Sunday, December 27, 2009

IITs domiante the list of best T-schools in India

The premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is the best technology school in the country followed by IIT-Delhi, revealed a new survey released today. The survey that studied 111 engineering and technology schools in the country said: "IIT Kharagpur has topped the list for the third consecutive year." On a scale of 100, this elite engineering institute has scored 81.9 points, which is closely followed by IIT-Delhi that has scored a close 78.49 points. The survey was carried out by research firm IDC and technology magazine Dataquest.

"The six prestigious IITs dominate the list of Top 10 T-Schools survey," it added. The IITs located at Madras, Kanpur, Roorkee and Guwahati took the next four slots in the survey. The top 10 was completed by International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Surathkal and Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IT BHU) at number seven, eight, nine and 10, respectively. "Interestingly, IIIT Hyderabad is the youngest college, set up in 1998, to make it to the Top 10 list. IIT Bombay did not participate," the survey revealed. While NIT Warangal, is the 11th best technology school in the country, the Delhi Technology University (formerly Delhi College of Engineering) has occupied the 12th spot.

These engineering and technology colleges were reviewed on several parameters like quality of teaching, placement, industry interface, IT facilities and research papers. Individually, IIT Kharagpur scored high on Human Resource (HR) perception, while IIT Delhi ranked high on placement records. The HR perception score is based on how recruiters rate each college during their campus visits. Placement score is based on percentage of students placed, number of companies visiting campuses as well as the maximum and average salary offered per annum.

The survey, revealed a drop in overall placements to 73 percent in 2009 from 84 percent in 2007-08. Slowdown impacted on the placement, with number of companies visiting campuses as well as number of jobs offered showing a dip. Only 16 of the Top 111 T-Schools reported 100 percent placement to its students. These included BITS Pilani, IIT Kanpur; Institute of Technology, BHU; Orissa Engineering College, Bhubaneswar and several NITs. The average annual salaries of IIT graduates registered a drop of 5 percent to Rs.588,000 during 2009, while the average salary of NIT graduates salary improved 6 percent to Rs. 436,000 annually. "The T-Schools must focus on the quality of faculty and original research to improve the employability of students and funding of research projects," said Ibrahim Ahmad, Group Editor of Dataquest.

Source: The Economic Times, December 27, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Government favours semester system for all Indian varsities

Despite resistance from some teachers and other lobbies, the government is fully committed to introducing the semester system in universities across the country as a major academic reform step in higher education. Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal, speaking during question hour in Rajya Sabha on Friday, however, said a rigid timeline could not be set for implementation of the semester system since universities were autonomous bodies.

Persuasion not compulsion is the answer, said Mr. Sibal, expressing the hope that the semester systems universalisation would be a reality by 2011-12. The depth and breadth of learning for students would be much more under the semester system, rather than the existing system of only an annual exam at the end of the academic year.
Students will be more focussed throughout the year in the semester system. They will be constantly evaluated. We want teachers to cooperate and embrace the semester system since it will benefit students, he added. If universalised, the system will also ensure mobility for students, making it possible for them to do different semesters at different universities.

Prometric admits CAT was flawed

American firm Prometric, which conducted the computerised Common Admission Test (CAT) 2009 admitted that administration of the exam was far from perfect even as the development of the test adhered to a process-driven science. While the administration was far from perfect, tests were successfully given to more than 215,000 candidates over the course of 11 days, said Soumitra Roy, Managing Director, Prometric - India.

The computerized test, which was conducted on 17,000 computers in 361 temporary testing labs at 104 centres in 32 cities, was marred by virus attack and other technical glitches right from the beginning. The test was supposed to be taken by 241,000 candidates for admission into the prestigious IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and other B-Schools.

We stand by the test and its ability to best serve interests of students and educators. We strongly believe in its credibility, said Roy. His comments assume significance against the backdrop of faculty associations of three IIMs passing separate resolutions, seeking scrapping of CAT 2009 on the ground that it has lost credibility due to the technical problems. The development of the test adhered to a process-driven science that both the IIMs and Prometric strictly followed, said Roy.

CAT items were built with the input of more than 95 subject-matter experts and reviewed by IIM professors. In addition, items were tested prior to being deployed in the field and are being tested again to ensure that all the questions on the test performed as intended, added Roy.

Online CAT: IIMs decide against re-test

The controversy sorrounding the maiden online CAT (Common Admission Test) for entry into prestigious IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) does not seem to die soon. In a decision that went in favour of the 216,000 candidates who completed the CAT 2009, the IIMs on December 17 said the computerised exam will not be scrapped. The decision was announced after a meeting of the IIM Directors and the CAT committee members with senior of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) in New Delhi.

The outcome of the meeting was eagerly awaited by the student fraternity even as a section of the IIM faculty felt that the test be scrapped and a retest held in the paper-pencil format to maintain fairness of the prestigious exam. A re-test would have thrown the 2010 academic schedule haywire and clashed with other MBA entrance exams. On December 16, while the top brass were engaged in the MHRD meeting in New Delhi, a group of unidentified people shouted slogans and broke a few pots outside the IIM-Ahmedabad premises demanding scrapping of the test. The protesters claimed to be parents of the candidates, but it could not be verified.

The computerised test, which was conducted over 11 days starting November 28, was marred by technical glitches at several testing sites, affecting a few thousand candidates. The IIMs have announced one extra date, sometime in mid-January. Of the 241,000 candidates registered for the test, close to 216,000 completed the test successfully, IIM officials said, adding that paper-pencil tests were history now. The scrapping of test could have affected a majority of candidates who had written the test successfully. The coaching centres who enjoy a clientele of close to 200,000 prospective students, however, gave out mixed reactions. As per CAT committee officials, about 24,000 students did not show up for the test and around 2,000 candidates are yet to be tested.

The IIMs are in the process of identifying a system to provide another opportunity to genuine candidates who could not take the test due to reasons like premature exit through the exit/end button, slowness of computers while reviewing and refreshing questions, rebooting of computers and disruptions, missing graphics and data. IIMs have decided to continue with computer-based test for 2009. We also look forward to continue the CAT through computer-based testing in future, IIM-Ahmedabad director Samir Barua told reporters after the meeting.

The test, which was conducted by the IIMs in paper-pencil mode for the last 33 years, changed to computer-based format this year. The task for testing was handed over to US-based company, Prometric. However, the test incurred several technical problems from the start itself, affecting around 20,000 candidates across a 10-day span, leading the IIMs to extend the test by a day. Reports said, while directors of IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Bangalore were not in favour of scrapping the test, the heads of other five IIMs preferred a retest.

Court comes to the rescue of backward class candidate

The Delhi High Court has asked the permier medical studies institution - All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) - to allocate a seat, in the course of his choice, to an aspirant who sought to appear in counselling both under the general and quota seats but was not allowed. A division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar, in an order passed earlier this week, asked the AIIMS to admit Manish Patnecha, a candidate from the other backward class (OBC), who was denied an opportunity to sit for second counselling against the OBC quota this year after he opted for a seat against the general category.

During the second counselling, he sought to appear against the OBC quota so that he could get admission in a subject of his choice but AIIMS debarred him, saying that would block two seats. Patnecha then approached the court, contending a higher ranked candidate belonging to reserved category should not be deprived of the choice of either a seat or an institution vis-a-vis a candidate of the same social class figuring lower in the merit list, while applying the principle of reservation. Finding the AIIMS decision unjustified, the court directed the institute to offer Patnecha the seat in the course of his choice. Earlier this year, a single judge bench had declined any relief to Patnecha, ruling that the AIIMS could not be directed to have second counselling again and allot him the seat in a course of his choice, cancelling the allocation of the seat to another candidate.

Source: The Times of India, December 14, 2009

Teachers oppose semester system in Delhi University

After stalling the biometric IDs — to keep a check on teacher attendance — proposal at the Executive Council meeting, Delhi University teachers will now show their opposition to the proposed semester system for the undergraduate level on Tuesday, when the teachers meet for a General Body meeting. The meeting will also discuss teachers’ service conditions proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) as well as the demand to drop the biometric IDs. Plans are big, as the teachers will also stage dharnas in their respective, take out a march from Mandi House to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on December 22 and similar protests will continue into January 2010 as well.

Teachers will gather at the new Arts Faculty convocation hall for the meet called by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA). DUTA executives met last week and resolved to oppose the semester system for the undergraduate level, which is supposed to come into effect from the 2010-11 academic session. The university recently prepared a final draft of plans for implementation of the semester system. After the meet, the teachers will march towards the vice chancellor’s office, where they will demand a fresh debate on the semester system and a rollback on the proposed biometric IDs system. ‘‘The semester system cannot be implemented without a proper debate on its feasibility and without the Academic Council’s (AC) approval,’’ said DUTA president Aditya Narayan Mishra. But according to university officials and the minutes of the AC, the proposal has been passed, with 19 in dissent against 126 votes in favour.

‘‘Teachers don’t want negative impact on service conditions and have been trying to say that to the university, UGC and the MHRD. The semester system, the proposed service conditions for teachers, and the biometric IDs proposal is a package of negative service conditions and teachers are bound to oppose such a move. Moreover, the university administration has been taking decisions arbitrarily without consulting teachers,’’ said Rajib Ray, a faculty member of Kirori Mal College. Meanwhile, history teachers on December 12 resolved they will not participate in implementation of the semester system, including the preparation of syllabi.

IIMs review CAT

The online CAT (Common Admission Test) for entry into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) continues to be bogged by controversies. The question being frequently asked is will the IIMs scrap the just-concluded CAT and revert to the paper-pencil format for this year? No concrete answers yet, but according to sources close to the development, opinions have changed over the last five days, especially with the number of candidates affected by computer glitches rising to 20,000.

Last Sunday (December 13), Prometric, the agency responsible for conducting the computerbased MBA entrance exam, gave a presentation to the IIM Directors and members of the CAT committee in Mumbai. The presentation was essentially about data from CCTV recordings and computer logs to know the magnitude of glitches. However, the officials refused to say whether any conclusion was reached on the 10-day test that had to be extended by one-day.

“The important thing is that, we now have the data. We will analyse it and then take a decision (on whether re-test would be held in the old format). It is too early to comment on anything else,” said IIM-Bangalore Director Pankaj Chandra. The Mumbai huddle was seen as a preparatory exercise before the crucial MHRD meeting scheduled on December 16. It may be mentioned here while the Directors of IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Bangalore are not in favour of scrapping the test, the heads of other five IIMs prefer a re-test. With doubts raised over the fairness of the test, there is a consensus among other IIMs (except IIM-A & B) that a re-test would silence all critics. “This is not to say that it is the end of road for computer-based tests. This, being the first year, we faced a lot of hurdles. But we see a lot of gains in the new format. So, next year, we would be better prepared,” said an IIM professor.

A re-test is feared to throw the entire academic schedule haywire. If the IIMs decide to hold the test in the old format this year, the CAT organisers would take at least two more months to accommodate 241,000 candidates at various colleges and institutes across the country. The admission process would also be delayed, leaving lesser time for the 2010-11 academic year. But a professor disagrees. “A re-test is difficult, not impossible. We have the mechanism in place.” CAT has been in the traditional format for 33 years. On a shorter academic schedule, another professor said: “I don’t think, it will drastically affect the schedule. Instead of July, the session may start in August 2010, and one can always curtail holidays to make up for the lost time.”

The leading business daily of the country, The Economic Times, had reported the first demand for scrapping the online exam came from the coaching centres on the fifth day. The trainers form a prominent stakeholder, as close to 200,000 candidates take tutorials for the careerdefining exam that opens doors to seven IIMs and over 150 B-schools. Apart from the technical glitches, the trainers said, questions were repeated handing out an unfair advantage to those taking the test in the later slots.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

US, UK see 25% drop in student visa applications

The US and UK may not be top destinations for higher education anymore. Over the past one year, the number of Indian students going to these countries has fallen by as much as 20-30%, reports CNBC-TV18's Neeyati Shah. Getting educated on foreign shores seems to be losing its charm. The US, which has been the most popular study destination, has seen a 25-30% drop in the number of visas being granted to Indian students. Visas to the UK have fallen 20-25%, and Australia, which is the least expensive, has been the worst hit with a 50-60% drop.

Experts say there is a sharp fall in the number of visa applications being filed, possibly because scholarships are difficult to come by. Karan Gupta, International Education Consultant, Karan Gupta Consulting, says, "Scholarships have come down. Many business schools are now reluctant on giving large funds to students. Where previously a student could even get 50-80% of the tuition fee as scholarship, those numbers have really come down. Schools don't have that many awards to give. They don't have that many funds at their disposal. We have also seen that student loans have become very difficult to get."

Last year, the inflow of Indian students contributed about USD 3 billion to the US economy. But this number will now fall steeply, as only 30% of US institutions have seen an increase in enrolments by Indian students. Experts say an uncertain job environment is also to blame.

David Johnson, Dean, St Antony's College, Oxford University, says, "A lot of the jobs as we understood them to be in the past are much more virtual. Where there are necessary jobs for the economies of the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and other parts of Europe are already being done in India because they are outsourced, so jobs are virtual."

The US International Education Foundation says another reason for this low interest is the sharp rise in the number of international schools in India. But countries like the UK are confident that numbers will become better. They expect a standard 15-20% increase in the number of students choosing to study on British shores.

Source: CNBC India

Sunday, November 08, 2009

UGC under fire for too many "deemed" institutions

Under fire over the grant of deemed university status to private educational institutions, India's top education regulator is now facing criticism by a government appointed panel for the approvals. The findings come after another panel appointed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the regulator for higher education in India, gave a clean chit to several such universities.

In its report to be submitted to Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who oversees education, the government committee has said that out of the 137 such institutions under review, most were found to be violating the norms for faculty, infrastructure and academic courses. The report says the running of study centres by such universities is the "biggest blunder".

"There is no assurance of quality control. We found that not even quality faculty were recruited," said a member of the committee, who requested anonymity since he is not authorized to speak with the media. "These (study centres) have become a means to make money at the cost of students." The findings of the committee were confirmed by an official at the Human Resource Development Ministry, who is involved in the issue but declined to be named.

In several deemed universities, the report says, irregularities in fee structures and appointment of administrative officials were discovered. "In fact, when we started the probe, many universities appointed new vice-chancellors even as predecessors remained kin or friends of families running such universities," the member said. The review of deemed universities was ordered soon after Sibal assumed charge as minister in May this year, responding to which UGC had constituted its own committee to look into the matter.

The objections came after a flurry of deemed university approvals by UGC. The status is a coveted one in higher education and allows institutes to free themselves from government control. In the last four years of the previous United Progressive Alliance government, as legislation to both regulate private colleges and open the education sector to foreign investment were stalled, UGC granted deemed university status to a record 34 institutions. Out of this number, only six are government-run; the rest are private institutions. The status used to be awarded mostly to institutes that have been in operation for 25 years. This was later revised to enable 10-year-old institutions to apply for the status. Of the 28 newly deemed universities, nine were recognized as such through the so-called starting afresh clause introduced by UGC in 2001 to benefit institutes barely a few years old, subject to revision after five years. As many as 177 more institutes have approached UGC seeking deemed university status, most of them private organizations. Out of these, 38 institutes are less than five years old, seeking the status under the starting afresh category.

The number of deemed institutions thus becomes significant as it represents a way that the government has enabled private organizations to flourish, even as the Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fee) Bill, 2005, which would regulate admissions and fees, hasn't been expedited. The government-appointed panel says that many institutes, which were not adhering to the UGC guidelines in regard to course offerings, were awarded the status. It says many of the universities that obtained the status were backed by politicians or big business houses.

"It's a welcome step long after we wrote to the ministry objecting to this mushrooming of deemed universities and we hope some concrete action will be take soon," said Thomas Joseph, President of the All India Federation of University and College Teachers' Organisations, a teachers' union.

But under intense demand for higher education across India and backed by Planning Commission recommendations in favour of financial assistance to deemed universities, UGC has been defending its actions. UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat, in an interview to Mint earlier this year, had even defended the mushrooming of deemed universities by calling the growth "steady". "This has happened over a period of time," Thorat had said. "As far as regulation is concerned, we are strict with defaulters." Thorat, when contacted by Mint again, refused to comment, saying he had not yet seen the report by the government-appointed panel.

But the Yash Pal committee, appointed to suggest reforms in the higher education sector, recommended the abolition of the deemed university status to institutions and also called for UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which oversees engineering and business schools in India, to be dismantled. The new administration is now keen on implementing the committee's recommendations, government officials familiar with the issue said on condition of anonymity. Even before Sibal took charge as the human resource development minister, the UGC chairman had announced several plans for the higher education sector to project the regulator as being proactive, an image that has eluded it for years.

Source: Mint - This article is written by Pallavi Singh

Saturday, November 07, 2009

U.S. universities interested in India

Top drawer American universities have expressed their keeness to participate in higher education in India, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said, referring to the Foreign Education Providers’ Bill. But this is being perceived more as a bid by the HRD Minister to create the appropriate political environment to push through the draft law in a hurry at home.

Keen as the minister may want to appear, US universities are guarded on the nature of their involvement. Yale President Richard C. Levin said “No decisions have been taken yet. There is new encouragement for partnerships, but these are as of now dimly conceived ideas. Our preferred mode is that of partnership. This tends for work best for Yale. You can’t replicate a 300-year-old university in a remote location.”

However, Mr. Sibal maintained, “It was a successful trip to the US. The American institutions have shown great interest in opening of the education sector in India.” Last week, Mr. Sibal led a delegation to the US and met the functionaries of leading universities.

The legislation, once passed, would permit foreign education providers to operate in India. This would make it possible for US universities to set up campuses either in partnership with Indian institutes or on their own. It is viewed as an important development in the education sector.

Mr. Sibal held meetings with functionaries of Harvard, Yale, MIT and Boston University among others. He told them that while opening campuses, the foreign universities should not aim at making profit from the tuition and other fees related to imparting of the courses.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Indian students number in Oz may drop by half: Study

In the backdrop of a spate of racial attacks in Australia, Down Under could witness about a 50 per cent drop in Indian students in the next session, according to an international educational recruiter. "In our India offices we're expecting our 2010 February intake to be down by about 50 per cent," IDP Education chief executive Tony Pollock said, according to an ABC report. IDP which works with 400 institutions across Australia and takes in 35,000 students released a survey today conducted on over 6,000 students from eight countries including 1,100 students from India.

Pollock felt the fall in numbers might be entirely due to safety issues, global slowdown could also play a part in it. "We have the GFC (global financial crisis), which has obviously impacted upon families in India and that's evident by the fact that the applications for other countries are way down, particularly the US."

The survey was to find out what foreign students thought about Australia in comparison to other English speaking destination, he said. "The somewhat surprising result and indeed promising result is that they believe Australia to be the safest destination," the survey said.

In the backdrop of a spate of racial attacks in Australia, Down Under could witness about a 50 per cent drop in Indian students in the next session, according to an international educational recruiter. "In our India offices we're expecting our 2010 February intake to be down by about 50 per cent," IDP Education chief executive Tony Pollock said, according to an ABC report.

Central universities will get to hire foreigners

Fifteen central universities set up recently will be allowed to take foreigners as well as persons of Indian origin on their faculty. A model ordinance will be drawn to attract the best brains to these universities, completely funded by the Centre with an objective to provide specialised courses and extensive research, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said.

At a meeting with the vice chancellors of these universities last month, Sibal called for a single entrance examination, enabling students to apply for a number of courses. These 15 universities -- 12 new and three upgraded state universities -- are in addition to the 25 that existed before the Central Act, 2009 was brought in.

The University Grants Commission, a regulatory body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, will set up a panel to work on the ordinance for inviting foreign faculty, Sibal said. Transfer of credit, exchange of faculty and students within institutions and foreign collaboration will also be looked into. Each central university should have a unique set of courses drawn in accordance with the needs and problems of the region they are in, the minister said. This single entrance system, expected to make admission process less cumbersome, could be extended to the other 25 central universities later, Sibal said.

IIMs allowed to set up campuses abroad

Preempting any objections by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) about autonomy, the government has decided that all appointments of directors and board members will be done through an independent collegium. This really avoided any kind of standoff like with the IITs, but Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has also thrown in bonuses and allowed them to expand their campuses abroad. In their first meeting with the HRD minister, the institutions won the major concession. "We want them to be totally autonomous. We want them to tell us what works for them," said Sibal.

Always accused of playing big brother in appointments, the ministry has agreed to an independent collegium comprising academics and industrialists that will nominate directors and IIM board members. The government may only choose from their recommendations. Government has also agreed in-principle to IIMs setting up campus abroad, a long time aspiration of many like IIM- Bangalore, whose proposal for a Singapore campus was earlier rejected.

"He has promised us no interference and a great degree of," said Debashish Chatterjee, IIM-Kozhikode. "It is great to hear. It really allows our global aspirations," said Professor P Chandra, Director, IIM-Bangalore. Sources said the concerns about salary weren't discussed at the meeting, but unlike the IITs, the IIMs are more or less satisfied with performance related incentives. Nothing's final yet and the details are being worked out for the next meeting in January, but at least the two parties seem willing to talk and work things out.

Source: NDTV

World Class: Indian students largest group in global classrooms

Over the last couple of years, Indian students made news on international campuses and emerged as the biggest group the world over, going past even the Chinese. In America, India remained the leading country of origin of foreign students for the seventh consecutive time in financial year 2008, increasing by 13% to 94,563 students, according to the Open Doors report - published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In all, over 2 lakh Indian students studied overseas last year. And the attraction of global campuses is not just because of problems at home - such as not enough seats for professional courses or the reservation system. Overseas education is considered a ticket to global careers -and Indian professionals are among the most sought after in the overseas job market. Besides, Indian families still value education over most other investments and parents are willing to avail themselves of loans to send their children for foreign degrees. Indian banks have been providing loans at attractive interest rates in the last few years for education overseas.

In fact, many overseas universities depend on revenue from foreign students and increasingly see India as one of the biggest markets. In 2007-08, for instance, Australian educational institutions earned around A$13.7 billion forex from international students, with as many as 97,000 from India enrolling in courses across the country. However, is the dream run now over? On one side there’s the global slowdown blues and then there are worries over violence against Indian students in Australia, which has in the last few years emerged as the hottest campus destination for Indians. And even though the exact figures for students visas are not yet available from Australia, latest data from the US Embassy - which is available exclusively with SundayET - shows a dramatic 25% decline in the numbers of F-1 student visas issued in India for the financial year 2009 (October 2008-September 2009) at 25,860 against 34,510 issued in FY 2008.

While many experts feel that a short-term fall in the number of students going for education overseas is not surprising, they’re also bullish about the long haul and feel that the number of Indians seeking global degrees will continue to grow in the years to come. “Worldwide economic recession is bound to have an impact on the number of students applying to the USA. However, interest in US higher education continues. Large numbers of students still throng the US university fairs that we organise and we continue to meet students at our centres all over the country seeking guidance on the application procedures. The benefits of US higher education cannot be undermined, an Indian student equipped with US education comes out with a truly global edge,” says Shevanti Narayan, country co-ordinator, educational advising services, United States-India Educational Foundation.

The US is still perceived as one of the most preferred destinations for Indian students, specially in the wake of the attacks in Australia, some of which were racial. “US continues to be a popular destination for Indian students. The quality, choice, value and flexibility are some of the factors that make Indian students choose US over any other country. The US educational experience encourages one to be innovative, creative and think independently. The long-term career prospects of a student are enhanced as the method of teaching is designed to apply theoretical knowledge. The American approach to education is recognized as among the best and most innovative in the world,” Narayan adds.

Australia, on the other hand, will probably suffer a setback as far as popularity among Indian students is concerned. Following the recent spate of attacks against Indian students, the Australian government has initiated steps to improve the quality of education service providers, specially those in the vocational education and training sector. The Australian government as well as the government of Victoria are also looking into issues of law and order and beefing up policing in areas frequented by foreign students. The Indian government too, has initiated steps such as keeping a check on unscrupulous education agents in India. The ministry of overseas Indian affairs is also planning a pre-departure procedure for registration of all Indian students going overseas. The joint working group (JWG) on student mobility set up by both the governments met for the first time recently, agreeing on a number of concrete measures to enhance the interests and welfare of Indian students.

Says Michael A. Opie, manager international students, international office, Charles Darwin University, in the north of Australia, who’s just wrapped up a visit to India: “I was told by all agents that the number of applications are down for Australia and that they expect it to take at least six months to recover. I think the steps taken by the Australian government will help but now that many Indian students are being interviewed before a visa is granted I suspect that this will mean that fewer visas are issued for diploma level studies. This will also reduce the number of students coming to Australia. Prospective students are also aware that there are likely to be changes in migration rules in the near future and this is also causing some hesitation about applying to study in Australia.”

Meanwhile, the UK Border Agency, too, has streamlined the system for student visas under the Tier 4 system which was introduced on March 31 this year and more recently from October 1, all applicants making a Tier 4 student visa application must hold the required funds in their personal or their parents’ bank account for a minimum period of 28 days prior to making their visa application. Despite the new rules, the number of applications for students visas to the UK had increased between April and July 2009. “We are still seeing an increase in the number of students going to the UK. Education is so important to Indian families that they will put this ahead of many other things and continue to invest in their children’s future. I think education is seen as even more important in a time of economic slowdown as it becomes the key route to ensuring a secure career. The new visa regulations have been introduced over the past few months and students and agents are slowly getting used to these and the process is therefore coming easier now that the transition from the old to the new system has taken place. Based on what we are hearing from UK institutions and the UK Border Agency numbers have increased this year,” says Sally Goggin, head education, British Council India and Sri Lanka. In UK, another advantage is that the foreign exchange rate is more favourable for Indian students than many other Western countries. This is a big advantage in terms of tuition fees and living expenses. In 2008, there were over 30,000 students visas for UK were issued in India and conservative estimates show at least a 15% increase over that this year.

Canada, too, is expecting a hike in the number of students from India. Canadian colleges and universities are being actively promoted here and the advantage that Canada offers to Indian students in getting on the fast track to the job market and permanent residence are seen as advantages. “The cost of studying and living in Canada has remained stable at about Rs 4-4.5 lakh per year. Besides, there has been significant interest and a positive vibe generated by the launch of the Canadian experience class visa which as a policy is favourable to international students. Most institutions in Canada have seen an increase in enrolments and some have had record number of applications. This year we are quite optimistic and expect to continue to demonstrate an increased percentage in overall numbers for Canada,” says Maria Mathai, director, Canadian Education Centre, India. It is estimated that there will be at least 4000+ Indian students enrolling in Canadian institutions, up from 31,00 study visas issued last year. New Zealand, too, is expecting more Indian students this year in comparison to last year in view of the fact that international students gain points under the skilled migrant category. Likewise, France has recently allowed Indian students to stay back for six months after their courses to look for jobs.

In fact, more and more Continental European countries are opening their doors wider for Indian students. “Germany has established itself as a very popular research destination for Indian scientists and researchers with over 1000 of them currently pursuing world class research at German universities and research centres. Globalisation of the academic and scientific world has become a reality. The need for globally educated professionals and academicians is evident in the corporate as well as the scientific community. With around 250.000 international students, Germany is the third most popular study destination for foreign students worldwide. To strengthen this position, more and more universities are developing dedicated internationalisation strategies, expanding their networks and customizing their study offers,” says Apoorv Mahendru, head of operations, education network South Asia of the German Academic Exchange Service in Delhi.

This informative article is written by Ishani Duttagupta for The Economic Times, October 11, 2009.

Best time for overseas degree

While the last few years had seen a trend of Indian professionals in Western countries returning to India for jobs, now there are mid-career professionals looking at opportunities to study overseas in the wake of the slowdown and uncertain job market. However, instead of going to the traditional campus destinations, many mid-level executives are opting to go to Asian countries such as Singapore, whose universities have collaborations with international universities. “Many professionals are using the slowdown to undertake either executive MBAs or advanced management programmes. The other courses, which have big takers, are the virtual MBAs and the short-term three-month courses, offered by many international universities. For example, INSEAD, a graduate business school based in France, has a campus in Singapore as well a centre in Abu Dhabi, which seem to be attracting a lot of Indian students,” says E.Balaji, CEO, of HR service provider Ma Foi Management Consultants.

Interestingly, one reason for the trend of more Indian students looking at courses overseas could actually be the stability afforded by the Indian economy. “Immigrant students perceive India as a market of the future and therefore a sure fire job generator compared with almost any other part of the world. Indian employers also find better value in a student educated say, in the US. The number of Indians studying abroad and eventually securing a senior level position in India is about three times that of those staying put in the US,” feels Rajesh AR, vice president of staffing company TeamLease Services. “Indian students are travelling abroad to study and returning to India to work because they perceive prospects to be much better in India than elsewhere. The biggest loss from this trend is to the US, which, hitherto, has been having a majority of Indian students immigrating to study, finding a job and living in America. The Indian immigrant student talent pool - sized at around 75,000 annually - benefits the US to a great extent,” he adds.

Various IT companies which were forced to put a large number of their junior and mid-level employees on the bench are following a policy of actively promoting the concept of sabbaticals. The IT/BPO industry, did see an increase in the number of junior and mid-level employees who chose to use the slowdown as an opportunity to pursue studies. This was seen particularly in those companies, which had an excessive number of people on the bench. While some companies, gave their employees the option of taking sabbaticals with a small pay, some of the others gave them the option of staying on the rolls without pay,” says Prameela Kalive, vice-president and global head, talent management at Zensar Technologies.

This article is written by Lisa Mary Thomson for The Economic Times (October 11, 2009).

Not loansome on foreign campuses

The prospects of getting a job out West may be bleak at the moment, but this hasn’t cowed the spirits of Indian students looking at taking a loan to fund their studies abroad. On the contrary, Indian students seem to have become bigger and bolder in their demands this year, approaching banks for loans which are sizably higher than those disbursed in the past. They also seem to be more willing to take the road less trodden and to move beyond traditional geographies like the US and UK as well as in their choice of courses.

While most banks maintain that the number of overseas loan applications have largely matched up to what they were before the slowdown, the difference this year is that that many students have approached them for loans whose ticket sizes are larger than the maximum limit sanctioned by the banks themselves. “Previously a large number of foreign study loans used to be with the Rs 7.5 lakh range. Now the demand seems to have gone up to Rs 20-25 lakh and occasionally even Rs 30 lakh, which is beyond the bank’s maximum limit of Rs 20 lakh” says an official, from the corporate office of Syndicate Bank. Given the trend in the market, the Oriental Bank of Commerce(OBC) raised its maximum limit for overseas education loans from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh about a year ago. Meanwhile, the State Bank of India, which is the largest lender in the country in terms of issuing education loans, slashed interest rates for education loans, sanctioned between May and September this year.

Another trend that bankers have observed is the increasing interest that Indian students are showing in countries like Australia and New Zealand, which have proved to be slightly cheaper in comparison to an established education hub like the US. At Syndicate Bank for instance, while Australia topped the list in terms of the number of loans disbursed, the largest loans in terms of size were disbursed for education in the US.

There are some programmes which elicit a higher level of caution among sanctioning loans. “Banks have been cautious of lending for pilot courses as well as air hostess training courses,” says SC Sinha, executive director of Syndicate Bank. Despite the large scale layoffs and the dismal employment situation in banking and financial institutions in the West, most banks say that they are still sanctioning loans for foreign degrees in finance and management. The Syndicate bank official, however, claims that while they have seen no change in policy in terms of lending, banks are generally cautious with regard to education loans.

This article is written by Lisa Mary Thomson for The Economic Times (October 11, 2009).

US F1 student visas fall 25%

There were less F1 student visas for the US issued across India in financial year 2009 (Oct 08-Sep 09) than the previous FY08. In fact, 25,860 issuances in FY09 actually translates into a whopping 25% decline over 34,510, which was the number issued last year. Most experts and consultants feel that the fall in numbers of Indian students choosing to go to the US for higher studies is because of the fall in financial aid offered by institutions rather than any visa strictures. “The US student visas are streamlined now and the reason for less students going to the US from India is probably because educational institutions are offering less financial aid in view of the economic slowdown. In fact, endowments in US colleges have been hit in a big way,” says Poorvi Chothani, Mumbai based immigration lawyer and founder and principal member of law firm LawQuest.

The influential Open Doors report published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which is scheduled to be published next month, will provide a detailed break-up of the numbers of international students at colleges and universities in the US. “Till 2007-08, India remained the leading sending country of origin of international students to the US. This was for the seventh consecutive year, with an increase by 13% to 94,563. However, this year, in view of the slowdown, there could be a different trend,” feels Ajit Motwani, India Director of IIE.

And even as most experts agree that lower financial aid and scholarships are the reason for the drop in number of Indian students going to the US, many are hoping that as the recovery kicks in the numbers will improve. “Going to the US for higher education is an investment decision and in India we’re now seeing all the markets reviving and investors coming back. I think that next year, the number of students going to the US will again increase as many are now making decisions to go and doing the required paperwork,” says Mumbaibased education consultant Karan Gupta.

And even in FY 09, many students have received substantial funding in a range of disciplines to study in America. “We have had success with several students receiving substantial funding as well. Many students who went on to pursue some new disciplines such as fashion marketing, neuroscience, pastoral studies, petroleum engineering, imaging sciences, oceanography and global development economics received financial assistance. In general, students applying for research programmes continue to receive funding despite the drop this year,” says Shevanti Narayan, Country Co-ordinator at the US-India Educational Foundation.

This report is by Ishani Duttagupta which appeared in October 11, 2009 edition of The Economic Times.

Medical colleges may have to report adverse reactions of medicine

In a bid to tighten quality checks on medicines, the health ministry is planning to make it mandatory for all medical colleges and hospitals to report unwanted and negative responses of medicines available in the market. The ministry has also asked the Medical Council of India (MCI) to approve only those medical colleges in future that have such a system in place, a health ministry official said. The move is significant because despite a ban across the world, many medicines with severe side effects and adverse reactions continue to be legally available in India. “The availability of such medicines is possible because in the absence of a robust adverse drug reactions (ADRs) reporting system, the drugs controller general of India (DCGI) often do not have enough reports on the efficacy of drugs sold in the country,” the official said.

While adverse drug reactions provide crucial inputs for lifesaving medicines, its awareness level among hospitals are poor. Medical experts say a very small number of adverse drug reactions are reported by hospitals in the country. Initially, the government will plan to identify ten public medical colleges in each zone, the official said. According to him, the government will set up model pharmacovigilance centre in each of these ten hospitals. Later on, all the hospitals will be asked to follow the set path to build similar centres. This would enable DCGI to keep a stringent check on the efficacy of medicines and their side effects, the official said.

Medical experts say that there is an immense need for reporting adverse drug reactions and post-marketing surveillance, as medicines are evaluated for toxicity in a limited group of patients before marketing. “The limitations of clinical trials means that when a drug is first marketed, much may be known about its efficacy while relatively little may be known about its safety,” said a medical expert. Once reported, the DCGI will analyse these adverse drug reactions and data related to important medicines would also be posted on its website, the official said.

Report by Sushmi Dey - The Economic Times, October 12, 2009

Initial private offers at IIMs promising

If pre-placement offers (PPOs) were a trickle in June and July, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) students are now being flooded with such offers, quelling all fears of a hiring freeze and confirming India’s premier business schools’ return to the employment cycles of top-notch companies. “While the early PPOs were extended primarily by consulting firms, now investment banks and private equity firms too are offering PPOs,” said IIMA placement committee media co-ordinator Vivek Jain. “Many of the offers are for international roles in places like Europe, USA, Singapore and Hong Kong. We expect many more PPOs in the coming days,” he added.

These job offers have not only brought cheer to IIM campuses, but also point to a better placement season than last year, when B-schools struggled to get get calls from recruiters for all students. Even as B-schools are reluctant to share numbers, ETscoured the campus and quizzed students, teaching staff and sources across institutes to get a drift of the PPO atmosphere. Compared to July, when 7-10% of batches across the IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta had received PPOs, the figure has risen 15-20% at these institutes.

Offers again pouring
IIMs at Lucknow and Kozhikode too are seeing a much better flow of job offers compared to last year. IIMA, for instance, has already received 60-70 PPOs so far, its students told ET. Though the institute’s placement committee did not disclose official figures, students confirmed that after a lull in August, job offers have again started pouring in the last six weeks. Companies that have extended job offers to students at IIMA include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, HUL, P&G, UBS and Citigroup. In mid-September last year, only 20% of the batch of 250 had received PPOs. This year, the batch size at IIMA is close to 300 students.

Likewise, IIMB too did not disclose any official PPO numbers, but a student aware of the development said the institute has already received around 50 such offers. The placement representative at the institute was not available for comment. On the other hand, placement circles at IIMC said although the PPOs are lesser as compared to the same time last year, the expected rise will come only in the next couple of months. “Apart from firms sectors like finance, consulting, marketing and general management, IIMC has also got PPOs from a few IT companies and Wall Street banks,” said IIMC external relations secretary Paul Savio. “Markets are definitely picking up and we are expecting a better Placement 2010,” he added. Meanwhile, IIMK has seen a 30-40% increase in the number of PPOs compared to last year. Like others, the institute has kept the exact numbers under wraps. However, the placement committee member, Rohan Jaikishen, said the number of verbal confirmations from companies was also in double-digits. “Concrete offers have started coming in from the beginning of September and the companies that have made offers include ITC, American Express Bank and Futures First,” he added.

Last year, IIMK had received only 20 PPOs. The batch size at IIMK is 308. Mr Jaikishen confirmed that PPOs at IIMK have primarily come from the financial sector so far, with marketing companies coming in a close second. Similarly, IIML placement chairman Prof RL Raina said at least 10% of the current batch at IIML has received PPOs from companies. The current batch size at IIML is 320. “This number is quite significant since IIM Lucknow has the largest batch size across all IIMs,” he said. He, too, expects the number to rise in the coming weeks.

According to Prof Raina, international consulting and finance firms “like McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and JP Morgan, besides marketing majors like Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Diageo have already confirmed PPOs”. “Tata Administrative Services is another company that has offered job offers at IIML, with companies operating in the renewable energy space also showing a keen interest in IIM Lucknow students,” he added. In sync with the climate, Prof Raina saw 2010 as more promising than the previous year.

Despite prolonging the placement process last year, IIMs had to be contend with a heavy baggage of realistic salaries and less number of job offers. This year too, most of the institutes have kept their placement season open much beyond the usual time frame seeing the job engines chugging once again.

This report by Sreeradha D Basu & Mahima Puri appeared in The Economic Times of October 12, 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Education for growth opportunities - The Economic Times

The recent meltdown has forced a new debate among rich nations — about missed economic opportunities due to an underperforming education sector. It has spurred a new vigour in official spending on education. According to a McKinsey report, the current US GDP would have been higher by 9% to 16%, that is, $1.3 to 2.3 trillion, if the high school pass outs had been equipped with the requisite skills. Strangely for us even as a developing economy, spending is not the issue, but educational reform is, if we want to spur our economic opportunity. Despite an impressive annual $55 billion outlay for education, India suffers from a double whammy of missing social and economic opportunities. A national average dropout rate of 50% means about $15 billion spent annually on education is unproductive, if not a complete waste. Each percentage reduction in this rate can add our GDP — some say, at least a 25%.

In spite of a mammoth spend, we continue to have large disconnects in our system that stymie student development. These force a mismatch between the student’s developmental needs and economic requirements of employment.
Educational reforms need to focus on these disconnects in our system. Some simple yet far reaching take-aways from over two decades of global research across over 1,00,000 schools, 300 colleges and 130 universities by MGRM, (Global Education Research ©MGRM 2009; recognised by Ministry of Science & Technology) a global educational rehabilitation based research initiative, are relevant here. This work suggests that education system should adopt a framework of continuum for all its key stake holders — namely students, teachers, administrators and alumni to address issues of educational reforms including regulation, capacity building and inclusion.

Read complete article by Ashwani Windlass in The Economic Times, October 13, 2009.

Mutual Funds: Value averaging to be new investment strategy

A new investment theory is gaining favour with wealth managers and mutual funds, something that could soon replace the conventional systematic investment plans (SIP) strategy. Termed value averaging investment (VAI), the technique allows investors to determine the size of investment needed (at the time of investing) to get desired returns. Value averaging works much like rupee cost averaging, which forms the basis of systematic investment plans.

“While SIP investments are made on fixed dates, irrespective of market conditions, VA investments are made on dates when the markets look investible. The best aspect of VAI is that it enables investors to buy stocks at dips — a facility that is not really possible in SIPs,” said Nipun Mehta, head of Societe Generale Private Banking India.

In value averaging, the investor sets a target growth rate or amount for his portfolio each month, and then adjusts the next month’s contribution, according to the relative gain or shortfall made on the original asset base. To cite an example, investor A needs to invest Rs 1,000 (calculated using statistical formulae) every month to get 15% return (on his investments) over a time-frame of 10 years. A invests Rs 1,000 in the beginning of the month (usually when the market is trading lower); at the end of first month A’s investment has declined to Rs 800 as a result of the further fall in market. To correct the course to target growth rate, A invests Rs 1,200, marking net term investments to Rs 2,000. Conversely, had the markets gained and A’s investment surged in value by Rs 200 (taking the total value to Rs 1,200 at the end of the first month), he would only have to pay Rs 800 in the second month.

“Under VAI, investors contribute to their portfolios in such a way that the portfolio balance increases by an amount calculated by a formula-based technique, regardless of market fluctuations. As a result, when the market declines, the investor contributes more and when the market goes up, the investor contributes less,” said Anil Rego, CEO of Right Horizons — a wealth management firm.

Though VAI has no historical references, returns (asset growth) could well be very close (or a bit high) to those offered by investments through SIPs. While VAI enables flexible investing, there is a good possibility that the fund manager may not be holding cash at the time of a sudden dip in market value. Another negative aspect to VAI is the fact that as the investor’s asset base grows, shortfalls (in case of market slumps) become too large to replace (especially for retail investors). While several fund houses are planning to introduce VAI plans on existing MF schemes, the benchmark MF has attached value averaging transfer plan (VTP) in its derivative fund, equity fund and derivatives opportunities fund.

Source: The Economic Times (This article is written by Shailesh Menon)

IIM professors earn more from consultancy - The Economic Times

India's bulge-bracket factories are yet to catch up with their global counterparts in terms of faculty remuneration, but corporates queuing up to have a taste of their expertise are making the professors rich, and the institutes richer. Faculty members at some of the top-ranking Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) earn more from consulting activities than what they get from these famed institutes as salary. While an IIM faculty gets, on an average, around Rs. 800,000 as salary per year, he usually makes Rs. 1.2 million in consulting fees after sharing 45% of that with the institute.

A norm in the West, the faculty consultancy system was kicked off in India by IIM-A with the caveat that the school will take almost half the fee as cut. According to IIM-A officials, consultancy fees that India Inc gives to the IIMs have gone up by 16% from last year. Over the last few years, PepsiCo, L&T, Canara Bank, Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing, VSNL, LIC and Bank of Baroda, among several other corporate houses have approached IIM-A for consulting as well as in-house training. “They usually ask for middle and junior level training programmes for their executives. Some companies even hold their programmes round the year,” a faculty member told ET.

IIM-A has a 90-strong faculty, of which 70% actively participate in activities that fetch them an average Rs. 2 million annually (net consultation income plus net salary). The amount for many active faculty goes up to Rs. 3-3.5 million depending on the number of consulting projects and in-house training programmes undertaken. The institute earned about Rs. 206 million as consulting income in 2008-09, with the percentage growth over the last three years being about 16% per year, institute officials said. However, unlike their counterparts in India, most of the Western B-schools don’t insist on getting a cut from the faculty consulting fees. In Harvard Kennedy School, an institute with a focus on public policy management, a faculty is even allowed to set up his own consulting company and enjoy tax deduction on earnings. “Faculty salaries are already so high in B-schools in the US that a faculty’s consulting earnings hardly exceed his salary. This happens, but only in a few individual cases. In IIM-A, the salary is so low that consulting earnings look big when compared with a faculty’s salaries,” said a senior faculty member.

The institutes allow the faculty take up advisory services for the industry as per their expertise in the field to help them gain insight into the functioning of the company and also generate revenue for the institute. As per provisions made by the institute, a faculty can do a maximum 53 days of consulting, charging Rs. 100,000 for a day’s consulting. On an average, a faculty member contributes 20-25 days in a year to consulting, which fetch him Rs. 1.6 million after sharing the 45% of his revenue with the institute. At a few other Indian B-Schools, the faculty-institute ratio is 70:30. “Among IIMs, the IIM-A gets the maximum volume of consultancy,” said a senior faculty member.

Over the last few years, the per day consulting charge at IIM-A has gone up from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 100,000. IITs too have set up such a system, but income from technological consulting is way below the norm in management consulting. Faculty salaries assumed prominence after the IITs raised a pay hike demand with the HRD ministry. While the issue has been settled with the premier technology institutes, their management peers chose not to pursue it aggressively. In fact, the IIM-A board of governors decided to adopt the MHRD pay structure.

Another IIM-A faculty pointed out that a pay revision was needed as not all faculty were involved in consulting and allied activities. Also, consulting not being an assured income, it was imperative for the institute to have a higher base salary to attract newer faculty. The IIM salaries are taken as a benchmark by top B-Schools like Symbiosis, Pune and IMT, Ghaziabad while fixing their own pay structure. However, as it turns out, the total earning of a majority of the top IIM faculty remains much above others. ICFAI B-Schools-Ahmedabad (IBSA) Director P Bala Bhaskaran said there is no comparison to the IIMs, when it comes to the consulting incomes. “We pay our faculty members a little above the UGC pay structure, but we also encourage our faculty members to involve themselves with MDPs, consulting and other activities to earn extra money,’’ said Nirma Institute of Management Director C Gopalkrishnan.

Source: The Economic Times (This article is written by Kumar Anand)

New Indian central universities to hold common entrance test

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has asked the newly created central universities to conduct a combined entrance examination. Intent on making these universities into global centres of excellence, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said that his ministry would take steps to ensure that foreign faculty could teach at these universities. The minister has also suggested a private-public partnership in academic activities of the universities.

At present, guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC) do not allow for foreign faculty. Mr. Sibal said that the UGC guidelines for recruitment of faculty will be amended to allow foreign faculty at these universities. Besides foreign faculty, members of the private sector and professionals would be encouraged to teach at these universities. The minister met with the vice chancellors of 15 newly formed central universities on October 13, 2009. Describing the meeting as ‘unique’, Mr. Sibal said it was important that all the VCs met together, as “we wanted each one of them to know what the other was doing”. The idea was to avoid “duplication”, which has been a problem with the Indian university system.

“We want these central universities to have a bottom up approach, and keep in mind the state’s ecosystem,” the minister said. “These universities will design courses keeping in mind the peculiar problem and ecosystem of the state. The courses will be unique to each university,” the minister said. Outlining the special courses to be designed by each university, Mr. Sibal said these institutions can explore courses on climatic conditions of the region to mitigate the impact of natural disasters like tsunami, cyclone, flood and glacier melting.

But this should not preclude greater interaction among the universities. The UGC has been asked to set up a panel of experts to coordinate the activities of these universities. “We want to create an eco-system that allows for the mobility of students and faculty”, Mr. Sibal said. It is as part of this effort, that the MHRD has suggested a common entrance exam. To begin with this would cover only these 15 central universities, “over a period of time we may bring in the existing central universities as well.” The single entrance would simplify the admission process for students, who would otherwise be required to appear for multiple exams for admission to the university of their choice.

Source: The Economic Times

Rejuvenating education through FDI - The Economic Times

EDUCATION in India is undergoing an overhaul. Starting with the recently enacted right to free education statute, the HRD ministry is already working on legislation for an education tribunal (to resolve disputes between students, institutions and teachers) and a Bill to establish multiple private accreditation agencies, monitored by a regulator. Deliberations are also on to set up the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), a single autonomous body to replace the existing education councils, something also suggested by the Yash Pal Committee. And while recent reports about the PMO’s intervention on the proposed Foreign Education Providers Bill may require the legislation to be vetted afresh, but when Kapil Sibal advocates FDI in the education sector as a priority for the government, one can assume he has convincing arguments in support of foreign participation. The proposed Bill will help supplement government spending on higher education and is generating a lot of excitement among potential investors.

Read this interesting article by Satvik Varma in October 16, 2009 issue of The Economic Times.

India keen on Indo-US Education Council

US under secretary of state William Burns on October 15 called on the Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to firm up the proposal for setting up an India-US Education Council. Mr. Sibal is generally not even a whistle stop for senior officials of the US state department. However, with the government signalling its keenness to open up the education sector to foreign players, Mr. Burns’s second visit within four months is significant. The meeting focused on the proposed council. It will include representatives from industry and the education sector. Mr. Sibal will be travelling to the US later this month, ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in November.

The areas of collaboration include research, distance education, vocational education, skill development, exchange of faculty, models of public-private partnership and also expertise for the setting up of universities. The ministry is keen to tie up with the world’s leading universities to ensure that its “innovation universities” are a class apart from the pack. Mr. Sibal would like to firm up MoUs with US universities to collaborate with the proposed innovation universities. Among the US universities that are being approached are Yale, Stanford and MIT. During his visit, Mr. Sibal will meet with American policy makers, including senators and congressmen, government officials and university officials.

Source: The Economic Times

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The University of Newcastle, Australia opens campus in Sydney

The University of Newcastle, Australia will tonight officially open its new Sydney CBD presence. Offering postgraduate studies in Business and Accountancy, and English language studies, the Sydney presence has been purpose-built within space on Bathurst Street. The first cohort of students commenced studies in August this year and is expected to complete studies in May 2010.
Vice-Chancellor of The University of Newcastle, Australia, Professor Nicholas Saunders said that the Sydney campus was particularly attractive to international students. “Newcastle has been delivering postgraduate education for more than 23 years and was one of the first universities in Australia to offer a Master of Business Administration program. While we have many international students in Newcastle, there are those who wish to live in Sydney but also study at our University. This campus gives them the opportunity. We are delighted to have a Sydney presence, which adds to our campuses in Newcastle, on the Central Coast, at Port Macquarie, in Singapore and in Hong Kong.”

Forty-eight students are currently enrolled in the Master of Business and Master of Professional Accounting programs, with a further 20 enrolled in ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses). Students are from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The Sydney presence features wireless internet throughout, a library, computer laboratory, study areas, lecture theatres, on-site teaching and learning support and fully integrated audiovisual facilities for video conferencing.

The University of Newcastle Sydney presence will be officially opened tonight, Tuesday 13 October, at Bathurst Street, Sydney.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Saunders and Chancellor Professor Trevor Waring will join Newcastle alumni Ms Patricia Forsythe (former NSW MLC), Ms Emily Powys and Ms Alison Hawkins, along with more than 100 guests, for the official opening.

Source: The University of Newcastle, Australia Media Release

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

India keen on tie-ups with leading global universities

The Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) is keen to tie up with the worlds leading universities to ensure that its innovation universities are a class apart from the pack. During his visit to the US in late October, the minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal would like to firm up MoUs with leading US universities to collaborate with the proposed innovation universities. Among the American universities that are being approached are Yale, Standford and MIT. The government plans to set up 14 innovation universities over the next few years.

The government proposes to set up these universities as global centres of innovation and would like to draw on the talent and expertise of leading universities. We are looking for a collaboration for two or three of the innovation universities, a senior ministry official said. India has had a history of collaborating with leading international universities to set up her own world class institutions. The Iits and Iims were set up in collaboration and partnership with leading international institutes. The nature of the partnership will be different. We are better equipped now than we were when the IITs were set up, the official said. The exact nature of the partnership is still being worked out.

Mr Sibal, who will be travelling to the US ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs state visit in November, will leading a delegation to put in place the India-US Education Council. As part of the preparation, last week Mr Sibal met with Timothy Roemer, the US Ambassador to India. Sources said that discussions centred on chartered schools, vocational education options and twinning programmes at the higher education level.

The human resource development minister has been actively seeking tie-up partnerships with foreign education institutions. Earlier this month, possible areas of collaboration were discussed by UKs trade and investment minister Mervyn Davies and Mr Sibal. The British minister had indicated teacher training as one of the possible areas of collaboration.

At last weeks meeting Mr Sibal and Mr Roemer are understood to have also discussed the legislation that would permit foreign education institutions and universities to set up campus in India. A legislative proposal detailing out the legal and regulatory framework for foreign education providers is pending with the Cabinet Secretariat for approval by the Cabinet. The ministry would like the Bill to be introduced in Parliament during the winter session, so that it can be in place by the next academic session.

Source: The Economic Times

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mutual Funds get step-motherly treatment from distributors

Distributors of mutual funds, are selling more of fixed income products, ever since SEBI (Securities & Exchange Board of India) introduced the abolition of entry load on mutual funds. Under the new norms investors must pay fees separately to the distributor as compared to the earlier practice where commission were paid out of entry loads charged by the mutual funds. If initial trends are anything to go by distributors are now earning more from selling fixed income products compared to mutual funds, in the changed environment .

In recent months banks have slashed interest rates on bank fixed deposits leading to a revival in interest in small savings, post offices and GOI (Government of India) bonds. Company fixed deposits which made a comeback due to reputed corporates like Tatas and Mahindras raising money, along with NCDs (non-convertible debentures) from Shriram Transport Finance and L&T Finance, have found favour with investors. As per distributors corporate fixed deposits worth Rs. 600 crore (Rs. 6 billion) per month are being sold. Shriram Transport Finance and L&T Finance both raised Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion) each, through NCD issues in August and September. Compared to this, fresh sales in mutual funds are down. For the month of August 2009, equity mutual funds registered fresh sales of Rs. 4,184 crore (Rs. 41.84 billion) against Rs. 8,885 crore (Rs. 88.85 billion) in July 2009, a drop of 52.9%. Contribution of fixed income products in our product mix has gone up from 10% to 20% year on year for the month of August 2009, says Rajiv Deep Bajaj, vice- chairman and managing director, Bajaj Capital.

On the other hand, contribution from mutual funds, which was 20% in 2008-09 , slipped to about 10% since the regulation was introduced on August 1, 2009. Distributors on an average would earn as much as 3% upfront commissions through entry load and trail fees from sales of mutual funds. This fee is now down to about 1%, including both upfront and trail, for smaller players, making selling of mutual funds unremunerative. On the other hand the company fixed deposits are assuring at least 1% upfront commissions. Sales of mutual funds are down by 40%, and investors are buying more of fixed deposits and non convertible debentures. As the equity valuations go up, investors are seeking fixed income products. This makes the product easy to sell for distributors in tough times.

Source: The Economic Times

Atom-powered devices to enter India in a big way

Intel Corp, the worlds top chipmaker, expects its Atom processor to power a host of devices in the Indian market, in addition to the no-frills netbook or the nettop. These could be a mix of mobile banking devices, mobile internet devices (MID), point-of-sales terminals to even outdoor display terminals. Intel confirmed that a multitude of vendors were developing a spate of new applications in India. Talking to the Economic Times, Intel Technology India director (Marketing-South Asia) Prakash Bagri said Atom has the potential to power products like MID, mobile banking devices, GPS monitoring devices, personal healthcare gadgets, point-of-sales terminals, and even outdoor display terminals. Atom fits well in the embedded space and devices which deliver internet-centric experience or needs to be powered by internet. A lot of such devices are under development and may hit India soon, Mr. Bagri said.

Elaborating, Mr. Bagri said at least 35 vendors are developing MIDs with Atom. MIDs have a huge potential in India, once there is availability of a robust mobile data network. This will be possible when 3G and WiMax services comes into full play, he said. Incidentally, the company has just globally unveiled the Atom processor CE4100, the newest system-on-chip in a family of media processors designed to bring internet content and services to digital TVs, DVD players and advanced set-top boxes. Intel has lately seen huge success with the Atom that created a completely new category of entry-level computers. Sales of netbooks and nettops are growing upwards of 100% quarter-on-quarter in India. Such performance was visible even during the slowdown when computer sales in India saw a degrowth, said Mr. Bagri.

Despite Atoms success, Intel has no plans to discontinue its previous entry-level Celeron processor. While Atom allows us to come up with newer kinds of form factors, Celeron has its own set of distinct users, both in the enterprise and consumer segment. Hence, there is a fair chance that both processors can co-exist in the market, said Mr. Bagri. He, however, admitted that India has always been a major market for the Pentium processor family. The same trend is now seen in the Core range of processors. In fact, a lot of Pentium consumers are now upgrading to the Core family, he said. Intel is also going to focus on rolling out newer processors based on its super-fast Nehalem microarchitecture . It plans to roll out several such processors in India over the next 4-5 quarters across the entire range of desktop, laptop and server. As part of this, it recently unveiled in India a series of such processors which will bring this microarchitecture to mainstream desktop and entry server markets.

Source: The Economic Times

Relief for private foreign universities: Quota law not binding

Foreign universities and education providers setting up campuses in India are unlikely to be required to provide for reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and other backward classes (OBC). Even as Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said that reservation laws as applicable to Indian institutions would apply to foreign universities setting up campuses in India. Only government education institutions are required by law to provide for reservation quotas; private unaided institutions are not required to set aside seats for SCs, STs and OBCs. Reservation laws as applicable to Indian institutes will be applicable to the foreign institutes. There will be no discrimination, Mr. Sibal said. Mr. Sibal said that he favours 100 per cent ownership of the Indian campuses by the foreign universities, a clear indication that the Indian campuses of foreign universities are likely to be private entities. This would mean that the campuses of these foreign education providers are likely to be exempt from adhering to reservation laws.

The Cabinet is expected to take up the legislation allowing foreign universities and education providers to set up campuses in India shortly. Mr. Sibal said that some well known foreign universities had already approached the Ministry with proposal for setting up of campuses. The minister hopes that the foreign universities may start operations by next year. Foreign education providers will be required to take clearance from the accreditation committee for quality control before being allowed to set up campuses in India. All foreign universities will be required to be accredited in their country of origin and be in existence for at least 10 years before setting up campus in India. Mr. Sibal favours the idea of foreign universities having 100 per cent ownership of their campuses in India. If there is 100 per cent ownership of private sector here, why not 100 per cent ownership of foreign universities, the minister said.

The minister accepted that that there would be objections from political parties to the provision of 100 per cent ownership to the foreign universities. The Left has been among the most vociferous opponents of the proposal to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India. Mr. Sibal said, "There will be objection. There is no process of change without objections. And I welcome objections. I welcome dialogue".

Foreign education institutes will not be allowed to repatriate surplus income generated at their campuses in India. The surplus has to be spent for the expansion of the campus within the country. To ensure that no fly-by-night operators come to India, the aspiring institutes will have to go through the accreditation procedure of the country. The foreign education providers will be regulated by University Grants Commission (UGC) and any successive regulatory body.

Source: The Economic Times

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2 Indian Americans win $500,000 MacArthur fellowships

Two Indian Americans, one a computer scientist and the other a mathematician, are among 24 winners of the prestigious MacArthur fellowships offering talented individuals unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. Computer vision technologist Maneesh Agrawala, 37, and applied mathematics specialist L. Mahadevan, 44, will each receive $500,000 support over the next five years. MacArthur fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavours.

Working at the intersection of visualisation, human-computer interaction, and computer graphics, Agrawala, draws on cognitive psychology to identify the key perceptual and design principles underlying graphic illustrations. Agrawala's novel approach to visualisation and computer communication in these and many other projects is transforming how we use, synthesise, and comprehend the ever-increasing volume of digital information we encounter in our daily lives. "Through these fellowships, we celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci.

Mahadevan is a mathematician who applies complex mathematical analyses to a variety of seemingly simple, but vexing, questions across the physical and biological sciences -how cloth folds when draped, how skin wrinkles, how flags flutter, how Venus flytraps snap close. He also considers properties of materials at larger scales, such as cell shape, adhesion, and migration in developmental biology, avalanche dynamics, or the role of water in determining the tensile characteristics of plants. Mahadevan received a BTech (1986) from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, an MS (1987) from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MS (1992) and PhD (1995) from Stanford University. Since 2003, he has been affiliated with Harvard University, where he is currently the De Valpine Professor of Applied MathematiHe holds visiting professorships at the University of Oxford's Mathematics Institute and the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India.

The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's Fellows, 805 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inception of the programme.

Source: The Economic Times

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