Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Knowledge network to benefit all students by March 2011

Thousands of students are expected to have access to the world’s best online study material, research laboratories and faculty members when work on the National Knowledge Network (NKN) is completed by March 2011. Recommended by Sam Pitroda who headed the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), the network has till date connected around 60 educational institutions in the country, and over six virtual classrooms have been set up. The remaining 1,440 institutes are expected to be connected by March 2011. In a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the government approved the establishment of the NKN with an outlay of Rs. 5,990 crore to be implemented by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) over a period of 10 years. “This financial approval will help put the entire process on the fast track. While the infrastructure will be in place by 2011, improvements will keep taking place over the next 10 years as users also have to be ready to use the network; connect to the virtual labs, etc., which will happen over the next few years,” said the professor.

The NKN was announced by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in his Budget speech of 2008-09. Initially, Rs. 100 crore was allocated to the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and IT to establish the network.

The architecture of NKN will be scalable and the network will consist of an ultra-high speed core in the multiples of 10 gbps and upwards. The broadband network will have a 100 mbps or higher access bandwidth — almost all user institutions, therefore, will have to upgrade their networks to be able to cater to these speeds. While several institutions may already have an advanced network, a large number of institutes will need to upgrade their infrastructure on campus.

“The experimental stage has been slowly expanding in the last few months. We have so far connected 60 institutes including all the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) including the new ones, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, atomic energy labs and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. We are hoping to put the entire network in place by March 2011,” confirmed an IIT Madras professor, who is a network expert, involved in the process.

The NKN will have about 25 core Point of Presence (PoPs) and 600 secondary PoPs. It will connect around 1500 institutions. Setting up of core network is expected to be completed in a span of 24 months. This network facility will enable country-wide class rooms to be conducted. This will be especially useful where there is a severe shortage of trained faculty. A lecture by a professor in one IIT institute can be attended to by all institutions connected to this network. The network is expected to encourage sharing of knowledge, specialised resources and collaborative research.

In addition, there will be a one-time capital investment to upgrade the local area networks (LANs) of these institutions to a 100 mbps capability. The NKC also planned to create virtual classrooms through this linking of universities and educational institutions. It is focused on five critical areas of knowledge related to access, concepts, creation, applications and services.

This includes a variety of subject areas such as languages, translations, libraries, networks, portals, affirmative action, distance learning, intellectual property, entrepreneurship, application in agriculture, health, small- and medium-scale industries and e-governance. Once the linking of the colleges is successful, NKC had suggested to extend the concept to schools too. Health, education, grid computing, agriculture and e-governance are the main applications identified for implementation and delivery on NKN.

Source: Business Standard, March 29, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

IIM-A to explore global tie-ups for doctoral programme

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), is mulling international collaborations for its Fellow Programme in Management (FPM). Speaking at the institute’s 45th convocation, Samir Barua, Director of IIM-A, said, “The doctoral programme of the institute, the FPM, will set a record this year by graduating the largest batch of students in the history of the programme. The institute has received proposals from foreign academic institutions for cross-border collaboration with their doctoral programmes. This possibility will be explored going forward.”

IIM-A is also planning to take up its executive education programmes outside the country. “The institute offered about 130 management education programmes, training over 3,500 participants from a diverse set of organisations. The institute is attempting to expand its global foot-print through offering executive education programmes outside India,” said Barua.

A total of 424 graduating students from IIM-A’s post graduate and fellow programmes received diploma/title at the convocation. Meanwhile, the chief guest, C. Rangarajan, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, said, “While food prices will improve after the rabi harvest, the overall inflation will remain high for the next two months. I don't think the growth story will be seriously affected. The economy will pick up and I expect it to grow by 8-8.5 per cent.”

Source: Business Standard, March 28, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scholarship for south Indians at Cambridge

The signing ceremony for a new long-term endowment, Pemanda Monappa Scholarship, which will guarantee one fully paid annual scholarship for south Indian students to pursue post-graduate studies at Cambridge University, was held at the British Council on March 25, 2010 at Chennai. Speaking at the function, Editor of The Hindu N. Ravi referred to the “long and glorious connection” between India and Cambridge University, an institution which has so far produced three Indian Prime Ministers, including Manmohan Singh. Mr. Ravi added that it would no longer have to be the case that "only those from the most privileged backgrounds in south India" could afford to study at one of the world's greatest universities.

The generosity of the endowment, said Michael O'Sullivan, Director of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, would ensure the long-term future of the scholarship. He hoped that it would “change the life of someone who will change the lives of others''. British Deputy High Commissioner Mike Nithavrianakis said that he fully supported the new programme, and praised the attitude of Indian students for placing so much importance on their education.

President of the Association of British Scholars and former bureaucrat P. M. Belliappa is responsible for establishing the new scholarship in the name of his father, Pemanda Monappa, a highly decorated police officer who served in all the four southern States. Mr. Belliappa expressed his support for the increased internationalisation of higher education and a hope that the new scholarship, in time, "would produce another Manmohan Singh''.

Source: The Hindu, March 26, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

IIM Rohtak plans tie-up with Indiana University B-school

The upcoming Indian Institute of Management (IIM) at Rohtak in Haryana, which will begin its first session this year, plans to tie up with US-based Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “The Kelley School is partnering with IIM Rohtak (IIM-R) and its dean has already visited the site. This would be a strategic partnership for student and faculty exchange, joint curriculum designing and research. It would be a partnership on the same lines as IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has with Harvard University,” said Deepender Hooda, MP from Rohtak, and son of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Incidentally, Deepender himself graduated from Kelley.

IIM Lucknow (IIM-L), which is mentoring IIM-R, has confirmed that the first semester classes will begin from July and end in September. “Kelley school’s dean visited Rohtak and talks are on. But all of this will happen once a full-time director and faculty are in place. However, on an immediate basis, we have to start with the programme and other short courses,” corroborated IIM-L Director Devi Singh.

In August last year, the government approved setting up four IIMs at Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Raipur (Chhattishargh) and Rohtak (Haryana) in 2009-10, which would become functional from the academic session 2010-11. The Post-Graduate Programme (PGP) in Management would be the flagship programme with an intake of 140 students though in the first year several executive programmes including those in the public policy domain focusing on civic and municipal services would be started. The projected Eleventh Five Year Plan outlay for each of the four IIMs to be established during 2009-10 is Rs. 166 crore. In the second phase, the rest of three IIMs are to be set up in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan in 2010-11. The intake of students would be 560 per year after the second phase.

Singh said the Kelley School had shown interest and a dialogue between the directors was on. The construction of the 170-acre IIM-R campus is on, but for the time being, classes will be held in Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, according to a memorandum of understanding signed between the two institutes.

Source: Business Standard, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Columbia University to set up research hub in Mumbai

Mumbai will soon have a high-tech research centre, and it will be set up by the world-renowned Columbia University from New York. To be operational from August, the centre will house faculty and students who will work on projects related to sustainable development, energy, climate change, education, water and health among others. The Mumbai centre will explore possible collaborations on research projects with city institutes like IIT Bombay and the Mumbai University. “We already have university-wide research centres in Beijing, Amman (in Jordan), and Paris, and this will be our fourth,” said Nirupam Bajpai, senior development advisor at Columbia’s Earth Institute. He will direct the Mumbai global centre, which was formally launched on March 22, 2010.

For those interested in policy-related matters, health, agriculture, etc., the centre proposes to offer lecture series. “Our faculty can put together lecture series for academicians, members of the Parliament, civil servants and others on issues of global strategy, water management and education where India is grappling to find solutions,” he said.

The centre will, however, not offer any courses, nor will it grant any degrees. Though some US universities have built branch campuses and degree-granting schools abroad, Columbia wants to take a different direction with the global centres. They are meant to act as flexible regional hubs for various activities and resources meant to enhance quality of research and learning. “We’re not thinking of bringing a full-fledged campus here now. We won’t be able to do justice to it. Also, getting faculty will be a challenge,” said Bajpai.

Source: DNA, March 23, 2010

IT companies hire non-techies, cut costs

New frontiers are being explored and barriers broken. The information technology space is opening up for non-engineers, even as IT graduates find a new calling in the lucrative pharma and biotech industries. When Ishwar Prasad graduated from a Mysore college two years ago with specialisation in commerce, a career with one of Indias top three technology firms was nowhere on the agenda. However, Prasad went on to do a six-month diploma in computer hardware management last year and is now helping some of the leading telecom companies in the world manage their computer desktops and other infrastructure, from a remote infrastructure management centre at the tech firm. As tech firms automate their commoditised service offerings, they do not necessarily need engineers to perform all tasks. Instead, they are increasingly hiring non-engineering graduates such as Prasad for testing software applications and managing computer infrastructure of their clients in order to do more with fewer staff and at lower wages than computer engineers.

From nearly 10% of their current workforce, non-engineering graduates could account for nearly 20-25 % of the staff at companies such as TCS, Wipro and HCL, over the next one to two years. Multinational rival Cognizant already has almost 20% of its global workforce who are nonengineering graduates. Prasad is among thousands of non-engineering graduates being hired by companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, HCL and Infosys for performing highly automated tasks of software testing and computer infrastructure management with the help of user-friendly, readymade platforms that can serve multiple customers. In my hometown, working for Infosys or Wipro makes parents proud. I could have never got into such companies with a commerce degree, but now many of my relatives think I have made it big and become a software engineer, says the 27-year-old. Companies such as Wipro are already readying their strategies for shifting nearly 40% of software services to readymade templates that can serve additional customers without having to hire incremental staff.

The prime impact of these delivery models is the asset-based view as opposed to a labourbased one, that is, less number of people for the same work and an increase in operating margins per employee, while simultaneously reducing capital expenditure for their clients. The impact on employee mix (those with a BE degree vis-a-vis non-BEs) will be there but will not be applicable for all technologies and domain areas, said Saurabh Govil, Senior Vice President HR, Wipro Technologies.

For years, India's $50-billion software exports industry has been hiring thousands of engineering graduates every year for writing software codes and processing back office tasks for top customers such as General Electric, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase. However, increasing wage inflation and rising attrition has forced them to seek ways to arrest linear growth. The skill mix today is different from a few years ago because of a fundamental shift in sourcing behaviour customers sourcing a broader range of services, including BPO/KPO, testing and IT Infrastructure Services (ITIS), said Shankar Srinivasan, Chief People Officer, Cognizant. While for the generic skill sets we hire graduates in science, humanities and commerce, for specialised areas we hire chartered accountants, statisticians, equity research analysts, lawyers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists and so on, he added.

If we are able to move a substantial chunk of our business to platform-based models that can be operated by non-engineering graduates with some familiarisation, we can lower our salary costs and even balance attrition, said the chief executive of one of the top Indian tech firms,requesting anonymity. Indeed, most of the entry-level computer science graduates are paid anywhere between Rs. 200,000 and Rs. 500,000 per annum by these software companies when they join, and with wage inflation of around 10% every year, the salary costs keep going up. If we can have 20-30% of our workforce from different backgrounds, it will help balance the equation and force traditional software engineers to think beyond pure code writing roles, the chief executive quoted earlier added.

Already, with companies moving to performance-linked billing models, wherein they are paid based on business results achieved and not on the effort put in, there is a need for software engineers to graduate to the next level. Clearly, India's code-jockeys need to evolve and manage more complex, closely linked with business kind of roles. People skills are always core in our business but the platform will automate mundane/repetitive tasks and provide workflow automation which will free up the engineers to focus on higher-end value addition work, says Piyush Dutt, Associate Vice President & Head-HR, HCL Technologies infrastructure services division.

Source: The Economic Times, March 19, 2010

Bill to allow foreign varsities faces opposition from Congress; No opposition to bill, says Kapil Sibal

The Centre's hopes for a smooth passage for the foreign educational institution bill may be dashed, with a section of Congress expressing views similar to BJP and Left. Though questions on the desirability of allowing foreign education providers to set up base in India was raised by some ministers, the Cabinet gave its approval to the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation ) Bill recently. The Left had opposed the bill when UPA-I had tried to introduce it in Parliament. This time around, BJP has flagged off the complete autonomy that the bill gives to foreign institutions in matters of admission policy and the amount of fees that can be charged. Within Congress too these issues have been raised. Quite clearly when it comes to entry of foreign universities into India, a section of Congress considers objections raised both by Left and BJP as constructive.

Education is not a simple matter, decisions made today impact generations to come. If questions are being asked whether by Opposition or others, these should be welcome, a senior Congress leader said. Within the party questions are being asked about why the government is allowing foreign educational institutions to set up campus in the country when Indian institutions would not be permitted to set up base by these countries. Concerns have also been flagged off about the nature of courses that would be taught in these foreign universities. There are some who feel that these might not be in keeping with national interests or priorities.

The main causes of opposition to the bill within Congress is the lack of any regulation on the admission process and the level of fees that can be charged. Additionally, there is objection to the fact that these institutions will not be required to make provisions for reservations. While the charge is being led by Kapil Sibal baiters, the concerns raised will find traction among others in Congress as well. Mr. Sibal,who has described the approval given by the Cabinet to the bill as a milestone, has also come in for criticism from his party colleagues for indulging in piecemeal efforts. If reforms in education have to be undertaken, then they should be done with all seriousness. It should be the outcome of a process of consultation with all sections and stakeholders,not piecemeal efforts made after consulting a few, a Congress leader said. This is not the first time that Mr Sibal has been the subject of intense criticism in the party. Mr Sibal's announcement of abolishing Class X board examination too came for intense criticism from the party for the hastiness the minister had showed.

No opposition in party to foreign varsities bill: Sibal
HRD minister Kapil Sibal scorched all talk of opposition within Congress on allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in the country. Mr Sibal said that the idea of a legislative framework to allow foreign education institutions in India was part of the Presidents address to Parliament. "There is no opposition to the bill. This is something in national interest. The Foreign Education Bill is part of the President's address in Parliament," the minister said.
Though the Cabinet gave its approval to the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, last week, there has been some cause of concern about the bills provision which allows foreign education institutions to have their own admission process and fix fees. Mr Sibal argued that the law of the land applicable to private institutions would be applicable to foreign universities aspiring to set up campuses in India. At present, the fee for private engineering and medical colleges is fixed by a state level committee headed by a private judge. There is no mechanism to finalise the fee structure in private universities.

Mr Sibal said that foreign education providers will neither be discriminated against nor will be shown any favour. Confident that the government will be able to convince the opposition parties, the minister said, we are trying to go to a regulated regime from a deregulated regime on foreign universities. The foreign institutions will come through registration. As for the Left, which had prevented UPA-I from introducing the bill in Parliament, Mr Sibal said, the Left is already left out.

The government plans to introduce this bill in the current session of Parliament after it convenes following the recess. It will be introduced along with three other bills that were approved by Cabinet on Friday. Among these bills is the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010. This legislation lists out 25 unfair practices, including charging capitation fees, which will attract both civil and criminal action. Capitation fee charged by any institute will be a cognisable offence. People will be prosecuted without fear and favour, Mr Sibal said. The two other legislation are the National Education Tribunals Bill and the National Authority for Regulation in Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions Bill.

The National Education Tribunal Bill proposes to set up a two-tier grievance redressal system. Disputes pertaining to accreditation, affiliation and inter-institution matters will be adjudicated by the tribunals. The tribunal at the national level will comprise nine members. The tribunals will act as forums for fast-track and speedy resolution of issues in institutions. The state tribunals will adjudicate matters concerning teachers, employees and students of institutions in the respective states. The national tribunal would deal with all matters concerning regulatory bodies in higher education and also matters involving institutes located in two or more states. It would act as an appellate body against the orders of the state educational tribunals.

Source: The Economic Times, March 19 & 20, 2010

Foreign Universities Bill - A Boon or Bane

The Union Cabinet recently cleared a bill that will enable Foreign Universities set up campuses in India. Any change in any existing system in India starts drawing unnecessary controversies even before it really takes place. The Foreign Universities Bill has also started on the same footings. While reporting for the Foreign Universities Bill, most of the media reports have started raising issues of shortage of faculty and poaching of academicians etc. We all know that more than 100,000 Indian students go out every year for higher education from India. Most of these students go out of the country to pursue their higher studies because of lack of facilities for quality education in the country. This also costs a huge foreign exchange outgo to the exchequer.

Till the BSNL-MTNL era, the Indian telecom sector had similar apprehensions and we could have never expected the level of telecom services if the same was not opened to private sector competition. The aviation sector also saw similar changes after it was opened to the private sector ending the Indian Airlines, Air India monopoly. The Indian educational sector is bound to reap more benefits in the days to come by the step of allowing the foreign universities to setup campuses in the country. Higher demand for quality academicians will only attract more aspirants towards this opportunity and is bound to bring in qualitative changes in the educational system of India.

While many other civil services offer better perks than academics, the real mentors of the country, that is, the academicians rank poorly on this count as well. Even on the global scenario, the Indian academicians are paid as low as nearly one-third than the advanced countries. Mr. Kapil Sibal deserves all kudos for pushing through this bill which will bring out all qualitative changes in the educational system of the country.

India will also have the opportunity of attracting students from other countries for pursuing education at lower costs as Indian will always have the advantage of lower infrastructure cost. India has already proved its competence in the global software industry. The software industry in India could thrive only because of availability of quality manpower and lower infrastructure costs.

The educational sector is also a very similar sector which is based on the same two components i.e. quality manpower and infrastructure and India certainly has an edge over many other countries in availability of both these components. The India-based online tutoring of students to many countries like USA, UK and Canada etc. clearly shows that India does not have any dearth of quality English-speaking manpower.

Source: IndiaEduNews

India gets $1 billion from World Bank to improve education

The World Bank has approved two education projects worth $1.05 billion for India, designed to boost the number of children enrolling in and completing elementary school, and to improve the quality of engineering education across the country. India has made significant progress in meeting its education goals, especially at the primary level, the bank said announcing additional support for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a nationwide programme aimed at providing quality elementary education to all children. The bank has supported the SSA with two IDA credits totaling $1.1 billion since 2003.

"SSA - the largest ongoing Education for All (EFA) programme in the world - has been remarkably successful, particularly in achieving greater access to elementary education," said Roberto Zagha, the World Bank Country Director for India. Between 2003 and 2009 the number of children reportedly enrolled in elementary education in India increased by 57 million to 192 million. More than two-thirds of this increase took place in government schools. "The number of children out of school declined from 25 million to 8.1 million during that same period, a truly remarkable achievement." The $750 million in additional financing for the Second Elementary Education Project will enable SSA to expand activities related to increased access at upper primary level (grades 5-8), increase elementary level completion rates, and improve learning outcomes for the full elementary cycle (grades 1-8).

The $300 million for the second Technical Engineering Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP) will support some 200 competitively selected engineering education institutions to produce higher quality and more employable engineers. It will also scale up post-graduate education, research, development and innovation at these institutions, the bank said. This is the second phase of TEQIP, an envisioned 15-year phased programme initiated with the first phase from 2002 to 2009.

The project builds on the significant results achieved in the first phase of the project which supported 127 institutions and thousands of faculty members in well performing institutions such as National Institute of Technology (NIT) Rourkela, the College of Engineering Pune, the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU) Hyderabad, and Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra.

South Asian representatives meet for educational development

Bringing together the parliamentarians from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka for a conference on education - organized by UNESCO at New Delhi in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), the World Bank, UNDP, and UNICEF is to be held on March 24 and 25, 2010 with the HRD minister Kapil Sibal, inaugurating the event. As part of a more synergetic approach towards educational development, this conference aims to strengthen cooperation between UNESCO, the parliamentarians and other partners in South Asia, to create a broader and sounder platform for educational development in the region. This would provide the parliamentarians with the space to generate awareness on the challenges facing educational development and highlight policies and strategies needed to expand the scope of education in the region, in terms of both accessibility and quality.

'Education for all' (EFA), as an international development goal, requires a collective approach, and the political commitment and backing of the parliamentarians in these countries would be a significant step towards making EFA a reality for the developing world. Representatives from these countries will discuss the situation of education in their own country and are expected to develop a collaborative approach towards consolidating a stronger, informed, and more interactive role for the parliamentarians in educational development.

Canadian universities line up for India

Many Canadian universities and colleges are likely to enter India after the Indian parliament passes a bill to allow foreign educational institutions to set up independent campuses in the country. Currently, universities and colleges from Canada and the US run 26 collaborative projects in India with local universities and colleges. 'The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the Canada-India Business council and we have been lobbying Canadian universities to open campuses in India,' Husain Neemuchwala of the Canada-India Business Council education committee told IANS, labelling the proposed bill a 'welcome step'.

The Indian cabinet in March cleared a proposal to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India, a step that is expected to provide quality education in the country and reduce the flow of Indian students abroad. 'This is a milestone, which will enhance choices, increase competition, and benchmark quality,' Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Because of visa and other problems, less than 4,000 Indian students come to Canadian universities and colleges each year, as compared to 80,000 going to the US, 50,000 to Britain, and 40,000 to Australia. 'The Indian bill solves all these problems. Now Canadian universities will go there and impart world-class education. All visa hassles will be over for Indian students,' said Husain who was part of an education mission by the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce to India last month.

Quite a few Canadian universities already run programmes in India. Among these, Toronto-based York University is the coordinating institution for education linkages and exchange programmes with various Indian institutions. 'York has just started its prestigious Schulich MBA programme in India in collaboration with the S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai. Under this programme, students will complete the first year in Mumbai and then come to Toronto to complete the second year. So Indian students will have the best of both the worlds,' said Husain who also heads the Toronto-based International Centre for Education.

Apart from going to India with ministerial delegations and educational missions, presidents of many Canadian universities have undertaken independent trips to India to sign exchange agreements with universities and research institutions. Roseann O'Reilly Runte, president and vice-chancellor of Carleton University, was in India last week to seek support for its Centre of Excellence for Indo-Canadian Relations. 'As India continues to be a significant player on the world stage, it will become more important to develop greater expertise in the Canada-India relationship,' she said during her India trip. Well-known Canadian colleges such as Sheridan, Pickering and Quest here are also eager to forge ties with India through collaboration and campuses.

Source: The Pioneer, March 23, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Open to partner in education sector: UB Group CEO

After liquor, airlines, Formula 1 racing and cricket's Indian Premier League, UB Group Chief Vijay Mallya says his group is open to the idea of testing waters in higher education and perhaps join hands with Transport Minister Kamal Nath's Institute of Management Technology (IMT). IMT, where Nath is the president, is currently on an expansion mode and is planning a new campus in Hyderabad by 2011. At present, it has two centres at Ghaziabad and Nagpur, besides one overseas campus in Dubai. "If there is an opportunity, I would love to discuss with (IMT), because I truly believe in it...I genuinely believe that this (education sector) is the future (of India)," UB Group Chairman Vijay Mallya told PTI when asked if he would tie up with IMT in its expansion drive.

He, however, declined to discuss details but said: "Over a period of time, education is the only way for the country to realise its full potential. I am delighted to know that IMT is going to Hyderabad. I encourage them to do even more. The quality, standards, the teaching standards -- they have to be maintained obviously". Talking about IMT's expansion plans, Nath said: "We will open one more institute in Hyderabad. The question is not only about opening one more institute, its about imparting quality and people should get the benefit out of it." He said the upcoming centre will start its academic session from 2011 and will accommodate 360-400 students. Asked about the investment for setting up the Hyderabad campus, Nath declined to comment and said, "It comes from sources generated from IMT."

Source: Business Standard, March 22, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yale offers to mentor 14 'innovation universities'

Yale University is in talks with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to develop leadership programmes to mentor the 14 “innovation universities” the government is planning to set up. The “innovation universities” are part of the MHRD’s “brain gain” policy to attract global talent. Fourteen such institutions are to be set up under the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12). Several other leading foreign universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have also expressed an interest in mentoring these institutions. An official confirmed the ministry met these institutes almost two weeks ago to discuss these plans.

Yale’s talks with the MHRD involve mentoring all 14 universities through its leadership programme. Since none of these universities have been built, the Ivy League university’s role is to act as consultant and conceptualiser. “Minister Sibal has agreed to work with us on the new innovation universities for references and conceptualising. We will be developing leadership programmes for the deans and vice chancellors of these universities,” said George Joseph, assistant secretary, Yale University. “We don’t plan to set up an India campus anytime soon because there is no way to replicate Yale’s experience anywhere in the world but we would like to mentor the new innovation universities just like the Indian Institutes of Technology were mentored when they were established,” he added.

Each “innovation university” is expected to focus on one area or problem of significance to India, such as urbanisation, environmental sustainability and public health. MIT has expressed interest in mentoring one university that is focused on the energy sector. "Though MIT's proposal is still under discussion, the university has shown keen interest in this,” a ministry official confirmed.

Meanwhile, Yale also plans to use part of the funds from its Yale India initiative for the leadership programme for these new universities. The initiative began in November 2008 and now has almost $75 million (Rs. 338 crore). “In the next phase of the initiative, we will raise funds for research,” Joseph added.

Source: Business Standard, March 22, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cabinet gives nod for foreign universities' campuses in India

The Union Cabinet today approved a bill to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India and offer degrees. The Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, was cleared by the Union Cabinet presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This paves way for its introduction in Parliament. "This is a milestone which will enhance choices, increase competition and benchmark quality," HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said after the approval of the bill by Cabinet. The bill seeks to regulate the entry and operation of foreign institutions, which will set up centre and offer degrees in India. This bill was hanging fire for over last four years owing to opposition from various quarters, including the Left parties, over certain provisions. Last year, it was referred to a Committee of Secretaries which brought modifications to certain provisions earlier existed. The bill was approved by the Cabinet without any change.

The proposed law prescribes eight-month time bound format for granting approval to foreign educational institutions to set up campuses. They will go through different levels of registration process during this period and will be finally registered with UGC or any other regulatory body in place. The regulatory body in higher education, either UGC or any other body that would replace UGC, will scrutinise the proposals of aspiring institution as per India's priorities and advice government whether to allow the institute operate in India. HRD Minister Sibal has already assured that quota laws will not be applicable to foreign universities setting up campuses in India.

Though 100 per cent foreign direct investment through automatic route is permitted in the education sector since 2000, the present legal structure in India does not allow granting of degrees by foreign educational institutions here. The proposed law would facilitate the globally- renowned institutes to participate in India's higher education sector. It will bring in foreign education providers for vocational education training also.

The foreign education providers bill is one of the major reforms bills of the HRD Ministry. A revolution larger than the one in the telecom sector awaits the education sector, Sibal said. Three other reforms bills, which were slated to be taken up in the Cabinet, were deferred to the next meeting. These are -- Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, Educational Tribunal Bill and Accreditation Bill. A Group of Ministers (GoM) has already cleared these three reforms bills.

It needs to be noted that a foreign university aspiring to set up a campus in India will have to deposit Rs. 50 crore as corpus fund and cannot take back the surplus generated from education activities here. These tough conditions are part of a Bill approved by the Union Cabinet today to allow entry and operation of foreign education providers in India. The Bill also has a provision under which the government can reject an application of a university if it feels that venture will have an adverse impact on national security. In addition, provisions of Section 25 of the Companies Act will be applicable for the foreign institutes. Under this provision, such entities cannot take the profit back but will have to spend the amount for further expansion of the institutions here. The saving grace is that the foreign education providers can involve in other activities like consultancy projects and the profit generated from those projects can be taken back by them.

The Cabinet passed the Bill at a time when two major global institutions, Duke University from the U.S. and Imperial College, London, have evinced interest to set up full-fledged campuses in India and are waiting for the passage of the Bill in Parliament.

The Cabinet nod to the long-pending bill means a lot for foreign universities and may lead to an increase of in the corporate sector entering the higher education sector. It is estimated that approval for up to 200 foreign universities is pending with the Government. The universities include Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia University. The Human Resource Development Ministry will decide on the roadmap within this month. Up to 20 universities are likely to be given clearance in the first round. Entry is likely to be through tie-ups with premier Indian institutions. The entry of foreign universities is also possible through tie-ups with Indian companies as Reliance Industries, AB Nuvo, and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group have been eyeing the higher education space for quite some time now.

More deemed varsities under scanner; IISc & JNCASR rated high

Four private deemed universities located in Karnataka state have now been put under the scanner for not maintaining the required standards even as six other institutions are set to lose their deemed university status subject to the order of the Supreme Court. Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhan Samsthana (SVYAS), Bangalore; KLE Academy of Higher Education and Research, Belgaum; Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshara University, Mysore; and Nitte University, Mangalore, have now been put in the “Category-II” for monitoring their standard. These four institutions are among the 44 deemed universities that need to take a series of corrective steps for retaining their deemed university status in the next three years.

The report of the Tandon Committee that reviewed the deemed universities, details of which have now been made public, has pointed out several deficiencies in these four universities while recommending to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to give a three-year deadline for these institutions to raise their standards to the required levels. Meanwhile, of the 11 private deemed universities in Karnataka, the Committee has found that only Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal, had satisfied the criteria to be granted for the deemed to be universities.

The Tandon Committee has highly rated the Bangalore-based public deemed universities such as Indian Institute of Science (IISc); National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS); Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR); and Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT).

Already, the MHRD has decided to de-recognise 44 other deemed universities across the country, including six in the state of Karnataka. As per the report, except MAHE, Nitte University and SVYAS, all other eight private deemed universities could have carried out their academic activities without being a deemed university as that status did not become a stimulus for them to better performance. All these six deemed universities shortlisted for de-recognition have received low rating for the activities in the areas of research output and its impact, doctoral and other research programs and quality of and innovations in teaching-learning process as they failed to fulfil the requirements in this regard as per the UGC Guidelines-2000.

Source: The Hindu, March 15, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Union cabinet to consider foreign varsities bill today

The Union Cabinet is likely to take up five educations bills, including the long-awaited legislation allowing for foreign education providers to operate in India, for consideration today. Besides the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Act, the Cabinet is expected to take up for approval the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, The National Education Tribunals Bill, and the National Authority for Regulation in Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions Bill. These bills form the basis of the governments higher education reform agenda.

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 UPA-1 on account of objections from the Left. Forced to go back to the drawing board, UPA-II has made some changes to the original legislation. These were worked on and put in place by a committee of secretaries late last year. There were one or two issues on which the Cabinet would have to take the final call, but these are not contentious issues any more.

The bill provides for an eight month time-bound format for granting an institute approval to set up a centre in India through three levels first from the registrar where the application is first filed. Then from the higher education commission which will advise the Centre and then the Centre will take a final call to grant or withhold the approval. In the event an application is rejected, the Centre will have to inform the concerned foreign education institution the reasons for rejection within 30 days of the advice being received from the commission.

Institutes will have to adhere to full disclosure of all components of fee and deposits, the number of seats available, admission process, details of teaching faculty, including their educational qualifications, teaching experience and pay categories, details of the institutes physical and academic infrastructure, broad outlines of the syllabus, and teaching hours.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

IIM course for bureaucrats put on hold

Premier B-school Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) announced yesterday (March 6) that it will not be announcing admissions to Post Graduate Programme in Public Management and Policy (PGP-PMP), primarily designed and offered to Group 'A' service civil servants in India. The one-year PGP-PMP programme offered at IIM-A since 2007 was especially designed for honing the skills of bureaucrats and fee of participants was partly funded by government's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

"The PGP-PMP course is under review at IIM-A and we shall not be announcing any admission to this course which is usually done in April," Manager of Global Partnership and Corporate Affairs at IIM-A Ishita Solanki said. "Review of course fee structure could be one of the reasons behind putting it on hold," sources at IIM-A said. "The fee for PGP-PMP was revised to Rs. 20 lakh for those enrolling in batch 2009-10 against Rs. 8 lakh offered to government-sponsored candidates in 2007," sources said.

"The course has been discontinued this year because the three-year MoU signed with DoPT in 2007 lapsed in 2009-10 and it could not be renewed due to bleak response from the government," a professor at IIM-A said.

Source: www.ndtv.com

Government may allow IITs to go global

The premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have got it and another premier chain of institutions - the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) may get it. The IIMs received the clearance to set shop overseas and sources say that IITs may follow their lead if the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has its way. The MHRD wants to take the IIT to a global level and establish themselves as a global brand. So far they have along with the IIT senior officials drafted a proposal and will be looking at submitting it to the cabinet as soon as it is completed. They are in advanced stages of finishing the proposal and will submit it to the cabinet.

So far the plan is that they will target about five prime countries and establish themselves in those countries initially. The initial plan may be to establish joint ventures identifying prime institutions and then look at going independent completely. IIMs have also got a clearance earlier to establish themselves in foreign countries back in October 2009 and that very proposal had taken about two years to get completed. So it will take some time till finally the cabinet approves the HRD ministry's proposal.

Source: www.moneycontrol.com

Capital market courses attract younger generation

The young generation is all out to make its fortunes in the capital market. Unlike their elderly family members who occasionally dabbled in the stock market for some extra income, Gen Y is seeking its pot of gold by way of a career in the stock market. This is evident from the renewed interest in vocational courses specialising in the capital market and investments. About 23,000 candidates appeared for online certificate programmes conducted by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) between April and December 2009. The National Stock Exchange (NSE), too, logged similar numbers for its capital markets and derivatives certificate programmes. The entry-level 3-month certificate programme on capital markets conducted by BSE has been logging 60-70 students per batch (six times in a year) over the past one year. If one goes by MF course trainers' estimates, over 11,000 candidates have appeared for the AMFI mutual fund advisory module certificate over the past 10 months. Educational institutions like National Institute of Securities Market (NISM), Financial Technologies Knowledge Management Centre (FTKMC) and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) are also seeing a significant rise in the number of applicants for its capital market courses.

Increasing number of students are going in for core finance courses. While we have a good line of CEO and top-level executives attending specialised course modules, the new entry-level PG Diploma in Financial Market Practice course with IGNOU has already attracted a few hundred students, said Bandi Ram Prasad, President, FTKMC. Capital markets courses can be broadly classified into three parts. The first part could be certificate modules conducted by mainly exchanges and regulatory bodies like AMFI; professionals like dealers, derivatives traders and MF advisors mandatorily need to pass certificate courses in their core work areas. These courses keep them updated. The second part could be basic capital markets courses by exchanges for anybody (mostly fresh graduates) wanting to get a first-hand market idea. The third part could be professional courses imparted by educational institutions, targeting graduates with minor work experience. Investment strategies, analytics, risk management, portfolio management and product development are some of the key modules in professional capital markets degree courses.
We have received about 7,000 applications (for 30 seats) this year for our MBA programme in capital markets, said Anupam Rastogi, Chairman, NMAT Admissions Committee. Till 2007, our major recruiters were investment banks. During recession and after that period, our students are being recruited in larger numbers by brokers and fund houses, Mr Rastogi added. Echoing Mr Rastogi, MT Raju of NISM said: Interest in capital market programmes had declined, when the market was on a downtrend in 2008. The trend is reversing now. Similar is the case with respect to jobs, when the market is trading higher, all market intermediaries recruit students. Recruitment also hit a slump when the market decline over a longer period, Mr Raju added.

According to HR head-hunters, though a professional degree sounds fancy, companies still prefer CAs or MBAs from good institutions. A degree will not really get rank freshers a good finance job. A capital markets-focused degree will look good only if the person has 3-4 years of work experience. A plain management degree from a quality institute is good enough to land in a decent job, said Gaurav Kumar, Director, Intellectual Capital. At the entry level, an MBA-Finance fresher (or a CA) from an A-grade institute could land a job that pays about Rs. 6-10 lakh annually. Management graduates from B or C grade institutes (with or without capital market specialisation) could get jobs with an annual package of Rs. 3-4 lakh. Graduates can get jobs with an annual package of Rs. 2-3 lakh.

Source: The Economic Times, March 5, 2010 (Reported by Shailesh Menon)

Saturday, March 06, 2010

No end to CAT trouble

The trouble with the Common Admission Test (CAT) refuses to die down. Ever since CAT results were declared on February 28, and the IIMs shortlisted the aspirants, several candidates and CAT trainers are questioning the methodology by which the results were arrived at. The candidates allege inconsistency in section-wise marking system adopted by the testing and assessment service provider, Prometric that conducted the test on behalf of the IIMs. If inconsistency in the scores was not enough, names went missing from the list of the test takers. Chintan Gala, a Mumbai-based student, told ET that his name was missing from the list of candidates who appeared for the test. Gala says when CAT developed snags, he was given the option of re-appearing. However, he refused saying that he successfully completed the test. He was in for a shock when his name was not in the list. I immediately got in touch with Prometric, but in response they told that it was my fault and that a re-test was mandatory. Gala will now take a legal recourse.

Students, who scored much lower than expected in individual sections, claimed the answer keys to some questions were incorrect. Ironically, many of these students, despite scoring high, scored poorly in certain sections, thus reducing their chance of call from even the second rung B-schools, let alone the IIMs. I scored way less in verbal (one of the three sections) than what I had expected. My scores in other two sections are good and my overall CAT score is also not bad, said Abhinandan Goyal, a candidate. An ET mail sent to the managing director of Prometric India did not elicit a response.

From the analysis of the results of at least 400 candidates that we have access to, one can say that the results do not justify their potential. While in some slots the percentile is as high as 99, in others it is as low as 25. The trend clearly establishes that the slotwise marking has been unfair, said Vivek Tuteja, CEO of Endeavour, an Ahmedabad-based management coaching institute. CAT has three sections, including verbal ability, quantitative ability, and data interpretation and logical reasoning, and along with the overall percentile, the IIMs and other B-schools consider individual section-wise cut-off for shortlisting candidates.

Source: The Economic Times, March 6, 2010 (Reported by Dibyajyoti Chatterjee & Kumar Anand)

Finance body planned to fund education projects

The government on proposes to set up a National Education Finance Corporation (NEFC) to finance entities interested in setting up educational institutions on easier terms and conditions. Replying to questions in the Rajya Sabha, human resources development minister Kapil Sibal said NEFC will provide loans for infrastructure development and expansion of education institutions as well as for refinance facility for student loans. We are talking to the planning commission for it as it is just a proposal as of now. If NEFC is established, private, aided and government institutions will have access to it for finance on the pattern of soft loans or at priority sector lending rate, that are not available to the sector at present, Sibal said.

IIT revamp caught in web of panels

Reforms at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are caught in a web of committees. Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has formed a series of committees, but none is functional. In October 2009, Sibal called a meeting of the IIT Council -- the highest decision-making body -- and announced committees to look into various aspects of the IITs. A committee was formed to recommend the new cutoff for the IIT entrance exam and pro- pose new curricula. The committee is yet to meet.

The panel, comprising the Secretary of Science & Technology, Secretary of Biotechnology and the Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was to submit its report in three months. It was also supposed to suggest reforms in the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). Most of the recommendations for reform by two earlier exam reform panels still lie unimplemented. For instance, a panel to explore JEE reforms was set up in 2008 under V.G. Idichandy, IIT-Madras Deputy Director. Idichandy has given it as his personal opinion that the JEE should be scrapped and only school marks taken into account. The Council formed a second, five-member panel under former Atomic Energy chief Anil Kakodkar to outline a vision for the future of the IITs. The team is expected to submit the draft in six months. Four months on, the panel has not even met.

The reform process at the IITs, both for the JEE and the selection procedure, needs urgent change following an RTI exposure of the faulty selection in previous JEEs. The RTI plea, filed by IIT Kharagpur professor Rajeev Kumar, revealed that 994 candidates, who were denied admission in 2006, might have made it if the IITs had followed their stated method of determining subject cut-offs. The IITs have since revised their cut-off formula thrice but demands for a more transparent selection process persist.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 6, 2010

PG seats in medicine increased to 3,791

In a bid to address the growing shortage of doctors in India, the Centre has okayed an additional 3,791 post-graduate (PG) seats in medical colleges from the coming academic year. India needs at least 50,000 medical graduates and 18,000 post-graduates every year to meet the health needs of its 1.17 billion people. But it has only 35,202 medical college seats at the graduate level and 13,503 at the PG level. Currently, it has one doctor for every 2,800 people, while the recommended ratio of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is one doctor for every 1,500 people.

Graduate level seats, however, can't be increased until there are enough post-graduates and specialists to teach the doctors of tomorrow. With this decision, the number of PG seats goes up to 17,294. "An increase in the number of PG doctors will have a multiplier effect and increase the number of teachers. Once we have more PG specialists to teach medical students, MBBS seats can be rapidly expanded," said Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
These PG seats will be in addition to the 188 PG seats at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and another 220 at PGI Chandigarh, which are earmarked separately.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) regulates 300 medical colleges in India, of which the government runs 143. "A programme for the upgradation of state government medical colleges though central assistance of Rs. 1,350 crore (Rs. 13.5 billion) has also been approved," said Azad.

"Changing the professor-student ratio from 1:1 to 1: 2 has added 2,723 seats because one professor can now guide two post-graduate students," said Dr. Ketan Desai, President, MCI. Also adding to the number was the rationalization of a section in the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Act, under which any institution ­ government or private ­ can now apply to start new medical courses or increase seats. "All the seats increased because of the change in the professor-student ratio being allowed in government medical colleges," said Dr. Desai. The MCI submitted its recommendations to the Health Ministry on March 2, following which the ministry will issue a final order by March 31.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 4, 2010

Reduced budget allocation: IITs may hike fee

Higher educational institutions including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and central universities may soon be forced to raise their fees to meet a deficit in their budgetary allocations.
Budget 2010-11 has reduced the allocation for existing high-er education programmes and institutions. The non-plan budget has been cut from Rs. 6,437 crore (Rs. 64.37 billion) last year to Rs. 5,694 crore (Rs. 56.94 billion). This means that universities and technical institutions will have to tighten their belts. Resource crunch may also force many of them to raise funds through fee hikes and other charges such as accommodation and subsidised food.

Non-plan grants are used to pay salaries of teachers, maintenance of infrastructure and for day-to-day expenditure. This year's budget, while hiking the total allocation in higher education from Rs. 14,389 crore to Rs. 16,690 crore, has reduced the allocation for existing higher educational institutions. The sharp decline in non-plan allocation for the IITs and the IIMs negates the hike in the plan component meant for expansion, thus reducing the total allocation for these institutions. "No cut in funds is good news because we are dependant on the government for even day-to- day expenses. The cut may force us to hike fees or charge students for other amenities," an IIT director said.

The non-plan allocation for the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also been cut to Rs. 3,450 crore, down from Rs. 3,977 crore spent last year. "It will become difficult for us to operate. You cannot pay a teacher less than what he or she was hired for. We will write to the UGC," said a senior Delhi University official. Sources at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said the department did not have the money. "The government is focused on implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act. There is no money for allocating to universities and technical institutions," an official said. The ministry had earlier said the Centre and states would need more than Rs. 170 crore over five years to implement the right to education law. The budget hiked school education allocation from Rs. 25,338 crore last year to Rs. 33,214 crore this year.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 4, 2010

IIMs differ on scrapping online admission test

With the first online common admission test results out, Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are debating whether to drop the online test and revert to the paper-and-pencil method. IIM-Ahmedabad favours scrapping the five-year contract with US-based company Prometric, which conducted the on- line test for 220,000 applicants across the country from November 28 to December 7 last year. IIM-A is considering going back to the pen-and-paper method if a better alternative to the online test carried out by Prometric cannot be found. Thousands of students at more than 70 of the 361 labs at 104 centres could not take the test due to glitches in the online system but were allotted another date. "We cannot conduct the online test ourselves as it involves sector-specific knowledge, expertise and special software, all of which is beyond us. Those who were considered capable of doing it perfectly, faltered. If there is no other option, we might have to go back to the paper-pencil mode," Samir Barua, Director of IIM-Ahmedabad, told HT.

IIM-Calcutta, however, is in no mood to go back to the old method. "When the online CAT (Common Admission Test) was having problems, IIM-Calcutta proposed to scrap it and go for a paper-pencil test just for this (academic) year. But the other IIMs did not agree. As far as the faculty council of IIM-C is concerned, it feels that the online test is the future of CAT exams as it would otherwise be a problem handling such a huge volume of examinees," said Subrata Mitra, Chairman of Admissions at IIM-Calcutta and a member of the CAT committee. "For something like that (paper-pencil method) to happen, all the IIMs will have to agree. The decision will have to be taken at a directors' meeting to be held soon after the online CAT review committee submits its report," Mitra said. The Director of IIM-Bangalore was not available for comment.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 4, 2010

Union Budget 2010-11: Education sector neglected again

The “growth and consumption-driven” and “forward- looking” Union Budget for 2010-2011 announced by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has yet again shown a lack of steam addressing the challenges confronting the higher education sector in the country. Though the Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal has made elaborate plans to increase the number of universities and other higher educational institutions in the country, the budget saw only a paltry Rs. 40 crore (Rs. 400 million) being set apart for starting an institution for National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). The total allocation for the higher education sector is Rs 10,996 crore (Rs. 109.66 billion). Yet again the recommended spending of six per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, as envisaged by the National Policy of Education, formulated by the central government in 1986 has been given a short shrift.

Though there has been an increase in allocation for the elementary sector from Rs. 26,800 crore (Rs. 268 billion) in 2009- 10 to Rs. 31,036 (Rs. 310.36 billion), the money will not be sufficient enough to effectively implement the Right to Education (RTE) Act passed by the Government. Even "Sarva SIksha Abhiyan", a centrally supported scheme aimed at achieving universal elementary education and instrumental in implementing the Right to Education Act, has received only marginal increase in funding with some Ministry officials expressing disappointment. Estimates from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) under the 11th Five Year Plan alone put spending on Right to Education at Rs. 173,000 crores (Rs. 1730 billion).

Predictably, the budget has evoked mixed reaction from educationists with some of them expressing their concern at the lack of sufficient funds for the sector. Ashok Mittal, Chancellor, Lovely Professional University felt that the government should have spent more on higher education thereby creating a large network of universities and colleges equipped with the best of physical and learning infrastructure. The allocation of Rs. 31,036 crore to school education is a worthy attempt by the Finance Minister to increase literacy rate in India. However, the point is whether the money allotted will be used judiciously in enhancing the quality of school education. Efforts have also been made to ensure that maximum students have access to quality education through low interest and long term loans, said Mittal.

The reduction in tax slabs will benefit nearly 60 per cent of the tax payers, leaving them with more money to spend on education and health care. By allocating 46 per cent of the total budget outlay to infrastructure, the finance minister has hit the bull’s eye. “The Finance Minister has tried to keep a balance,” said Rekha Sethi, Director General, All India Management Association (AIMA). “But we would have liked him to provide more for the higher education sector,” she said. The government instead of talking about opening innovation colleges, which will be accessible only to an elite few, should focus on starting niche courses. For instance, within the ambit of infrastructure you can focus on specialised courses in areas such as power and energy. Providing budgetary allocation for niche courses is the way forward, said Sethi.

C. S. Venkata Ratnam, Director, International Management Institute (IMI), New Delhi, was of the view that the overall increase in social sector allocation would benefit the education sector. It is gratifying to note that social sector reforms will be on the agenda. Social sector spending is up by Rs. 1.38 lakh crore, of this 31,000 will be spent on school education, said Ratnam.

According to Devi Singh, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIM-L), the finance minister has presented a very balanced budget. While the focus has been on infrastructure development and rural development, education has also retained its importance. The increase in budgetary allocation for school education and special grant from the centre for elementary education are very positive signs for the sector. The curtailment of fiscal deficit is a step in the right direction, he said.

Source: Mail Today, March 3, 2010 (Reported by Sangeeth Sebastian)

Proposed semester system in Delhi University triggers debate

The proposed introduction of the semester system in Delhi University at the under-graduate level has triggered much debate with many arguing that the semester system would result in the deterioration of academics rather than the improvements it suggests. The semester system proposes that each of the three years in Honours courses would be divided into two semesters with four papers per semester. Of the 24 papers, students would take 16 papers from the Main subject, six Minor papers and two electives. If the students take six Minor papers from one subject, he or she would qualify for a Minor in the subject. In some courses such as B.Sc. Physics Honours where one subject as Minor is considered inadequate, a structured package of six papers comprising two or three subjects would be proposed.

The semester system also proposes changes in the Programme courses. At the end of each semester, centrally evaluated examinations would be held. The in-house college examination will be removed and 25 per cent for internal assessment would be redistributed in the form of attendance and assignments of 10 per cent each while class tests/project presentation would be 5 per cent. Many teachers have said that holding of two centrally evaluated examinations would cause increased examination burden. According to Economics Department professor Dr. S. C. Panda, the process of setting the question paper is taxing with multiple question papers needed to be set within a limited time and few people to do it. “Once students have written the exams, the examination branch has to assign fictitious roll numbers which takes a week to 10 days. Then evaluation happens following which a month is taken for result tabulation. The prospect of repeating the process twice a year is scary,” he added.

The proposed itinerary of the semester system suggests that the results would be declared in less than a month. Teachers have said this would not be possible considering the resources available. Also expressing concern over dispensing with the fictitious roll number system, Dr. Panda said: “This is being done to save time. However, the fictitious system preserves the student anonymity.” To solve the problem it is being suggested that three-four examiners evaluate one script which is being considered as ineffective by many teachers.

Many Departments such as English and Economics have alleged that to implement the semester system some main papers would have to be reduced leading to dilution of Honours courses. Teachers would also have reduced time for research. Regarding the interdisciplinary character which the semester system proposes to introduce, some teachers have argued that the interdisciplinary character already existed in the form of concurrent courses. Teachers have further argued that students who are admitted late under the system may suffer academically.

The DU website states that the university was obtaining data from colleges regarding specialisations of their teachers and data on papers that they were currently teaching on their respective subjects. IT based systems would also be put into place to reduce the employees’ logistics work. Despite opposition, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Deepak Pental said the semester system would be introduced from this session onwards. “Currently between 20-70 per cent teachers are involved in examining scripts. All teachers should be involved. At a meeting of the DU Executive Council it was resolved that all teachers must be involved in the evaluation process,” he said, adding there could be difficulties because of the increased examination load.

Emphasising the need for inter-disciplinary curriculum, Prof. Pental said five years were available for a student to study a particular course and it was necessary to incorporate strands of other disciplines too. According to Prof. Pental, the syllabus of some courses would be ready by mid-April while for some others the syllabus might not be ready.

Source: The Hindu, February 22, 2010 (Reported by Urvashi Sarkar)

Harvard: Quality management education

Harvard University, which is often considered as the oldest university in the U.S., appears as number one in most global rankings. It has a glittering galaxy of alumni. Forty-three current and former Harvard faculty members have been awarded Nobel Prizes. There are several instances where Harvard has broken new ground. Chlorophyll was first synthesised by Robert Woodward in 1960 at Harvard University. Harvard-educated American cardiologist Paul Zoll made the first pace-maker. Harvard University developed the first transgenic mouse, now in use worldwide for cancer research.

The name Harvard brings to the mind its renowned business school. But there is much more than that. As an expert once said, it is good at everything the human mind can cope with. The scientists at Harvard have won many laurels, especially in the fields of research in biology and medicine. The alumni includes not only eight U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama who graduated with honours from Harvard Law School, but illustrious dropouts like Bill Gates and Edwin Herbert Land, inventor and co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation. Harvard has sometimes come in the limelight for wrong reasons too like when its president Lawrence H. Summers sparked uproar at an academic conference in 2005. He contended that the innate differences between men and women might be one reason for fewer women succeeding in science careers.

The Harvard College was founded in 1636. Students from more than eighty countries are on the rolls. There are students with a remarkable diversity of interests, professional goals, and passions. Harvard offers a platform to suit almost any kind of academic interest, from philosophy to photography and from linguistics to physics. Renowned faculty and a residential house system add to the quality of the university. Harvard has a philosophy of making educational opportunity accessible. So applying for financial aid does not diminish a student's chances of admission. International students also enjoy the benefit of the financial policy. Selection is based on achievement and promise. Academic accomplishment in high school is important. Enthusiasm, creativity and character may also decide the admission of a candidate.

A freshman should have completed SAT and three SAT subject tests. Information pertaining to admission requirements is available in the web site www.harvard.edu. It is advisable to confirm that your academic and personal interests match the Harvard style. On the website, you will find details of the financial aid available to students. Nearly sixty per cent of undergraduates receive scholarship assistance. For specific information, you may write to Harvard College Financial Aid Office, 86 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, or call (617)-495-1581.

Harvard Business School
One of the best places in the world to get business management education is the Harvard Business School that runs two-year programmes. It was founded in 1908. The school does not ‘teach', but offers leadership practice immersed in real-world challenges. In every case, class, event, and activity, you are asked not only to study leadership, but to demonstrate it. There is much more than routine classroom instruction or reading textbooks. You learn how to make decisions in the face of conflicting data, complex politics, intense time-constraint and fiscal pressure. You should defend your choices among fellow students.

One may find it hard to believe that you may have to apply your decision-making skills more than five hundred times in two years, through in-depth case-method learning. You will be exposed to the frontiers of new markets, practices, and technologies across the globe. The experience is inherently international. As you would know, the case method is a powerful interactive learning process that brings the complex and dynamic realities of business analysis and decision making into the classroom. The case method provides students with diverse skills, insight, and confidence to meet the challenges in real business situations. In order to support its research and case development process, the school maintains a network of Global Research Centres from the Asia-Pacific to the Silicon Valley, from Latin America to India and Europe.

When you graduate with an MBA from Harvard Business School, you earn a place in a community of business leaders in 150 countries. Your focus may be in corporate management, entrepreneurial enterprises, non-profit leadership, or other areas of interest to you. For details on admission, you may contact, Harvard Business School, MBA Admissions, Dillon House, Soldiers Field Road, Boston, MA 02163, USA; Ph: 617-495-6128; e-Mail: admissions@hbs.edu.

Remember that Harvard Business School looks for students with demonstrated leadership potential and a capacity to thrive in a rigorous academic environment. Your leadership history may be anything from organising a classroom to running an independent business. It may be an achievement in the community or social sector. You should have potential for intellectual growth. Sophisticated ideas, analytical ability, and discussion skills are welcome. The school has a self-contained, residential campus that helps students to imbibe the core values of Harvard. Qualities such as high ethical standards, respect for others, willingness to share experience, and support others carry weight in the admission process.

You should have a Bachelor's degree. In the application for admission, you will have to list all post-secondary educational institutions you have attended. You may have to get an official transcript directly from the college or university. Candidates who received their bachelor's degree from a non-English-speaking university are required to take either the Internet-based version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL IBT) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Your work experience will be considered as also your scores in GMAT / GRE and TOEFL / IELTS. However, there is no minimum work experience requirement. Sometimes you may be asked to attend the on-campus summer Pre-MBA International Programme. Before admission to the MBA programme, you may be invited to an interview.

Joint degree candidates
Harvard Business School offers joint degree programmes with Harvard Medical School (MD/ MBA), Harvard School of Dental Medicine (DMD/ MBA), Harvard Law School (JD/ MBA), and Harvard Kennedy School (Master in Public Policy/ MBA, Master in Public Administration in International Development/ MBA). Applicants to these programmes must complete the individual application requirements of both graduate schools.

Financial aid
The steps to get financial aid have been described on the website. After admission, you will have to complete and submit the financial aid applications that will be available to you on the HBS Intranet. Also, you should explore loan options and research outside funding opportunities. Related information is available on the websites www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/loans.html and www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/funding.html.

Source: The Hindu, February 23, 2010 (Article by B. S. Warrier)

An initiative to fortify degree courses

Students studying in the government colleges in Tamil Nadu are all smiles. They can now get a diploma or certificate in their field of interest, even when they are pursuing their degree courses in any of the government colleges. Enabling students to choose an area of their interest and, providing them an opportunity to get a diploma in that subject not only exposes them to new ideas but also makes them employable. Under this new scheme, all government arts and science colleges in Tamil Nadu will collaborate with the technical institutes in the district. Students can enrol in any of the one-year, six-month part-time courses offered by the technical institutes. These add-on courses are only an option and not compulsory.

About 3,000 students studying in 62 government colleges will benefit from the facility. A nominal fee of Rs. 1,500 and 3,000 will be charged for six month and one-year diploma courses respectively. Students can pay the fee in two instalments. Launching the initiative recently, Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudi said that such add-on courses would greatly benefit students in the rural areas. Such fortification of the basic degree courses also provided them the necessary skill sets required for a job. Apart from giving them a chance to explore other avenues, such add-on courses promoted self-employment. And for those students who got the opportunity to go overseas for higher education, it would be an added advantage for getting part-time jobs in foreign land location, he said.

The following add-on courses will be offered to students: Multimedia, Tally, AC technology, Hardware servicing, Domestic Writing, Networking, Web designing and animation, E-commerce, Driving (light and heavy vehicles), beautician course, Garment quality inspection and export merchandising, communication skills, office automation and DTP.

Source: The Hindu, February 22, 2010 (Reported by Chitradeepa A.)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Awards to build up Australia-India science links

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on March 4, 2010 announced the winners of the inaugural Australia-India Science and Technology Research Awards (AISTRA) that will help research placements for researchers from both countries. "The theme for the inaugural awards, 'Energy generation in a low-carbon future', reflects the importance India and Australia place on meeting our growing energy requirements in a sustainable manner," the Australian high commission said in a statement.

Akshat Tanksale from the University of Queensland will work with researchers at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune on efforts to convert agricultural matter into carbon-neutral fuel additives. Ashish Garg of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, will travel to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) to collaborate with researchers working on solar cell technology. Both scientists are expected to undertake their overseas placement in the first half of 2010.

The AISTRA programme was established in 2009 to promote greater collaboration between research communities. With an Australian contribution of A$50 million (Rs. 200 crore) over the next five years, matched by India, the AISRF is Australia's largest fund for bilateral collaboration with any country.

Monday, March 01, 2010

CAT scores out, two IIMs put up shortlists

The scores of the first-ever online common admission test, or CAT, written last year by 240,000 aspirants for entrance to the eight Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), were announced on Sunday. The schools in Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and Shillong (IIM-S) also put out their shortlists of candidates who would be considered for admission to their two-year flagship Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme. The test, conducted online for the first time, had been marred by technical glitches and had to be completed in two phases.

IIM-A has 960 candidates on its shortlist, its admissions department said in an e-mail reply. They will vie for 385 seats that India's premier business school will offer in its class of 2012. The numbers include caste-based quotas set aside in all government-run educational institutes. The school has tentatively scheduled the round of personal interview, the next step in the admissions process, in New Delhi 14-18 March, in Kolkata 22-24 March, in Ahmedabad 29-31 March and in Bangalore 5-10 April.

IIM-S, which currently has 66 seats, said in excess of 1,000 candidates were on its shortlist. "The number of seats could go up to 120. We are assessing the hostel, and trying to create new facilities," said Ashoke Kumar Dutta, Director of IIM-S. The schools at Ranchi, which will admit its first batch in June, as well as Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Lucknow and Kozhikode are yet to come out with shortlists, the CAT website said.

The website shut down for three hours on Sunday afternoon, citing heavy traffic of candidates checking their scores. Many of the candidates discussed their results online. "Got IIM-A call but no call from IIM-S. Wats happening?? Any guesses?? Unable to open the score page as well," said a candidate who uses the handle Karthik on http://www.pagalguy.com/, an online community of MBA aspirants, students and schools. Another candidate with the handle Ankit9doshi said "IIM-A--960 calls is really less. It means general category (non-reserved) calls must be abt 600. Last year, gen category calls were 609. I thought the batch size was increasing, so they would probably call more people. Anyway best of luck to those who got the coveted IIM-A call."

The online CAT, administered by Prometric Testing Pvt. Ltd, the local arm of the US-based testing company Prometric Inc., was criticized by students and test preparation companies after technical snags led to constant rescheduling. But on Sunday, the reaction was conciliatory. "The question on credibility of having a paper (examination) conducted over multiple days and then giving a common result was very well answered by IIMs," said Ravi Pokharna, a Director at PT Education, a test preparation company. "The results have been scaled for the difficulty level through psychometric equivalence over all testing days, which should be a big relief for all the aspirants," Pokharna added.

Source: Mint, March 1, 2010 (Report by Aparna Kalra)

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