Sunday, August 30, 2009

US: Admissions decline first in five years

Offers of admission from US graduate schools to prospective international students decreased 3% from 2008 to 2009, the first decline since 2004, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. A survey report on admissions trends by the council shows that more than half of responding institutions reported a decrease in international offers of admission. There were 16% declines in offers to students from India and South Korea, after offers to students in each country fell 2% last year.

Although the survey also found a final one-year 4% increase in international applications, the total number of international applications received in 2009 remains 5% below 2003 levels. The council report includes findings on domestic student admissions trends: the change in domestic applications at responding graduate schools was a median 8% increase. Offers of admission to American students grew by a median 2%.

Read the news article on UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS website by accessing the link - http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090827174457370.


The survey report can be accessed on the Council of Graduate Schools website - http://www.cgsnet.org/.

US: California's higher education apocalypse

The fiscal crisis in California, the world's eighth largest economy, seems destined to jeopardise the integrity - and future - of higher education in the state. Events escalated at the beginning of the state's new fiscal year on 1 July when the optimistic budget package signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in February proved to be untenable.

Without anticipated income and tax revenues, California's $24 billion budget deficit now requires draconian measures. To wit, the state has voted to cut $16 billion from its programmes and beg, borrow or steal the remaining $8 billion from municipal and state coffers. The two university networks - the University of California and the California State University - expect to have their budgets cut by 20%, from $3.61 billion to $2.79 billion in 2009-10.

Read this informative and interesting article by Sarah King Head in the August 30, 2009 issue of UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS - http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090827175130734.

NIT-R signs MoU with Atomic Energy Department

In a bid to boost research activities in various engineering disciplines, the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela (NIT-R) has signed a MoU with Government of India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). With the signing of the MoU yesterday, the NIT-R students will be admitted in the M. Tech. program of DAE and some of them will be given a job in the Department directly while continuing their education, NIT-R director Sunil Kumar Sarangi said. The selected students will get Rs 20,000 as allowance. A six-member team of senior scientists from the Atomic Energy Department has reached NIT-R to formulate program for research projects.

NIT-R is the first institute in the state and seventh in the country to sign such a MoU with the DAE. Earlier, six IITs had signed similar MoUs with DAE. Sarangi and S G Markendeya, Scientific Secretary of Board of Research in Nuclear Science, Department of Atomic energy signed the MoU at the NIT campus.


Source: The Economic Times

B-schools redesigning syllabus to cope with recession

In the backdrop of the global slowdown, some business schools in the country are redesigning their syllabus to groom students to cope up with a withering employment market and help in rebuilding the economy. "Our curriculum structure is built in a way that the students would be better equipped to face the ground realities of the market, thereby being of true value in rebuilding the economy," B K Murty, Dean International Academy of Management & Entrepreneurship (IAME) Bangalore, said. The institute claims to have adopted a syllabus conducive to the Indian environment instead of "blindly copying American system".

"India being the emerging economic powerhouse, adapting management principles known to the Indian scenario and to develop our own systems would be more effective in helping India to better cope with the recession as well as ensure growth," Dr Murty said. Similarly, Goa's premier business school, Goa Institute of Management has also fine-tuned its syllabus in the wake of global downturn to increase the future managers resilience towards it.

The impact of recession on the managerial job market in India was discussed and taken into account while updating the syllabus this year, its director P F X D'Lima said. Mumbai Business School CEO Sunil Rai said his institute was emphasising in providing industry experience to the students during their course period so that they could better suit to their future job. "We first identify what exact skills corporate needs in coming year and groom those students who are willing to take up the assignments and co-train them in partnership with the corporate concerned," Rai said.

Murty said, "We should realise that India needs to be managed the Indian way, not the western way. The futility of the western way has been exposed by the Sub Prime crisis as well as the Satyam fiasco. Japanese, after the war, and China grew because of their own management systems rather than being clones of the west".


Source: The Economic Times

Cabinet approves seven new IIMs

The Union Cabinet approved the setting up of seven new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) that will get operational in two phases.

Four IIMs would be set up in Trichy, Ranchi, Raipur and Rohtak in the first phase and the classes would start from the 2010-11 academic year. The other three in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan will get operational from 2011-12. The exact locations in these states are yet to be decided.

Briefing reporters here on the Cabinet decision, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said an allocation of Rs.4510 million as non-recurring expenditure and Rs.1180 million as recurring expenditure has been sanctioned for the first phase.

Government may allow foreign schools in India

Dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Ajit Rangnekar on Saturday (August 29, 2009) said that Government in near future will allow foreign institutions to expand in the country. He was speaking at three-day 21st Annual Management Education Convention of the Association of Indian Management Schools (AIMS).

This can be viewed both as a threat and an opportunity. Opportunity if you link and collaborate with them, he said. There was a need for the second tier B-schools in India, which are around 375 presently, to distinguish themselves from each other and build and develop their brand strongly, he said.

Managing Director, Microsoft India, Srini Koppolu said that the management institutions aim to teach students the fact that they should concentrate on their core function and be leaders in their areas. He said: "Strategy is fine, but the real fun lies in real-life operations and executions". Industry and management schools can collaborate on leadership and management development of employees through executive education programme, he observed.

Director, IIM Calcutta, Dr Shekhar Chaudhuri said that focus should be on improving soft , writing, presentation and communication skills of management students which make one employable.

Source: The Economic Times

Engineering students not opting for higher education

The number of engineering students going for advanced studies remains alarmingly low despite setting up of new institutions in the country, a study has found. About 230,000 students graduated in engineering in 2006, while only 20,000 master degrees and 1,000 Ph.D.s were awarded that year, according to the study Engineering Education in India, conducted by two professors of IIT Bombay.

Doctorate degrees in engineering are less than one per cent of graduate engineering degrees. The percentage of is much higher for most of the other countries like the United States (9 per cent), Britain (10 per cent) and Germany (8 per cent). In the IITs and IISc, only about one per cent of the graduating B.Tech. class opt for an M.Tech. while two per cent of graduating M.Tech. class opt for Ph.D., the study found. There are 1100 private engineering colleges which produce for 75 per cent of the total engineering graduates.

To augment research, India needs to start a series of initiatives, including partnerships with industries, strengthening existing Ph.D. programmes and research facilities, it said. Vacancies in faculties are also a matter of concern in engineering institutes, including IITs. For better faculty, the masters degree programmes have to be strengthened. India should make a target to create 10,000 Ph.D.s per year in ten years time, the study suggested.

In the research front, India is far behind China. While 19 per cent of the research publications are from China, India's contribution is only eight per cent. V S Ramamurthy, Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT Delhi, who attended discussion on the findings of the study, said that "quality" was missing in the engineering stream. The study was conducted by Prof Rangan Banerjee and Prof Vinayak P Muley of IIT Bombay and was sponsored by Observer Research Foundation.


Source: The Economic Times

Single Council for Medical Education in India

In a complete overhaul aimed at cleansing the medical education system in the country, a task force of the Union Health Ministry has decided to scrap all regulatory bodies, including the Medical Council of India, Dental Council of India, Pharmacy Council and the Nursing Council.

There will instead be a single regulatory body - National Council for Human Resources in Health - which will oversee seven departments related to medicine, nursing, dentistry, rehabilitation and physiotherapy, pharmacy, public health/hospital management and allied health sciences, sources involved in the revamp process said. The move now needs a formal government notification. The proposed Council will not only perform the regulatory functions but also carry out assessment and accreditation of medical and health institutions across the country.

Simply put, the proposed Council will coordinate the entire gamut of medical and health education in India. This will include drafting courses and the period of study, including practical training, subjects of examination and standards of proficiency, conditions for admissions to courses, provide guidelines on curriculum planning, monitoring and overseeing implementation of UG/PG courses with flexibility for local specific modules.

"Medical education today is dictated by bank balance and caste. The existing councils, besides being unwieldy, have failed to provide a synergistic approach. There is an urgent need for innovation in health-related education. It is unfortunate that medical seats are auctioned in front of students today. This is the best surgical solution for cleansing the system," a source told the leading national daily The Times of India.

The report which was discussed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 26, 2009 by the task force states: "Professional councils such as the Medical Council of India/Nursing and Pharmacy Councils have been set up to regulate the practice of their respective professions, including education. However, many of these councils have drawn criticism from all sections of society and got judicial censure on several occasions".
The Council will be constituted as an autonomous body independent of government controls with adequate power, including quasi-judicial.

Private medical colleges also place a heavy burden of fees on students and their admissions procedures are not transparent. The curricula of medical schools both public and private are not designed for producing 'social physicians', the report said. Sources said the Centre will now take this move to all the states before implementing it. On its part, the Union health ministry has already readied a draft bill titled The National Council for Human Resources in Health Draft Bill, 2009.

NATIONAL EXIT TEST
Though all central and state universities shall conduct their own examinations and award degrees, the national council will conduct national-level exit examinations to standardise UG/PG medical and allied health courses. This screening examination shall be mandatory for students who have successfully completed UG from a foreign institution that is not recognised by the council. With this, the National Board of Examinations (NBE) shall be archived.

HOSPITALS TO OFFER PG COURSES
With a mere 9 per cent of the UG medical students offering PG, the task force has proposed that prominent hospitals across the country be allowed to offer post-graduate courses. "PG seats are so few that students have no option but to study what is given to them rather than what they want to pursue,'' a source said.

Source: The Times of India

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Indian Higher Education: Big ticket changes soon

The joke in Delhi's power circles is that the rate at which the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) is framing cabinet notes and draft bills, many of the next sessions of Parliament will only be passing legislations on the education sector.

A new minister and a new work culture in the Ministry is right now geared to meet the 100-day deadline that ends in the first week of September. The biggest of them all, the Right to Education, has been passed in both Houses of Parliament. A lot of questions, many of them genuine, are, however, being raised about the legislation. Putting together its nuts and bolts will hit many roadblocks by various interest groups but a big step has been taken.

Though there are many other bigticket changes on the anvil, public interest will be on weather the class 10 board examination will be made optional and evaluation will shift to grading system. The answer to both questions is yes, at least for all CBSE-affiliated schools in the country. Most of the groundwork has been done, public consultation has already been undertaken been with there being effusive support and a large section of educationists are rooting for the twin changes. Union HRD MInister Kapil Sibal will announce it on completion of 100 days. It is bound to have its impact on state boards who have promised to take a positive view if it clicks in the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) - the body which administers the grade 10 and 12 examinations of schools.

But it is higher education where the bulk of action is taking place. Sibal’s promise of initiating a slew of legislations is on track. The idea of amending the Constitution to set up a higher education commission and a legislation to create it is already with the Prime Minister's Office and other relevant ministries. Simultaneously, MHRD has also moved bills to check educational malpractices by institutions, on educational tribunals, 14 innovation (also called "world class") universities, accreditation system and a concept note on the "brain gain" policy - the reverse of "brain drain".

As for cleaning the mess in regulatory bodies, Mr. Kapil Sibal played a key role in ensuring that vested groups do not protect top functionaries of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) from CBI. However, in case of UGC, Sibal seems to have committed a mistake by setting up two review committees one by the ministry and other by UGC (University Grants Commission) — to look into deemed universities. The question being asked is — How can a committee of UGC that advised the ministry to give deemed status to certain institutions now find fault with the same institutes? Also, why is the ministry’s review committee not making a physical verification of claims made by deemed universities? It’s a big let down in Mr. Sibal’s first 100 days.

HITS

  • Right to Education Bill passed in both Houses of Parliament
  • Making Class X board examinations optional
  • A new regulatory body to oversee higher education

MISSES

  • Review of deemed universities not handled well
  • A thorough probe into doling out deemed status not done
  • Not enough attention paid to National Council for Teacher Education

CHALLENGES

  • Implementing the Right to Education and ensuring private schools abide by its provisions
  • Cleaning mess in regulatory bodies like UGC, AICTE
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio in both elementary and higher education should increase

Source: The Times of India

Reforms in the offing for Indian Higher Education

The Indian Government plans to set up a new Education Commission and smoothen the entry of foreign players in higher education among other things. The proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research will start functioning before the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year and will have best of both the Yashpal Committee and the National Knowledge Commission, the bodies that recommended sweeping changes in higher education regulation.

Existing regulatory bodies like University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education will cease to exist once the commission starts functioning. “The idea is to give the job of regulation to experts in each specific field rather than to administrators,” Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said while talking to a leading national daily, Hindustan Times.

A draft of the proposed commission circulated to different ministries speaks of a six-member commission to regulate different streams such as technical education, medical education, architecture, general education, research and scholarships. The commission would be an autonomous body like the Election Commission of India. For this to happen, the draft has suggested that the Prime Minister should make appointments to the commission.

Along with the new commission, the government will also have a law to enable it to accredit all higher education professional institutes within a timeframe—defaulters would be fined upto Rs. 5 million. In addition, the HRD ministry has circulated Cabinet notes for a law to allow entry of Foreign Education Providers, against educational malpractices and for setting up educational tribunals to settle disputes between different stakeholders.


Source: Hindustan Times

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

IISc ranked India's top tech institute

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has been ranked the number one engineering / technology institute among top 67 science institutes in the country. The premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) take the next four ranks. IIT-Kanpur comes in at second place, followed by IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Delhi at third, fourth and fifth position respectively.

The other institutes within top 10 include: Jadavpur University ranked 6, IIT-Madras ranked 7, IIT-Roorkee ranked 8, Anna University at 9 and IIT-Guwahati at rank 10.

The ranking has been done on basis of publications and citations and research record available between 1999 and 2008 in the Scopus International multi-disciplinary, bibliographical database. The ranking, published in the Current Science, has been done by scholars Gangan Prathap and B M Gupta of the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources and National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi.

The data shows IISc leading every other science institute in the country on publications and citations. The scholars have said the top 67 engineering institutes have done better than the university sector as a whole in the 10-year period — 75,166 papers vs 59,685 papers. Their research has also shown that by number and performance (quality and quantity combined), IISc and IITs taken as a group lead other groups — University and Deemed University, Select Engineering Colleges, NITs (National Institutes of Technology) / RECs (Regional Engineering Colleges) and IIITs. The IIITs are ranked last as a group for their low publications and citations.

Following is the Roll of Honour (Ranked on basis of publications, citations between 1999 and 2008):
  1. IISc, Bangalore
  2. IIT Kanpur
  3. IIT Bombay
  4. IIT Kharagpur
  5. IIT Delhi
  6. Jadavpur University
  7. IIT Madras
  8. IIT Roorkee
  9. Anna University
  10. IIT Guwahati
  11. Cochin University of Science and Technology
  12. Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani

Source: The Times of India

Oil India IPO price band fixed at Rs. 950-1050

The Government has fixed a price band of Rs. 950-1050 a share for Oil India Ltd’s (OIL’s) initial public offering (IPO). A decision to this affect was taken on Monday by a Group of Ministers headed by the Finance Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. Official sources said the IPO will open on September 7 and close on September 10. Oil India is likely to be listed on September 29.

OIL, which produces 3.5 million tonne of oil annually, will offer fresh equity of 2.64 crore shares or 11 per cent, while the Government will put on offer 10 per cent of its stake in OIL to the public sector refining-cum-marketing companies — Indian Oil Corporation, HPCL and BPCL.

The IPO offer coupled with direct divestment of government stake to public sector oil refining and marketing companies is expected to raise about Rs. 5,000 crore (at the ceiling rate), official sources said. The IPO will generate Rs. 2,772 crore for the company and direct stake sale is expected to get the Government about Rs. 2,247 crore at the ceiling rate, official sources said.
Subsequent to the IPO and disinvestment, the Government’s stake in OIL will decrease from 98.13 per cent to 78.43 per cent. From the direct disinvestment of 10 per cent in Oil India, the Government will sell about 5 per cent stake to IOC and about 2.5 per cent each to HPCL and BPCL.

Faculty of premier IITs demand more pay

The premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are known for their excellent teaching and research capabilities, primarily in the areas of engineering and technology. It is unusual for IIT professors to protest, but on Monday (August 24, 2009), professors at the IIT Bombay went on a one-day mass leave. They say their salaries do not even match up those of scientists in other government jobs, and have to be increased. "We had recommended salaries suitable to attract young faculty who are good for institutions of excellence and importance. But the government is offering 20 to 30 per cent less. This will only make it more difficult for us to retain good faculty," said Dr Bharat Shah, Professor, IIT Bombay.

IIT professors across India had asked for over 100 per cent increase in pay scales, to attract talent otherwise lost to foreign universities. They had asked to bring professors salaries at par with scientists in government institutes like DRDO, ISRO and BARC; and a monthly compensation of Rs. 15,000 for faculty members, when they lose pay studying to become PhDs, which is a minimum requirement to teach at IIT. The government offered them about 30 per cent less, and is now promising to relook at their concerns as protests grow. "The government is not even willing to listen to us or respond," said Dr Soumyo Mukherji, Professor, IIT Bombay.

Professors at IIT Chennai and Kharagpur have already gone on a token strike. IIT Delhi teachers will not work today (Tuesday, August 25). Professors at the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) could also join in. The protests they promise, will only get louder if the government does not respond positively by September 5. The deadline given to the government has a symbolic significance too. In India, teacher’s day is celebrated on 5th of September every year. Indian Teacher’s Day is dedicated to Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was a zealous advocate of education and one of the greatest scholars and teachers of all times, apart from being the first Vice President and the second President of India.

Source: Media reports

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adani Power slips after listing at Rs. 108

Adani Power listed on the stock exchange today but met with a lukewarm response. It is also intriguing that the company was excluded from the futures and options (F&O) segment. Adani Power is the second power company to list recently after NHPC.

Adani Power listed at Rs. 108 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) at a premium of 8 per cent to its issue price of Rs. 100 a share. However, the share slipped and was trading at Rs. 102, at a premium of 2 per cent to its issue price (at 10:30 a.m. IST). The share touched an intraday high of Rs. 110 and an intraday low of Rs. 100.15 in the early trade. The share further hit an intraday low of Rs. 99.35. At 10:43 a.m., the share was quoting at Rs. 100.35, up Rs. 0.35 or 0.35 per cent. The total traded quantity was 44,87,395 shares and turnover was at Rs. 4692.92 lakh. On the BSE, the share opened at Rs. 105, at a premium of 5 per cent to its issue price. It touched an intraday high of Rs. 107.90 and intraday low of Rs. 100.65.

The company had fixed the issue price at Rs. 100 per equity share for its initial public offering (IPO) of 301,652,031 equity shares of Rs. 10 each. The issue was subscribed 21.64 times. The company raised Rs 3,016.52 crore via this IPO. It intends to utilize the net proceeds of the issue to part finance the construction and development of Mundra Phase IV Power project for 1,980 MW and fund equity contribution in its subsidiary, Adani Power Maharashtra Limited, to part finance the construction and development cost of power project for 1,980 MW at Tiroda, Maharashtra. The net issue constituted 13.47 percent of the post-issue paid-up equity share capital of the company.

It is pertinent to have a look at stock price movement or performance of power companies on their listing day. There were as many as 7 power companies which were listed in the past 4-5 years. An analysis suggests that at the end of listing day, out of 7 companies 2 had generated negative returns for the investors while remaining 5 companies ended in the green. Reliance Power, the biggest IPO in the history of Indian markets listed on the bourses around Rs. 548. However the stock ended down 17 per cent on its listing day. Power Grid was the best performer amongst all with 94 per cent returns for investors on the listing day.

Nevertheless, market analysts believe that it is always difficult to arrive at the right price for an IPO when the market is volatile. It is believed that both NHPC and Adani Power will make good money for investors in the long-term.

India's technical education best in the world: Hillary Clinton

Lauding India's technical education system, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes the country is one of the best in this field, though it faces a challenge of providing adequate primary education to millions of children. "You can look at the very best in Indian education, and it's the best in the world. You can look at the technical education and it is to be envied. It is so effective," Clinton said in response to a question which was texted to her during her recent trip to India.

Answers by the top U.S. diplomat to select questions have now been posted on the State Department's website. Clinton said millions of children in India, however, don't have adequate primary education or secondary education or, certainly, college education. "India faces the challenge of so many people to serve in very rural areas, often without adequate infrastructure, so you have to come to grips with how you actually produce the schools that are needed, the teachers who will be dedicated, the curriculum and materials that are required," she said. "It is truly up to all of us -- families, governments, businesses, educational institutions -- to do everything we can to give every child a chance to grow up and fulfill his or her God-given potential," Clinton said.

Referring to her trip to Mumbai last month where she discussed education with volunteers from Teach India and Teach for India, Clinton said their passion for service lit up their faces as they talked about the importance of giving every Indian child the chance for an excellent education. "The underpinning of global progress is education across the entire spectrum, from early schooling to the advanced research and post-graduate work," she said.

Source: U.S. State Department website and PTI

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Australia: Stricter laws to cleanse overseas education sector

Australia is all set to make stricter laws to weed out 'shonky' operators in a bid to rebuild the image of its battered overseas education sector. Education Minister Julia Gillard today introduced in parliament the amendments to the law regulating schools that provide courses to the nearly half-a-million overseas students who come to Australia every year. "The message to providers is, if you're not providing your students with a quality education in a safe environment, clean up your act or risk being shut down," Gillard informed the parliament, according to an AAP report. She said the sector had grown too fast,with insufficient checks and balances, which attracted a small number of unscrupulous operators. "We need to weed out the shonky operators," she said.

The main changes will require all institutions now registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students to re-register under tougher criteria by the end of next year and make the use of education agents "more transparent and accountable". Gillard said requiring re-registration would restore confidence in the quality of Australian education that has come under severe criticism after blanket media coverage on bashing of some Indian students and claims that some training schools were ripping off overseas students.

Source: PTI

Transparency in Technical Education to help Indian students

To bring ‘transparency’ in administering technical education, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has decided that the basis on which an institute has got approval would be available on the All India Council for Technical Education’s (AICTE) website - http://www.aicte.ernet.in/. This would help students to verify credentials of an institute before taking admission.

At present there are no government portals from where students can verify claims of private institutes. Union HRD Minister, Mr. Kapil Sibal had last week directed the AICTE officials to adopt a new e-governance system to make technical education “transparent” and “accountable”. “Details of over 16,000 technical education colleges will be available on the AICTE website along with the entire approval process,” said a senior MHRD official, on condition of anonymity.

The AICTE seeks disclosure on standards from each institute, but these are not available for public viewing. The move would also help in making the AICTE’s approvals process online. Acting AICTE chairperson S.S. Mantha said the entire regulatory process would become online with minimum interface between the council officials and the institutes. “The mandatory inspections for approval will be video-graphed and put on the council’s website. Every detail about the institute... will be on the council’s website…” he added.

Source: Hindustan Times

Indian Research Students to get more scholarship amount

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to increase the scholarship amount for junior research fellowship (JRF) by 35 to 40 per cent. The move will ensure that researchers get money almost equivalent to the basic pay — Rs 20,800 per month — of entry-level Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials and assistant professors. UGC has also decided to hike scholarships for women pursuing post-doctoral fellowship by about four times.

With this, women without research experience will get Rs. 25,000 (which was Rs 6,000 earlier) while those with experience will get Rs. 30,000 per month as against Rs. 8,000 earlier. The contingency grant for these women scholars has been increased to Rs. 50,000 per annum. UGC, earlier this month, decided that junior research scholars will now get Rs. 16,000 per month (Rs. 12,000 earlier) for first two years and Rs. 20,000 (Rs. 14,000 earlier) for the next three years. The physically challenged researchers will get an escort allowance of Rs 2,000 per month along with the scholarship. “The scholarship amount has been enhanced so that scholars don’t leave mid-day to join teaching,” UGC chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat said.

The new scholarship amount — to be available to 6,500 researchers every year (doubled as compared to last year) — will be applicable from the new academic year 2009-10. Only students who have cleared the National Eligibility Test will be eligible for the scholarships.

The proposal to enhance the scholarship was taken after a recommendation by R. P. Aggarwal, Higher Education Secretary in the HRD ministry. “The fellowship amount should be increased to 50 per cent subject to the condition that it is less than initial pay for a fresh appointee as assistant professor,” Aggarwal had told UGC in letter on July 30. With this, the UGC is looking to meet the demand for faculty with requisite research credentials and Ph.D. degrees.


Source: Hindustan Times

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Investment Option: Non-Convertible Debentures from L&T Finance

L&T Finance promoted by engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro Limited and L&T Capital Holdings Limited and providing a range of financial services, opened today (August 18, 2009), its first-ever public offer of 50,00,000 Secured Redeemable Non-Convertible Debentures (“NCDs”) of the face-value of Rs 1,000 each. The NCD Issue aggregates to Rs. 500 crore, with an option to retain over-subscription up to Rs. 500 crore for issuance of additional NCDs, aggregating upto a total of Rs 1,000 crore. The NCD Issue with various investment options and yield on Redemption of upto 10.50% (per annum) closes on September 4, 2009.

The NCDs offered through the Prospectus are proposed to be listed on National Stock Exchange of India Limited (“NSE”). The face value of Rs 1,000 per NCD and tradable lot size of 1 NCD is expected to enhance liquidity and trading in the secondary market.

NCD Rating: The NCDs have been rated ‘CARE AA+’ by CARE and ‘LAA+’ by ICRA. Instruments with a rating of ‘CARE AA+’ by CARE are considered to offer high safety for timely servicing of debt obligations. Such instruments carry very low credit risk. The rating of ‘LAA+’ by ICRA indicates high-credit-quality and the rated instrument carries low credit risk.

Tenure of Investment Options: There are four options available under the NCD offer.

Option 1 (Quarterly interest payment): The face value is Rs. 1,000 and the minimum application is Rs. 10,000 (Retail) and Rs. 1,01,000 (NIIs and QIBs) and in multiples of Rs. 1,000 therein. The redemption date or maturity period is 60 months. from the deemed date of allotment. The coupon rate is 9.51% p.a. and the annualized yield is 9.85%. The interest payment is quarterly and the face value plus any interest that may have accrued is payable on redemption.

Option II (Semi-annual interest payment): The face value is Rs. 1,000 and the minimum application is Rs. 10,000 (Retail) and Rs. 1,01,000 (NIIs and QIBs) and in multiples of Rs. 1,000 therein. The redemption date or maturity period is 60 months from the deemed date of allotment. The coupon rate is 9.62% p.a. and the annualized yield is 9.85%. The interest payment is semi-annual and the face value plus any interest that may have accrued is payable on redemption.

Option III (Cumulative interest payment): The face value is Rs. 1,000 and the minimum application is Rs. 10,000 (Retail) and Rs. 1,01,000 (NIIs and QIBs) and in multiples of Rs. 1,000 therein. The redemption date or maturity period is 88 months from the deemed date of allotment. The coupon rate is 9.95% compounded annually and the annualized yield is 9.95%. The interest payment is cumulative and Rs. 2,005 per NCD is payable on redemption.

Option IV (Semi-annual interest payment): The face value is Rs. 1,000 and the minimum application is Rs. 10,000 (Retail) and Rs. 1,01,000 (NIIs and QIBs) and in multiples of Rs. 1,000 therein. The redemption date or maturity period is 120 months from the deemed date of allotment. The coupon rate is 10.24% p.a. and the annualized yield is 10.50%. The interest payment is semi-annual and the face value plus any interest that may have accrued is payable on redemption.

Senior citizens, who are 65 or more years of age at any time during the financial year (FY) 2009-10, enjoy the special privilege to submit a self declaration in the prescribed Form 15H for non-deduction of tax at source in accordance with the provisions of section 197A (1C) of the I.T. Act even if the aggregate income credited or paid or likely to be credited or paid does not exceed the maximum amount not chargeable to tax; i.e., Rs. 225,000 for FY 2008-09 (proposed Rs. 240,000 from FY 2009-10.

Source: Press Release & www.moneycontrol.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

Update from Indian Higher Education Sector - June 2009

Highlight of the Month

India’s 100-day Action Plan for Education Sector

The newly-elected government has announced a number of initiatives under its 100 day Action Plan for the Education Sector. The initiatives announced are:



Legislative Initiatives


  1. An autonomous overarching authority for Higher Education and Research based on the recommendations of Yashpal Committee and National Knowledge Commission;
  2. A law to prevent, prohibit and punish educational malpractices;
  3. A law for mandatory assessment and accreditation in higher education through an independent regulatory authority;
  4. A law to regulate entry and operation of Foreign Educational Providers;
  5. A law to establish a Tribunal to fast-track adjudication of disputes concerning stakeholders (teachers, students, employees and management) in higher education;
  6. A law to further amend the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, to strengthen the Commission; and
  7. A law to amend the Copyright Act, 1957 to address the concerns relating to copyrights and related rights of the various stake holders.

Policy Initiatives

  1. Formulation of a ‘Brain-Gain’ policy to attract talent from across the world to the existing and new institutions;
  2. Launching of a new scheme of interest subsidy on educational loans taken for professional courses by the economically weaker students;
  3. Strengthening and expansion of the scheme for “remedial coaching” for students from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe/minority communities, in higher education;
  4. ‘Equal Opportunity Offices’ to be created in all universities for effective implementation of schemes for disadvantaged sections of the society;
  5. A new policy on Distance Learning would be formulated;
  6. Regional Central Campus of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak to be started in the state of Manipur;
  7. Model degree colleges would be established in 100 districts with significant population of weaker sections and the minorities; and
  8. 100 women’s hostels would be sanctioned in higher educational institutions located in districts with significant population of weaker sections and the minorities.

Administrative and Other Initiatives

  1. Review of the functioning of the existing deemed universities;
  2. Operationalizing newly established 12 Central Universities and 2 new IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology);
  3. Academic reforms (semester system, choice-based credit system, regular revision of syllabi, impetus to research, etc. which are already mandated under the Central Universities Act, 2009) to be introduced in other central educational institutions;
  4. Modernization of Copyright Offices;
  5. 5000 colleges/university departments to be provided with broadband internet connectivity under the “National Mission on Education through ICT”;
  6. Assistance would be provided to States to establish at least 100 new polytechnics (over and above assistance already provided for 50 polytechnics in the last financial year) in districts without any polytechnic at present. States would also be assisted for the construction of 100 women’s hostels in the existing polytechnics and for upgrading 50 existing polytechnics;
  7. Approvals would be obtained for establishing 10 new NITs (National Institutes of Technology) in the un-served States so that every State has one earmarked NIT;
  8. Operationalizing 700 revamped Community Polytechnics for skill development of rural youth; and
  9. Direct credit of scholarship into the bank accounts of 41,000 boys and 41,000 girls every year, under the new Merit Scholarship Scheme for students in the universities and colleges.

Policy Updates

Broader framework on PPP in education soon
In order to attract private agencies for collaboration in expansion of educational facilities in the country, the Government is all set to formulate a broad framework on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). This is significant since many prospective private agencies have expressed concerns over the PPP model and are looking forward to a suitable policy on this system. The private sector has expressed concerns over the PPP mode on the issue of autonomy since they want full autonomy. The government has decided to set up 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), 600 polytechnics and 3500 model schools under the PPP model. The government will set up the 20 IIITs in PPP mode for which the National Association of Software Service Companies (NASSCOM) has prepared a detailed Project Report. Besides, 1000 polytechnics will be set up out of which 300 would be in PPP mode with partial funding from the government and 400 would be set up with private funding. Of the 6000 model schools that the government plans to set up, one in each block, 2500 will be completely funded by the government while 3500 will come up in PPP mode.

UGC makes administrative and academic reforms mandatory for universities
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has made the choice-based credit system mandatory for institutions of higher learning within the country. The Commission has directed the Central and State universities to introduce substantive academic and administrative reforms. The Commission has suggested an action plan be implemented in a phased manner. While the Central universities have been asked to implement the reforms in two years, all State universities have been given three years. The UGC has identified five core reforms areas: semester system, choice-based credit system, curriculum development, admission procedure, and examination reforms. While directing universities to switch over to semester system, the UGC has suggested a series of coordinated steps including taking the academia into confidence and reconfiguration and revision of curricula. The Commission has observed that some institutions have not been giving top priority for revision and update of their academic programs. While professional and technical disciplines undertake regular and vigorous reforms, languages, humanities and other conventional subjects failed to keep up to date. The UGC also emphasized the need for merit based admission process. Another major reform suggested by the UGC is to adopt the grading system in keeping with the global trend.

Paving way for an education regulator
The final recommendations of the high profile committee headed by eminent educationist and former Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof. Yashpal calls for setting up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as a super-regulator. He also recommends a common GRE-type entrance exam for admission to universities and inviting the top 200 universities from abroad to set up shop in India. The Committee report is significant as the government has identified the development of the education sector as a key agenda. The report is likely to unleash sizeable investment in the sector that has been starved of funds due to the stifling rules for setting up colleges and universities. Justifying the need for a super regulator through an act of Parliament as a constitutional amendment, the report argues for subsuming the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). The report says universities should have far more academic freedom and institutional autonomy. They would not need prior approval to start courses or develop competencies in any stream. It encourages the universities to find “complimentary sources of funding” such as from philanthropy. The report also seeks to bring down the curtain on deemed universities saying any further approvals should be put on hold till unambiguous and rational guidelines are evolved. Noting the need to allow top foreign universities into the Indian higher education market, the report says they will have to give an Indian degree and be subject to rules and regulations applicable to any Indian university. It has also asked for huge expansion of scholarships for students to expand the scope for higher education and suggested the introduction of National Education Tribunal to adjudicate on disputes among the stakeholders within institutions and between institutions so as to reduce litigation in courts involving universities and higher education institutions.

UGC plans curbs on admissions, fees in deemed universities
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has set up a committee to look into the matter of regulating the fees and admission in the 125 deemed universities. The commission is reported to get the maximum complains in these two areas. On the admissions front these universities could be a part of a common and national tests (such as the Common Admission Test for the Indian Institutes of Management) and admit students who clear these tests. This will ensure transparency and quality in the admissions. For the fee structure there could be a state or a national level committee. The UGC is already under a cloud for irregularities in deemed universities. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has frozen all new applications for universities seeking deemed status. Of the 125 deemed universities, 33 are government varsities and the rest are a private. It is these private self financed universities that have increased and aspire to be deemed universities.

All deemed university proposals in cold storage
In a first step to bring order in the higher education sector, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been directed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to keep all pending proposals for “deemed to be university” in abeyance till a thorough review of the functioning of the existing deemed universities is done. The report of the thorough review is to be submitted to the Ministry within three months. It will deal with deficiencies with respect to maintenance of standards of deemed universities. Particular emphasis is being placed on the availability of quality faculty, infrastructure and admission process. The Yashpal Committee had expressed concerns about the absence of guidelines to measure the competence of the investors in starting and managing institutions. The only requirement that these institutions be registered as non-profit or charitable trust or society allowed many investors without any understanding or experience of the responsibility associated with higher education institutions to set up institutions.
It was observed that there was a rapid increase in the number of such institutions in the past few years. Between 1956 and 1990, only 29 institutions were granted the deemed university status, while between 2000 and 2005, 26 private sponsored institutions received deemed university status. Since 2005, the number of private deemed universities has increased to 108. UGC has been asked to find out the status of accreditation on existing deemed universities to the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Board of Accreditation (NBA). The National Knowledge Commission has also recommended that the ‘deemed university’ concept be scrapped. It has suggested that deemed university status holders should prove their credentials within the next three years, failing which their status should be done away with.

Indian varsities to go abroad
Keeping in mind the huge resources required to fund education for poor in the country, the government is actively considering guidelines to allow Indian universities to open their campuses abroad. The idea of having foreign campuses of Indian universities has come at a time when the government is going whole hog in persuading universities abroad to have their campuses in India. Despite having no guidelines or a policy framework to allow Indian universities to go abroad, Pune University has the distinction of becoming the first government-run institution to have an offshore campus. The University has opened its campus in UAE in May 2009.

UGC makes accreditation must for universities
To check any irregular practices in deemed universities, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has made significant recommendations including mandatory accreditation and regular monitoring of their standards. UGC has submitted their recommendations in the form of a regulation to the Ministry of Human Resource Development for consideration. The regulation says that an institution must have accreditation either by National Board of Accreditation or National Accreditation and Assessment Council for being given deemed university status. It also sets a number of quality parameters like teacher-student ratio and other facilities.

New IIITs likely to come up with larger private investment
In the coming years, 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) may come up with larger investment from the private sector and could introduce performance-based salary package for teachers to ensure quality if a proposal by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) is accepted by the government. These new institutions will be set up under Private-Public Partnership (PPP) mode. NASSCOM has also proposed that the salary of faculty be linked to their output and the institutions should have provisions of differential salary package.
The IIITs will be autonomous degree awarding institutions with each having its own Board of Governors including one representative of the government. In north-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir where there are not many industries, the government will bear the full establishment cost. Each institute will specialize in specific area of information technology. Each IIIT will be a centre of excellence in that domain. The IIITs will offer undergraduate, postgraduate and Ph.D. programs. Each institute will have an intake capacity of about 1,000 students within a period of six to seven years of their functioning. Currently there are four IIITs in the country.

Institutional Updates

Pune University becomes first to go international
The University of Pune has signed agreements with leading universities from countries like France, China, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Austria and South Africa besides some Latin American universities. These MoUs will facilitate the exchange of students and faculty member and joint research and running of programs on each other’s campuses. The University plans to have as many offshore campuses as possible and may be soon opening a campus in Kampala, Uganda. The offshore university program will run on a business model with the University having to spend nothing. The University will tie-up with local partners who have the capital but not educational expertise, to provide funding and depend on them to take care of infrastructure and administrative needs and thus run educational programs in those countries which will award students with certificates from University of Pune. The faculty who will teach on these campuses will not only earn in international currency but also bring back international exposure that will help Indian students once they come back to teach in India.

Delhi University launches five new courses
The School of Open Learning of University of Delhi has launched five new professional courses in association with private companies to boost the skills of youth in certain sectors. The university recently signed an MoU with five companies to provide professional training to students taking admission in DU. These courses specially designed to impart professional training to students will provide internship opportunity at the end of the course and placement assistance to deserving students by the industry. These courses cover a gamut of professional areas such as telecom, tourism and information technology. Students will be selected on the basis of interviews and there will be no entrance test. After they complete the course, they will be jointly certified by DU and the private firm. All DU students pursuing graduation or post graduation in any stream can apply for these courses which are specifically designed keeping in mind the employability of their skills.

HP and BITS Pilani give research scholarships
HP Labs India and Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) have launched the BITS-HP Labs India Ph.D. Fellowship for advanced research in the area of information and communication technologies relevant to economies such as India. HP Labs India will offer comprehensive scholarships to candidates to pursue Ph.D. research with BITS, Pilani for up to three years. The one year fellowship will be renewed annually based on satisfactory performance in studies and research for a maximum of three years. The candidates will be given a monthly stipend of Rs. 20,000 and HP Labs will cover all academic related fees. Further, living expenses of Rs. 20,000 will be given as part of scholarship once the candidates start working in Bangalore. The candidates will have access to all HP Labs facilities in Bangalore.

IMT to open third campus
The Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad is planning to open its third campus in the north Indian city of Ghaziabad where its other two campuses are located. The campus will be opened by the end of 2009 to cater to the needs of working professionals by offering them distance learning modules. The new campus will exclusively offer courses through distance learning. IMT is also keen to open an international campus either in Singapore, Taiwan or Malaysia besides an existing one in Dubai. The Dubai campus was recently inaugurated and has 250 seats but will be soon scaled up by 200 seats by conducting admissions twice a year. The Faculty of Business and Law of The University of Newcastle, Australia has a MOU with IMT.

Biocon joins hands with ISB to launch Biocon Cell
The Indian School of Business (ISB) in association with Biocon Limited, India’s pioneering biotechnology company, has launched the Biocon Cell for Innovation Management (BCIM) to promote innovation in business. The primary objective of the BCIM is to foster innovation and link it to operational excellence. Biocon is contributing an initial investment to setup BCIM and will provide funding over a minimum 10 year period as and when required. The Cell will be established under the aegis of the Centre for Leadership, Innovation and Change at the ISB. BCIM at the ISB will help organizations to identify and rectify gaps in a company’s ability to innovate, assessing the required understanding to manage and mitigate risks associated with innovation and how to produce high value, high quality, strategic innovation at low cost. The partnership between Biocon and ISB further strengthens the trend started by ISB when its founders attracted the support of industry to establish an international quality business school in India.

ICFJ to launch new international media institute in India
The International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), a Washington-based non-profit organization that works to promote quality journalism worldwide, is launching a media school in the Delhi suburb of Noida, its first such venture in India. Launched with support from the Knight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, the International Media Institute of India (IMII) will be run by ICFJ and Indian journalists and expects to start courses in October 2009. The non-profit institution will offer one-year postgraduate courses in journalism. Top-tier international and Indian faculty will instruct the students on how to produce quality journalism for print, interactive and broadcast outlets. The Graduate School of Journalism of the City University of New York (CUNY) will provide curriculum support. An Indian think-tank, the Society for Policy Studies, is the local partner of ICJF for the school. IANS, an independent Indian news agency, will provide additional assistance and facilities to IMII. The school will place strong emphasis on covering economic and social issues facing poor communities, who are often ignored by the mass media. Several scholarships will be available for students in need.

Jodhpur and Udaipur to house IIT and IIM
Jodhpur and Udaipur, which are famous heritage tourism cities in the state of Rajasthan, will soon be home to renowned institutions – Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM). IIT-Rajasthan has already started its operation from the campus of IIT-Kanpur. The previous state government had suggested Kota an ideal location to set up IIT-Rajasthan, but the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development rejected it in view of a large number of coaching centers operating in the city.

Country Updates

Australia
Australian university to tie-up with Indian varsities
The University of Western Australia (UWA), which is a member of the Australian Group of Eight universities, plans to tie-up with Osmania University, Jammu and Kashmir University and Anna University for long term student and faculty exchange program and research collaborations. The University already has tie-ups with Indian Institutes of Technology in Delhi and Madras and will soon be collaborating with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). In India UWA is focusing on research since it feels India produces good quality research. At UWA, the number of Indian students doing research has increased from three in 2006 to 250 in 2009. The research application in the university is growing at the rate of 50 per cent. To encourage students to take up research, UWA is offering scholarships and fee waivers to undergraduate and postgraduate students. For postgraduate students, it is offering a 50 per cent fee waiver. Of the 17,000 students at the university, 25 per cent are international students. UWA is keen to offer research programs on climate change, micro-electronics, power systems, media and communications among others as it feels that this there is an acute shortage of research and researchers in these areas.

Germany
India and Germany to set up joint venture on education
India and Germany are likely to set up a ‘Joint Working Group’ on education. This was discussed during a meeting between Mr. Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development and Professor Max. G. Huber, Vice President of the German Academic Exchange Service. This working group will act as an umbrella organization that will encompass all areas including research, academic training programs, setting up of chairs in each other’s country, academic and faculty exchange programs. Areas in which India and Germany could work together were in skill development. The Germans are keen to assist in the HRD Ministry proposal to set up community polytechnics, which will specialize in imparting skills. The German delegation expressed their interest in imparting of joint degrees by Germany and India.

Japan
Japanese government scholarships
The Japanese government’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is offering scholarships to international students who wish to pursue higher studies in Japan. There are three types of scholarships on offer spanning different durations. Scholarships to professional training colleges would be a three-year program, those to the colleges of technology would entail a four-year program and undergraduate program would take five years and would be suitable for those pursuing courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Selected candidates must be willing to learn Japanese language course and other preparatory courses.

Malaysia
Indo-Malay pact to reform education
In a first step towards ushering in reforms in the field of education, India has agreed to undertake ‘ joint ventures’ with Malaysia in the fields of teacher training, distance education, skill development besides offering incentives to universities and institutions from Malaysia which are looking to set up base in India. In the 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers held in Kuala Lumpur recently, both countries decided to work on close collaboration to usher in educational reforms in both countries. Malaysia is keen to have Indian universities in Malaysia just as they are looking forward to setting up base in India. The two countries will set up a ‘Joint Working Group’ which will discuss collaboration in the field of distance learning, teacher’s training (from the point of view of English language), technical and vocational education, and training of sports teachers.

Scotland
Scotland offers support and opportunities for a bright career
Scotland has become the new destination for students across the world. It has a unique tradition and experience of hundreds of years in education. Some reputed Scottish institutions like the University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of Aberdeen have a good range of programs. All international students can work up to 20 hours a week in term time and 40 hours during vacation. In addition, the Fresh Talent Scheme the Scottish government introduced in 2005 aims to attract skilled people to live and work in Scotland and makes them fulfill the current and future needs of the local economy. It has proved to be a success with 8400 international students applying for it to stay on. It allows foreign students to apply for post study work visa so that they can work up to two years after completion of a degree or post graduation qualification. Scotland’s Saltaire Scholarships is a new scheme launched in 2009 for students from Canada, India, China and the U.S. to study at postgraduate level. Managed by the British Council and funded by the Scottish government, it offers 200 awards of 2000 pounds each across these countries including 50 for Indian students. The living costs in Scotland are much lower than in London or south-east England. According to a recent study conducted by the British Council in Scotland, the region’s universities are ahead of other U.K. and European universities. International students feel safe and secure to live there. More than 30,000 international students chose to study in Scotland and enrolment of Indian students has tripled over the last five years to around 3625 students at present.

U.S.
HRD Ministry teams up with U.S. education sector
In a first of its type, a ‘Joint Working Group’ in education was set up between India and the U.S. The group will have a set of academia and government representatives from both countries and will focus on joint initiatives in the field of secondary, higher and vocational education. The group will meet once every year alternately in India and the U.S. The group will work out a concrete plan of action in terms of focus areas within secondary, higher and vocational education that will be finalized by the end of this year. While the U.S. education sector has been clearly looking for entry into the Indian education sector, India would be interested to work with U.S. in the area of vocational education which is not very strong in India. India also intends to learn from the U.S. about setting up world class universities since U.S. is home to six of the top 10 world class universities.

Source: Leading Indian dailies, regional newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Indian HRD Ministry proposes Constitutional amendment for new body

To protect the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research from political, ideological and bureaucratic interference, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has proposed an amendment in the Constitution. MHRD wants the constitutional amendment to ensure credibility behind the promise of autonomy. So far, no regulator in any field has been set up through a constitutional amendment.

Analysts believe that such a move will enshrine autonomy for the proposed Commission in the Constitution and would act as a protective model for the regulator. There is a growing thinking in the MHRD that creating a new regulator in place of University Grants Commission (UGC) through an Act of Parliament will not be the real step forward. Experts believe that autonomy should be guaranteed in the Constitution itself, lest the proposed Commission turns out like UGC over a period of time.

Once the constitutional amendment is done, a mandatory Bill will also be brought in Parliament for setting up the Commission. It si expected that this task will be taken up during the Winter Session of the Parliament.

It is believed that the idea of amendment in the Constitution came when MHRD was discussing the Yashpal committee report on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education. The committee had recommended that the proposed regulatory body should report directly to Parliament. But Union HRD Minister, Mr. Kapil Sibal felt a way ahead should be devised and thus the idea of amending the Constitution came up. There is a growing belief that at a time when the MHRD is working towards setting up 14 Innovation Universities of world class standards, autonomy should be real that would also win the confidence of foreign universities which want to come to India.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Study identifies 20 higher education challenges in Southern Africa

A study of higher education in 15 countries of the Southern African Development Community, SADC, has identified 20 leadership challenges facing the region, governments and institutions. They range from improved data collection, access, student success, staffing and funding to policy and planning, capacity, infrastructure, private provision and quality. The challenges identified, says a just-published report of the study, show the considerable amount of work needed to build a strong and sustainable higher education system across the region.

The Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), the organisation representing vice-chancellors of public universities in SADC, commissioned several studies in 2008 designed to provide baseline information on higher education in Southern Africa. The studies were reported earlier this year.Now SARUA has published the first in a Leadership Dialogue Series, titled Leadership Challenges for Higher Education in Southern Africa. The series is edited by SARUA Chief Executive Piyushi Kotecha and the first report is written by her, Pam Watson and Enver Motala. The study highlights 20 leadership challenges identified from the 2008 research. These are:

  1. Data collection and availability
  2. Access
  3. Postgraduate registrations
  4. Student success
  5. Staffing
  6. Funding
  7. Planning capacity
  8. Infrastructure and space
  9. Private provision
  10. Commercialisation and entrepreneurialism
  11. Research development
  12. Mobility - Staff and students
  13. Quality
  14. Qualification frameworks
  15. Curriculum
  16. Information and communication technologies
  17. Policy and planning
  18. Engagement
  19. Cooperation
  20. Leadership

The complete article by Karen MacGregor can be accessed on UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS site - http://www.educationdev.net/educationdev/fe/loadsite.aspx?url=http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090802095036735.

Renewed political commitment for 2010 WTO deal including higher education

The diplomatic stars are lining up for a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal at the Doha Development Round next year, which could significantly liberalise access to higher education markets round the globe. Talks have now restarted on the lynchpin agricultural portion of the round, which must succeed if there is to be a deal on updating the general agreement on the trade in services which covers higher education.

WTO Secretary General Pascal Lamy has also started hands-on involvement on another tough topic for the round that has defied agreement since it was launched in 2001: intellectual property rights for wines and spirits. Speaking in Geneva, Lamy said he sensed from recent summits held in Bali, Paris, L'Aquila and Singapore, "a genuine and strong renewal of political commitment to re-engage in the Doha negotiations to conclude it in 2010".


Read the full report at UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS site - http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090731102825958.

Indian Government plans 14 innovation universities

India's Human Resource Development Ministry plans to set up 14 "innovation universities" from 2010 to build "disciplinary focuses" and push research and development, reports Business Standard. Minister Kapil Sibal also said last week that India had set a target of at least 30% of school leavers making it to college by 2020. The new universities will concentrate on innovation and research in different subjects, with health, environment and new technologies for power plants being areas identified so far. "We will also promote contract and auction research to raise money," Sibal said. "We are looking at collaboration with private partners so that initial funds for infrastructure development can be taken care of. We will start a university-industry congress that will celebrate national awards, among other things. "The move should also boost PhDs in the country. Currently, while India awards around 8,000 PhD degrees every year, China gives around 50,000. This divide needs to be bridged," Sibal said. Complete report can be accessed on Business Standard site - http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/govt-plans-14-innovation-varsities/365636/.

Pakistan: UK is still top student destination

The UK remains the most sought-after destination for Pakistani students even after nine were held and later deported from Britain on suspicion of terrorism earlier this year, according to student visa consultants, reports AsianImage. A spokesman for HR Consultants in Pakistan told the Press Association: "The number of students applying to study in the UK has not decreased. The main reason why they decide to choose the UK over other countries like Australia is because there is comparative leniency in the students visa." He added that on an average they help around 500 to 600 students who apply to study in the UK every year and did not expect the figures to decrease. Every year around 8,000 to 9,000 students get admission into universities across Britain, with most hoping to graduate with degrees in Business Administration and Chartered Accountancy. Complete report can be accessed at Asian Image site - http://www.asianimage.co.uk/uk/4526370.UK_is_still_number_one_destination_for_Pakistani_students/.

Source: University World News

New York enrolments highest in 18 years

Summer enrolment in New York's public colleges soared to the highest level in 18 years, officials said, write Joy Resmovits and Carrie Melago for the Daily News. More than 73,000 students are taking courses at City University of New York schools this summer, up almost 3% over last year. Some schools saw steeper, double-digit increases, like Queensborough Community College, which grew by 16% over summer 2008. Administrators attribute the spike to students eager to rack up credits, graduate sooner and start making money in this tough economy. "We have seen students coming to summer session for one very, very specific reason, and that is to accelerate their time to getting a degree," CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said Wednesday. Many students are looking to beef up their résumés or learn new skills, either to protect their current jobs or find a new one. Full report can be accessed on the Daily News site - http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2009/08/06/2009-08-06_gradea_summer_enrollment_at_city_public_colleges_leaps_to_highest_total_in_18_ye.html.

Source: University World News

Monday, August 10, 2009

Indian HRD Minister asks IITs to expand in new areas

IITs are being expected to make the transition towards being known not only for their quality graduates, but as new knowledge creators and technology developers in the manner of the great research universities around the world. Speaking at the 40th Convocation address at IIT, Delhi, on August 8, 2009 Mr. Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development said that IITs must break the cycle of producing only quality graduates , and must recognize today the needs of our future and work towards creating an ecosystem for impact research. While expressing happiness that, today, there is nearly 30% annual growth in sponsored research as well as Ph.D. enrollment which reflects the significant progress made by IIT Delhi in this direction, he pointed out that clearly there is still a long road ahead, if the intent is to compete with the best globally.

The HRD Minister pointed out that, while, for long, new technologies were creating products that were targeted to primarily improve the quality of life in developed societies, the last decade has clearly shown that science and technology can create products and services which can impact even the poorest communities. This, coupled with the well known demographic changes taking place, has created enormous research opportunities for our scientists and engineers who are now very “close to the future market”, he said.

Mr. Sibal stated that the other great challenge before the IITs is to act as a catalyst in the growth of quality technical education in the country. He said, “the last two decades have seen exponential growth in technical education. The growth in quantity has not translated to any significant growth in the number of quality graduates. The key missing link in this growth is the availability of quality faculty. Here two factors are critical; perceived attractiveness of faculty positions vis-à-vis other opportunities and also the aptitude of trained graduates. It is clear that IITs have been able to attract and retain quality faculty in spite of having a major disadvantage in terms of compensation packages vis-à-vis corporate R&D. This has been possible only due to the other attractions available to the faculty at IITs and the commitment to the IIT system. …… A significant effort is required to reach out and train faculty, in both teaching and research, in other Institutions as well. Here, existing IITs have a major role to play.”

The graduating IIT Delhi students, the Minister said, were fortunate to be graduating from one of the best technical institutions in the country. He emphasized that as these students represent the very best and brightest we have, his expectations from them were of a very high order not only as professionals, but also as intelligent and wise voices in the community they would now serve. Being beneficiaries of a highly subsidized education, society also expects them to give back in more ways than one, Mr. Sibal added.

Mr. Kapil Sibal gave away the distinguished alumni awards to Prof. Sharad Malik, currently at Princeton University and Mr. K. Ananth Krishnan, currently Chief Technology Officer, Tata Consultancy Services. Prof. V.S. Ramamurthy, Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Delhi addressed the gathering, and Prof. Surendra Prasad, Director, IIT, Delhi gave the Director’s report on the occasion.

Australia to fund Australia India Institute

The Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, announced on August 8, 2009 that the Australian Government will provide more than AUD $8 million to fund a new Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne. The Institute will work to strengthen bilateral relations between Australia and India.

The Institute is a joint project of the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and the University of New South Wales. The Universities will invest around $2 million bringing the total investment in the project to more than $10 million over three years.

As the world's largest democracy and a key emerging economy, India is redefining its role in international affairs. Its influence in our region and globally is growing. India is currently a top ten trading partner for Australia and the economic relationship between the two countries has grown strongly in recent years.

Australia welcomes India's growing international role and is working with India to strengthen our relationship in pursuit of our many shared interests. To underpin this, the Australian Government is committed to building a greater understanding between our two peoples. The Institute will work to increase Australians' understanding of India, its culture, its history and its place in the world by producing and promoting specialised knowledge about India.

The proposed Institute will enable students, staff and the Australian community to gain a greater understanding of India and the rich bilateral relationship through: courses of study, conferences and relevant research. This is a unique collaboration between three of Australia's finest Universities: The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and the University of New South Wales.

Ms. Gillard's announcement came during the visit to Australia by India's Minister for External Affairs, Mr. S. M. Krishna. Mr. Krishna met with the Prime Minister in Cairns at the Pacific Islands Forum and will meet with a variety of senior Australian Ministers during his visit.

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