Friday, December 31, 2010

MHRD dumps quality tech education

Education minister Kapil Sibal may have brought good cheer for technical and management aspirants by announcing an increase in the number of available seats in tehnical institutes by as much as 50 per cent, but his plans could result in compromising quality standards. On Thursday, Sibal unveiled new norms revised by the All India Council for Technical Education ( AICTE) for setting up technical, management and architecture institutes across the country. The new norms, allowing for an increase in the number of institutes and seats in various courses, will come into effect immediately.

"Overall, we are trying to put in place incentives for the expansion of the education sector," Sibal said, adding: "We have moved to the era of 'self- disclosure' from the institutes as far as infrastructure and facilities are concerned." The reforms include sharply raising the number of seats in each class from 40 to 60, which is expected to adversely impact the teacher-student ratio.

Under the new norms announced by Sibal, all institutions completing more than one batch will be eligible to get two courses and programmes. One course would mean the addition of 60 students. The earlier ceiling, which did not permit any increase after an intake of 540 students, has now been removed. All these steps envisage an increase in the number of total available seats by 50 per cent and a sharp increase in the workload of the faculty members. The same teacher will now have to teach a larger group of students and check more assignments. This is certain to bring down the quality of teaching and oversight.

Devraj Khakkar, Director of IIT-Bombay, said the expansion of the technical education sector was a welcome step but asserted that quality of these courses would depend primarily on the kind of teachers the institutes appoint. "There is a need for easing tangles for professional institutions. More than buildings and the number of students, the quality of the courses offered depend on the kind of teachers appointed by such colleges," Khakkar said.

The reforms also include relaxing land requirement for setting up institutions from 3.5 acres to 2.5 acres in urban areas and introducing section 25 of the Companies Act to allow 'good corporates' to set up technical institutions. No joint ventures can apply for this. Until recently, postgraduate programmes could be started only where an undergraduate programme existed. But now, the AICTE will permit standalone postgraduate institutions to be started.

The whole basis of the reforms is pinned on "e-governance" and "self disclosure". However, the biggest anomaly is that if there are any violations by the institutes that offer courses on the basis of the new norms, there will be no way to check them. The procedure for monitoring and adjudication has not been put in place to deal with these situations.

The AICTE acknowledged that it could not be expected to scrutinise all the 10,300 courses offered at 8,000 technical and management institutes recognised by it. "We are depending on the media to highlight any cases of wrongdoing on the part of the institutes. We are in an era of self disclosure. It is not possible for us to go ahead and check on these institutes," said a senior AICTE official who did not want to be named.

Asserted an official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), "In the event that any institute is found not to be complying with the details that it has declared on its website, it will have to be penalised." However, the official could not explain how this would take place in the absence of the prerequisite laws. The Educational Tribunals Bill is still in the pipeline and the Educational Malpractices bill is also pending before Parliament. The technical and management institutes recognised by AICTE offer a variety of courses like engineering, management, architecture, hospitality, pharmacy and town planning.

Sibal insisted that the institutes concerned will be required to have adequate infrastructure and teachers in place. But, the situation on the ground is certain to make this difficult. Premier technical and management institutes, like the IITs and the IIMs are finding it tough to fill in the vacancies in their faculty. Nearly a third of the faculty positions are vacant in the IITs. IIT-Kharagpur leads the list with 299 vacancies followed by IIT-Bombay with 222 vacancies, IIT-Roorkee with 194 vacancies, IIT-Madras with 138 vacancies and IIT-Delhi with 78 vacancies. There are 69 faculty vacancies at IIT-Kanpur, 65 at IIT-Guwahati and 48 faculty vacancies at IIT-Ropad.

Explained Gautam Barua, Director of IIT Guwahati, "This could have an implication on quality as practical classes are an important part of engineering courses. Not only are more labs needed but more equipment and facilities such as computers need to be in place. The class size also matters because eye contact with students is important for the teacher." In management courses, while practicals might not be included, the course is based on interactive sessions which include group discussions. So space and class strength make a difference. "When you are increasing the number of students, the infrastructure has to be adequately balanced," said an IIT professor.

Source: Mail Today, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

IIT-JEE coaching pioneer to down shutters after 57 years

A Mumbai-based institution has decided to slip quietly into history. Agrawal Classes, that large blue neonlit sign seen from the Dadar flyover, will turn its lights off as the coaching institute has decided to down its shutters after sharpening a million minds for 57 years. G. D. Agrawal, who started tutoring children in maths at his Matunga home, is today in his eighth decade, with none of his heirs ready to carry on with his dream of teaching science. "We are no longer taking students. We have decided to shut down the class. It's the final decision that the owner has taken," the woman at the admissions counter said on Wednesday.

So, many of its alumni, including Nadir B. Godrej (1969) of Godrej Industries, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani (1975), Mahendra Choksi (1960) and Ashwin Dani (1961) of Asian Paints and Phaneesh Murthy (1980) of iGate Global Solutions, will, while passing through Dadar, be greeted by the blank facade of Harganga Mahalthe building they once went to every morning to learn the fundamentals of science.

After the initial eight years, Agrawal moved out of his home to a place in Dadar TT, then the heart of Bombay, and soon expanded his menu of courses to include physics, chemistry and English. In 1962, its first year of coaching students preparing to get into the IITs, V. D. Hattangadi bagged the all India rank 1, the news making Agrawal Classes the top destination for engineering aspirants in the country. The tagline, "Ideal for Scholars" said it all the class admitted only top rankers and promised to make them even better. Go-getters would come to the city just to be coached at Agrawal. "If you made it to Agrawal, you knew you had made it," said an old student. While the number of students it admitted went up every year, the values that Agrawal started will never change.

Source: The Times of India, December 30, 2010

In coaching heartland Kota, competition is for faculty

Over 20 years ago, V. K. Bansal, an engineer who suffered from muscular dystrophy, began the first IIT-JEE coaching institution in Kota, pioneering the coaching class boom in this sleepy town in Rajasthan. Virtually all coaching classes in Kota, including the popular "Resonance", were started by former faculty at Bansal Classes. And now, seven teachers from Resonance, including three heads of department (HoDs), have formed a brand new coaching class called "Rise". A number of students enrolled in Resonance have shifted to Rise. There has been a great deal of bad blood with each institution accusing the other of treachery.

Two months ago, the three HoDs, who are now with Rise, informed the management at Resonance of their intention to start their own coaching institution after the current academic session got over in February as they didn't want students to suffer from the split. Suddenly, at a meeting on Saturday, faculty at Resonance was informed that these three HoDs were no longer with the institution. "We were all really shocked by the move. All seven of us (three HODs and four teachers) quit and formed Rise the very next day," said Amay Pandey, a former chemistry teacher at Resonance, who is now with Rise. According to Pandey, the moment students got to know of this, there was an uproar at Resonance, with 1000 students making the switch from Resonance to Rise within a few hours. "We closed admission to Rise on Monday night," said Pandey.

Manoj Sharma, Vice President, Operations and Business Development at Resonance, has a completely different version of the events that unfolded over the Christmas weekend. For starters, he disputes the figures. Only 100-150 students have left us for the new class. We have seen a mere 2-3 % drop in attendance," said Sharma. As for sacking the faculty mid-session, Sharma said this was because they were openly recruiting both students and staff from Resonance for the new coaching class while on the rolls of Resonancea claim the Rise team has vehemently denied. "They are at liberty to start their own class, but they should not do this at our expense. There was no need to discuss their plans with students and teachers," said Sharma.

Source: The Times of India, December 30, 2010

Engineers may soon find it easier to work, study abroad

In two months, India is likely to become a permanent member of an international accord that will make its graduate engineering degrees recognized among all member-states. Permanent membership of the Washington Accord will benefit hundreds of thousands of students from more than 3,000 engineering colleges in the country, said the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which regulates technical education. It will make the four-year bachelor of technology (B.Tech.) degree offered by AICTE-approved and accredited institutes equivalent to similar degrees offered in 13 other permanent member countries of the accord. These are the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa.

Besides making it easier for Indian engineers to study further, or work in these countries, India's permanent membership will also facilitate faculty exchanges, international collaborations and joint research work. Engineering students who have already graduated may not enjoy the same benefits.

"A two-member committee is visiting New Delhi in early February to meet us and tour several engineering colleges in the country in this regard. Our aspiration to become a permanent member should get realized soon after," AICTE Chairman S.S. Mantha said. The panel will include a member each from the US and Singapore.

The Washington Accord came into existence in 1989. To become its permanent member, a country needs to be a temporary member for two years. India's temporary membership will expire in July 2011. Russia, Turkey, Germany, Pakistan and Sri Lanka also currently hold temporary membership. While taking the temporary membership, India asked for a review of its accreditation system and the standard of its engineering degrees. After the review, a team suggested reforms in the accreditation system.

Mantha said over the past 18 months, AICTE has been implementing these changes, such as online application processing and clearance of accreditation. The system has also been made more transparent, with institutes posting infrastructure and faculty details on their as well as the AICTE's website. A better monitoring system has also been put in place.

"This academic session, all fresh permission and renewal of AICTE recognition was done online. The monitoring was regular and the educational institutes were also cooperative in uploading a variety of details. We hope this has strengthened our stand," Mantha said. AICTE, which is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), has sent a preliminary report to the accord committee on the changes brought in over the past year, he added.

J. Veeraraghavan, former education secretary, said India should become a member of the accord if it helps improve the quality and accreditation standards of engineering education. "We should go for improving (the) quality of our engineering degrees through this. If it talks about relaxing our regulating standard, then we should refrain." The accord will increase the global mobility of Indian engineers, said Veeraraghavan, who is now the director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, an educational trust. "India should not worry about brain drain as we have a huge manpower pool. India can increase the engineering student intake and fulfil its demand, as well as the demand of some other countries," he added. India produces nearly 800,000 engineers every year. The Union government plans to add 200,000 more seats in the next academic year.

India's permanent membership of the Washington Accord will not benefit the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), a group of 15 elite engineering colleges that has its own reguatory mechanism, and does not fall under AICTE's purview. IITs already have collaborations with leading overseas institutes.

Source: Mint, December 30, 2010

Engineering colleges have to reserve up to 5% seats

From now, technical institutes approved by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) have to reserve up to five per cent of their seats for students from economically backward sections of the society. "Till now, tution fee waiver scheme operated by AICTE allowed providing up to 10 per cent supernumerary seats that are given to students of economically backward category. "It was the discretion on the part of the institution to apply for such a scheme. Now these seats are made mandatory for every institute up to five per cent," HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said today. Unveiling the revised AICTE norms here today, he said the technical institutes can from now on can increase the intake capacity per programme from 40 to 60 seats.

Opening up the doors to the corporate sector, he said companies can also set up technical institutes provided they set up entities registered as a non-profit entity under section 25 of the Company's Act to run such institutes. No joint venture will, however, apply to this, he said, adding the scheme would only be allowed in 241 districts where at present no AICTE approved institute exist.

"If corporate sector wants to offer AICTE programmes, they can do so after setting up a section 25 company without a joint venture, and thereafter seek approval from AICTE for the programmes," he said. At present, only trusts and cooperative societies are allowed to run technical institutes. Further, corporates can set up campuses through PPP or through build-operate-transfer mode under agreement with public sector. Further relaxing norms, he said in rural sector, only 10 acre will be required to set up an engineering institute while in urban sector only 2.5 acre.

He said the measures are aimed at easing the pressure on the education sector and providing relief to the students in matters of admission. "These are all incentives given for expansion of the education sector because the demand is huge and supply is less and the problems of fees etc. So when the sector expands and meets demands, the pressure on the system will be much less. It will be easier for students," he said.

Significantly, Sibal also said that as per the new AICTE norms, stand alone PG programme can be offered by institutes as against the existing norm where PG courses are allowed in campuses where under graduate programme exist. He said B.Sc. students can seek lateral entry to a second year degree programme provided they have passed Mathematics at XII or at B.Sc. level besides engineering graphics and engineering mechanics along with second year subjects.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 30, 2010

Radiology MD seat costs Rs. 15 million, yet not available for next 3 years

An MD radiology seat under management and NRI (Non-Resident Indian) quota in medical colleges costs Rs. 12.5-15 million. And despite this pulse-stopping figure, seats have been sold out for the next two to three years. This is the where the gravy train starts, an explanation why consulting specialists and treatment in specialty hospitals cost the earth. No doubt modern equipment is expensive and adds to the cost of treatment, but the fee that an MBBS graduate pays is the main factor.

It's an open secret: the fee charged by some deemed university medical colleges, as well as those affiliated to Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), range from Rs. 6 million to Rs. 15 million. A few years ago, orthopedics was the hot favourite. Now it is radiology which commands Rs. 12.5-15 million. If graduates don't book their seats now, they should be prepared to add 10-20 % premium the next year. Early booking ensures the rate is frozen.

So what could be the reason that radiology costs so much? Believe it or not, it's insurance companies plus the fear of litigation, say doctors. No hospital wants to get mired in litigation, so the first things recommended are exhaustive investigations, ranging from common blood tests to MRI. This has generated demand for specialists, says a doctor. The first thing a patient is asked on arrival in hospital is whether he/she has a mediclaim policy. If the patient has one, a battery of tests is ordered, whether required or not, the doctor noted.

Source: The Times of India, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IT companies hope to attract programmers, clients with architectural sizzle

A massive futuristic office complex is rising from a patch of spare, arid land near Chennai. Six butterfly-shaped buildings dock like spacecraft to two long metal-latticed terminals. About 12,000 people already work at the campus, being built by India's largest technology company, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). It eventually will have space for 24,000 of Tata's nearly 180,000 employees.

Meanwhile Infosys, one of Tata's biggest competitors, has added a corporate campus for 15,000 employees with buildings that resemble the Parthenon, the Coliseum and the Louvre's glass pyramid. Infosys plans to build an additional 10 million square feet of custom office space by mid-2012, at various sites, adding 25,000 workers to its current 122,000.

It is all part of a construction spree by India's outsourcing companies, which are growing at a breakneck pace after the lull caused by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. But the building boom is about more than making room for more workers. The outsourcing giants, which include Wipro and others, hope that architectural sizzle can help them compete for the nation's top software programmers, while also burnishing their reputations with overseas clients and prospective customers.

In this nation where world-class high-tech companies co-exist with urban slums and rural poverty, employers like Tata, Infosys and Wipro have set out to create avant-garde, environmentally smart corporate sanctuaries. And even if some architects and critics complain about the wisdom and taste of the efforts, the executives behind the building boom say their ambitious projects put a modern face on Indian business. T.V. Mohandas Pai, a Director at Infosys, which has 15 campuses around India, said his company's eclectic mix of designs from all over the world reflected this nation's inclusive sensibility. "One singular thing is monotonous," he said. "In India, we are a colorful people."

Like China a decade earlier, India appears to be at that phase of economic development where buildings are meant to help advertise the nation's arrival on the world stage. But unlike China, where the government and state-owned corporations took the lead, private companies in India have headed the charge --- not the government, which struggles to execute even basic construction projects.

And within India's business world, technology companies have been more adventurous than others, perhaps because of their outsize financial success and their need to hire tens of thousands of workers to write software for foreign clients. State and federal governments are aiding the effort by offering these companies generous tax incentives and choice pieces of real estate to build big campuses.

Competition for employees is intense, because while India produces about 500,000 engineers every year, most colleges provide such poor education that the industry says that just a quarter of graduates are employable. But among those most qualified are typically graduates of elite places like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS). As many as 18% leave for other jobs every year. The outsourcing companies see lavish, environmentally friendly campuses as a way to help attract and retain the best and brightest workers.

With their manicured lawns, power generators and lakes, the campuses are a noticeable improvement on most engineering colleges, which suffer from India's standard infrastructure deficiencies --- blackouts, water shortages and poor maintenance. "I prefer a big campus," said Aditya Mathur, a software engineer, 23, who joined Wipro a year ago, and now works at a four-year-old office in Gurgaon, south of New Delhi, as a software tester. "The facilities are better in a big campus."

TCS spending US$ 200 million on its Siruseri campus and has hired the Uruguayan-born Canadian architect Carlos A.Ott, who designed the opera house on the Place de la Bastille in Paris. The company is also building big campuses in Ahmedabad, Pune, Calcutta and Hyderabad. But some critics say that too many of the industry's new complexes are intended to make a big splash without much thought of how they will function and fit into the local surroundings.

"It is a haphazard reaching for something that will quickly make a statement about the place being world class," said Himanshu Burte, an architecture critic who writes frequently for Indian newspapers. But Rahul Mehrotra, a prominent architect who has designed an office building for Hewlett-Packard in Bangalore, the city at the heart of India's technology industry, said that too many Indian tech campuses had a hackneyed feel, evoking the sprawling suburban campuses of Silicon Valley or American companies like Google and Apple. "The architecture in these cases symbolises the fact that these are places of outsourcing, not cutting-edge research," said Mehrotra, who lives in Mumbai and Boston.

Pai of Infosys said he was unconcerned about such criticism. He said the people who mattered to the company --- employees and customers --- raved about its buildings, particularly those that resembled landmarks like the Coliseum at its new campus in the city of Mysore." They like the fact that it's so diverse," he said. Infosys probably set the standard for ambitious corporate campuses in India more than a decade ago. Many other companies grew helter-skelter wherever they could find space. But Infosys started building large complexes, beginning with its first campus on the southern edge of Bangalore, its home city, in 1995, just a few years after India started to open its economy to the rest of the world.

That first campus, which, after many expansions, can now accommodate 24,000 people, was considered cutting-edge for creating an ordered oasis of lawns and lakes in the midst of the urban chaos that envelops most commercial areas in India. The complex also established the company's quirky style with a glass pyramid for an auditorium and a building that resembles a washing machine and helped set a benchmark for big campuses in the technology industry. Pai, who determined the overall layout of the campuses with the company's Chairman, N.R. Narayana Murthy, said Infosys was determined to make every new campus "better than our last campus."

Their rules include the tenet that no two buildings should look alike. Another audacious goal is that every campus should become a "carbon sink" in the next five years. In other words, trees, lakes and other natural features should absorb more carbon than is generated by the campus. Some other firms, like Wipro, tend to be more understated, opting for standard-looking office buildings. But even these companies have trademark causes. Wipro prides itself on minimizing the use of power and, especially, water. It recycles water and creates lakes to harvest the rain. At one of its campuses in Bangalore, a training center appears to float on one of these reservoirs.

Source: The Economic Times, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Chandigarh becoming an MBA hub?

Is Chandigarh becoming the new Mecca for the managers of tomorrow? With nearly 40,000 engineers and 150,000 other graduates passing out every year from more than 200 engineering institutes and colleges in the Chandigarh region, the number of students taking the CAT, GRE and GMAT has dramatically shot up.

Nationwide, in 2009, about 250,000 students appeared for the Common Admissions Test (CAT) that would help them get into management institutes, including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The figured dropped in 2010 to 205,000. In Chandigarh, about 12,000 took the CAT in 2009 and 10,500 in 2010. So approximately 5-6 % of the total number of students taking the CAT from all over the country, are from the Chandigarh region.

In the decade since 1998, the number of students taking the CAT from here has jumped from 1,800 to a whopping 14,500. Academies that coach students to take competitive examinations, like Bulls-Eye, Career Launchers and Professional Tutorials, to name a few, are also flourishing. Bulls-Eye, which prepares students for the CAT, now has three centres in the Chandigarh capital region, and enrolled over 4,000 students last year.

"More than a 100 students on an average, from Chandigarh, have been receiving calls from IIMs across the country every year. If you compare it to cities like Nasik which are double the size of Chandigarh, this is significant. Students from Nasik, for last few years, has not received more than 2-3 calls annually," says Hirdesh Madan, founding Director of Bulls-Eye. He says about 35-40 students from his institute receive calls from the IIMs every year. With three new IIMs (Raipur, Ranchi and Rohtak) added to the list, the number of seats on offer will increase, too.

The demand for management among Chandigarh's students points to a sociological u-turn. From engineering and then IT, which were preferred career options a decade ago, students are now gravitating towards management as a more lucrative option. "Most jobs today are in the services sector. Banks and insurance companies are growing at a phenomenal rate, and require people at both the entry and middle management levels," says Bulls-Eye's Madan. Today students are no longer interested in government jobs.

Both youngsters and their parents are now looking IIM-wards. Shweta Gupta sees herself as a successful entrepreneur in future. This year's CAT was her second shot at management, and she is anxiously waiting for the results to be announced in January. "Once you have an MBA degree, your standing in society goes up," she says. "For our parents, too, it is something to be proud of and brag to relatives about. It's not enough to do just engineering any more. One must also have an MBA degree."

The infrastructure also helps. Unlike Delhi, where students have to commute over long distances to reach their coaching centres, everything in Chandigarh can be accessed in under 40 minutes. This may have encouraged more students to enroll in the coaching institutes. Also, with smaller B-schools coming up in nearby towns like Banur and Abhipur, which are 10-12 km from Chandigarh, students who fail to make it to the top management institutes schools, can now opt for those closer home.

Source: The Economic Times, December 28, 2010

Politicians pick IIT, IIM brains for help

All that you see of a politician is a khadi-clad individual with a smiling face and folded hands. But, who's in the backroom making things happen? Those who teach a lesson to the political stalwarts are some of the best brains in the country graduates from top class institutes like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

Management seems to have become an integral part of politics these days. Many politicians have teams who direct them on strategies, policies and implementation of programmes. And there are others who are part of the political movement trying to bring in more efficiency in the system.

An IIM-B graduate working with politician Jayaprakash Narayan is currently doing a project on Vidhana Soudha. Ajit Phadnis, had earlier in the year, submitted a report on Indian Parliament. In the report, Ajith will recommend changes that can be brought in for better efficiency and discuss ways of making people more aware of the proceedings in Vidhana Soudha (State Legislative Assembly). For Ajith, its an effort to encourage youth into the political movement. "There's lot of cynicism associated with politics. Youth needs to be part of the system to improve it," he said.

C. S. Krishna, an IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) graduate, heads the team of Uday Singh, an elected representative from Purnea, Bihar. Krishna had interned with CPM when he was still in college. Realizing the value that people can add on to conventional political system, he got back into the field. Today, he and his team members help with constituency development and policy research. Various issues like welfare schemes, implementation, understanding public policy at micro level and how it can be delivered effectively are looked into by his team.

The time of elections is a time when they turn super busy. A graduate from IIM-Calcutta (IIM-C), who didn't want to be named, worked with BJP leader L. K. Advani during the general elections last year. "It was just before I joined my corporate job. I wanted to get a feel of it," he said. He was part of the war room helping with research, manifestos, website content and press articles. He also was part of the field work, including campaigning, handing out leaflets and holding small gatherings at market places.

Though most of them say that these netas (politicians) have their own legacy and image among the public, there are some who do brand building even for them.

Source: The Times of India, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cabin crew training academies turn to imparting social skills

Chastened by the 2008-09 conomic slowdown, many of India's cabin crew academies have diversified from instructing women aspiring to become flight attendants to training them in customer care services, airport duties and even teaching general social skills such as attending kitty parties. Cabin crew academies mushroomed on the back of a boom in the aviation sector in 2004-07, when domestic carriers decided to buy nearly 500 aircraft over a five-year period. Some of these institutes even planned initial public offerings (IPOs) to raise money for expansion.

But the subsequent slowdown hit the industry hard. "Many institutes were wiped out or shifted their focus to customer care services from cabin crew training. The business during 2007-2009 was down by 50-60%," said K.S. Kohli, Chairman, Frankfinn Institute of Airhostess Training, based in Delhi. Kohli conceded his business had also been affected, but said with the aviation sector recovering this year, it is now on the mend. "Though we are not diluting our focus on air hostess training, we are diversifying into soft skills training for first impression for people of all walks of life."

Frankfinn has developed a concept it calls "first impression studio", under which it offers courses for cracking interviews and trains housewives in attending kitty parties. "We have developed a small course for foreigners visiting India under "Hello India" brand, while there is "Take Off" course for Indians visiting abroad. There are special soft skill training courses for entrepreneurs and corporate executives," Kohli said. His institute has hired consulting firm Pricewaterhouse-Coopers Llp to advise it on the makeover. It also plans to hit the market with an IPO in the next 24 months and will soon hire an investment bank, Kohli added.

Mumbai-based Avalon Academy, run by Aptech Ltd., has started offering courses in personality development, aircraft maintenance engineering, airport management, customer care and ground handling, says its website. "We realized in 2008 that the airline industry is not working well. But the paradox was airport infrastructure was growing," said Ravi Dighe, head of Avalon Academy and an Executive Vice-President of Aptech. "With aviation infrastructure demand catching up, we structured our programmes for airport management. We had incorporated personality grooming and other soft skills in the curriculum."

Gurcharan Bhatura, Secretary General of the Foundation of Aviation and Sustainable Tourism, an independent non-profit research body, said the progression came naturally to cabin crew academies. "The disposable income of middle class is fuelling the tourism industry. The demand for workforce in the sector is huge. Customer satisfaction is key to this service industry. Air hostess training academies could easily transform themselves into organizations that can train workforce for tourism industry with soft skills," he said.

But not all academies have been able to make the turn. Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., country's second largest airline by passengers carried, started the Kingfisher Training Academy in Mumbai in April 2007. Though the academy remains open, it did not expand the way it had been envisaged. "With the slowdown, many airlines have stopped expanding the cabin crew training branches," said an airline consultant, asking not to be named.

AHA Aviation and Hospitality Academy Pvt. Ltd. of Delhi was earlier exploring plans for an IPO; the slowdown forced it to cease operations and it is now struggling to get back into business. A former executive said, on condition of anonymity, that the company is facing some functional issues, without elaborating.

The airline consultant mentioned above said many fly-by-night operators had appeared during the boom years, offering guaranteed job placements to their students. "But most of them disappeared with the economic slowdown," said the consultant. "For an institute, it will be tough to resurface again as they lost credibility in the first episode. There were criminal cases against many of these promoters."

Source: Mint, December 27, 2010

CCI outsources talent search to National Law School

The National Law School of India University (NLSIU), the country's premier law school, has started the process of hiring officers for the under-staffed Competition Commission of India (CCI) for a second year. NLSIU issued an advertisement last month inviting applications for 39 officer-level posts in law, economics and financial analysis at the anti-trust watchdog. The last date for submission of applications is 22 January.

CCI started functioning in 2009 with more powers than its predecessor, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, to implement India's nascent anti-trust legislation. But against a sanctioned strength of 190 officers, the regulator has only 94 officers on its rolls looking into 117 cases pending before it. It has been able to issue a solitary order, on housing finance, so far.

"We can't handle the recruitment on our own and, hence, have decided to give it to NLSIU to handle it for us," said a senior CCI official, who did not want to be identified. CCI decided to outsource recruitment to NLSIU in November 2009. The first batch of 30 officers was recruited in May this year. "NLSIU is charging us a fee for the recruitment, but it is very nominal. It also gives them a branding opportunity. We are happy with the quality of people that have been recruited by NLSIU. It is a highly respected institute," said the CCI official.

NLSIU Vice-Chancellor Venkata Rao and Dinesh Dixit, who is in charge of recruitment at CCI, confirmed the partnership. Mint had reported on 9 November 2009 that CCI doesn't have enough staff to tackle cases. For around two years after it got statutory powers, CCI played only an advisory role as it looked to hire a chairman and five senior members, delaying the start of operations.

CCI had earlier sought the help of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), to ascertain the nature and proportion of professionals to be hired. IIM-B in 2007-08 recommended that CCI hire lawyers, economists and financial analysts in the ratio 2:2:1. Samir Gandhi, a competition law partner with Economic Law Practice, said: "It is a good idea to have a filter applied by an academic institute."

"None of the people (in CCI) really have experience on competition law," said Pallavi Shroff, a senior partner at New Delhi-based law firm Amarchand Mangaldas. "They all have to be trained. People from the European Union, US and UK have been brought in to train them periodically. Everybody is learning."

India's competition law regime has two levels. At the first, the competition law body --- CCI --- decides whether an entity has violated competition law, investigates the entity if it has, and issues an order. At the second level, the Competition Appellate Tribunal, the appellate body, hears appeals from entities that believe CCI has ruled unfairly against them.

The first exam conducted by NLSIU did not have any questions on competition law or the Competition Act, according to a person familiar with the paper, who did not want to be identified. Gandhi of Economic Law Practice said the test is probably generic in nature as specialized talent in this area of law is not available. "I would ideally think that the candidates should have a basic understanding of competition law. But downstream, there is no university teaching this in the country. It might now have become an optional course in some law schools," he added.

Source: Mint, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

China unveils books to promote Mandarin in India

Chinese publishers new-found interest in the Indian publishing market became evident at the 16th Delhi Book Fair. It could be the Central Board of Secondary Educations (CBSE) decision to introduce Mandarin language in schools or simply the massive size of the Indian market that provided the impetus for participation by the Chinese. What was clear was that the group of 35 Chinese publishers wanted to make their presence felt and provided information about almost everything related to China.

The Chinese delegation has come under the China Publications Expo International and aims to promote its publishing industry. Its emphasis does not seem to be on retail sales. They have showcased an interesting mix at the book fair and have elicited a positive response from students of all age-groups and Indian publishers.

Liu Li, Assistant Director, China Publications Expo International said, "We are focusing on promoting the language and are exhibiting approximately 1,000 titles at this fair. There are a lot of childrens books. The idea is to teach Chinese to foreign students. The books range from elementary to higher level. There are about eight dictionaries on display and over a dozen childrens books. Most of the books are in Chinese language or are bilingual. There are books for teachers aspiring to teach Chinese language in schools."

Speaking about the collection on display, a Master's student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Cheu Qing said, "It is an impressive collection. Apart from books that will help in learning the language, there are books on art and culture, fiction, martial art, Chinese history as well as popular Chinese fiction." From songs to Chinese instruments or from Chinese poems to comics, the Chinese delegation presented an all-encompassing collection at this years edition of the fair.

However, promotion of Chinese language was not solely confined to Chinese publishers. An equally enthusiastic group of Indian publishers have entered the fray and are all set to give their Chinese counterparts a tough fight. With CBSE drawing its plans to introduce the language at school level, over 10 Indian publishers are already promoting their books at the fair.

Source: The Times of India, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Focus on higher education to leverage demographic advantage

The global marketplace and indeed the world economy is changing rapidly and these changes are impacting the way we do business, earn a living and grow within India as well. About 51% of India's population is less than 25 years old. While this gives India a large demographic advantage, states in India need to focus on education to ensure that an educated and appropriately trained/skilled workforce is ready to tap the opportunities of the time. However, increased government spending on education since 2007 notwithstanding, 142 million children in India are denied primary and secondary education and a third of the nation's population cannot read. Clearly, with the Indian economy growing rapidly, fuelled by the rise of knowledge-intensive and hi-tech sectors like ICT, automotives, pharmaceuticals and others, states must ensure quality education to enable Indians reap the benefits of economic growth.

In order to understand which states in India are prioritising education, we considered four indicators higher secondary school enrolment, government revenue expenditure on education, number of universities and women's literacy rates. These indicators serve as good pointers to the condition of education in a state and impact on economic growth.

Small states target education as the recipe for growth; need more focus
The hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh will benefit from high per capita school enrolment figures, which are much higher than the national average of approximately 3230 students per 100,000 people, even as their GDP growth rates are above the national average. Meghalaya, Tripura, Haryana, Goa and Delhi are other states with healthy GDP growth as well as school enrolment figures. These, except for Haryana, are also among the top 10 states in terms of per capita revenue on education, arts and culture. This indicates that education is a clear priority in these states.

Women's literacy is another dimension and the one widely seen to have a big impact on economic growth. Many small states fare well in this regard. Kerala clearly stands out with exemplary female literacy rate (87.72%). The state also shows healthy school enrolment figures, good government expenditure and adequate infrastructure.

The fact that these states are small both in geographical area and population requires them to pay attention to the quality of their human resources if they have to attract investment and successfully harness their natural endowments. For instance, both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have focused on creating industrial zones. The success of these industrial zones depends on the availability of employable talent locally, besides power, cost of land, logistics and government incentives.

From a competitiveness perspective, these states would need to align skills imparted by the institutions in the state with the skills to be required by the industry in the future. States, therefore, need to make a realistic projection of labour that would be required by the industries the state is promoting as well as by those industries that already exist, and then focus on developing institutions that can train people who can be placed in these industries. This is the key to enable people to avail of the opportunities within their home state, instead of being forced to migrate to other states or metros for employment.

Large states daunted by task of educating masses despite adequate infrastructure
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are the only two large states with good higher enrolment figures for higher secondary school. Other large states such as West Bengal and Karnataka, that have healthy GDP growth, and even Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, that have substantially higher GDP growth than the national average, show poor per capita higher secondary school enrolment. Madhya Pradesh scores low on both counts. Large states, with the exception of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal, are also at the bottom of the list when it comes to female literacy.

Educating a large population is a challenge for big states. If we look at the figures for government expenditure, this is evident. Large states do not figure among the top 10 spenders per 100,000 population. Yet, West Bengal spends more on education, arts and culture than Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra that show good enrolment figures. Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh spend the least per capita on education.

Ironically, these large states have the best infrastructure in the country. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of universities (29), followed by Maharashtra (27), Tamil Nadu (22), Andhra Pradesh (20), Madhya Pradesh (19), Bihar (17), Karnataka (16) and West Bengal (14). However, the quality of education imparted by these institutions is a matter of concern. States such as Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are neither able to adequately fund their educational institutions, nor retain quality faculty. Inadequate employment opportunities for graduates further strengthen the cycle of out-migration, leaving such states bereft of their knowledge workers and lowering the motivation for profit-making corporations to invest in these locations.

This has, however, been changing in specific cities where centres of learning, corporate will and attractive location factors are fuelling clusters of industry in specific verticals. Bangalore in Karnataka has emerged as a hub for the IT industry and so has Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has world-class institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kanpur, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) at Lucknow and the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at Varanasi, but has been unable to develop industries around these to harness the resident knowledge from these places and employ the graduates. The standards of state-level universities that attract local students must also be simultaneously raised while local employment opportunities are created.

Low-performing states need urgent intervention to progress
Some of the small and mid-sized states that do not fare so well need specific intervention. Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Gujarat and Nagaland have poor higher secondary school enrolments despite moderate and high GDP growth. Jharkhand, Punjab and Assam have low GDP growth rates and low school enrolment. Other than Nagaland, Punjab and Gujarat, these are also the states with low female literacy.

Rajasthan is on the cusp of both GDP growth and school enrolment. However, Rajasthan has surprisingly high government expenditure on education, showing that the state has prioritised education and is determined to cross over into a better performer in the next decade. States such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkand, which do not have a single university yet, need to urgently create the right infrastructure to raise their human capacity and attract investment.

Long-term benefits on the horizon
States need to focus on the benefits that education provides in the long term. A literate population results in controlled population growth rates over time. High-quality workforce will allow states to boost economic growth by focusing on more sophisticated and value-added industries and services instead of merely continuing to invite investment in basic manufacturing and service activities.
The increased productivity that a trained workforce can deliver results in enhanced prosperity and better distribution of wealth, which are the ultimate goals of governments and private sector corporations alike.

Source: The Economic Times, December 25, 2010

MBBS seats upped by 10k: MCI clears setting up of 66 medical colleges

Aiming to improve the abysmal doctor-patient ratio in India, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has permitted an increase of nearly 10,000 MBBS seats in medical colleges from this year. This means, after five to six years, the country will produce an additional 10,000 doctors, taking the yearly output to 45,000 from the present 35,000 MBBS passouts.

MCI's Board of Governors, led by Chairman Shiv Kumar Sarin, also accorded sanction for 66 new medical colleges. This was possible after MCI downsized the land requirement for starting a new medical college from the earlier stipulation of 25 acres to 10 acres. But the building size on the 10 acres need not be any smaller than the one that was permitted to be built on 25 acres. The logic it is difficult for organizations to find 25 acres in a township or a metropolitan city.

To further increase the number of doctors available in remote and far flung areas, the Board has started discussions with Army, Railways and Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) to start new medical colleges as they have vast tracts of land at their disposal. Army authorities were open to the idea but were sceptical because of the fact that children of armed forces personnel, under law, would not be able to get any reservation in these colleges.

MCI has given an attractive proposal that the Army, Railways and ESIC, after starting the medical colleges, could add a stipulation that the MBBS passouts would have to work a minimum number of years in their service. The huge increase in the number of MBBS seats will obviously need corresponding increase in faculty. To address the likely shortage of teaching staff, MCI has recommended increase in their retirement age from the present 65 years to 70 years.

Source: The Times of India, December 25, 2010

IIT-Bombay alumni pledge Rs. 45 million to alma mater

Old boys of Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) played Santa to their alma mater on Christmas eve. As part of their legacy project, the class of 1985 pledged Rs 45 million to support technology and sustainable development through academics and entrepreneurship. Celebrating the silver jubilee of their graduation, they have already gifted Rs. 20 million and the rest will be handed over on alumni day on December 26, 2010.

"Promoting technology and sustainable development sends a message that we consider them very important. This will serve as a catalyst for directing focus and resources from the administration and other funding agencies towards this," said Amol Mahajani, the overall batch coordinator.

IIT-B will use Rs. 10 million to set up a Batch of 85 Chair Professorship in Technology and Sustainable Development. It is designed to attract an eminent researcher and teacher in the field. Another Rs. 10 million will go towards creating and funding an IIT-B Business Plan Competition in the same field. The chair will then anchor the competition. Apart from prizes, winners will also be mentored to ensure their plans translate into successful businesses.

Attracting good faculty is also high on the tech school's priority list. So, Rs. 10 million will be earmarked for signing bonus which will help attract quality faculty. "Even the B-plan competition is to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship among students, as IITians are always criticized as being job seekers and not job creators," said Ajay Bhagwat, an organizing committee member from the 1985 batch. From the balance, a substantial amount will be spent for retired faculty who taught this batch. The money will be, especially, used to pay medical expenses of their teachers.

Source: The Times of India, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

India tops with 56,000 migrant doctors in OECD countries

India is the top country of origin of migrant doctors in OECD countries with over 56000 Indian doctors in these countries, which include the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia. India also figures at sixth place in the expatriation of nurses to OECD countries (about 23000). In terms of percentages, however, these figures constitute just 8% and 3% respectively of the doctor and nurse population in India, comfortingly low compared to some of the smaller countries severely affected by emigration of doctors such as Mozambique (75%) and Angola (70%). These numbers, revealed by the recently released World Migration Report 2010, however, do not include the large number of Indian doctors and nurses working in the Gulf.

It is estimated that at any given time there are over 100,000 Indian nurses in the GCC (Gulf Coordination Council) countries. "The poor working conditions in India coupled with low salary and the lack of respect at the work place are the top reasons for nurses migrating abroad," said Sreelekha Nair, of the Centre for Women's Development Studies at a recently organized seminar on Indian Nursing in the New Era of Healthcare.

The World Migration Report talks about the problem of medical brain drain, especially in African countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of physicians per 100,000 population for India is 70, which is at par with low-income countries, and for the public sector, the figure is a paltry 20. In the European Union (EU), the figure is 310 physicians per 100,000 population and in the US 240 physicians per 100,000. Similarly, the number of nurses per 100,000 population in India is 80, while it is 330 for the world and 160 for low-income countries.

The WHO threshold for a health workforce crisis is 230 health workers per 100,000 population. For example, India, an origin country, with only 190 health workers per 100,000 persons, is in a crisis state. As destination countries, the UK and the US have ratios of 750 and 1250 health workers per 100,000 persons respectively, which are far above the benchmark. However, there is still a demand for doctors and nurses in these countries. This was pointed out in a background paper, "The Future of Health Worker Migration", by Professor Binod Khadria of the Zakir Hussain Centre for Educational Studies in JNU. In OECD countries, there is an increasing demand for health workers because of rising incomes, new technology, and an aging population.

In terms of nurses, the Philippines is the main country of origin for nurses, with over 110,000 Filipino nurses working in OECD countries, followed by the UK (just under 46000), Germany (under 32000). According to the OECD data of 2007, the top five countries in terms of emigration rates of nurses are all from the Caribbean Haiti leads with an expatriation rate of 94%, followed by Jamaica (87.7%), Grenada (87.6%), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (81.6%) and Guyana (81.1%).

A lot of the data on migrating health workers could be outdated and also fluctuates a lot depending on the demand around the world. But it is a given that there is no stopping the migration of health workers. "Migration for employment abroad is the basic human right of every health worker --- or any skilled worker," said professor Khadria.

Source: The Times of India, December 24, 2010

Soon, virtual varsity to hand out degrees: Online initiative started by IITs & IISc

It's amongst the most popular educational programmes on the internet, registering more than four million hits across 17 countries, and now poised to turn into a virtual university. The online initiative started by the seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to enhance engineering education through virtual classrooms will soon be expanded by adding more courses, even physical infrastructure, and by granting degrees and diplomas.

The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), which got under way in 2003 with web and video content to support engineering students nationwide, will next year see increase in number of disciplines taught from five to 20, and the number of virtual courses offered will go up from 260 to 1000. With fresh approvals from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the project coordinators soon plan to offer the equivalent of a degree or a diploma to students enrolled in the virtual university.

"Currently we offer 135 video courses and 125 web courses. By the time we launch the Open Virtual University in 2012, we will have around 1000 courses in both undergraduate and postgraduate," said Usha Nagarajan, Principal Project Officer of NPTEL. Unlike Phase I which offered only undergraduate courses, Phase II will see postgraduate courses being offered in five out of the 20 disciplines.

NPTEL, conceived in 1999 to support technical education in underdeveloped areas, has grown rapidly in popularity. The programme, which includes recordings of lectures by IIT faculty, has a reach that spreads across the north east and central India to institutions in the deep south. IIT Madras Director M.S. Ananth recalled a conversation with a Nagaland university Vice-chancellor, who spoke of how NPTEL had kept academic activity on his campus from being derailed during a staff strike. "What my profs took 15 lectures to teach, you teach in three, was what he said," Ananth told an alumni gathering recently.

Private engineering colleges with inexperienced staff have been the biggest beneficiaries of the NPTEL programme. The only requirement on their part is to ensure broadband connectivity to each teacher to access the online content. "After its introduction last year, the teaching staff at my college used it to the maximum and the students are now getting its benefit. There is a standing instruction for teachers here to spend at least two hours a day to learn the online courses of NPTEL," said Dr. S. Subrahmaniyan, Principal of Coimbatore's Sri Krishna Institute of Engineering and Technology. The college is planning to ensure access for all its engineering students the next academic year onwards.

The IITs are currently in the process of identifying 15 college clusters across India where lab facilities could also be provided to supplement the Virtual University. To ensure that students getting online lessons are not denied practical knowledge, colleges equipped with large labs will be identified. Most colleges do not use their labs in the summer months. Hence, students who are part of the open virtual university will be encouraged to use these labs.

Source: The Times of India, December 24, 2010

Law entrance test targets wider pool

The committee that conducts the admission test for national law schools has made changes to improve the content and the reach of the next edition. Application forms for the Common Law Admission Test, or CLAT, will now be available in more than 300 outlets across the country, said M.P. Singh, Convenor of CLAT and Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) in Kolkata, the university in charge of organizing the 2011 test.

Previously, CLAT distributed forms through two-three banks each in states with metropolitan cities. It has now tied up with the postal service to increase the number of outlets so the forms are available in every state. "We've tied up with the post office instead of banks. Therefore, the form would be available more widely," said Singh. CLAT will be held on 15 May, 2011.

The committee has also introduced changes to the general knowledge and legal reasoning sections of the test, according to the instructions on the test website, The general knowledge section will have questions based on current affairs between May 2010 to May 2011. "We will try and ask questions on issues that are relevant to the present and the future," Singh said. He explained that the committee intended "to test general awareness rather than static knowledge".

A third change is that the test will not expect candidates to know legal terms, sections of law or legal principles. "Candidates will not be tested on any prior knowledge of law or legal concepts. If a technical/legal term is used in the question, that term will be explained in the question itself," says the website.

"This means students don't need to study legal principles before they write the exam --- only their process of reasoning will be tested," said Shamnad Basheer, who is on an internal CLAT committee at NUJS. Basheer said he was not a member of the committee that was setting the test paper, since he is pioneering the project to bring students from rural areas into legal education.

Anita T., a graduate of National Law School of India University in Bangalore, who now runs Paradygm Law, a private tutorial for CLAT aspirants, said the changes were welcome from the candidates' perspective. She said the changes in the general knowledge section "will force students to diligently follow current affairs all the year round rather than memorizing questions from off-the-shelf general knowledge books" and the new legal reasoning will "test them purely on their aptitude and logical thinking when it comes to the law".

Source: Mint, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gross enrolment ratio in India yet to pick up; need 500 universities

Noting that the gross enrolment ratio (GER) is "abysmally low" in the country, a senior Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) official said India should achieve 30 per cent GER in higher education by 2020, as against the current 11 per cent.

"There is no denying that we are abysmally low in terms of GER. We are half of the world's average in terms of the enrolment in higher education, but its not unachievable. Till 2020, we must aim for 30 per cent GER," Sunil Kumar, Additional Secretary (Higher Education), said.

Stressing on the need for raising the GER, Kumar said, "We need 500 odd universities, 15,000 colleges, 10,000 technical institutions, 75,000 engineering colleges to reach the target. This, however, requires a budget of over Rs. 80 trillion till 2020, without the running expenses." Addressing 'National Summit on Higher Education', he said in the higher education, the contribution of state governments is nothing more than "maintaining the existing" higher education colleges or institutes.

Pointing that private investment should not be done just for the sake of increasing the infrastructure, he said that infrastructure should not be equated with quality education. "Education is not just like any other commodity. It requires investment of a different kind. The investors (companies or individuals) should be passionate about education," he said.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 22, 2010

IITs want online JEE, but rollout may take 3 years

With two major entrance tests, the Common Admission Test (CAT) and the All-India Engineering Entrance Exam (AIEEE), graduating to the computer mode, it was only a matter of time before the Joint Admission Board (JAB), which comprises all the JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) chairmen, decided to follow suit. This gruelling entrance exam will eventually become computerbased, but there’s a glitch that will slow down the process: the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) did not archive their old question papers.

"We discussed that issue (computer-based exams) when we met this year, but the problem is that we don't have a ready question bank. If the JEE has to be taken on computers, then we need a huge databank of questions that are of a constant-difficulty level. What has slowed down our process is that we have destroyed our old question papers," said a member of the Joint Admission Board. But with the number of IIT aspirants spiralling, JAB members said that it would take the tech schools around three years to develop a question bank before the JEE could be offered on computers.

In 2008, when the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) announced their decision to offer the computer-based CAT, some IIT heads had expressed apprehensions over the move, and said they would not be able to do the same as the JEE is also conducted in Singapore, and the time differences would hit the testing process.

But with separate question papers for every student, the JAB now feels that the entrance test can be held on computers. And will it be outsourced? "We have the technical knowhow. If the numbers are too large, we may look for a partner who can get the logistics in place. But it's a question that can be answered only by the JAB of the year we move away from the paper-pencil test," added a faculty member.

Source: The Times of India, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hong Kong universities seek Indian students, HKU opens India office

The Yellow Emperor Huang Di has intrigued Kshitij Tiwari since his childhood and that explains his obsession with kung-fu. But Tiwari, an old student of DPS R. K. Puram, is not a martial arts pro. He’s a first-year engineering student at the Hong Kong University (HKU) and is one of the recipients of the HKU Foundation Scholarship for Outstanding International Students 2010- 2011. For Tiwari, studying in China means not only mastering kung-fu moves, but also making invaluable contacts that would help him work in that part of the world. Hong Kong is emerging as a popular destination for Indian students, which explains why Indians today make up 9 per cent of the university’s overseas student population.

Prof. John Spinks, the HKU Vice-Chancellor’s senior adviser who came here with a delegation of higher education leaders from Hong Kong, said the university had seen a three-fold increase in the number of Indian applicants in 2010, compared with 2009. He attributed this increase in applications HKU’s No. 1 rank in the QS Asian University Rankings 2009 and 2010. "We have also recorded an almost 100 per cent employment rate for HKU graduates last year. This has ensured its growing popularity." Spink and other delegation members met HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to discuss opportunities for closer collaboration in education. The University of Hong Kong also opened its first liaison office in the capital last month.

Hong Kong has 13 higher education institutions offering courses in areas such as science, technology, management, finance and human resources. Apart from the merit of the courses, Indian students are choosing Hong Kong for higher studies because it is affordable too. Tuition fees in Hong Kong’s institutions range from US$ 9,000 (Rs. 413,000) to US$ 13,000 (Rs. 600,000) per year.

Scholarships provided by Hong Kong universities are also drawing Indian students in large numbers. The Hong Kong Ph.D. Fellowship Scheme provides candidates an annual stipend of nearly US$ 30,000. (Rs. 14,00,000). The other big draws are the top-drawer executive business management programmes offered by Hong Kong’s universities.

Source: Mail Today, December 21, 2010

ISB to collaborate with IITs, research institutions to monetize innovation

The Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad is expanding its network across the country's booming entrepreneurial landscape. The B-School will collaborate with other research institutes such as Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and to help commercialise their technology and innovations. As part of this effort, ISB will offer incubation facilities to off-campus entrepreneurs at its in-house incubation centre --- Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development. "These scientists have been developing stacks of products and new IPs [intellectual properties] for years, but only 15-20% of them see light of the day while the rest of the innovations are hidden diamonds," Wadhwani Centre Executive Director Dr. Krishna Tanuku said.

The new initiative aims to translate more R&D [research & development] ideas available in the pipeline for future entrepreneurial ventures. Besides providing a business model and supporting ecosystem, the initiative will offer mentoring and connectivity for viable ventures. "We have a vision to create the ecosystem like in the Silicon Valley in the U.S. Initially, the incubation facility was limited to only ISB graduates, now we are moving up the value chain and going to offer these facilities to upcoming entrepreneurs outside the campus," Tanuku added.

This is a trend first established at other premier business schools such as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) at Ahmedabad and Bangalore. "A lot of interesting R&D works are going at various scientific institutes and MNCs. Entrepreneurs can first identify a problem and collaborate with scientists to solve these problems," says Kunal Upadhyay, Chief Executive at the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIM-Ahmedabad.

ISB, India's only school to be ranked in the Financial Times MBA ranking, has already helped its students to partner with international funding providers --- the Soros Economic Development Fund, the Omidyar Network and Google --- to create a fund called Song (from the names of its founders) to finance small companies that have a positive socio-economic impact. Sequoia Capital and Song Advisors recently invested US$ 15million in K12 Techno Services, a school management company focused on providing affordable schooling in south India. Songs other major investment has been in Eye Q Vision, a chain of high-quality, low-cost eyecare hospitals based in the north of India.

"We have produced over 200 entrepreneurs from the past nine years," said Aruna Reddy, Assistant Director at ISB's Wadhwani Centre. Last week, ISB conducted Propero that provided a platform for alumni and students who have either started a venture or have ideated one to interact with investors for prospective fund raising. Around 20 investors reviewed the business plans of some 60 alumni who have turned entrepreneurs. "We got our idea validated from investors who had come here and that is a good news for us," said Sriram Krishnamoorthy, a former TCS employee who along with his ISB classmate Shruti Narayan incubated Wizda Solutions on the campus this year. Wizda makes simulation games for B-Schools and corporates. "There is a need for more such initiatives at other B-schools and research institutes as the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India is at a very nascent stage. More than financial support, there is need for support from large companies to leverage the capabilities of the startups," says Prof. Suresh Bhagavatula of NSRCEL incubation cell at IIM-Bangalore.

Other firms incubated at ISB ranging from pre-schools to high-technology ventures have started bagging various projects. For instance, Nurturing Nest, a pre-school venture catering to all the developmental needs of a child. MoveInSyncs vision is to reduce the cost of transportation. Its products enable web and mobile service for 'Sharing a Cab' with a trusted co-passenger of your choice. It has over 500 registered users who are actively using the service to save money and fuel to commute. Ventures such as Green India Building Systems and Services offers energy solutions to help buildings reduce costs, has received a few pilot orders from leading five star hotels in Mumbai. Another venture Dhruvstar Infra Solutions, which provides tools to bring efficiency in the construction industry, has bagged projects from a premier AP government agency.

Source: The Economic Times, December 21, 2010

Indian government may add 200,000 engineering seats

The government is considering allowing engineering schools to admit more students in an attempt which will add around 200,000 seats in graduate courses and that seeks to address a growing shortage of engineers in the country. India has around 1.3 million students enrolled in around 3200 engineering colleges, and produces nearly 500,000 engineers a year.

"India needs two kinds of education expansion --- one providing access to a large number of people and two improving the quality of education that we impart. While increasing the number of seats is in the direction of providing more people higher education, my concern is will quality get affected," said Narayanan Ramaswamy, Executive Director (Education) at audit firm KPMG. "There is already a shortage of faculty to the tune of 30% and here we are increasing the students without increasing the teachers who will teach them. This may produce some sub-standard engineers in the country."

Under the plan under consideration, all engineering schools recognized by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) will be allowed to increase their strength by 120 seats each, while those accredite by the regulator can add 180, according to two officials at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) who did not want to be identified.

All engineering schools need to be approved by AICTE; the regulator also monitors the performance of those accredited by it. "The new rules will be declared in a couple of weeks," one of the ministry officials said. The other official added that those schools wishing to add seats will probably undergo an inspection before being allowed to do so. The plan doesn't cover the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) that do not come under the purview of AICTE.

The increase in the number of seats in engineering schools should increase India's gross enrolment ratio (GER). Currently, India's GER is 12.4%, which means that out of every 100 students who should be in college, only 12.4 are. The global average is nearly 27%; and in countries such as the U.S., the proportion is above 50%. Currently, nearly 14 million students are in graduate schools in India.

HRD minister Kapil Sibal said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit last month that the government is looking to increase the number of students in higher education schools by 30 million by 2020 to cater to the huge demand for people. "Industry does not create (human) wealth, it translates ideas into wealth. Higher education will create this human wealth," Sibal said.

In another major step to streamline technical education, the Central government will take back control of 2500 polytechnic institutes in the country from the states. "We had allowed the states to control polytechnics in 2002, but we have now reached a consensus to take them back. AICTE will now control them from the next academic year," one of the two MHRD officials said.

These institutes provide diploma and certificate courses to at least 650,000 students in India in several streams including engineering, architecture, and pharmacy. "I believe, this is a better decision if the government implements it. Quality control can be better managed by efficient people in the central level than in the state level,'" said KPMG's Ramaswamy.

Source: Mint, December 21, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Australia mulls easing student visa norms

Australia is considering relaxing its student visa norms after complaints that it does not process applications fast enough thereby causing international students, including from India and China, to go elsewhere, a media report said on Thursday. The federal government has bowed to pressure from the country's tertiary institutions over international student visa criteria, The Age reported on its website. Critics say that the delay in processing student visas has hurt the international students market in the country.

Announcing a review of student visas Wednesday, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans conceded that changes were necessary to prop up the ailing sector, worth A$ 4.5 billion to Victoria state each year. The most recent international student figures show a 1.4 per cent decline in enrolments since December last year --- in stark comparison to the past eight years, in which the sector grew 11 per cent a year.

"The Australian international education sector has come under increasing pressure as a result of the rising value of the Australian dollar, the ongoing impact of the global financial crisis in some countries, and growing competition from the United States, New Zealand and Canada for international students," Senator Evans said.

New measures to shore up student numbers include: Reducing assessment levels from April 2011, including the higher education visa assessment levels for applicants from China and India. Refining the rules to further enable pre-paid boarding fees to be counted towards cost-of-living requirements. Publishing statistics quarterly to allow the sector to track emerging student visa trends.

"Well over 20 percent of Monash University's students on Australian campuses are international students, with China being the largest source country," Monash vice-chancellor Ed Byrne said. "The downgrading in the assessment level will mean that not only are the financial requirements less onerous on Chinese families, but it signals that we have a good relationship with China in the delivery of higher education."

Universities Australia Chairman Professor Peter Coaldrake welcomed the changes and said he hoped the review would "provide a fresh start to our approach to the international student market, which is now suffering after having made such tremendous gains in the past".

Senator Evans said the review would consider ways to "better manage immigration risk" and recommend ways to improve partnerships between education providers and visa-processing arrangements. Headed by former NSW minister for the Sydney Olympics Michael Knight, the review is scheduled to report back to Senator Evans and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen by mid-2011.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

IISc not doing enough: Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata is not happy with one of India's best known research organization --- the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). At a special meeting on Wednesday, Tata, who is also the President of the IISc Court, said that the 101-year-old centre was not living up to the vision behind its creation. Tata said the IISc was busy filing patents when it should be contributing more towards a new way of life in India.

Tata wanted the institute to do more research and make itself globally relevant. "This institute has perhaps not changed as much as one would like to see. It should perhaps be looking at greater change, do research of greater global relevance," Tata said. His message will be e-mailed to the IISc Council, headed by Planning Commission Member Dr. K. Kasturirangan.

"I urge all of us to work together to make this possible. The institute should contribute to a new way of life both in India and elsewhere. It should take bigger strides." Asking IISc's students and faculty to introspect, Tata said: "We should question ourselves every day as any good institute or corporate. Are we doing enough? Are we relevant enough? Can we do better? The greatest danger in any congregation is to say that we are at the pinnacle and we can do no better."

Tata's promise of a centenary gift to IISc in the form of a substantial grant is likely to come soon. Although Tata hasn't yet signed the cheque, Tata Trust is in talks with the institute to finalise the plan. "We're in discussion with the Tata Trust on creating a centre for inter-disciplinary activities at IISc. The focus is around a Centre for Biomedical Research. I hope such centre, when it is created, will lead to an integration of science, engineering and clinical research," said IISc Director, Prof. P. Balaram.

Source: The Times of India, December 16, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Legislators to get policy classes at ISB

In an initiative aimed at improving legislative debate in India, around 50 lawmakers from various states will take a crash course on public policy-making at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. "We have carried out courses for several sections of society on a variety of subjects and thought why not MLAs (members of the legislative assembly), who are key to bringing change in public life," Deputy Dean Savita Mahajan said.

ISB will conduct the course in partnership with PRS Legislative Research, a policy research centre. The three-day, free capsule course will be conducted in January, Mahajan said. The course duration and the number of participants could be increased in later iterations.

"We don't know how to ask good questions in the assembly during a debate and answer properly on relevant subjects, or adjust ourselves vis-a-vis public aspirations and government's limitations," said Rajesh Dharmani, an MLA from Himachal Pradesh who will be attending the course. "I am a first-time legislator. There was no orientation, no training for us. There should be capacity-building training for us," said Dharmani, a Congress MLA from Ghumarwin assembly constituency. "I think all MLAs should go for such courses to become successful people's representatives."

Mahajan said the MLAs will be taught to access information and disseminate them with a focus. "Sometimes, legislators do not know the minute details or (the) implications of some issues," she said. "Here we will tell them how to handle it; how research is an important aspect for preparing for issues."

The participants will be from Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Orissa. The legislators were approached individually through PRS Legislative Research.

"Since we are going to a leading business school like ISB, we expect them to give us an exposure on relevant issues and broaden our vision," Dharmani said. "Capacity-building or orientation programmes at any leading institute, either in India or outside, are important," said Santosh, a project director with Transparency International. "More than formal education, such courses are important as they give input on public policy-making and work as a bridge between the ground reality and the policy formulations vision."

However, Anand Kumar, a social scientist and a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi was sceptical of the move. "There is a need for change in the mindset of politicians. They start their career with ambition for power and money, and end with it," Kumar said. "Their hunger for money never dies; hence, no amount of academic exposure will help. To be honest, politicians have outsourced public agenda to NGOs."

The ISB is also setting up a public policy institute in partnership with Bharti Entreprises. It has also signed an agreement with U.S.-based Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for furthering research and academic programmes in public policy-making.

Source: Mint, December 13, 2010

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