Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ills of higher education need to be remedied

There is a significant outcry for and against the proposal to derecognise 44 deemed to be universities. The Supreme Court has done well to call for the earlier reports of approval. After all, there must have been some basis for approving these universities in the first place. If we assume the present committee is right, then the approvals by the previous committees are intriguing. Earlier, committees had qualified academicians and the huge disparity between the past and present is not understandable. While the terms of reference may be different in the two cases, we can appreciate the change of status in few cases but not for 44 universities! Something is obviously wrong.

The All-India Council of Technical Education was recently in the news for wrong reasons and is closely connected with accreditations. A thorough probe is hence necessary. These comments are about the specific issue currently being debated. There are other aspects of higher education in science and technology which are of long-term interest. First and foremost, undue differentiation between ‘private' and ‘public' in education is counter productive. What matters is good education and all of us have a stake in its growth. There are serious problems with innovative education and this should be our concern. The major problem in Indian higher education is quality. Consider first the premier institutes of India. While they are relatively superior to other institutes in the country, they have a long way to go in terms of innovation. For example, where does an Indian Institute of Technology stand in relation to Harvard or MIT? Also what is the quality and number of publications in science and technology?

Reports show we are definitely worse off in this area in comparison to China. The comparison with China is pertinent since both of us were more or less in the same boat two decades ago. What is ailing our system has to be rectified fast. For this purpose, senior level committees alone will not do. The change has to come at the grassroots level. This is possible only through a wider dialogue and involvement of the younger researchers and faculty. The debate should cut across the private and public divide. Large scale involvement is not an easy task. One practical way is the constitution of think tanks which are independently funded by non-government agencies. The ideas generated through such think tanks will be valuable in framing our policy, besides the reports of the committees formed by the government. Such policies will have a wider acceptance.

To begin with, increased research in management schools on education policy should be valuable. Policy on higher education is also linked to primary and secondary education which currently is not in a good state and is far from being universal. Its impact on higher education should also be taken into account. The other issue of importance is the role of the government. In my opinion, it should catalyse private initiatives. This cannot be achieved by doing flip-flops with regard to recognition. While initial permission to start a university should follow proper norms, its assessment by the government has to be thorough after a gestation period of, say, five years. The ratings should be publicised so that public at large is aware.

The government need not close poorly rated institutes. They will shrink and disappear due to lack of support. In exceptional cases, they may spring back and prove themselves which they are welcome to do. But even this judgment by government agencies is inadequate and whimsical causing serious lack of faith. This has to be immediately corrected.

(This article is written by Prof. S. Sethuramiah, a former professor of IIT, Delhi)
Source: The Hindu, February 21, 2010

IITs re-think on admission process

Even as the HRD Ministry is actively considering the idea of a single entrance test for medical and engineering exams with a view to reduce stress levels, experts from IITs have slammed the existing entrance test to these institutes saying it should be revamped to reduce the stress levels. They have suggested more than one test in a year and greatear emphasis on extra co-curricular activities through the introduction of personal interview, as among the ways to redo the test. Calling for a "rethink" on the existing process of admissions to the IITs, the country's premier engineering institutions have, in fact, suggested giving students the option of taking the examinations "more than once" a year and which can be taken "any time".

"Admission to IITs based on a single test (IIT-JEE), which is one the toughest exams to crack, requires rethinking. A simpler test that can be taken any time, may be more than once with weightage to extra and co-curricular activities, recommendations on the inherent strength including character and emotional stability besides a personal interview can be considered," a note prepared by IIT Kharagpur for "student's welfare" maintained. This, it reasoned, will prevent admission of "self-centred students with a spent-fuel syndrome". And intake of students with a high level of inherent intelligence and better personality will help institutes produce better quality of product, it pointed out.

Highly placed sources said the note was part of the comprehensive document, which the IITs came out with on different aspects of their institutions that need to be focused on. "Be it governance and admissions or student's welfare, infrastructure and faculty, each aspect has been dealt with by the different IITs at Kanpur, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee. The document was discussed during the brain- storming session Sibal had with the IIT Directors at Manesar on February 4," the sources maintained. The suggestion gives a bent of mind of the IITs, whom the task force to be set up by the HRD Ministry will consult on the issue of implementing a single national-level common entrance test for all senior secondary students across India from 2013.

This apart, at a time when the prospective entry of IITs into the medical education sector is being hotly debated, the note calls for exploring the possibility."Being away from cities/metropolis, providing quality health care to students is a Herculean task. Creating state-of-the-art facilities is a costly proposition. Hence, remotely located IITs can promote a good private hospital nearby or even enter into medical education and bio-medical research if it's feasible," the note stated. It also suggested a clinical psychologist and a counseling centre at each IIT besides a medical practitioner.

The IIT-Kharagpur note further emphasised on balancing the load of academic pressure on the IIT students in all the four years to reduce stress and its adverse consequences; reducing formal teaching and increasing the stress on self-study, tutorials and home assignments with adequate teaching assistance.

Source: The Pioneer, February 21, 2010 (Reported by M Madhusudan)

No profiteering in education: HRD Minister

With a little over a month before the Right to Education Act is notified, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said that his ministry would hold consultations with the states to resolve issues such as fee structure and teachers’ salaries, that are likely to arise while implementing the Act. Stressing that the government will take steps to prevent commercialisation of education, Mr Sibal said that the consultation would be undertaken to evolve a policy so that “poor, marginalised, and disadvantaged” students are not adversely affected. “Our aim is to ensure that all children in India get quality education, but we are against commercialisation of education. Incessant hike of fee and overcharging from parents is something we do not support. I will talk to every state government on issues regarding implementation of the RTE Act from April 1. I will be meeting Delhi chief minister Sheila Diskhit on Monday regarding the same,” the minister said. Mr Sibal drew special attention to the need to provide some relaxation to “marginal” schools, which are currently not recognised.

The RTE makes it mandatory for all schools to be recognised. While state laws, such as that of Delhi, require that all recognised schools pay teachers according to government scales, and tuition fees of schools be regulated. This, according to Mr Sibal, would endanger good schools which are currently not recognised and serving marginal populations. The minister was of the view that some policy to ensure that such schools don’t go under needs to be evolved. “Schools should not be closed because of their poor economic conditions. We don’t want to close down marginalised, unrecognised schools for poor kids because our aim is not to marginalise these kids any more. In fact these schools should be protected. We will, therefore, encourage them to implement the guidelines of the RTE Act and will give them three years’ time to do so,” Mr Sibal said. While the Right to Education states that all schools have to recognised by the appropriate authority, it is silent on the issue of fee structure, an issue largely relating to private schools, and teacher salaries.

The minister said, “Each state has its own laws and we will be requesting them to bring their laws in conformity with the RTE. In cases where the state law and the RTE law are in conflict, the RTE will prevail and where there is no conflict, the state law will.” Drawing attention to issues that require consultation, the minister said, “for example, the RTE Act says that schools should have playgrounds. In schools in urban areas, there may not be enough space for a playground.

Source: The Economic Times, February 21, 2010

ISB to groom entrepreneurs

Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) says it plans to provide graduates from other B-schools guidance and financial support for interesting entrepreneurial ideas as part of its strategy of finding and grooming entrepreneurs. The arrangement is expected be in place by the end of the year. “In the last one year, I have had over 50 people walking to my office looking for guidance and support for their entrepreneurial ventures. So we decided to put a method in place for a transparent way of selecting potential ventures and mentoring them,” says Krishna Tanuku, executive director, Wadhwani Center for Entrepreneurship Development (WCED), ISB.

The B-school, which is affiliated to Kellogg, Wharton and London School of Business, will simultaneously create a business model to jointly select technology and scientific ideas from research and development (R&D) divisions of companies. The institute reasons that there are many good ideas available at R&D centres around the country that do not get utilised or translated into creating something that generates economic value. “Such partnerships will make more and more R&D ideas available in the pipeline for future entrepreneurial ventures. We can have a business model and supporting ecosystem, mentoring and connectivity for such viable ventures,” explains Tanuku.

The school also plans to invite its alumni to float ventures through the entrepreneurship cell and link WCED to other entrepreneurial institutions. Meanwhile, ISB is working with financial institutions to set up an entrepreneurship development fund to provide seed money. “The need is for thousands of crores of rupees, but we will initially require only a few hundred crores. To begin with we will allocate only Rs. 5-10 lakh per idea. The ideas will be linked to an institution for growth,” adds Tanuku.

The institute says its also exploring ways to link industry clusters to help students. “We need to find others to help us out," Tanuku says, adding, "There are schools that have incubation centres and we are looking at linking everything to a broader ecosystem to encourage entrepreneurship on a larger scale.” According to a recent survey by an MBA portal, young Indian MBAs say they are keen to choose entrepreneurship as a full-time career option this academic year. Over 200 students across 15 top Indian B-schools had participated in the survey. Last year, ISB saw about 30 students submitting their ideas to the institute, of which about half were shortlisted.

The trend is not restricted to ISB. The Entrepreneurship Club at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), recently held its annual entrepreneurship summit "Dream Big India 2010". IIM Lucknow has added a chapter of entrepreneurial activity on campus with several new initiatives — one of them being Entrepreneurship@Unitus. The institute's laboratory on entrepreneurship motivation also had other events lined up like Nirvan, IIM-L's annual entrepreneurship summit with various competitions and guest sessions to raise the awareness and influence of entrepreneurship on campus.

Source: Business Standard (Mumbai edition), February 18, 2010

IITs' plan to offer medical courses rejected

Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will have to put their plan to start medical education on hold as the health ministry has decided against allowing these elite engineering schools to start courses in medicine. In a high level meeting of experts chaired by health secretary K Sujatha Rao — the first to discuss this controversial issue — the health ministry decided to write to the HRD ministry suggesting that "IITs should start courses on health information technology, biomedical engineering and e-health rather than running a hospital or starting MBBS courses". The health ministry will ask IITs to partner with renowned medical colleges like AIIMS and PGI (Chandigarh) in jointly running these new courses.

Medical Council of India, which had come out in support of IITs' proposal to start medical degrees did a volte-face in the meeting and staunchly opposed the plan. "IITs wanted to start MBBS courses in a couple of years and wanted to be exempted from MCI's control. The MCI then joined health ministry officials to staunchly go against the proposal to let IITs even start an MBBS programme," sources who attended the meeting told TOI. Strangely, MCI chairman Dr Ketan Desai on Monday had told TOI, "We welcome the move. We know that if IITs start medical schools, they will have the same standard as their other courses. They will ensure they have the best faculty as their reputation will be at stake."

Experts who attended the meeting said IITs should focus on what they do best — engineering education — and that "imparting medical education wasn't IITs' core domain". Experts also said that except IIT Kharagpur which was planning to start its own hospital and medical college within its premises, all other IITs were planning to tie up with existing private hospitals to provide students with complicated cases. "Can private hospitals have as many footfalls as a government hospital? Can a private hospital deliver the variety of difficult cases required for under-graduate medical education. This was another important reservation of experts," a health ministry source said.

Those who attended the meeting included directors of AIIMS, PGI (Chandigarh), Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute (Lucknow), JIPMER, NIMHANS, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, National Institute of Paramedical Sciences and principal of CMC Vellore.

Some IITs, like Kharagpur and Hyderabad, had already started working on starting a medical school in about three years. IIT Kharagpur has supposedly signed an MoU with University of California, San Diego, to set up a hospital which will offer graduate, post-graduate and research programmes in medicine and bio-medical engineering.

Source: The Times of India, February 17, 2010

Common Entrance Test for Professional Courses

State boards across the country have agreed to implement a core curriculum in science and mathematics at the higher secondary level. The decision taken by the Council of School Board of Education (COBSE) on February 16, 2010 will be implemented from 2011-12. The apex body for all school boards and councils also agreed to work towards a common entrance examination for professional courses by 2013. With concerns about stress faced by students mounting, the core curriculum is expected to be implemented smoothly. Putting in place a common entrance examination for courses like engineering, medicine may prove to be difficult, as it would mean doing away with entrance exams like IIT-JEE. Both decision would be referred to the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE)for approval.

“The COBSE approved the core curriculum in science and mathematics. This will be accepted by all the state boards at the senior higher secondary level. Hence forth, the core curriculum will be taught in the science stream in all schools,” HRD minister Kapil Sibal said. The COBSE meeting on February 16 was attended by representative of 20 boards. There are 41 boards across the country. Officials said that those not present had conveyed their assent to the two proposals discussed at the meeting. This move to put in place a core curriculum would ensure uniformity in content as well as provide a ‘level playing field’ for students across the country. The core curriculum has been prepared for physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology. The boards have been given three months to prepare a core curriculum for commerce. The consensus is on the content of the syllabus and state boards will continue to determine the mode of examination.

The idea of a core curriculum in science and math and a move towards a common admission test for professional courses has been in the works. At the last meeting of COBSE in August 2009, Mr Sibal had placed the proposal before the 41 boards for their consideration. COBSE agreed that the school boards will work towards a common entrance examination for admission of students in higher courses, including engineering and medicine, by 2013. A national taskforce will be set up to consider nature and modalities of the entrance test. It will consult the school boards, institutes like IITs and AIIMS to examine whether the proposed entrance will be able to cater to the requirements of all types of institutes. The taskforce will need to work out the weightage it could give to class XII board examination. It will consider the manner in which existing entrance examinations, especially those associated with a brand value like IITJEE, AIIMS entrance exam, could be brought under one umbrella. This could prove to be a challenge.

A similar effort to had been made under the NDA government. The effort was opposed by many established institutions. Instead, the government had to settle for a bouquet of five or six tests, with institutes opting for any one of them to select students. The ministry has made it clear that the single admission test would mean the end of the road for admission tests like the IITJEE. Ministry joint secretary S C Khuntia said, “We will work for a common entrance test for every stream. One examination for all engineering institutions, which means IITs will also follow it. In that parameter, there should not be any separate IIT entrance. We have to work in that direction. As per the score of the entrance, selection will be made. Let’s say, the top rankers may go to IITs, the second best will go to institutions which are a step below IITs, so on. The system will benefit students most.” The ministry is keen on putting this single entrance examination in place at the same time as the “core curriculum” students are graduating. “By 2013 we should have in place a common system for common admission into professional institutions in the country,” Mr Sibal said. The minister said that “this will smoothen the admission process into engineering, medical, economics and commerce courses.” A single test, the minister felt would reduce the admission-related stress of students.

Board representatives were upbeat about the core curriculum though the jury still appeared to be out on the common entrance examination. “This is a good step to have a common curriculum. We have no problem on implementing it. However, there may be certain difficulties in holding a CET. While holding a common entrance test for the country, the state’s interest has to be protected in state level institutes,” Bihar School Exam Board chairman A K P Yadav said.

Source: The Economic Times, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Private B-schools offer real-world mentors

Heena Singla, 21, a graduate of Amritsar's Guru Nanak Dev University, had wanted to pursue postgraduate business studies since her teens. But Amritsar, a Sikh spiritual centre, hardly offered a choice. So she applied to Symbiosis Institute of Business Management in Pune, and received an interview call. Her parents, however, weren't keen on sending her so far. Singla then noticed an admission advertisement from School of Inspired Leadership, or SOIL, a new business school in Gurgaon, not quite as far as Pune, that offered a mentorship programme with people in the business world. She applied, and was accepted. What drew her to SOIL, she says, was its curriculum in human resources management and the idea of having "a mentor who will be guiding me".

Schools such as SOIL and Mumbai Business School (MBS), which admitted their first batch this academic year, cater to the growing market for private business schools, but with a difference. Unlike most private schools, they are owned and run by professionals, not businesspeople, and have links with industries. To launch MBS, A. Mahendran, managing director of Godrej Sara Lee Ltd, teamed up with Bobby Agarwal, a former chief operations officer of GodrejHershey Ltd, and Santosh Desai, chief executive of Future Brands Ltd. SOIL has signed on 30 companies, including the Aditya Birla Group and the Mahindra Group, which provide executives and office space for admission interviews, offer feedback on curriculum and may even help in job placements. Max India Ltd's Analjit Singh is a co-promoter.

There's another thing that sets apart SOIL and MBS. Most private schools are run as charitable trusts or societies, which cannot work for a profit. They file their accounts to a registrar of societies or a charity commissioner, away from the public gaze. SOIL and MBS operate as private, closely held companies, which can earn a profit. This is different even compared with Indian School of Business, or ISB, in Hyderabad, which begins its 10th anniversary celebrations in December, and Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai, started in 2004. ISB and Great Lakes function as limited companies under section 25 of the Indian Companies Act, 1956, formed for "promoting commerce, art, science, religion, charity or any other useful object". Just like trusts, they cannot earn a profit or pay dividends to their promoters.


SOIL and MBS can do both--earn a profit and pay dividends. Unlike ISB and Great Lakes, they cannot accept donations. "We rely on equity capital," said Mahendran, the major promoter of MBS and co-promoter of Great Lakes.
Mahendran's boss Adi Godrej was one of those who helped set up ISB, along with industrialists Anil Ambani, Rahul Bajaj and others. Mahendran did not disclose how much he invested in MBS, saying that would be a violation of a confidentiality agreement among shareholders.

Chasing autonomy: Being private companies puts the schools outside the purview of the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the controversial regulator of private business and engineering schools in India that faces accusations of bribery and opacity which the government has promised to reform. One of the first conditions of AICTE's guidelines is that the school must function as a trust. "Most of our students have resigned from jobs in a year of recession for (joining) a school that has chosen not to get government recognition or AICTE approval," said Anil Sachdev, founder and chief executive of SOIL, who started his career with Tata Motors Ltd. Sachdev added that stories of corruption and the requirement of permission for even basic changes such as increasing seats and introducing new curricula drove him away from AICTE.

SOIL admitted 23 students for a course in human resources leadership for a fee of Rs.725,000 each, and 38 students to study business leadership at a fees of nearly Rs. 900,000. MBS took in two classes of 30 students each for a programme in management, at a tuition fee of Rs. 850,000each. Mint could not find data on how many private higher education institutions are run as private, closely held companies, which can earn a profit. AICTE's acting chairman S.S. Mantha, who was appointed in August after the former chairman was investigated by a Central investigation agency for corruption, said the regulatory body does not keep track of such institutes. "For us they don't exist," Mantha said, adding he had "no means to know" about their number. He protested against the accusations that the schools make against the regulatory body, and said he is trying to introduce transparency in the mechanism of inspections at engineering and business schools, a lucrative and growing area of higher education. "If you have remained outside the procedure and you say AICTE is not proper, then it is not fair," said Mantha.

Booming business: A November report by the professional services firm Ernst and Young said the private sector was driving the growth in higher education. Unaided private higher education institutes, which do not get state funds, formed 63% of all educational institutes in 2006, up from 42% in 2001. And privately run business schools overtook government-funded ones to form 64% of all business schools in 2006-07.

Mahendran, Agarwal and Desai launched MBS because all of them felt management graduates were not "industry ready". Even graduates from the Indian Institutes of Management, the country's premier business schools, need training for two to three years "before we get value out of them", said Agarwal. Mahendran, a graduate of Chennai's Loyola College and a chartered accountant, next plans to open a business school in Kolkata. Agarwal, who has a masters in business administration from the University of Cincinnati, US, uses his contacts to help students get internships. Although he has returned to the US as director of Hershey Ltd, he said his involvement with MBS will continue.

This personal touch means recruiters are more willing to take students of these schools as interns. Standard Chartered Bank Mumbai's investment adviser Bishen Bhalla, for instance, is grooming his first trainee. Yezdi Mehta of MBS will be with him for two months to learn how to prepare investment options for wealthy clients. "The root of the entire process is the promise we see from their (school's) end," said Bhalla. Similarly, helping out SOIL means the business groups can hire better prepared employees. "The curriculum meets a lot of industry needs. (It is about) holistic development along with business leadership," said Allen Sequeira, executive vice-president of corporate human resources at the Mahindra Group, one of the conglomerates assisting SOIL. Sequeira added that "we don't assume anything" and hiring from SOIL would depend on openings. But students such as Singla are confident, and satisfied. She said job placements would be on the basis of the "characteristics we possess", and not which recruiters the school is able to pull.

This article written by Aparna Kalra
Source: Mint, February 17, 2010

Australia to give nod to highly skilled migrants

Australia announced changes to its skills-based permanent immigration program. Among the major changes, it immediately revoked the Migration Occupations in Demand List, carrying 106 jobs, including many less skilled and no longer in demand. An independent body, Skills Australia, is going to develop a Skilled Occupations List (SOL), which will be reviewed annually. To be introduced mid-year, SOL is going to focus on high value professions and trades. International students who hold a vocational, higher education or post-graduate student visa will still be able to apply for a permanent visa if their occupation is on the new SOL. If not, they will have until December 31, 2012, to apply for a temporary skilled graduate visa on completion of their studies, which will allow them to spend up to 18 months in Australia to gain work experience and seek sponsorship from an employer.

The country will also phase out the Critical Skills List, introduced in early 2009. In addition, to select the best and brightest, it plans to review the points test used to assess migrants. Certain occupations might be capped to make sure skill needs are met across the board. The Migration Act will be amended this year to give the minister the power to set the maximum number of visas that may be granted to applicants in any one occupation, if need be. This will ensure that the Skilled Migration Program is not dominated by a handful of occupations.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans, said the new arrangements would give first preference to skilled migrants who have a job to go to with an Australian employer. Evans said that some "unscrupulous migration agents" have been "misleading international students into believing that completion of a course in Australia gave them an automatic entitlement to permanent residence. It does not and it will not. A student visa is just that: a visa to study."

Source: Hindustan Times, February 17, 2010

UK to partially resume student visa services

From March 1, 2010, the United Kingdom will partially resume student visa services in North India, which were temporarily suspended from February 1, 2010, due to a surfeit of applications in the region. The visa application services will be re-started for aspirants who want to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the UK but the suspension continues for those applying for lower level qualifications. At an event at University of Delhi's Campus of Open Learning, British minister for business, innovation and skills Pat McFadden announced that the UK Border Agency would partially lift the Tier-4 visa application suspension in North India. He added, "The temporary suspension remains in place for those wanting to study at lower levels (below degree). But we will continue to keep this under review and will lift it as soon as we can and once the new 'highly trusted sponsor' system for colleges and other educational establishments across the UK is in place."

On February 10, the UK announced changes to the criteria of Tier 4 of the points based system. This includes the launch of a 'highly trusted sponsors' system, expected in April. Only accredited UK institutes which have also been designated as 'highly trusted' will be able to offer courses at National Qualification Framework Level 3 and those below degree level with work placements. More details on this programme are due this March.

Source: Business Standard & Hindustan Times, February 17, 2010

U.S. college rankings multiply

In the game of collegiate rankings, Loyola University Maryland is a perennial backbencher, tucked away on an inside page of U.S. News & World Report's annual list of "America's Best Colleges." But on the National Survey of Student Engagement, Loyola is a strong performer. It rates highly on such measures as academic challenge and student-faculty interaction. "The students are definitely the number one priority," said Dan Nieves, 21, a Loyola senior from Merrick, New York. He learned of the university not from a newsmagazine, but from some friends who had matriculated there and "had nothing but good things to say about it."

The U.S. News ranking and its imitators generally reward the same group of wealthy and selective institutions. There isn't much room at the top, and thousands of colleges don't make the list. That has frustrated and angered many university administrators, who resent it when their school is reduced to one (poor) numerical figure. The student engagement survey, abbreviated NSSE or "Nessie," is higher education's response.


Introduced 10 years ago by Indiana University researchers to counter to U.S. News's compilation, the survey has won buy-ins from 1,400 colleges, with about half that number participating each year. Twenty-seven years since the first U.S. News rankings were published, academe is awash in alternatives.

There are rankings by Forbes, Kiplinger, College Prowler and Princeton Review; international rankings from Britain and China; and a host of new-and-better measures that sort colleges on such things as student course evaluations and the number of hits on a college's website. Another recent entry, from the Association of College Trustees and Alumni, grades colleges according to what courses they require students to take. (Harvard gets a D.) For additional content from The Washington Post, visit
www.washingtonpost.com.

Source: Hindustan Times, February 17, 2010

Harvard seeks space for classroom in India

The world-renowned and US-headquartered Harvard Business School (HBS) has decided to have a classroom of its own in the country for its executive education programmes and Indian corporate chiefs Ratan Tata and Anand Mahindra are said to be helping it find one. The B-school had been conducting executive education and management development programs (MDPs) in India since 2008 — but always in five-star hotels. Now it’s planning its “own center in India for executive education programs which have been growing”, confirmed Professor Tom DeLong, the Philip J Stomberg Professor of Management Practice. He teaches MBA and executive education courses focused on topics like managing human capital and organizational behavior. “HBS did two programs in India in 2008 and one program in 2009. This year, we are in the market with three programs, for which we need a permanent place. It could be in Mumbai,” he added.

HBS and its India Research Center (IRC) plan to offer three executive education programs in India from April to July 2010 — Building a Global Enterprise in India; Develop India-Strategies for Growth and Managing; and Transforming Professional Service Firms. The programs are for senior executives of Indian companies and multinational companies operating in India, as well as managers and investors interested in expanding operations to India.

Industry experts say HBS’s presence in India could pose a serious competition to the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in the executive education space. For one, HBS ranks higher than all Indian B-schools. It was ranked the third best B-school in the world after Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania) and London Business School, according to the 2010 Financial Times ‘Global MBA rankings’. Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business, on the other hand, was ranked 12.

HBS’s search for a permanent classroom is likely to put more pressue on executive education programs from domestic B-schools. On an average, executive education programs comprise around 35 per cent of the revenue stream for most leading B-schools in the country. “Of course it will intensify competition in the market. Harvard is an international brand that could give the other B-schools a run for their money,” said a professor from a B-school who did not wish to be identified.

ISB, however, is unfazed. Deepak Chandra, deputy dean, ISB Hyderabad, countered: “There’s space for everyone in the country and executive education from various B-schools is welcome. It’s not about demand. It’s about quality.” Charges for the executive education programs are school and program specific. For instance, HBS charges Rs. 212,000 (plus service tax) for a five-day program on “Building a Global Enterprise in India” and ISB Rs. 150,000 for a five-day program on “Marketing Strategy in a Competitive Environment”. IIM-Ahmedabad, on the other hand, is charging Rs. 150,000 for a five-day program for top Management on “Corporate Strategy - Brand Strategy Linkages”.

The IIMs, however, say that Harvard’s entry in the market could prove to be competition for ISB as IIMs offer programs at a different price point. IIMs offer programs at two levels: short duration (seven to 20 days) and longer durations (six months). “Harvard is not in the longer duration executive education programs so competition for the IIMs seems lower than for the ISB,” said an IIM professor. Meanwhile, with the global economic revival, B-schools say companies are loosening their purse strings and putting employee training programs back on track. B-schools say they see an upsurge in executive education enrollments by 40 to 50 per cent.

Source: Business Standard, February 16, 2010 (Reported by: Kalpana Pathak)

Innovation and research to steer India's knowledge economy

In order to be part of the future world order India is working towards a knowledge economy. In keeping with its mission, the government has set a target to create a critical mass of people that would propel the knowledge economy. This critical mass is envisaged as the wealth of the nation and needless to say education will drive this wealth creation. However, Kapil Sibal, Union Human Resource Development Minister, pointed out that at the outset it is important to have a precise understanding of the concept of wealth in the context of knowledge economy. "The real success of the knowledge economy would depend on the quality of wealth and not the quantity. And quality can only be achieved by having people who have an orientation towards research and innovation," Sibal said while speaking at a session on ‘Changing face of Indian Education System’ organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO).

To promote innovation and research, it is important to improve access and quality at the university level. "We have failed to understand the basic difference between a college and a university which led to a confusion about deemed-tobe-universities. An institute which is not creating wealth through research, interdisciplinary studies and does not have centres of excellence cannot be called a university," Sibal said. He also alluded to the need of reducing the number of affiliating colleges with respect to individual universities. Going forward the government will appoint a body to deal with education malpractices. "This body will make sure that the claims made in an institute’s prospectus are implemented in reality ," Sibal informed. There will also be a National Accreditation Authority (independent of government representatives) for constant monitoring of quality. But will additional bodies compound the already chaotic situation that is now apparent in our education system as far as regulation is concerned ? "We want to do away with the "Inspector Raj". We want to create a regulation system where norms and standards are set. Adherence to these norms will automatically determine the players who can survive in the long run," informed Sibal.

Also there is need to ensure access to higher education. "Many people are expecting that the government will create 35,000 colleges and 1,000 universities. This is an impossible task. To achieve this the role of public-private partnership has to come into play. However, we shall ensure that the private sector in higher education does not enter for profit making," said Sibal. According to Sibal the bill to regulate entry of foreign institutions will also aim at making quality education available to Indian students. "But there are apprehensions about this bill as quality foreign institutions are not yet ready to set up their campuses in India. At present, most foreign institutes are eager to collaborate and go for joint programmes or research. Hence, we want to create an atmosphere of confidence wherein these institutes feel assured of India’s potential to create wealth, which is competitive and accrues to international standards," he added.

For all this to happen, the most important task is to improve quality and quantity at the school level. "Around 93% of investment in school education comes from the government sector. Only 7% of investment is met by the private sector. We need to realise that school education will remain a prerogative of the government for many more years. Along with changing curriculum and teaching methodology, we also need good leaders to run the schools," observed Sibal. "The government is planning to appoint people from IITs and IIMs to run schools. We will also ensure that every university has a centre for education to create leaders in school education," he concluded.

Source: The Times of India, February 15, 2010 (Reported by: Surbhi Bhatia)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

India First: Nokia launches mobile money transfer platform

Nokia, the global leader in the mobile handest industry, on Monday announced the launch of the worlds first money transfer platform through mobile device in India, one of the fastest-growing handset market. Niklas Savander, Executive Vice President - Services, told a press conference that the pilot project was launched in Pune last week in partnership with Yes Bank and Obopay, which runs mobile payments platform. He, however, did not divulge the time of the commercial launch of the project. Nearly 30 handset-makers are battling it out in Indias telecom handset market. Brands like Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and Blackberry dominate 85-90 % of the Rs. 20,000-crore market. Nokia leads with a 57% share while Samsung is the distant second with an 8% share and LG third with 5% share.

Christened as Mobile Money, the service will enable a customer to transfer money to other individuals, pay utility bills as well as recharge prepaid SIM cards by using their mobile devices. The service will also be available on non-Nokia handsets. Consumers will also be able to pay merchants for goods and services through their mobile devices. This is a first-of-its-kind service providing customers the ability to initiate mobile payments through multiple channels such as SMS, IVR, WAP, JAVA and FIRE.

Nokia India Vice President & Managing Director, D Shivakumar told ET the service will create a financial ecosystem which is inclusive, sustainable and scaleable. The service will compete with cash and not with plastic money, he said, adding that it will grow the size e-transfer of money in India. He said the potential of the service is enormous as the country has lesser bank accounts than mobile phone users. India has nearly 500 million mobile phone users and 200 million bank account holders. Suresh Sethi, Group President of transaction banking group, Yes Bank said the service will enable educational and government payments to create an ecosystem for financial inclusion. This service eliminates the dependence on the physical presence of a branch or availability of internet banking services and will successfully ride on the deeper penetration of mobile services in India.

Source: The Economic Times, February 17, 2010 (Reported by Kausik Datta)

MCA programs out of date in high-tech world

Asish Tilak, a software programmer with Jindal Saw, says his job is an art thats slowly fading out. He sees fewer students with the wherewithal for programming the once-coveted MCA, or master of computer applications course apply for interviews these days. The three-year degree course has been upstaged by shortterm , job-oriented certifications in an uncertain economic climate. Students these days opt for short-term certification programmes like .Net, Oracle or Cisco which provide good jobs, he says.

Software programmers are also being edged out by professionals with engineering degrees, as outsourcing work gets more complex. The global economic slowdown saw most multinational companies cut down their IT spends, and this seems to have taken away some sheen from the MCA degree. At the same time, a sharp increase in the number of engineering colleges in the country has given students a wider choice in the form of a BTech or a BE degree, which are preferred by employers. A candidate with an MCA degree might be good with programming, but when it comes to design and technical know-how, he is in a disadvantageous position compared to a BE or a B Tech degree holder, says Pradeep Bahirwani, VP, Talent Acquisition, Wipro.

In such an environment, fewer students are applying for the MCA entrace test every year. Nearly 9,276 students took the entrance test in 2009, while 10,398 students had taken it in 2008. Universities and institutes across the country are also witnessing dwindling interest in the course. There were just 29 takers for the 39 seats on offer last year at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, whose MCA course is considered among the best in the country.
At the National Institutes of Technology or NITs, 6,504 students appeared for the combined entrance exam in 2009, compared to 8,223 in 2008. Of the 20 NITs spread across the country, 11 offer the MCA programme, with 766 seats in all. The top three NITs secured 30% of the students the one in Tiruchirappalli, followed by Motilal Nehru NIT, Allahabad and NIT Warangal.

Sonajharia Minz, Dean, School of Computers and Systems Sciences at JNU and Krishna Kant, Professor at the Computer Science and Engineering Department of the Motilal Nehru NIT blame the economic recession for the slump in interest among students. Students are opting for MBA or other courses, as the IT industry has borne the brunt of the recession, says Prof. Kant. Another reason for the course losing its appeal is the transformation of software work in India from back-office outsourcing to the more complex high-end outsourcing. One finds more product development and hardcore technical jobs being outsourced compared to plain software testing earlier, explains Srivas Ramgopal, who works with a subsidiary of Tata Communications. As a result, companies prefer to hire people with engineering backgrounds rather than those with simple programming knowledge.

Though the worlds economies are showing signs of improvement, the interest levels in MCA are not likely to revive soon. Instead of a 3-year program, MCA should be made a two-year program to make it competitive vis-a-vis the BTech program. The industry considers an MCA degree equivalent to a BTech one, whereas one takes longer to finish the MCA, says ARKS Srinivas, Director, TIME Mumbai, a private coaching institute .

A similar trend is being replicated in colleges across Maharashtra. The occupancy rate is witnessing a sharp fall. In 2009, 5,369 candidates were admitted for 6,988 seats available across 114 colleges in the State. So, about 77% of the seats were filled up in 2009, compared to 89% of the seats in 2008. Some 5,289 candidates opted for the program from a pool of 5,908 seats in 2008. It must be noted that of the 114 colleges, 45 are under Pune University, which is one of the top universities for MCA. Lack of placement facilities and presence of institutes in remote areas could be the reasons for such a bad show, said an official from the Directorate of Technical Education of Maharashtra.

Srinivas said that MCA as a business vertical is losing out due to fall in number of students. Some 4,500 students will write the Integrated Common Entrance Test for MBA and MCA in Andhra Pradesh this year, whereas, previous about 6,500 students wrote the test for 60 seats, said Srinivas. However, the colleges offering MCA degree are considering to increase the number of seats. For instance, JNU will be offering 46 seats in this school year. Number of seats in Maharashtra could be risen by up to 20% this year. Seats in various NITs are also on the rise.

Source: The Economic Times, February 17,2010 (Reported by Dibyajyoti Chatterjee)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CAT results likely in a week

The wait would soon be over for those aspiring to get into the countrys top business schools with results for the first computer-based Common Admission Test (CBT-CAT ) 2009 expected to be announced in the coming 7- 10 days, an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) professor told ET. We would announce the results in the next 10 days. Although the exact date has not been finalised as yet, said IIM Lucknow admissions chairman Prof Himanshu Rai.

IIM comprises a network of seven business schools across the country that admit students every year through CAT. Prof Satish Deodhar, CAT convenor, had earlier said that results will be announced in the third week of February. However, it appears that it could be delayed by a few days. The results, that were earlier supposed to be out on January 22, got delayed as the computer based CAT, which started on November 28, 2009, ran into a series of technical glitches. While phase I of the test was completed on December 8, 2009, more than 4,000 students could not take the test.

The CAT Committee and US-based agency Prometrict that has been mandated to conduct CAT, held phase II of the test on January 30 & 31. While some students are eagerly waiting for the results, others are apprehensive. Says 22-year-old engineering student Vipul Singh, There were so many irregularities during the first phase of CAT that many like me are wondering if the results will be free on any glitches. I am quite sure that many aspirants may not find their results satisfactory.

Source: The Economic Times, February 16, 2010 (Reported by Mahima Puri)

Bill to allow foreign varsities likely to be finalized soon

The Union Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) will be sending the long-awaited legislation allowing for the entry of foreign universities in India for Cabinet approval this week. The note will be ready by Tuesday and will be sent to the Cabinet secretariat, said a senior official. The Foreign Education Providers' Bill will form part of a clutch of legislation to help the government put in place the basic framework of its higher education reforms agenda. Another legislation dealing with the prevention of malpractice in education institutes will be taken up by the group of ministers on Wednesday.

The foreign education providers bill has been pending for the last three years. Despite being cleared by the Cabinet in 2007, the bill could not be introduced by the earlier UPA government on account of objections from the Leftist parties. Forced to go back to the drawing board, the current UPA dispensation has made some changes to the original legislation. These were worked on and put in place by a committee of secretaries late last year. A senior ministry official said that there were one or two issues on which the Cabinet would have to take the final call. But they said these were not contentious issues.

Among the changes that are expected in the current proposal is the status of foreign universities in India. Originally, it had been proposed that they would be set up as deemed universities. However, with the concept under review and the ministry indicating its desire to phase out the concept of deemed universities, the foreign universities will have to approach the regulatory authority for permission to set up their Indian operations. This would mean the government would need to put in place the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) at the earliest.

An official said the bill to set up NCHER, the overarching regulatory body which will replace UGC, AICTE and NCTE, may be introduced some time during the middle of the budget session. A legislation putting in place a National Education Tribunal and making accreditation mandatory for all institutes of higher education has already been cleared by the Cabinet.

This news reported by Urmi A. Goswam
Source: The Economic Times, February 16, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hungary may emerge safe destination for students

Hungary may soon become a viable alternative destination for lakhs of Indian students looking for quality education in countries tolerant towards immigrants. India has initiated dialogue with Hungary to facilitate cooperation between institutions of excellence in both the countries, opening an additional option for Indian students to get high-class education at most competitive prices. The co-operation would also provide an alternate option to Indian students who are unable to complete education in countries like Australia where there has been a spate of attacks on Indian students.

"I have discussed with Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai on how Hungary could become a hub for Indian students looking for safe and economical destination for studies," said Commerce and Industry minister Anand Sharma. Asked if Hungary is being explored due to recent spate of attack on Indian students in Australia, Mr. Sharma, who led a business delegation to the Central European country, said, "without going into that I will only say this is a very peaceful country."

Educationists and government officials from both the countries are expected to visit educational institutions in each others countries. A formal package for Indian students may be developed later. Currently several institutions in Hungary are not recognised by educational bodies in India. This prevents movement of students as a degree in Hungary may not be recognised in India. "This a problem area and in next rounds of discussions, efforts would be made to resolve the issue," Indian ambassador to Hungary Ranjit Rae said.

Some of the popular technical and higher education institutions in Hungary are Semmelweis University, Budapest University of Economic Sciences, Imre Haynal University of heath Sciences, University of Szeged (among top 100 universities of the world), University of Debrecen, University of Pecs (one of the largest universities in Europe). "All Hungarian universities take a large number of foreign students. There is a surplus capacity in these institutions that could also be tapped for Indian students. Besides high standards of education, Hungary provides a safe destination for Indian students," Mr Rae said. Being a gateway to Western Europe and now a part of European Union, residency options in the country extends its eligibility to most European countries. Hungary is also set to take up the presidency of EU in 2011.

Source: The Economic Times, February 5, 2010

No IIT fee hike till HEFC is set up

The Central Government has put fee hike on hold in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Union Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD), Kapil Sibal has said that the proposal to hike fees will have to wait till the government sets up the Higher Education Finance Corporation (HEFC). This would ensure that a higher tuition fee does not disadvantage students who are not financially able. For the time being, the ministry has asked IITs to suggest reforms in the IIT entrance examination, improving external linkages of the institutes and raising the quality of research.

At a brainstorming session on IITs, chaired by Mr Sibal, a committee was set up under IIT Kharagpur Director Damodar Acharya to study the existing JEE and GATE exam and suggest possibilities of improvement. The committee will submit its report in three months. It is expected to suggest on how to consider the Class XII marks of students while preparing the cut-off for admission. At present, students are required to score 60% in their class XII board examinations for their JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) results to be considered. At the last meeting of IIT Council, the apex body to decide on IIT matters, discussions were held on giving more weightage to marks obtained in school-leaving examinations while selecting students.

The meeting, attended by the IIT directors and chairmen, however, did not take any decision on the proposal to increase the tuition fee of students to make the institutes self-sufficient. Mr. Sibal said that a proposal to increase tuition fee would be taken up only after the government sets up the HEFC. This proposed corporation would provide assistance to economically disadvantaged students. IIT Kanpur had prepared a detailed proposal on hiking the tuition fee. At present, B.Tech. students pay Rs. 50,000 per year as fee. The proposal suggested increasing the fee to Rs. 400,000 per annum over a period of 10 years.

The minister asked each IIT to indicate, in four weeks, in which area/field they would want to achieve the highest standards by 2020. The new IITs have been given two months to prepare their roadmap. These IITs have been asked to give a roadmap for compensation that will attract the best faculty from India and abroad and also to give incremental infrastructure development plans for this aim. They have been asked to involve PAN IIT system. Prof. Anand Krishnan will head the committee which would co-ordinate this.

Source: The Economic Times, February 5, 2010

IT firms favorite in campus placements

Information Technology (IT) companies have again emerged a hot favourite among engineering and B-school graduates and firms are not far behind in wooing them with higher salary packages. For example, IBM, which paid Rs. 700,000-800,000 a year to IIT graduates last year, doubled it to Rs. 1400,000-1500,000 this year, according to a student selected under the tech giant's 'Blue Scholar' program. Tech bellwether Infosys Technologies, which has given 450 offers to B-schools, is offering a package of Rs. 1100,000 per annum to IIM graduates while it has hiked compensation for incoming engineering students to Rs. 325,000 per annum as against Rs, 300,000 last year. Infosys is planning to make 15,000 offers to engineering students for FY11.

Not just IBM or Infosys, but other tech majors like Microsoft, IBM, Accenture, HP, SAP, Amazon, Yahoo and Cisco are paying IIT graduates Rs. 800,000-1200,000 per annum, a 10-15 % hike from last year's levels. A cross-section of students and officials from various colleges echoed the sentiment saying they are seeing an uptick in the number of IT firms visiting their campusesa turnaround from what happened in 2009. IIT Delhi's Aditya Gupta says IT firms are big recruiters but there is increasing preference for firms like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. "Our conversion rate students who actually join has been 93% at top B-schools such as IIMs. Earlier, it used to be 63-70 %", said Infosys senior VP in HR Nandita Gurjar.

At BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore, 550 of the 900 students who are passing out this year have already been placed and offered salaries ranging between Rs. 400,000 and Rs. 750,000 per annum. The Delhi College of Engineering (DCE) has finished more than half of the placement for its batch of 600 students. "TCS has already recruited 40 followed by IBM, Deloitte and Airtel," said Itsit Dang (21), an engineering student. Prof. NS Narahari, Director (Placement ) in RV College of Engineering, said: "There has been a rise in salary packages and number of offers made by the companies." The college saw firms like Cognizant, HP, Informatica, Infosys, Accenture, TCS visiting their campus.

The IT sector's return to gains is making more students opting for a career in this sector. Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM)'s Bangalore Dean Pankaj Gupta said that earlier IT companies were not favourite on B-school campuses but the trend is changing and students prefer to join IT firms. "For each IT job, we are getting lot of application from students." HS Jagadeesh, Placement Officer, BMS, said, "IT is favourite among students but firms are now very cautious and want students to have long-term career with them." HKBK Engineering College's administrator Abdul Hameed SA says things are far better compared to last year and lot of smaller companies are also coming to the campus to rope in the best talent. HKBK expects to complete placement for its 2010 batch of 380 students by June and 2009 batch of 300 students in the same time period.

However, it has not been just the technology companies which have paying higher salaries. P&G, HUL, Bain, Boston Consulting Group have been offering competitive salary packages to IIT graduates in the range of Rs. 900,000-1300,000. Consulting firms and banks such as Parthenon and Goldman Sachs are offering a salary package of Rs. 1800,000-2500,000 per annum. Financial services firm Tower Research has offered a salary package of Rs. 2500,000 plus Rs. 800,000 bonus at IIT-Delhi to handle its IT and alogrithm work.

Source: The Economic Times, February 4, 2010

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