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.

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