Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prometric goes solo, drops CAT partners

US-headquartered test-conducting firm Prometric Inc. has gone solo by dropping its Indian partners to conduct the computer-based common admission test (CAT) for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) this year. After two years of association, it has cut its ties with Everonn Education Ltd and MeritTrac Services Pvt. Ltd. This is not the first time that Prometric has dropped partners. In 2010, it went ahead with the test without NIIT Ltd, which helped it deliver the first computer-based CAT exam in 2009.

CAT 2012 is being conducted between 11 October and 6 November. A total of 214,068 candidates have registered for the test, seeking a berth in one of the 13 IIMs.

The first edition of the online CAT was mired by controversy due to technical glitches hindering thousands of students from writing the exam. A nationwide protest forced authorities to allow the aggrieved students to sit for the test a few months after the window closed. In 2010, Prometric roped in Everonn and Manipal education group-promoted MeritTrac to deliver the test.

“Yes, we are delivering the test by ourselves this time. Mutually, we have separated from Everonn and MetriTrac for CAT 2012,” said Soumitra Roy, Managing Director of Prometric India. An Everonn official said it was “not facilitating” IIM-CAT. “This is a strategic decision on the part of the company,” the official said, requesting anonymity. The IIMs confirmed the development.

S.S.S. Kumar, convenor of CAT-2012, said there are two partners — Axis Bank Ltd for the sale of vouchers, and Prometric, for delivering the tests. “They (Prometric) have gone ahead without their partners. Few days (of the test window) has gone and we have no problem in conducting the tests. We expect them to deliver a glitch-free exam,” Kumar said.

The US company may have begun preparations to go solo in September 2011 with the launch of its own hi-tech testing labs in Gurgaon and Hyderabad at the time. Mint had reported on 30 September a CAT convenor and a professor of IIM-Kolkata saying that Prometric may go solo in the near future.

Prometric’s move was an indication of its potential and ambitions for India, said Bharat Gulia, senior manager (education practice) at auditing and consulting firm Ernst & Young. “There is a good traction towards computer-based testing and its natural progression on the part of Prometric to expand. It’s seems a long-term plan,” Gulia said. He said India’s education sector is growing and “international companies are now looking at the country for opportunities ”.

The move may help Prometric in its bid to gain a bigger share of the growing Indian education market at a time when Pearson Education has managed to expand its footprint. Pearson acquired local firm TutorVista last year, besides setting up a joint venture with Educomp Solutions Ltd for skill education called IndiaCan.

Fiona Collins, Managing Director, Pearson VUE India, the test-conducting arm of Pearson, said: “Computer-based test is becoming increasingly popular across India, with some of the country’s leading examination bodies having transitioned from pencil and paper to computer-based delivery... Pearson VUE sees a bright future”. She said the market is growing because the process is tamper-proof and convenient both for institutes and candidates.

Roy of Prometric said that its augmenting capability and will continue to grow in India, reflecting why it went solo for CAT 2012. Reacting to the development, Nagendran S., Executive Vice-President, MeritTrac, said it’s not partnering Prometric because of “different business priorities”. In the next four to five years, at least 100 million computer-based tests will be conducted in India, he said. Last year, MetritTrac delivered at least 2 million such tests.

Conducting examinations “is a specialist function. World over, only specialist organizations have succeeded in this business. The most important knowledge to have is the knowledge of the examination processes, which are sacrosanct”, Nagendran said.

Source: Mint, October 17, 2012
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Petroleum technology institute in Rae Bareli awaits land allocation

Five years after the government established the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology “to develop India as a global manpower hub” for the energy sector, the institute still awaits land allocation. Of the 125 acres required for the institute at Jais in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli district, only 47 acres have been allotted.

Around 200 Indian and foreign students are enrolled at the institute, which currently functions out of an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) building. Rae Bareli is the parliamentary constituency of Congress party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress leads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.

“The delay in land allocation has resulted in the suffering of our strategic intent. There has been an inordinate amount of delay,” said a government official, requesting anonymity.

The institute is expected to play a key role in India’s efforts towards energy security by training students from hydrocarbon-rich countries and was a part of India’s economic diplomacy policy aimed at enhancing relationships with such nations. The land allocation process was allegedly disrupted by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government that was in power till March 2012, according to a former petroleum ministry functionary, who requested anonymity. He said the delays were due to political reasons. The state is now ruled by the Samajwadi Party (SP), which supports the UPA government.

“The issue was also raised at Uttar Pradesh’s annual plan discussions. The state government keeps on saying that they are expediting it,” said the first government official quoted above. Abhishek Mishra, minister of state in the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s office, didn’t immediately respond to queries sent to his cellphone.

The institute — promoted by state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC), Oil India Ltd (OIL), GAIL (India) Ltd, Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) along with the oil industry development board — currently offers a master’s programme in business administration and two technical programmes.

“Though initially there was a requirement for 125 acres, due to delays in land allotment, the master plan was made for 47 acres only as we only had 47 acres in our possession,” said an official at one of the promoter entities. “The construction is on for 19 buildings, which is expected to be completed by March 2013. No further expansion is possible on the present land area.”

While questions emailed to the registrar of the institute late Monday remained unanswered, a petroleum ministry official requesting anonymity said, “There has been a delay over land acquisition which may affect the strategic intent behind the institute. However, I am hopeful that the present state government expedites the remaining land allocation.”

The government sees energy security as a key to economic growth, with India’s search for hydrocarbon equity abroad focusing on countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Angola, Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Indian energy firms such as ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of ONGC, and OIL are trying to acquire energy assets overseas. Production from overseas energy assets contributes around 10.5% of India’s production of 90 million tonnes of oil and gas. Countries such as India that are dependent on imports to meet their oil needs are particularly vulnerable to supply shocks.

India, the world’s fourth largest energy-consuming nation, imports 80% of its crude oil and 25% of its natural gas requirements. It trails the US, China and Russia, accounting for 4.4% of global energy consumption. India’s energy demand is expected to more than double by 2035, from less than 700 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) today to around 1,500 mtoe, according to the oil ministry’s estimates.

The Rajiv Gandhi institute, according to its website (www.rgipt.ac.in), “has been accorded the eminence of being an ‘institute of national importance’ along the lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)”.

Source: Mint, October 17, 2012
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

IIM Aspirants: Engineer rush in CAT forces rethink on test

This year 67.6% of the CAT aspirants are from engineering background, an increase of over five percentage points from the 2011 edition. And with a further dip in applicants from disciplines like arts, humanities and medical sciences, the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) are now taking a relook at the Common Admission Test (CAT) to offer a level playing field to candidates from other disciplines. Of the over 214,000 candidates, more than 144,000 candidates are engineers, whereas candidates from humanities are just 3,404.

"To an extent it's true engineers are at an advantage, but only partly as 50% of the test also has verbal ability. But yes, going by the data and with fewer candidates coming from arts and humanities, efforts are on to take a re-look at CAT," said CAT 2012 convenor SSS Kumar. He refused to give further details. But with the present edition of CAT underway and deliberations is mid-way Kumar refused to give out the details.

This year, of the 214,068 candidates who have registered for the test, 144,760 are engineers, whereas 3,404 are from humanities. Last year, 62.2% candidates were engineers.

Stating that there will be changes in the CAT 2013, the specifics of which will be released later after the decisions are finalized, Director of IIM-Kozhikode, Debashis Chatterjee said efforts are on to get talents from across disciplines. "It's a pity that we are missing out on some of the best talents present among those in humanities. At present, we are answering to the geo-political reality of India, but we are deliberating as to how the test will have to change," said Chatterjee. IIM-Kozhikode is conducting the CAT this year on behalf of the 13 IIMs.

Otherwise, CAT 2012 is much more inclusive with increase in female candidates, SC/ ST and non-creamy OBC and aspirants from agriculture, CA, architecture, pharmacology registering for the test. Another trend this year is a significant increase (43%) of aspirants with two to three years of work experience.

While the general category has registered an increase of 2.2%, the combined increase in the number of registration for non-creamy OBC, SC and ST as against 2011 is 4.7%. "The positive thing about CAT 2012 is that it has become more inclusive with increased participation from the reserved category, female candidates and from other disciplines like agriculture, CA, architecture and pharmacology. The significant 4.2% increase in registration is a positive sentiment despite the gloom. This growth is not a small thing if we put this in context to the 62% decline in interest in MBA programmes in the US," said Chatterjee.

Source: The Times of India, October 16, 2012
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Employability of MBA graduates at dismal low: Report

Employability of MBA graduates across specialisations is at a dismal low, says the National Employability Report MBA Graduates, Annual Report 2012 by Aspiring Minds. While employability is below 10% for functional role in the field of HR, marketing or finance, in business consulting roles, it is as low as 2.5%. The study also revealed that a higher percentage of females are employable in HR roles and that 40% of employable talent lies beyond the top 1000 MBA colleges.

The report on the graduate class of 2011 covering data of 32,000 students from 220-plus MBA schools has been done using AMCAT, an employability test conducted by Aspiring Minds. Employability of MBAs was lowest in business consulting, followed by analyst and functional roles.

"The low employability figures show that management students and colleges need personalised employability feedback and guidance to take the right corrective steps. This shall not only lead to more students getting jobs, but also addressing the large talent needs of our growing industry," said Varun Aggarwal, COO and CTO, Aspiring Minds in a release.

Management education has witnessed a mushrooming growth in India from just about 200 MBA colleges in the early nineties to around 3300 MBA colleges today. However, employability for management students ranges between 10 20% for roles involving sales and client servicing.

Employability of MBA graduates is exceptionally low (2.52%) in business consulting whereas it is just 7.98% for the analyst function. Great English and cognitive skills are required for these roles. The report found that employability in corporate (B2B) sales (10.56%) is almost half of that in consumer (B2C) sales (21.72%). The employability for customer service roles is 16.01%. In these roles, behavioral and personality aspects of the candidates play an indispensible role.

While marketing records the lowest employability at around 6.99%, BFSI (7.69%) and HR jobs (9.63%) follow closely. Only 7.69% MBA-finance students are employable in the BFSI sector, which has created a very large number of jobs in the last decade. The employability in the area of Operations is 15.04%, which is nearly half of that in the ITeS/BPO sector.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 15, 2012
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Business schools such as ISB, IIM-A, TISS, Symbiosis line up courses in healthcare management

An increasing demand for doctors with business acumen is prompting business schools and top-ranking educational institutions to offer courses focused on healthcare and management, as more physicians opt for management degrees, post-MBBS.

ISB has recently partnered with Wharton School of Management to start a research centre on healthcare. A significant chunk of the students in this course are doctors aspiring for managerial roles. The course offers electives in healthcare along with a specialised management discipline such as strategy, marketing, finance and product management.

Premier business school - the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) - offers electives in health management and public health policy in its doctoral programme. "There was hardly any interest among students in healthcare management elective at PhD level until a few years ago. But in recent years, about 20 students from each batch of about 350 have been opting for the healthcare elective," says Prof. Dileep Mavalankar, Director of Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar and former professor of Health Management at IIM-A.

Among other top institutes that provide specialised courses in healthcare and management are Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai; Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences, Pune; and Indian Institute of Health Management and Research. Interestingly, ISB has, from this year on, focused 50% of its total scholarships - thus far fully merit-based - on the diversity aspect, wherein people from sectors like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, among others, will be given preference.

"The demand for doctors trained in management far outstrips the supply," says VK Menon, Senior Director - Careers, Admissions and Financial Aid at ISB. The requirement has grown manifold over the past four to five years, with industries such as pharmaceutical, biotech, medical equipment and healthcare growing rapidly. Domain knowledge in medicine as well as expertise in product management, brand safety, marketing and finance, besides knowledge of people skills, labour laws and strategies is providing an alternate career avenue for medical practitioners who want to branch out into other sectors.

"Companies in pharma, biotech and medical equipment now prefer to have doctors with business expertise. There is also a spurt in demand for this category of people with the rapid expansion of healthcare industry and setting up of hospital chains that are becoming more complex to run," says Menon. "Today as an industry, we need a unique value proposition. An MBA degree gives a wider perspective and makes a doctor manager aware of the best practices across sectors that can be applied to healthcare apart from enhancing people skills," says Vishal Beri, Chief Operating Officer, Hinduja Healthcare.

The healthcare sector in India is likely to grow to $100 billion by 2015 from $65 billion now, according to an estimate by rating agency Fitch. "The sector is at an inflection point and is poised for rapid growth in the medium term," says a KPMG report.

As opportunities open up in the sector, doctors who are not able to do their masters after their MBBS due to limited seats or high capitation fees are seen branching out to managerial roles. The playing field is huge: Family-owned hospitals are becoming more complex, competitive and professionally-run, while pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are expanding at a fast clip. "Many of the IIM alumni have venture capital funds that are buying into hospitals. And with doctors realising that they need to delegate more management to professionals, there is an obvious spurt in demand for managers," says Mavalankar.

Many doctors do not feel motivated enough to remain confined in medical courses and want to branch out into a different sector. "Some of them see parents struggling to manage their hospitals and hence realise the need for specialised managers who have knowledge of labour laws and people management expertise," adds Mavalankar. There is also the view that management is an additional field doctors can explore. "An MBA gives a physician wider choice. A rapid-fire, one-year MBA helps them understand the nuances of management," says Dr. Ramesh Padavala, Director - Brand Safety, Novartis.

Traditionally, most CEOs and top managers in the healthcare industry were either from the armed forces or the hospitality industry. However, with more corporates entering healthcare, there is need for a larger number of professionally-qualified managers who are familiar with the industry. Hinduja Healthcare has several doctor managers with management degree from ISB, TISS, Symbiosis - Pune and IIHMR, says Beri, an orthopedic surgeon, who graduated from ISB in 2008. "When I entered a medical school, I had not thought of doing an MBA, but now with increasing demand for medical professionals in managerial roles, there is more awareness among doctors, several of whom are going in for management specialisation after their MBBS," he says.

Some like Dr Padavala say, "There is a wide gap between management people and doctors. Most times one does not understand the other side." Only time will tell if a formal training in management will be able to bridge the gap.

Source: The Economic Times, October 12, 2012
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Foreign universities keep India entry plans in the freezer

When the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulations of Entry and Operations) Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2010, no less than 50 foreign universities evinced interest in setting up operations in India. Two years down the line, their interest seems to have dwindled, and the reason is not hard to fathom — the Bill is still gathering dust. “Delay in passing the Bill has affected sentiments. People no longer come to us showing interest to be part of the Indian higher education system,” said an official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

“Earlier, we would receive about 10 enquiries from foreign players a month; nowadays, we hardly get any. There is a limit to which people can wait. And people who mean business will certainly not hold on for ever,” added another ministry official. MHRD officials said following the [Parliamentary] Standing Committee’s recommendations on the Bill, the ministry had finalised its view. However, it is holding on till some of the other Bills get through. “We do not know if the plans of foreign players still stand. It is the overall atmosphere that matters. Besides, right now we are not worried about the interest of foreign players. The priority is passing the Bill,” the officials said.

Several international education institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Virginia Tech, Columbia University, University of Southern California and University of Alabama, had earlier expressed interest to have an India presence. Meanwhile, the MHRD has reviewed certain clauses in the Foreign Education Providers (Regulation) Bill to attract more overseas institutions looking to set up shop in India.

The recommendation by the Standing Committee has led to a revision in the minimum corpus of Rs. 500 million for a foreign institution to set up campus in India. However, the corpus will not be Rs. 500 million for every institution as envisaged earlier. Instead, the corpus will be based on certain classifications. For instance, for engineering, vocational and other programmes, it could be less than Rs. 500 million whereas for medical programmes, the corpus could be more than that, which the health ministry will decide.

The norms have been tweaked after education institutions, including community colleges, vocational training institutions, professional colleges, general education institutions and medical institutions had expressed interest in setting up operations. The MHRD will also review the pre-condition that stipulates that a foreign education institution can’t utilise more than 75 per cent of the corpus fund towards development of the institution in India. The ministry might allow these institutes to invest the surplus in growth of the institution after a certain lock-in period.

“A clause in the Bill said you create a corpus, which will see an accretion. But at no point will the institutes be able to utilise more than 75 per cent for development of the institution. Besides, no part of your revenues can be repatriated. You can, however, use 100 per cent of the same for further investment on the institute,” explained an official.

Several important Bills, such as the Educational Tribunals Bill, Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, and National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), 2011, among others, are still pending before Parliament. MHRD is hopeful that some Bills will be passed in the forthcoming winter session.

Source: Business Standard, October 11, 2012
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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

US colleges cut fees in drive towards $10k degree

That American degree you so coveted and was unattainable because of high costs may not be so out of reach after all. Some US colleges have taken the first tentative steps to beat down soaring tuition fees by proposing a $10,000 (about Rs. 530,000) degree that also takes aim at the nearly trillion dollar college debt that the country has racked up.

The drive towards the $10,000 college degree will gee up students from India, more than 100,000 of who are enrolled in US colleges any given year. Although most Indian students come to the US for graduate studies, more and more are enrolling for four-year undergraduate degree, which some 10 Texas colleges are proposing to offer for as little as $10,000. Typical cost for a four-year undergraduate degree in a modest college for in-state US residents is around $30,000 (Rs. 1.6 million).

But Indian parents, the wealthier among who are sending their children to four-year undergrad colleges after their Class 12, can rack up more than $100,000 enrolling in elite US institutions. Higher education such as law degrees or two-year MBA degrees from top-ranked schools cost anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000.

While elite institutions and higher degrees may not feel the immediate effect, the first shot across soaring tuition fees in America has been fired by 10 modest Texas schools, following a challenge from the state governor Rick Perry to bring down costs. The 10 schools account for nearly 50,000 students, roughly 10% of undergrads at public universities in the state, according to the Wall Street Journal, among several outlets that described last month’s developments in this area.

First off the block is Angelo State University, a 7,000-student school in San Angelo in West Texas, which announced last week that it will offer a $10,000 degree starting next fall. Various schools of Texas Tech, Texas A&M University, and University of Texas have said they will follow suit. "A $10,000 degree provides an opportunity for students to earn a low-cost, high-quality degree that will get them where they want to go in their careers and their lives," Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for President, said in a statement.

Not everyone is chuffed about the development. Some have argued that the quality of education will suffer. Others have spoken of fudged numbers, with suggestions that the $10,000 target does not include variables such as campus housing and text books. Fee lowering has been attained in some cases by proposing expansion in the size of class rooms, shifting some courses online, and use of adjunct faculty who will be paid on a per-class basis.

Nevertheless, the drive to lower costs points to growing recognition in the US that education is going beyond the reach of poor and middle-class families, and students often enter the job market with a massive debt burden -- a model India is also adopting with growing privatization of education. Both Republicans and Democrats have made this a talking point. Recent reports have shown that Americans owe nearly $1 trillion in student loans, substantially more than the $700 billion they owe in credit card debts.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 9, 2012
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Monday, October 08, 2012

225 B-schools, 52 engineering colleges close in 2 years

When the sun of the new millennium came up, shining on the aspirations of a young India, it marked the golden age for professional education. In the early part of the last decade, hundreds of new institutes came up and thousands of aspirants queued up to join them. That was a time when the country added up to 100,000 seats to its professional colleges every year.

A decade later, the picture is one of stark contrast in technical professional colleges: Since 2011, 225 B-schools and over 50 engineering colleges across India have downed shutters. Many more colleges have trimmed programmes, branches of engineering or streams in the management course. On the academic floor, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme was once supreme. Arrogantly and unambiguously, it became the final sign-off to schooling, attracting not only those interested in business but also those who wanted to master the tools of management.

Now, for the first time, overall growth of MBA education is negative in the books of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). In 2011-12, 146 new B-schools came up and 124 that were already running closed down. This year so far, 101 management colleges have closed down, only 82 have started. Similar is the story with the Master of Computer Application (MCA) course — 84 colleges stopped offering the programme this year; only 27 started MCA courses.

For students who choose not to apply to an MCA college, the decision is a no-brainer: with many more engineering seats available now, an undergraduate would rather earn a BTech degree followed by a two-year master's than enrol for a bachelor's in computer application and back it up with a three-year MCA that would also eat up six years.

Alive to the problem, the AICTE has decided to allow colleges to offer a five-year dual degree programme and also permit graduates of science, BSc (Computer Science) and BSc (Information Technology) to jump to the second year of the MCA course. Yet, the small positive growth in the sector is from the engineering colleges where new institutes are coming up faster than closures taking place, largely in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.

AICTE Chairman S S Mantha said: "This is a turning phase for the professional education sector. Colleges in remote India and institutes of poor quality are not getting students. And for colleges, there is just one key to attracting students: institutes need to be top-of-the-line colleges. There is no payoff in running a bad college."

Joining a professional college was once the pinnacle of an Indian student's career for the seats were far outnumbered by aspirants. So students often happily chose anonymous professional colleges. But over time, they were put off by any of three reasons: poor quality of teaching, lack of adequate faculty or no job offer at the end. "A young graduate would rather take up a job or prepare harder for another shot at an entrance exam which is the gateway to a better college," said a Director of one of the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).

The problem is also linked to the slowdown, said Samir Barua, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). The job market has been tight for a couple of years. Earlier, many would give up a job to get an MBA and then re-enter the job market after pumping up their CV. "They are hesitant to take such a risk now. The pressure is being felt and applications for MBA are falling. But undergraduate programmes like engineering would not feel the same tension as everyone still at least wants their first college degree," explained Barua.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 8, 2012
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Thursday, October 04, 2012

AICTE allows firms with Rs. 1 billion turnover to start their own colleges

Aiming to bridge the gap between technical educational institutes and the expectations of those who employ their graduates, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has decided to allow industries and businesses with Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) turnover to set up technical institutions of their own.

Such institutions will be allowed to admit double the number of students allowed at regular institutions, and would be able to start a single branch or theme institute of their choice, according to the AICTE’s notification inviting applications to start new institutes for the 2013-14 academic year.

“We often hear that students graduating from technical institutes are not industry-ready or employable. Hence, we want to bring in the best practices of industry and want them to participate in the higher and technical education sector,” AICTE Chairman S S Mantha told The Indian Express. “Accordingly, a private limited or public limited company or industry, with a turnover of Rs. 100 crore in the last three years, will now be eligible to apply to start a new institute.”

Such institutions can teach any technical discipline, including engineering, pharmacy, architecture and town planning, applied arts and crafts, and hotel management and catering technology. They can offer undergraduate or postgraduate or diploma courses.

“This is a paradigm shift in the higher and technical education sector in India where a regulatory body is reaching out actively to industry,” said a former UGC chairman, who did not want to be identified. “Until now, industries did not apply to AICTE to start an educational institute, probably because norms were not spelled out or because academia was lethargic in its attitude to reach out to them.”

Separately, AICTE has also eased norms to help students wanting to pursue a masters degree in computer applications (MCA). “Students who have completed their undergraduate education in any discipline can apply for MCA. But we have introduced a new rule in which students who have done their bachelors in any computer related subject like B.Sc IT/BCA/computer science, will get lateral or direct entry to second year of MCA,” said Mantha.

AICTE is also introducing a dual degree programme in MCA in which students will complete BCA and MCA in five years instead of six.

Source: The Indian Express, October 4, 2012
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Safety net for Indian students if Australian institutions shut shop

Indian students affected by the foreshadowed closure of three colleges in Australia would be covered by a legislated safety net, Australia’s High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese said. If these education providers shut shop and do not meet their obligations to students, international students will be able to access the Australian government’s Tuition Protection Scheme (TPS). This scheme will seek to place affected students in an alternative course or refund any unspent pre-paid tuition fees to the students.

The move comes after Australia’s vocational education regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), decided to shut down two non-compliant vocational education and training colleges in Victoria and one in New South Wales.

“The Australian government has in place a comprehensive suite of protection mechanisms to safeguard the interests of overseas students under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (the ESOS Act),” said Varghese.

Depending on the outcome of any appeals, the decisions will take effect from October 30 and apply to all courses offered by the Ashmark Group and G Plus G Global Trading. Both colleges have campuses in Melbourne and Victoria. ASQA has also served a notice on the Ivy Group in New South Wales last month.

The decisions follow comprehensive compliance assessments, including multiple site visits by ASQA officials. The ASQA audits concluded that the colleges concerned were non-compliant with the standards that educational providers in Australia are required to meet in the delivery of training to domestic and international students.

“The decision to reject a training organisation’s registration is not one we take lightly, but the interests of students and the integrity of training standards across the VET sector have to be upheld,” said ASQA Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson. Further details of ASQA’s decision can be found on their website.

There are more than 400 Indian students enrolled at the Ashmark Group’s college, over 100 Indian students are enrolled at G Plus G Global and 30 Indian students enrolled at the Ivy Group. “The institutions have the right to have ASQA’s decision reviewed — which may delay or change the decision,” added Robinson.

Source: Business Standard, October 4, 2012
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GMAT Council plans to attract more aspirants

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), wants to increase its base of test takers in India by attracting undergraduate students to appear for the examination. Traditionally, GMAT, a standardised test to help business schools select qualified applicants, has been popular with candidates with more than four years of work experience, and undergraduates have largely kept away from taking GMAT.

“Undergraduates typically do not write the GMAT in large numbers. If they write the exam, they do so for banking the score—which is valid for five years. We are trying to inform them they can go for a masters programme right after graduation. We are trying to broaden the perspective of the audience, and thus working with undergraduates,” said Ashish Bhardwaj, Regional Director, South Asia, GMAC.

Bhardwaj says over the last decade, most of the top business schools internationally have launched masters programme in various streams, including management, accounting, financial accounting, telecom management, health care, hospitality, etc. This one year masters programme prepares one for a functional job.

“This particular set up of offering enjoys a very limited awareness in India. Therefore, we think we can make more information flow to candidates and inform their choices by telling them that they can straight away go for a masters programme after graduation,” says Bhardwaj.

GMAC has so far worked with around 16 undergraduate colleges, and the council says the response has been good. Another focus area for the council, says Bhardwaj, is to get more women candidates to take GMAT. In India, only 26 per cent GMAT takers are women, whereas in China, it is 58 per cent. GMAC wishes to take the number of Indian woman test takers to around 40 per cent in the next five years.

“We think women are very important. We are struggling to find out how to get more women in India to take GMAT. We are looking at ways on how to reach out to women. One way is to go to women only undergraduate college,” says Bhardwaj.

With nearly 80 per cent of Indians preferring an MBA education, an important test taker group for GMAC are candidates from the non-traditional undergraduate background, like lawyers, doctors, ex-defence officers, etc. The council says it is looking at ways to create more diversity in a class. “Not just business schools, but recruiters too want more diversity,” says Bhardwaj.

After the US and China, India is the third biggest market for GMAT. The council says it sees the most dramatic growth for itself in the Asian region. “Asia is clearly going to be a growth area for us in the near future. Given the demographic dividend in the region and the growth of management education, we see the growth continuing for us,” added Bhardwaj.

GMAT exam volume for the 2012 testing year (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012), was up 11 per cent from the previous year. This was also eight per cent higher than the previous record of 265,613 in 2009.

Chinese test takers, the second-largest citizenship group after the US, represented 20 per cent of global testing. In 2012, the number of exams taken by Chinese citizens increased 45 per cent to 58,196 exams. Indian citizens, the third-largest citizenship group, took 30,213 GMAT exams, a figure that increased 19 per cent in 2012.

GMAC’s India office looks at the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) market. Within this area, India alone is 96 per cent of the market. “So, it’s needless to say our time will go in developing the India market,” says Bhardwaj. Around 175 programmes in India accept GMAT. The Council is focusing only on top 200 business schools in India.

With an investment of over $4 million in the India market so far, the Council is also looking at opening a few more new test centres in the country.

Source: Business Standard, October 4, 2012
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Manipal Global to return 72%+ for early investors

Manipal Global, the Rs. 1,000-crore (Rs. 10 billion) higher education services provider from the Manipal group, is closing in on a deal to provide healthy exits to its private equity investors IDFC Private Equity and Capital International.

In 2006, the two investors pumped in $70 million in Manipal Global for a 12 per cent stake, and it is understood the two private equity players might get $120-130 million from the exit, valuing the company at about $900 million.

Two investment bankers privy to the transaction indicate US-based $2-billion DeVry Inc, which runs a clutch of educational institutions, may consider investing in Manipal Global. Earlier, Manipal Global had tried to tap the public markets with an enterprise valuation of $1 billion, but the plan did not materialise, as the markets were not conducive.

Ranjan Pai, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Manipal Global, said the company was preparing to provide an exit to IDFC PE and Capital International. However, he denied any interest from DeVry Inc. “A lot of global players in the education space come and talk to us. It may not necessarily be for an investment in Manipal Global. They may want to understand the market and, as part of the process, they discuss with us,” he said.

DeVry is an NYSE-listed organisation and a provider of educational services. It is the parent organisation of Advanced Academics, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Becker Professional Education, Carrington College, Carrington College California, Chamberlain College of Nursing, DeVry Brasil, DeVry University, and Ross University Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. These institutions offer an array of programmes in business, healthcare and technology.

Pai, from the Manipal Group’s promoter family (which runs the not-for-profit Manipal University in Karnataka), added the company would raise resources on its own strength and buyback the stake held by two PE investors. It is understood Ernst & Young is advising Manipal Global on this transaction and the deal is expected to be completed by the end of December. Investment bankers said for the transaction, Manipal Global had held talks with Pearson, as well as Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group, but could not make much headway. Pai, however, said the company wasn’t scouting for a strategic investor. DeVry Inc did not respond to queries.

Manipal Global had also raised Rs. 2 billion each from Premji Invests and Catamaran Ventures, owned by Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy.

Manipal Global’s operating margin stands at about 30 per cent, while its debt is Rs. 5 billion. It has campuses in Antigua, Dubai, Malaysia and Nepal, besides the Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) in India and a slew of 30 institutions that focus on executive and vocational development. It is understood Manipal Global may consider the private equity route for its planned expansion in Sri Lanka and Africa.

Manipal Global Education Services has made strategic investments in emerging companies, including MeritTrac, a pan-India skills assessment and testing company, and U21 Global, a global online graduate school. Manipal Education has also joined hands with City & Guilds to offer a skills training programme called IndiaSkills. On its investment in TutorVista, Manipal Global recorded a blockbuster exit, when Pearson acquired the majority stake in two steps, paying about Rs. 6.5 billion for a stake of 76 per cent in the company.

Source: Business Standard, October 4, 2012
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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Only 22% funds utilised for upgrading ITIs through PPPs

With higher allocations in store for skill upgradation in the 12th Five Year Plan, a Ministry of Labour document shows that only 22.43 per cent of the funds released for modernising Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been utilised.

States used only Rs. 5.318 billion of the Rs. 30.675 billion released for the upgradation of 1,396 ITIs through PPPs, says the document, adding that the performance is not uniform. The funds were released from 2007-08 to 2011-12. So far, only 1,227 institutes have been covered, it said.

Among the larger States, Madhya Pradesh recorded the poorest utilisation at 5.54 per cent of the total Rs. 1.85 billion released till September 9, this year. The performance of Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan was ‘below average’. Bihar used only 10.89 per cent of the Rs. 325 million released for upgradation of 13 institutes. The scheme, with a total outlay of Rs. 35.5 billion, came to an end in March 2012.

Centres of Excellence
In another World-Bank aided scheme to turn 400 ITIs into ‘centres of excellence’, only Rs. 10.81 billion of the total outlay of Rs. 15.81 billion project was utilised. The scheme will close in December 2012.

The World Bank contributed Rs. 12.31 billion for the Vocational Training Improvement Project, which began in November 2007, of which Rs. 12.51 billion (including Rs. 350 million States’ share) had been released by the Centre till August 2012.

Expressing concern over the tardy utilisation of funds, the Labour Ministry has put the ball in the States’ court. “There are large number vacancies of prinicipals and instructors in ITIs. Some States have created posts, but filling them up is taking time,” says the document, released at the State Labour Ministers’ recent meet.

Even in case where States have appointed contract faculty pending regular appointments, the salaries are very low, the document noted. Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge appealed to States for co-operation to meet target of imparting skills to 100 million people in the next 10 years.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, October 2, 2012
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