITs from various State Boards.

Source: The Economic Times, June 11, 2012
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