Monday, May 31, 2010

Education super-regulator bill to be tabled in Parliament

The government's intention to establish a super regulator like body for education could materialize within this financial year. The National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill is likely to be presented in the monsoon session of Parliament. The NCHER Bill seeks to establish a super regulator for education. The University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) needs to be scrapped after NCHER is set up. They will be subsumed inside this council to create a super governing body, which will also have the role of a regulator. The second draft on NCHER is to be presented to the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE), that is the highest advisory body on education in the country, on June 17. Once the proposal is finalized, it will be taken to the Cabinet very soon. Before that, CABE will take a call on this council and after that a Cabinet note will be moved to set up this council.

Henceforth, all professional colleges will be governed by NCHER. In addition, the bill proposes that NCHER be the governing body for all professional courses including law, nursing, dentistry, and architecture. This means existing bodies like the Bar Council or the Indian Nursing Council will only be responsible for the professional aspects of the sector, thereby curtailing their powers significantly.

Efforts are on to include medical education under the NCHER, a move that is being resisted currently. NCHER will offer greater functional autonomy to the Vice Chancellors of Universities, who now have to run from pillar to post for getting routine clearances. It will be a must for all universities and colleges to seek accreditation from NCHER and proposes to do away with the current practice of voluntary application for accreditation. Currently, only 20% of 503 universities have been accredited.

The Commission may be made functional within FY11 and there is a proposal for it to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. It is likely to comprise of seven members. However, it remains to be seen if the Centre will be able to develop a consensus among states in the next meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education.


Source: www.moneycontrol.com, May 31, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

MHRD task force favours medical education under NCHER

Armed with a new draft of the bill that takes into account the countrys federal structure and a new nomenclature Higher Education and Research Bill the consultation by the Task Force of Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) on Saturday saw widespread support for inclusion of medical education within the purview of the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). However, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said the final decision, be it inclusion of medical education or other issues, will not be taken by his ministry alone. The decision will be of the government at the highest level, he said.

But task force member N.R. Madhava Menon said during the nationwide consultation there was a widespread view that medical education be made part of NCHER. He said even legal education and agriculture should be brought under it. Menon said that since there was a constitutional impediment in bringing agriculture under NCHER, the government should bring an amendment for the purpose.

Source: The Times of India, May 30, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Microsoft partners NIIT, IISc, others for cloud computing platform

Software giant Microsoft today said IT firms NIIT, Cognizant and CDC Software, and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) will build solutions and train manpower based on its cloud computing platform, Windows Azure. Cloud computing refers Internet-based computing, where applications and software are accessed over the Internet, which results in reduced IT costs. Microsoft has partnered with IT training firm NIIT, which will train over one lakh students on Windows Azure over the next three years. IT firm Cognizant, on the other hand, will develop solutions based on Azure to help its clients implement, migrate and manage their applications on the cloud.

"India will not only see a surge in consumption of cloud services, driving growth in domestic IT usage, but companies all over the world will look to India to support their transition to cloud computing," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. According to a study by research firm Zinnov, the global cloud computing market is expected to cross USD 70 billion by 2015. As a result of the growing demand for independent software vendors, developers and system integrators, an additional three lakh jobs related to cloud services are estimated to be created in India over the next five years. Over 4,000 applications have already been built on the Windows Azure platform by India.

Companies like Wipro, Infosys, TCS, HCL Technologies and Mahindra Satyam are already building applications and solutions across verticals ranging from healthcare, banking to manufacturing for local and global markets. CDC Software, an enterprise software and services applications provider, also announced the global roll out of its flagship product 'CDC Respond' (a complaint and feedback management application for banking and government sectors) on the Windows Azure platform. IISc, Bangalore, is building a large-scale application on Windows Azure to study the basic resource allocation constructs and strategies required for addressing enterprise needs on the cloud.


Source: The Economic Times, May 28, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

NCHER will be an independent body: Kapil Sibal

India's proposed "super regulator" for higher education, which will oversee universities as well as institutes of technical, legal and medical education, will not operate under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), minister Kapil Sibal has said. The clarification is expected to ease the concerns of the health and family welfare ministry and the law ministry, which have been worried that the new regulator would transfer their control over institutes of legal and medical education to the MHRD.

Sibal told Mint on Friday that the MHRD, which is preparing the final draft to create the National Commission for Higher Education and Research, or NCHER, proposes to make it an independent regulator. "It does not belong to the Ministry of HRD. It will be a separate statutory authority", he said. "(The) MHRD will not be able to give direction to NCHER", he added, although it "may be the service ministry".

Universities currently operate under the University Grants Commission (UGC), while technical institutes are controlled by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Teacher training institutions fall under the purview of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). The MHRD is in charge of all these bodies.

NCHER was conceptualized on the basis of the report submitted by the Yashpal committee last year, which suggested an overarching regulator that will give more freedom to universities and institutes of higher education to run their affairs. The National Knowledge Commission in 2005 had also recommended doing away with AICTE and UGC, and their replacement with a "super regulator".

MHRD officials expect NCHER to be set up in this fiscal year. The ministry’s proposal placed medical and legal education institutions as well under the purview of NCHER, raising the hackles of the ministries of law and health and family welfare. K. Sujatha Rao, Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, is scheduled to meet Higher Education Secretary Vibha Puri Das this week. MHRD officials said, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting will focus on the regulation of medical education.

But Sibal played down talk of a tussle between the ministries. "(Since NCHER) is going to be an independent statutory authority...there is no question of tension with anybody. Controlling higher education is certainly not our intention. NCHER will provide greater freedom. NCHER will facilitate, not concentrate power in itself", he added. The minister said he was yet to receive the final draft for NCHER, which is being prepared by education experts, but was optimistic that more autonomy to institutes of higher education will improve the standard of education.

Sibal said he aims to improve the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education to 30% from the current 12.4% by 2020. That means 30 out of every 100 students in the 18-24 age group will pursue higher education. Around 9.95 million students are currently pursuing higher education in more than 460 universities and 22,000 colleges, according to MHRD data.

To increase the GER to 30%, Sibal says India needs 700 more universities and 35,000 colleges by 2020. He is open to more private participation in higher education. "(The) government does not have that kind of resources. But resources are available to the private sector", he said. "The opportunity is enormous. There will be private participation; there will be private-public partnership", he said.

Article by Prashant K. Nanda in Mint, May 24, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

NCHER will not be a super regulator - Medical education & Law to be kept out

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears to be disinclined to accept the idea of setting up the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as the higher educations super regulator. Despite best efforts by HRD minister Kapil Sibal, medical education and law will be kept out of the purview of NCHER. In the aftermath of the Ketan Desai-Medical Council of India (MCI) scandal, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) had sought to bring medical education within the ambit of the NCHER.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is learnt to be of the view that medical education should be kept under the purview of the health ministry-sponsored National Council for Human Resources in Health (NCHRH). The MHRD had cited the Yashpal Committee recommendation and that of the National Knowledge Commission to set up a regulator that would have jurisdiction over the entire spectrum of higher education. However, the PMO is clear that the such reports and recommendations cannot override government policy as enunciated in the President's address to Parliament last June.

The MHRD's efforts to garner total control over the higher education segment has also been opposed by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, law minister Veerappa Moily, state governments and educationists. The MHRD's efforts are not new. In the UPA-I government, Mr. Sibal's predecessor Arjun Singh too sought to put in place a higher education super regulator. Mr. Singh's efforts ran into dangerous territories as health ministry was then shepherded by A. Ramadoss of PMK and agriculture by NCPs Sharad Pawar.

The MHRD, however, is not giving up its effort to get a larger mandate. To build support for the proposed regulator, the MHRD has planned a retreat meeting on May 29. The meeting will discuss NCHER with experts for further fine tuning. It will then take the draft bill to the Central Advisory Board of Education, which is meeting on June 18 and 19. The idea is to create a critical mass of support for the proposed super regulator.

Source: The Economic Times, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Engineering, R&D services market to hit $45 bn by 2020: NASSCOM

A shift in business to growth markets such as India and China, where global firms have built low-cost products for the local market, and the pressure to cut product development costs is fuelling growth in India's engineering services industry. Bulk of this growth is coming from auto firms looking to replicate frugal engineering concepts such as those used on Tata Motors Ltd's ultra-cheap Nano car, information technology (IT) industry lobby National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and consultancy firm Booz and Co. Inc. say in a report released on Thursday. Also contributing are local research arms of global technology firms such as Cisco Systems Inc. and consumer electronic companies that are building products for the global market out of India.

The market opportunity for engineering research and development in India is estimated to reach US$ 45 billion (around Rs. 2.1 trillion) by 2020. Of this, at least $ 5 billion would be spent by Indian firms locally, NASSCOM and Booz say in their report. The engineering research and development (R&D) services industry contributes $8 billion to India's $50 billion software exports. "This is high value work", said Som Mittal, President of NASSCOM. "There is tremendous opportunity for India as it is already a preferred destination for global R&D. It also impacts a lot in building an ecosystem that includes manufacturing".

Booz and Co.'s Vikas Sehgal, who authored the report, said around 150,000 people are employed by the engineering services outsourcing industry in India, and this would increase to at least one million jobs in a decade. Global spending on engineering R&D surpassed $1 trillion in 2009 and is expected to touch $1.4 trillion by 2020, the report says. Automotive, consumer electronics and telecom are the top spenders on engineering R&D globally.

India has close to 300 global firms such as Nokia Oyj. and General Motors Corp. that use local talent to build products for both the domestic and global markets. Around 80 Indian firms such as HCL Technologies Ltd, Wipro Ltd and Infotech Enterprises Ltd, too, employ engineers to work on projects for customers such as Boeing Co.
and United Technologies Corp.

While there is huge demand from global firms to outsource engineering work to India, Nasscom cautions that India needs a national innovation policy to promote local research, build skills and create a support system.

Source: Mint, May 21, 2010

Educational institutes raise online presence

Educational institutes in India are strengthening their online presence and boosting the share of Internet advertising in their overall ad budgets to reach out to students. "The online advertisement budget percentage of many educational institutes was about 15-20% in 2008 and now it is around 30%", said Narasimha Jayakumar, Google Inc.'s India business head. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), 65% of Internet users in India go online to search for educational content. IAMAI estimates India has 71 million Internet users. On Google, the world's most popular search engine, nearly 36% of its users trawl the Net for educational content. The rapidly rising reach of the Internet makes it a potentially powerful tool for schools and colleges to reach out to students in a country that has a plethora of educational institutions and examinations, but no single point to access information about them.

Apurv Pandit, editor of http://www.pagal-guy.com/, a management education information website, says the traffic on his site is rising at least 25% yearly. "We are in a niche segment but on an average we get 600,000 unique visitors every month", he said. "The number increases by 15% during peak season for management education - September to March".

The Union government website goidirectory.nic.in/education.htm has several links for government educational institutes, but several of them do not work or have inadequate information. For example, Patna Science College in Bihar, Dhenkanal Autonomous College in Orissa and Jorhat Engineering College in Assam as well as Tagore Govern- ment College of Education in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, were inaccessible from the central directory. "We are working with hundreds of educational institutes in this sector and place their ads on a network of over 40,000 web- sites and blogs", said Jayakumar. "This is helping them reach the target audience".

According to a report by IAMAI and market research firm IMRB, the online display advertising market size was Rs. 325 crore (Rs. 3.25 billion) in 2008-09, up 38% from a year earlier. A break-up for the spending by educational institutes wasn't available. Institutes such as NIIT, which offers courses in information technology, are among the prominent online advertisers. "NIIT Imperia, the management segment of our institute, is majorly into this and the response was encouraging", said a spokesman for NIIT. Lovely Professional University, a private varsity in Punjab, said it was upbeat about online advertising. "We are bullish on tapping the target audience through this medium", said Deputy Director Aman Mittal.

Education-related search is substantially high these days because of the upcoming admission season. On Monday, of the top 10 search topics on Google, nine were related to education. The top searches included results of the test conducted by the Kerala commissioner for entrance examinations for admission to professional courses such as engineering and medicine and the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board exam results.

Google says that among the most searched items in the education sector, professional education is number one followed by content for preparation for competitive exams such as GMAT and GRE. Universities in the US, the UK, Australia and Canada are also popular search subjects in a country that sent 100,000 students to the US in the last academic year, according to figures released by the Ministry of Human Resources Development.

In India, even the state-run Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), which was earlier relying on traditional print media for advertising, has taken its ads online. "A huge pool of youngsters are going online and here IGNOU cannot stay behind,“ said Ravi Mohan, chief spokesman of the university. “We have started going online for advertisement in the last one year or so. Recently, we gave an ad on a job portal and the response was very good".

Source: Mint, May 21, 2010

IITs Singapore campus may take shape by 2015

The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) is likely to back a proposal to set up an IIT in Singapore. The final decision will be taken by the IIT Council, headed by HRD minister Kapil Sibal. The Singapore government is keen to have IIT set up its campus in the city-state. This was conveyed to HRD minister Kapil Sibal by Singapore education minister Ng Eng Hen during their meeting in Delhi on Thursday. A proposal to this effect was sent to the ministry earlier.

It has been proposed that IITs and other centrally-funded technical institutes under the government form a society called the "International Institute of Technology". This society would set up the IIT in Singapore. The attempt is to create as unique model of academics, where there will be undergraduate programmes in areas like energy, environment, communication and computing, design and manufacturing, international diplomacy and management, health science and technology, water resources, and education. The focus will be on the Asian region, with a curriculum that promotes the culture of research and innovation.

Special focus will be on post graduate programmes, which will seek to attract students from across Asia. The idea is to retain the academic strength of the IIT model and to extend it to new areas. IIT Singapore will promote a strong sense of bonding between different nationalities of Asia. It will provide academic leadership as well as scholarship environment for students and faculty.

The proposed IIT Singapore will be based on a public-private-partnership model. Its fees will be comparable with the international level. Financial support for students by governments of Asian countries would be welcome. The proposed institute will compete for research funding at the international level. The Singapore government is expected to provide infrastructural support for the institution. The initiative will be shepherded by the Indo-Singapore Project Agency set up by the Indian government and will be funded by the government of Singapore. The agency will be headed by an academic and will have an advisory board which will provide guidelines of this co-operation.

A team comprising members of the IIT faculty, and international academic community will prepare a detailed project report including the financial model and details of implementation. The project report will have to be accepted by both governments before the work on setting up IIT Singapore begins. Five years is being considered for implementation. The impetus to set up an overseas outpost for IIT comes from the realisation that these engineering institutes need to leverage their undergraduate programme to improve their research output. An international campus would help in this regard.

Source: The Economic Times, May 21, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Foreign varsities Act to open new vistas for global education companies

The passing of Foreign Universities Act to allow overseas universities in the Indian soil will open new vistas for international education companies like Edexcel, part of Pearson Group of the UK, according to the David Davies, international business manager of the company. The UK model of university education could be replicated in India both on the academic and technical realms by opening new windows of opportunity for education companies in the higher education delivery supply chain, he said.

Speaking about the advantages of foreign universities setting shops in India, David said the apparent beneficiaries of the move would be the student community and education solution companies like Edexcel. "Students tend to benefit from the lowering of tariff and service costs in terms of building, infrastructure and other campus-related expenses in addition to getting a college degree of global standard relevant to the current advanced economies and industries. On the other hand, universities in the US, the UK and Europe mulling to foray into India will be looking to hire local faculties at relatively lower costs. With our proven niche in the teacher training module, we are foreseeing a huge faculty orientation programmes coming our way in preparing Indian faculties for foreign university teaching assignments", he added.

Commenting on the current developments in the education content vertical, he said Edexcel now offers International General Certificate for Secondary Education (IGCSE) and General Certificate for Education (GCE). In future, it will be developing K2 (up to eight standard) curriculum for its affiliated schools in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangaldesh and India. Edexcel has its GCE and IGCSE affiliate programmes in 140 schools in Bangaladesh, 134 schools in Sri Lanka and 330 schools in India.

The company also offers vocational programmes like Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) and National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). Davies said vocational affiliations are 100 in India, 20 in Bangladesh and 20 in Sri Lanka and universal in Maldives, which receives UNDP support for its education programmes. "Our vocational qualifications, including NVQ and BTEC, from entry level to higher national diploma of vocational portfolio have over one million registrations across 45 countries".


The company last year committed close to 100 million pounds towards expansion in the Indian market, he said. He unveiled the plans to partner with 40 educational institutions in Tamil Nadu as part its expansion in India. The Pearson Group company is already in partnership with two institutions, Everonn and Cornerstone, in Tamil Nadu to deliver various vocational programmes. Operating in more than 85 countries, the company is eying Nepal for expansion.

Source: Financial Express, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

HRD Ministry's efforts in reforming Indian education sector

With a series of legislative, policy and administrative initiatives, the HRD ministry under UPA-II is hurtling down the road to education reforms with a speed that has startled government officials, opposition parties and academicians. After taking over, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal brought out a 100-day agenda for school and higher education sector. One year on, he has implemented the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, making education a right for all children between 6 to 14 years. He did away with Class X boards for CBSE students and replaced them with Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), despite criticism and doubts from teachers and students. In higher education, a number of legislative measures aimed at reforming the sector are being made.

“I have delivered what I had promised. The Right to Education Act had been rolled out ... There has also been a change in the learning and teaching process with the introduction of CCE,“ said Sibal. But opinion seems to be against Sibal's move on examination reforms, with 33 per cent respondents of the HT survey agreeing that they were carried out without consensus. Madhav Chavan, co-founder of educational NGO Pratham said UPA-II had given an impetus to the RTE Act. "I would say Sibal has done rather well ... But implementation of the Act and whether it leads to quality education of children remains to be seen". This is also revealed in the survey where 25 per cent of respondents agreed that the ministry did not have a roadmap for implementing RTE Act.

The RTE Act is facing a shortage of around Rs. 7,000 crore (Rs. 70 billion) in the first year of implementation. The ministry has estimated a requirement of Rs. 34,000 crore (34 billion) a year for a period of five years. The ministry has set aside Rs. 15,000 crore (15 billion) for 2010-11. Even if the states pitch in with their share of the fund, the scheme will fall short of Rs. 7,000 crore.

Political parties have also criticised the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation and Entry and Operations) Bill 2010. "The draft bill shows clearly that there is no regulation on fees or admission procedure for foreign universities.
There is also complete absence of social justice implications that universities in India follow", said senior CPI (M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Brinda Karat.

Sibal's move to create a National Commission of Higher Education and Research (NCHER), an over-arching regulatory body that will replace the UGC and AICTE, has also been opposed by various states as encroaching upon their autonomy. The rush to operationalise new IITs, IIMs and Central Universities without adequate infrastructure and faculty has been criticised. But the broad consensus is that Sibal has enthused the Education Ministry with energy and initiated action on various grounds.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 18, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New rules for deemed universities

In January, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that it was all set to derecognise 44 deemed universities in the country on the basis of the PN Tandon committee report. However, the Supreme Court recently while rejecting the plea of Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) on fresh admissions in these universities has questioned the validity of the constitution of the Tandon committee itself. Meanwhile, while admissions for the 2010-2011 academic session commences in July, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a new set of regulations for both the existing deemed-to-be universities as well as those seeking the deemed-to-be university status. In fact, the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2010 are a damage control measure by the regulatory body, which had failed to curb the mushrooming of dubious institutes.

The new rules include admissions through a merit-based all India exam, transparent fee structure in (keeping with the UGC regulations) and mandatory accreditation. Further, no institute can admit students in anticipation that it will be granted deemed-to-be-university status in future. However, K.T. Chacko, Director, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), points out that most of these deemed universities offer programmes which are unlike the regular academic programmes like B.A., B.Com. ,etc. In view of things, it seems impractical to conduct a common entrance examination for all the deemed university institutions, he says.

Vachaspati Upadhyaya, Vice-chancellor, Lal Bahadur Shastri Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, agrees. He says that though when it comes to admission to Sanskrit courses a common exam is feasible because there are three deemed universities, the other institutes have no set guidelines for conducting a common exam. Again, as to the issue of fee structure, there are institutes that are both private and government-funded. As far as the private-funded ones are concerned, they feel it is not possible to follow a regulated fee structure. We generate our own income. If the government wants to regulate the fee structure, the cost of running an institute should then be subsidised by the government, says Chacko. On its way to repair the deemed university system, the government should take care that those deemed universities that have proved themselves as centres of excellence should not lose their autonomy, he adds.

As to some of the other guidelines, institutes will now be reviewed by the UGC every five years. Further, to be eligible for the deemed varsity status, it must have already been in existence for 15 years earlier it was 10 years and fulfilled several categories of academic excellence. However, institutes under the de novo (fresh deemed university status) category will be exempted from a 15-year-long existence, though the eligibility of such institutes will be decided by a national panel of experts.

Apart from the fact that it will not have the authority to offer distance education programmes with exceptions, Vice-chancellors of such institutes will only have a five-year-term. Violations of the rules will lead to withdrawal of status. But will the new regulations restore the credibility and quality of deemed universities? Chacko states. Initially, the deemed university title was conferred on institutes that have a proven track record of being centres of excellence in specialised areas. However, with time the UGC started offering this title to new institutes with no track record whatsoever. While that was the beginning, it ended up as institutes that reflected more of family fiefdom and less of academic merit.

Source: The Times of India (Education Times), May 17, 2010

We don't expect Harvard, Stanford to come here: Kapil Sibal

Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said he doesn't expect leading foreign universities like Harvard and Stanford to come to India. "We don't expect Harvard and Stanford to move to India the moment the Foreign Education Bill is passed. There can be twinning arrangements, joint ventures, huge investments in training programmes, joint degrees and other benchmarks of quality coming here," he said on the sidelines of the 38th Shri Ram Memorial Lecture in the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi. Sibal's statement is significant in the light of the fact that the Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, was tabled in the Lok Sabha two weeks back. The Bill aims to regulate entry and operation of foreign educational institutions imparting or intending to impart higher education in India and allows foreign education providers to set up campuses in India and offer degrees.

The topic of the lecture was Inclusive Education for the Marginalised and Sibal said though the world had faced a financial meltdown the previous year, the real meltdown happened in the area of human resources. Criticising the private sector, he said: "The worst law schools in the country are private law schools. The private sector is wanting and not contributing. It has not contributed to R&D. The private sector will have to find a practical way to collaborate with the government." He added private sector had not done much in education because the economy was not liberalised till 1991 and the poor quality of education provided by the private institutions is a matter of concern. The country needs to build 700 universities and 35,000 colleges in the next 10 years to bridge the demand-supply gap.

On primary education, he said that there will be a requirement of 12 lakh (1.2 million) teachers to implement the Right to Education Act and state governments have been directed to hire teachers even if they are not qualified to teach. "These teachers will then have to acquire their qualifications in five years. In fact, we might make a law to have 25 per cent reservation for the disadvantaged students in secondary education in another eight years," he said.

Source: Business Standard, May 18, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Australia to curtail low-value education courses

In a major overhauling to its immigration policy, Australia has announced new preferred occupation skills list dropping occupations like hairdressing and cookery in favour of doctors, nurses and engineers to crackdown on people seeking permanent residency through low-value education courses. Immigration minister Chris Evans has announced a new skilled occupation list for Australia, with 200 fewer classifications and said that it will ensure Australia brings in workers it needs rather than having a policy dominated by people doing particular courses.The new move will put an end to people coming to Australia for short courses in some vocational subjects and then gaining permanent residency based on that training.

"What this will do is drive our independent skill migration programme so that we're bringing in the people we need, not have people dominating our migration programme because of the course they study in Australia," he said. He said previous lists have not looked at the long-term needs on which to base these decisions. "They've been dominated by various interests lobbying to be on the list," he said adding, "This is an independent piece of work by Skills Australia. It's focused on us developing a skills base and matching our education effort and this list will determine who can independently migrate to Australia."

Evans said it is a fundamental economic reform based on scientific analysis. He said in the past the education system, rather than skills needs, drove migration outcomes. "This is about making sure the people who come in on the migration programme have the skills we need, have the English levels we need and can get a job in that skilled area," he said. He said the list, developed by the independent body Skills Australia and containing 181 highly valued occupations, would ensure Australia's skilled migration programme is demand-driven rather than supply-driven.

"We intend to fundamentally change the way we target skilled migrants to restore integrity to the skilled migration program," Evans said. The new SOL is a critical reform in the Government's overhaul of the skilled migration programme and closes the door on those seeking to manipulate the migration system. Only people with relevant qualifications in occupations listed on the SOL will be eligible for independent general skilled migration.

"Australia's migration programme cannot be determined by the courses studied by international students," Evans said. "This SOL represents a new direction which aims to ensure we choose migrants who have the skills to meet our nation's economic needs. "The Rudd Government continues to value the very important contribution made by the international education sector and education providers that deliver high-quality courses to both Australian and overseas students will continue to prosper.

"International students who have the skills our economy needs will still be able to apply for permanent migration or be nominated by employers but we will no longer accept the thousands of cooks and hairdressers who applied under the guidelines established by the Howard government."

Under the Howard government people who completed short courses in vocations such as cooking and hairdressing and had low English skills were almost assured of gaining permanent residence as a skilled migrant. In 2007-08, of the 41 000 general skilled visas granted, more than 5000 went to cooks and hairdressers; three quarters of them had formerly studied in Australia. These two occupations have been removed from the new SOL.

The Minister said he would recommend to the Governor-General in-Council amendments to the Migrations Regulations 1994 to give effect to this new framework. The new SOL is proposed to come into effect from July 1 to replace the old list which contained more than 400 occupations. It will be updated annually.

Evans said Skills Australia received advice from industry skills councils, industry peak bodies and Professions Australia to ensure the SOL contained occupations Australia needs in the medium to long term. "The Government has increased English language requirements for trade applicants and introduced a new job ready programme for onshore trade applicants. There is now increased priority for employer sponsored migrants and this will ensure industry is able to quickly access the skilled workers it needs,' he said.

During the past 18 months, the Government has driven a reform agenda, aimed at shifting the supply-driven skilled migration system we inherited to a demand-driven one. "First and foremost, young Australians should be trained and given the opportunity to fill existing job vacancies. The Government has a national plan to ensure young people are skilled in the occupations where there is the greatest need," Senator Evans said.

Chairman of the Government's National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce, Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia Gary Gray, welcomed the new SOL and said it would address the needs of the resources sector. "The taskforce has met with resource sector employers across the country and the clear message is that we need a targeted approach to migration," Gray said. The government recognises the proposed changes would affect some overseas students currently in Australia intending to apply for permanent residence.

The introduction of the new SOL does not change the concessions announced in February which provide generous transition arrangements for former and current international students seeking a visa under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme. People who have already applied for a GSM visa would not be affected by the implementation of the new SOL. The changes would in no way affect international students coming to Australia to gain a qualification and then return home.

Source: NDTV

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Virtual IITs: Top degrees a click away - BSNL to set up virtual univ network

After half-a-century of being an exclusive club, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will finally open their gates wider. Assigned the task of reaching out to more Indian students, IIT directors are drawing up plans to set up a virtual university. IIT-Madras Director M. S. Ananth said, "We basically want to make quality education accessible to many more students using modern tools instead of setting up brickand-mortar campuses". The proposal has been accepted as part of the National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT). But Ananth was quick to add that the details are yet to be worked out and the plan would be rolled out over two years. "We will involve industry in administering the programme. Moreover,we need to create labs where students can perform experiments. The IITs will take care of the entry, the exit and develop the courses", he explained.

The job may be said to have already begun. The IITs and the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have already designed 240 courses that were captured on video in studios set up in the institutes. They will develop 1,000 more courses in the second phase. The IITs have also run pilots on virtual labs. The Union Human Resource Development Ministry has allotted Rs. 4,600 crore (Rs. 46 billion) for three years till March 2012 for NMEICT, the mission under which course content is being developed and virtual labs will be created. Kannan Moudgalya, member of the NMEICT standing committee, described the exercise as ambitious.

The idea of a virtual technical university was first mooted by the P. Rama Rao Committee, which looked at expanding quality engineering education across the country in 2006.

BSNL to set up virtual univ network
IIT directors are working on a plan to create a virtual university. Public sector telephony giant BSNL has been asked to provide the necessary bandwidth to ensure that no college is without connectivity. Kannan Moudgalya, standing committee member of the National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT), said, "The two plans (of setting up a virtual platform and allowing access to existing colleges) should not be viewed as being mutually exclusive", he added.


The P. Rama Rao report, which first mooted the idea of a virtual technical university, had pointed out that engineering colleges are plagued by factors like faculty shortage, forcing several institutes to recruit teachers who do not possess the minimum prescribed qualifications. An inferior quality of education is the result.

IIT-Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande, who is also working on NMEICT, cautioned that the IITs would have to ensure that quality did not suffer in the race to expand student intake. But there is no denying that we want to reach out to more candidates using technology, he added. The IIT directors have often lamented that there are several bright brains who are identified in the gruelling Joint Entrance Exam (popularly known as JEE) but get left out because of the restrictive student capacity.

Source: The Times of India, May 16, 2010

Education financing: Let it not be a liability

It is said that a good education is a ticket to a good life ahead. The inevitable truth is that this ticket comes at a cost which might be too uncomfortable if one is unprepared. It is quite evident that rising costs are here to stay, especially when it comes to education. Right from kindergarten to higher education the associated costs are already high; imagine what it would become 10 years from now. A burgeoning trend is the plethora of educational options available to students today. Though traditional courses like medicine, engineering, MBA are still in demand, 26% of young parents are ok to let their children decide and opt for unconventional career options such as Film-making, TV-journalism, graphic designing, and so on, as per an IMRB survey. While such professions have huge potential, a comprehensive education in the same requires a substantial initial investment. This could become a major cause of concern for both students aspiring for such professions and their parents looking to fund the education.

Money or the lack of it should never have to influence the choice of career the good news is that planning early can come to your rescue. This includes a careful and early study of financing options to reduce the burden of paying a lump sum for an expensive education. To help you plan better, there are various tools available on the web like http://www.educationisinsurance.com/ or web based education calculators to help you plan for the future cost of education. There a number of ways to finance higher education - child education insurance plans, mutual funds, fixed income schemes, etc. These investment options help the parents accumulate a large corpus for their child's education over a period of time. The key for most of these products is to start investing as early as possible.

In case your savings are not sufficient for the child's education expenses; you can avail of options such as education loans. However, our recommendation is that the education loan should be considered to bridge the gap between the available funding and the actual requirement. It should not be the primary source of funding.

Education loans are very common among students largely looking at professional courses in India as also education abroad. Such loans have been around for some time now. These loans do not essentially require long term planning and are offered by various banks. These loans cover the tuition fees as well as the living expense (if required) of the student while he/she is studying. The repayment of the loan normally starts 12-18 months after the student has completed his/her education, so that the student has time to build up sufficient resources and get a job. However, there is a downside. These loans are mostly offered for select credible universities, which have a good reputation and a sound placement record. This again becomes a concern for the students aspiring to pursue unconventional professions. In addition, there are other factors such as family's income level, assets available, reputed guarantor, which are also considered while determining the amount one is eligible to borrow from the bank as an education loan.

Long term planning, that is, 10-15 years can make it much easier for the parents to cope up with the enormous higher education cost, when time comes for the child to choose what or where he/she wants to study. As mentioned earlier, there are various financial instruments available which can help you save for the same usch Mutual Funds, Fixed Deposits, Insurance Plans among other schemes. Mutual funds and Fixed Deposits work on a premise that you are going to be alive through the product term and invest regularly. Hypothetically speaking, if the parent is unable to service the principle amount due to death or contracting a critical illness after say 5 years, the nominee can still get the total corpus available on that date of the Mutual Fund or Fixed Deposit but that may not be the targeted amount. There is also no provision here to ensure a regular income stream to meet interim expenses till the child turns 18 or 21. This is where a child education insurance plan scores over other instruments. These products ensure that the higher education pool will be available as planned and the policy continues even in the event of one's death, disability or critical illness as all future premiums will be paid by the insurance company (as a lump sum). The interim expenses like school fee are provisioned through a regular stream of income till the child turns 18.

As per the survey done by IMRB last year on saving habits of young parents, 77% of parents surveyed across India are concerned about the rising cost of education. More than 50% of the parents had started saving even before their children turned 3 years. However, 47% of parents still wished that they had started saving as soon as the child is born. A good education is an asset that can never be taken away, an investment that can never depreciate. So invest early and gift your child a bright future.

This article is written by Vishal Gupta, Director of Marketing, Aviva India.
Source: The Economic Times, May 16, 2010

Indian grades for U.S. universities

U.S. President Barack Obama's protestations notwithstanding, overworked faculty members at American universities are kicking off another wave of outsourcing by farming out grading of assignments. Army officers' wives, homemakers and young mothers are turning into virtual teaching assistants (TA). Working flexi hours from places such as Kalimpong, Srinagar and Chennai, they communicate with the faculty on e-mail and phone to grade answer scripts and provide feedback to students of institutes such as the University of Houston, Roosevelt University and University of Northern Iowa. "It's about priorities, I won't have to compromise on my family", says Chennai-based Meenakshi Srikanth, 32, a mathematics postgraduate who quit her last job after she had her second child.

Helping women like Srikanth find their calling its virtual TA service is Edumetry, a Bangalore-based company. "Free your faculty. Leave the mechanics of assessment to us", is the company's tagline. It charges around $12 (around Rs. 540) per assignment and the assessor earns between Rs. 10 to 20,000 a month.

Virtual TA is the brain-child of IIT/IIM alumnus Chandru Rajam, who teaches at the George Washington University. "If we get one university with 15,000 students, it's almost worth a million", says Ravindra Singh Bangari, VP of Assessment Operations, Edumetry.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Skipping college a better idea for not-so-bright students?

What's the key to success in the United States? Short of becoming a reality TV star, the answer is rote and, some would argue, rather knee-jerk: Earn a college degree. The idea that four years of higher education will translate into a better job, higher earnings and a happier life - a refrain sure to be repeated this month at graduation ceremonies across the country - has been pounded into the heads of schoolchildren, parents and educators. But there's an underside to that conventional wisdom. Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor's degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. (The figures don't include transfer students, who aren't tracked.)

For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even starker: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor's degree or even a two-year associate's degree. That can be a lot of tuition to pay, without a degree to show for it.

A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It's time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so. Whether everyone in college needs to be there is not a new question; the subject has been hashed out in books and dissertations for years. But the economic crisis has sharpened that focus, as financially struggling states cut aid to higher education.

Among those calling for such alternatives are the economists Richard K. Vedder of Ohio University and Robert I. Lerman of American University, the political scientist Charles Murray, and James E. Rosenbaum, an education professor at Northwestern. They would steer some students toward intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships.

"It is true that we need more nanosurgeons than we did 10 to 15 years ago," said Professor Vedder, founder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a research nonprofit in Washington. "But the numbers are still relatively small compared to the numbers of nurses' aides we're going to need. We will need hundreds of thousands of them over the next decade." And much of their training, he added, might be feasible outside the college setting. College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven typically require a bachelor's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among the top 10 growing job categories, two require college degrees: accounting (a bachelor's) and post-secondary teachers (a doctorate). But this growth is expected to be dwarfed by the need for registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives and store clerks. None of those jobs require a bachelor's degree.

Professor Vedder likes to ask why 15 percent of mail carriers have bachelor's degrees, according to a 1999 federal study. "Some of them could have bought a house for what they spent on their education," he said. Professor Lerman, the American University economist, said some high school graduates would be better served by being taught how to behave and communicate in the workplace. Such skills are ranked among the most desired -- even ahead of educational attainment -- in many surveys of employers. In one 2008 survey of more than 2,000 businesses in Washington State, employers said entry-level workers appeared to be most deficient in being able to "solve problems and make decisions," "resolve conflict and negotiate," "cooperate with others" and "listen actively."

Yet despite the need, vocational programs, which might teach such skills, have been one casualty in the push for national education standards, which has been focused on preparing students for college. While some educators propose a radical renovation of the community college system to teach work readiness, Professor Lerman advocates a significant national investment by government and employers in on-the-job apprenticeship training. He spoke with admiration, for example, about a program in the CVS pharmacy chain in which aspiring pharmacists' assistants work as apprentices in hundreds of stores, with many going on to study to become full-fledged pharmacists themselves. "The health field is an obvious case where the manpower situation is less than ideal," he said. "I would try to work with some of the major employers to develop these kinds of programs to yield mastery in jobs that do demand high expertise."

While no country has a perfect model for such programs, Professor Lerman pointed to a modest study of a German effort done last summer by an intern from that country. She found that of those who passed the Abitur, the exam that allows some Germans to attend college for almost no tuition, 40 percent chose to go into apprenticeships in trades, accounting, sales management, and computers. "Some of the people coming out of those apprenticeships are in more demand than college graduates," he said, "because they've actually managed things in the workplace."

Still, by urging that some students be directed away from four-year colleges, academics like Professor Lerman are touching a third rail of the education system. At the very least, they could be accused of lowering expectations for some students. Some critics go further, suggesting that the approach amounts to educational redlining, since many of the students who drop out of college are black or non-white Hispanics.

Peggy Williams, a counselor at a high school in suburban New York City with a student body that is mostly black or Hispanic, understands the argument for erring on the side of pushing more students toward college. "If we're telling kids, 'You can't cut the mustard, you shouldn't go to college or university,' then we're shortchanging them from experiencing an environment in which they might grow," she said. But Ms. Williams said she would be more willing to counsel some students away from the precollege track if her school, Mount Vernon High School, had a better vocational education alternative. Over the last decade, she said, courses in culinary arts, nursing, dentistry and heating and ventilation system repair were eliminated. Perhaps 1 percent of this year's graduates will complete a concentration in vocational courses, she said, compared with 40 percent a decade ago.

There is another rejoinder to the case against college: People with college and graduate degrees generally earn more than those without them, and face lower risks of unemployment, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even those who experience a few years of college earn more money, on average, with less risk of unemployment, than those who merely graduate from high school, said Morton Schapiro, an economist who is the president of Northwestern University. "You get some return even if you don't get the sheepskin," Mr. Shapiro said. He warned against overlooking the intangible benefits of a college experience - even an incomplete experience - for those who might not apply what they learned directly to their chosen work. "It's not just about the economic return," he said. "Some college, whether you complete it or not, contributes to aesthetic appreciation, better health and better voting behavior."

Nonetheless, Professor Rosenbaum said, high school counselors and teachers are not doing enough to alert students unlikely to earn a college degree to the perilous road ahead. "I'm not saying don't get the B.A," he said. "I'm saying, let's get them some intervening credentials, some intervening milestones. Then, if they want to go further in their education, they can."

Source: NDTV (Courtesy - NYT News Service)

President dissolves Medical Council of India

Corruption-ridden Medical Council of India (MCI), set up 76 years ago to regulate medical education in the country, was on Saturday dissolved in the wake of a recent scam and was replaced by a six-member panel of eminent doctors, led by gastroenterologist S. K. Sarin. An ordinance dissolving the scam-tainted MCI was signed by President Pratibha Patil and notified by the Law Ministry. The six-member panel would be headed by Dr. S. K. Sarin and the members will include Drs. Ranjit Roy Chowdhary, Sita Naik, Gautam Sen, Devi Shetty and R. L. Salhan.

Dr. Sarin is currently the Director Professor of Gastroenterology at the G. B. Pant Hospital in the capital. He is an AIIMS alumnus and has been in several other Government panels. The panel will be in charge till the next one year, Health Secretary Sujatha Rao said.

The Government has said it would bring in a new law for the formation of an overarching body to regulate medical education in the country. Rao had on Friday said a draft law for the formation of such a body would be formulated within a month. She added that the draft law would be a legislative response to the credibility crisis which the MCI was in.
She said that another option was to bring in an amendment to the MCI Act of 1956 to give Government some power in the regulatory body.

MCI President Ketan Desai was arrested on April 22 by CBI for allegedly accepting bribe of Rs two crore to give permission to a Punjab medical college to recruit a fresh batch of students without having requisite infrastructure.

The MCI was established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933, now repealed, with the main function of establishing uniform standards of higher qualifications in medicine and recognition of medical institutions in India and abroad. In 1956, the old Act was repealed and a new one was enacted. This was further modified in 1964, 1993 and 2001. The objectives of the Council include maintenance of uniform standards of medical education, both undergraduate and postgraduate and recommendation for recognition or de-recognition of medical qualifications of institutions of India or foreign countries.

Source: NDTV

Poor man's IIT coach in Time's "Best of Asia" list

"Super 30", the Patna-based institute which has been coaching poor students for IITs, has found a place in Time magazine's list of Best of Asia 2010.T ime magazine has described Super 30 as the "Best Cram School" in its list. Last year, 30 of them came from one coaching centre in Patna, capital of the impoverished north Indian state of Bihar. That may not seem like many, but for the Super 30 centre its a pass rate of 100%, the magazine said in its latest issue. What makes that feat even more remarkable is that these students are the poorest of the poor, who would otherwise never be able to afford full-time coaching, it added. The institutes director-cum-founder Anand Kumar was thrilled by the latest recognition showered on his efforts. A student enrolled in Super 30 gets full scholarships, including accommodation and food.

The institute has become so popular that every year, thousands of students make a beeline for getting an entry into it. They now have to pass a competitive test just to get into Super 30, and then commit themselves to a year of 16-hour study every day. Since 2003, 182 of a total 210 students have made it to one of the IITs.

Time magazine said the project has even won the notice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who met Mr. Kumar in February to hear his plan to launch a national programme for talented rural children. In a country that has struggled to offer those students even basic education, Super 30 is an example of what's possible when human potential is tapped, the magazine said. The institute was started by Mr. Kumar along with Bihar's Additional Director-General of Police Abhayanand in 2002 in Patna. But two years ago, Abhayanand dissociated himself from the institute.

Source: The Economic Times, May 15, 2010

Interim board to oversee the corrupt Medical Council of India

A seven-member board of governors, which will take over the working of the Medical Council of India (MCI), plans to clean up the besmirched body. The Cabinet had cleared an ordinance on Thursday to put in place the board, comprising eminent persons nominated by the Ministry of Health. The ordinance is expected to be promulgated by the President in the next two days. Although broad agreements were reached at the Cabinet meeting, finer details were worked out at a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday. Names of potential members were also discussed. Dr. M. S. Valiathan, K. K. Venugopal and Devi Shetty could figure in the list.

The decision was taken in response to public sentiment and demand from the medical community for cleaning up the Council. The new body will function independently and devise systems to run MCI. It will take stock of the current working of the Council and make recommendations to the ministry on changes needed.

Governments hands-off approach will help restore credibility in the Council as there is a widespread feeling that there has been collusion between government nominees and the disgraced former MCI President Ketan Desai, who is presently in jail for accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 million.

The seven-member board will be in place for a year. In the period, MCI will be kept in abeyance, with all decisions taken by the board. The Ordinance does not propose disbanding of MCI. During the period, the Centre will finalise the legislation that will put in place an overarching regulatory authority to oversee medical education. Whether the body will be the National Council of Human Resources in Health under the health ministry or the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) under the Ministry of HRD will be decided after discussions between the two ministries and the Prime Minister's Office.

Irrespective of which regulatory authority has control over medical education, it is clear that the government proposes to separate regulation of education and medical practitioners. This would mean that the MCI will be a body that will deal with the issue of ethics in the profession, standards for practitioners and registration of medical professionals. It would regulate medical professionals, much like other professional councils such as the Bar Council of India. This separation would be in line with original mandate of the Medical Council of India, as it was set up in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act,1933.

This Act was repealed to make way for the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, which brought medical education under the ambit of the Council. This was done is response to the fast-paced development of medical education in the country in the years immediately after Independence.

Source: The Economic Times, May 15, 2010

New UK Government may impose bonds on Indian students

Britain's new Immigration Minister Damian Green has indicated that students from India and other non-European Union countries will have furnish a bond of a specified amount before coming here to study at British institutions. Green, who was the Conservative spokesman on immigration issues, believes that the current points-based student visa system is the 'biggest single loophole' and has promised to bring about major changes in the immigration system. British authorities had suspended the issue of student visas in north India, Nepal and Bangladesh earlier this year after missions received an unusually large number of applications from these regions. "We want genuine students and want a fair system. We will introduce the bond system for international students who will be refunded the bond amount when they leave after completing their studies," Green had told an audience at the Guru Nanak Prakash Singh Sabha in Bristol recently.

International students are a source of major revenue because they pay three times higher fees than students from the UK and the European Union. Among other new measures Green is likely to introduce is an annual cap on the number of skilled professionals from India and other countries outside the EU in order to drastically reduce the annual number migrants coming to Britain.

As per the coalition agreement between the Conservative and Liberal Democrats, it is the Conservative policy that has been adopted by the new coalition government. The coalition agreement says: "We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit".

The overall goal of the Conservative party's policy is to reduce net immigration to the levels of the 1990s - "tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands every year under the Labour government". Green said: "There are benefits of immigration but not of uncontrolled immigration. There is concern about immigration within the migrant community that have integrated well in British society over the years. We will ensure that immigration returns to the level of 1980s and 1990s".

Source: The Economic Times, May 15, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

IITs slip in QS Asian University Rankings

A majority of premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have not performed well in the 2010 QS Asian University Rankings released today. IIT Bombay’s rank, for instance, fell six places to 36 this year. It was ranked 30 last year. IIT Kanpur, too, slipped three notches to be ranked at 37 against 34 last year, while IIT Delhi fell from 36 to 39 this year. "The rankings are OK. We are not obsessed with it. Our endeavour is to continue our efforts to excel in teaching and research and we are constantly trying to improve", countered Devang Khakkar, director, IIT Bombay.

IIT Kharagpur, on the other hand, climbed 84 positions up to figure at 57 against 141 last year. The University of Hyderabad, which did not figure on the list at all last year, was ranked the 81st best Asian university this year. IIT Guwahati, too, stands at 66 this year against 171 last year. "Though we are not aware of the process of the rankings, we are happy that we have climbed 105 notches. We are constantly attempting to get better and we hope to figure in the list of at least the top 50 best institutions next year", said Gautam Barua, director, IIT Guwahati.

The rankings listed Asia’s top 200 universities, where 12 Indian institutions figure, including seven IITs and five universities. "Strength in academic peer recognition helped seven Indian Institutes of Technology and 15 South Korean universities appear in the Asian top 100", a note from the QS press office said.

Meanwhile, among the 200 best Asian universities, the University of Hong Kong retains the top slot this year too, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is ranked 2nd against 4th position last year and National University of Singapore is ranked 3rd against 10th last year.

"The rise of National University of Singapore to third place overall is underpinned by a strong performance in the international faculty, international students and academic peer review measures, amidst a drive to internationalize Singapore’s universities", the QS press office said.

In total, 11 countries are represented in the top 200, with Japanese universities occupying 57 of the top 200 and five of the top 10 places in this year’s table. "Government-led investment, most recently through the ‘Global 30’ programme, has helped drive up standards by attracting high-quality international students and staff, areas of the rankings in which Japanese universities excel", the release added.

Highlights of the research include the continued dominance of Japan's universities and the success of Hong Kong's increasingly internationalised institutions, which take three out of the top four places. Measuring factors including the quality of research through citations, and the proportion of international students and staff, the rankings indicate that an international outlook adds considerably to the reputation and status of universities in the region.

In 2009, the rankings revealed the strength of Hong Kong and Japan, which together accounted for all of the top five positions. The Asian University Rankings have been compiled by using parameters that are considered to be more appropriate to institutions in this region. These parameters include assessing a combination of regional and international factors, such as peer and recruiter reviews, the international research capabilities of the institution, teaching quality, and internationalisation of the staff and students, among others.

Source: Business Standard, May 14, 2010

Tapping rural talent: B-schools go hinterland

Gunpal Lad (26) from Barshi village in Maharashtra’s Solapur district hit a wall some years ago when his father refused to allow him to enter the family’s grain-trading business. The commerce graduate went in for the next best option he knew of: he applied for the common entrance test to the state’s management institutes. Mr. Lad got through in the second attempt and was allotted a college in Kamlapur, a village in Sangola taluka in his home district. Today, he works with Infosys and earns Rs. 140,000 a year. His classmates at the Sinhagad Institute of Business Management (SIBM) were recruited by HDFC Bank for its rural operations, Tata AIG, Bajaj Allianz and Infosys. Mr. Lad was, in a way, lucky that his father did not accept him in the family business. For most students from the country’s rural and semi-urban areas, an MBA is a conscious choice, a way to earn a regular income when compared to the uncertainty involved in pursuing agriculture or a small-scale family business. This has spurred established institutes to set up infrastructure in rural areas. "Not only is there a very high demand for professional education in these areas, but there is also competition among institutes to tap the best talent", said VS Mangnale, director (MBA) of SIBM.

Maharashtra alone has 300 MBA institutes with a combined annual capacity of about 22,000 candidates. The education trusts in "talukas" have already set up MBA colleges in rural areas. While Solapur district has five MBA colleges, another three to four are in the pipeline. The Sinhagad Institute from Pune, for instance, has set up a campus on 20 acres in the temple town of Pandharpur in Solapur district. Not to be left behind, the Pune-based Maharashtra Institute of Technology has acquired land in Solapur for its campus while the Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University is offering varied professional courses along with management education.

One reason places like Solapur and its surrounding districts like Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara and rural Pune are attracting such institutes is that these are relatively more developed compared to the state’s other semi-urban areas. "We started the MBA course in Nashik because we had land there. But we are confident that we can run an institute anywhere if we provide good infrastructure and staff. The demand for education will always increase", says R.P. Joshi, Director of Pune Vidyarthi Griha’s College of Engineering, which recently started an MBA college at Mhasrul in Nashik.

Another reason such institutes are located in the hinterland are that the promoters hail from these areas, and have trusted local manpower to take care of day-to-day administration. For the students, it’s a win-win on more than one count. For one, such courses work out cheaper compared to pursuing an MBA in a city, as Mr Mangnale points out. Students save on the cost of living and other incidental expenditures in big cities. The annual hostel fee in Sangola, for instance, is Rs. 27,000 per student while in Pune it is Rs. 39,000. The only thing that is different from the urban campuses is that the faculty of these institutes has to work doubly hard at improving communication skills of its students.

The students are in no way found wanting in ambition or confidence, though. "Some of them even want to become CEOs", says Aesha Aleem, a professor at Sinhagad’s Kamlapur campus. Wasim Kalavant from Ichalkarnaji in Sangli district, for instance, hopes to build enough reserves to be able to run his family business of manufacturing four-wheeler batteries. He completed his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the town and took a loan of Rs. 150,000 to pursue an MBA. "I want to get some experience in the corporate world and collect capital by working for five to six years", says Kalavant. For students from more modest backgrounds, getting a job that pays between Rs. 13,000 and Rs. 15,000 per month is the minimum expectation.

The math works out right for the institutes and faculty too. "The time to reach break-even for an educational institute in rural areas is about four years as against two years in urban areas", says Mr Mangnale. The faculty, which comes from MBA colleges in the area, is attracted by the salaries and infrastructure that the better-known institutes offer, and are even willing to stay in staff quarters.

Source: The Economic Times, May 14, 2010

Higher Education Bill: Experts want medical education included

Scope of the proposed National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), the overarching regulator in higher education, could well be enhanced to include medical education. The Tribune has learnt that the taskforce appointed by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) to finalize the NCHER draft law is making all-out efforts to bring medical education under the ambit of the proposed Council. The Health Ministry is, however, resistant to the move and has sought greater discussions on the matter. In her May 10 letter to the HRD Ministry, Union Health Secretary Sujatha Rao sought a meeting on the issue and highlighted four key concerns of the Health Ministry in case medical education was to be regulated by the proposed Council. HRD Ministry sources confirmed receipt of the health ministry’s letter and said they would engage with them on the issue.

Meanwhile, Planning Commission member Narendra Jadhav - who is also on the HRD Ministry-appointed taskforce finalising the NCHER draft law to accommodate concerns raised by stakeholders including states - today said the issue had not yet been settled as the health ministry had appointed its own taskforce for a separate law to regulate medical education. “We are trying our best to bring them together. Whether we succeed or not only time will tell,” Jadhav said, admitting that the NCHER law was based on recommendations that talked of education as a whole and did not make distinctions on the basis of streams.

The President had made a mention of NCHER draft law and another council for human resources in health in her joint address to both Houses of Parliament last year. Her speech talked of the establishment of the National Council for Higher Education as recommended by the Yashpal Committee and the National Knowledge Commission to bring in reform of regulatory institutions and another National Council for Human Resources in Health as an overarching regulatory body for the health sector to reform the current regulatory framework and enhance supply of skilled personnel. “So far as health goes, the Presidential speech only outlines a regulator for skilled personnel in health, which means doctors. It does not talk of medical education,” HRD ministry officials said, adding they are sticking to NKC recommendations for the NCHER draft bill.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sujatha Rao has said that the ministry was working on its own law to regulate medical education. With the two ministries engaged in a turf war, the picture will become clear only once the reworked NCHER draft Bill is made public later this week.

Source: The Tribune, May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tax-saving deposit scheme to fund loans to students, educational institutions - Scheme may be tax exempt like PPF

The government is drawing up a tax saving bank deposit scheme that will raise funds for cheap loans to educational institutions and students aspiring to become doctors, engineers, fashion designers and software engineers. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) discussed the proposal with the Planning Commission last week ,and in the next one month, the concept will be crystallised, minister Kapil Sibal told The Economic Times.
Investments in deposits under the proposed First Education Savings Scheme (FESS) will be eligible for tax exemption similar to the public provident fund or life insurance premium, hinted an official in the ministry. Savings under the scheme will be collected by commercial banks and transferred to the proposed National Education Finance Corporation (NEFC) for refinancing educational loans at concessional rates. Banks will transfer deposits under the scheme every month and get a commission for their services.


Based on the Planning Commissions feedback, the MHRD will prepare a formal note and circulate it to various arms of the government including the Ministry of Finance before it will be sent to the Cabinet for approval. FESS is just one of the instruments suggested by the MHRD to raise funds for the proposed corporation, said a Planning Commission official who did not wish to be named. We agree with the MHRD about the need to focus on secondary and higher education to strengthen our gains in primary education, he said.

The total fund requirement for secondary and higher education is estimated at around Rs. 10,94,000 crore (Rs. 10940 billion) by 2020. The MHRD expects the corporation to meet a little more than one-fourth this requirement. NEFC will be set up with an initial equity capital of Rs. 5,500 crore (Rs. 55 billion). The ministry proposes to infuse Rs. 3,000-crore (Rs. 30 billion) equity capital in the company every year with the aim of generating Rs. 35,500 crore (Rs. 355 billion) by 2020.

Besides equity, NEFC will raise funds through public deposits, domestic borrowings, grants, donations and bonds and debentures. NEFC will refinance education loans at an interest rate as low as 4% to students aspiring for higher education. Interest rates for education loan currently vary between 10% and 12%. It will also refinance loans extended to educational institutions and universities at 2% below the prime lending rate. Mr. Sibal had told Parliament on March 5 that his ministry is planning to set up NEFC to refinance loans besides funding educational infrastructure and expand institutions.

Source: The Economic Times, May 13, 2010

India will need 2.4 million nurses by 2012: WHO

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India will need 2.4 million nurses by the year 2012 to achieve the governments aim of a nurse-patient ratio of one nurse per 500 population. On the eve of International Nursing Day on May 11, 2010) WHO said, "In most countries, there is a shortage of nurses but nowhere is it so acute as in the developing world. The developed world fills its vacancies by enticing nurses from other countries, while developing countries are unable to compete with better pay and better professional development.

In India, nurse shortages occur at every level of the healthcare system. The states with the worst healthcare human resource shortages are also the ones with the worst health indicators and highest infant and child mortality, Nidhi Chaudhary from the WHO's New Delhi office said.
Source: The Times of India, May 12, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

IITs roped in to set 4G standards

IEEE’s working group is expected to finalize a global wireless standard for 4G technology — IEEE 802.16m — to follow 3G cellular standards, this week while the members meet in Bangalore. It will later be ratified by a higher committee from IEEE. For the first time, Indian institutes such as IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay and IIIT-Bangalore have taken part in research for global standards and contributed to this initiative. Roger B Marks, Chairman of the IEEE 802.16 working group said that about 300 experts have been collaborating to come up with the advanced version of 4G WiMax standard since 2006.

IEEE 802.16m is one of the two technology standards being pursued by companies and organisations globally and meets International Telecommunications Union (a United Nations agency) requirements for 4G or “IMT-Advanced”, delivering higher system capacity – peak rates of more than 300 mbps – lower latency and increased VOIP capacity. IEEE is an international non-profit, professional organisation with 395,000 members from 150 countries.

Indian academia are contributing research and ideas to address Indian and rural requirements in the standard, according to Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Professor at IIT-Madras and Honorary Director, CEWiT. These include key specifications such as Open Loop Region and Conjucate Data Repetition by CEWiT. He feels that WiMax is an important technology for India, and the 802.16e standard is mature while evolving now to 802.16m. “4G broadband wireless technologies can do for India what 2G technologies did for telephony. It will expand to reach one and all,” he said.

Source: Financial Chronicle, May 11, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Georgia Tech revives plans for AP campuses

U.S.-headquartered Georgia Tech University, which offers post graduate and research programmes, has revived its bid to set up campuses in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. A delegation that met Chief Minister K. Rosaiah recently assured it would make efforts to start classes this year from temporary premises. It first mooted the proposal to set up campuses here in 2007. The government, through its AP Invest, a wing to promote investments in the state, agreed to provide about 20-acre land in Hyderabad and 70-acre in Visakhapatnam free of cost for the visiting university for setting up the new premises.

Georgia Tech was to take the mandatory permission from the apex body of technical education — All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — to offer courses in India. It then said it would set up the Hyderabad campus in a year and the other in the coastal city in two years. However, no progress has been made and there were reports that the foreign university had shelved its Andhra Pradesh plans. “They could not tie up with a business partner for meeting the funding requirements,” a higher official explained the reasons for the delay. Apparently, it has found partners now and was willing to take the project forward, the official said. The recent developments in the higher education arena allowing the foreign universities to partner with Indian institutions was also one of the reasons for Georgia to make efforts to revive its plans for centres in Hyderabad, he felt.

Georgia visited various locations in Maharashtra, Karanataka and Andhra Pradesh before zeroing on Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. Georgia was then tight-lipped about its investment in actual terms. It was then said (in 2007) that Satyam Group, now embroiled in financial scam at Satyam Computer Services, would help the university to raise an endowment of about US$ 500 million for new project and had already generated US$ 20 million for the purpose. It is not clear if this arrangement would work now in view of the crises at Satyam.

Faculty from the parent university would come for teaching here. Gradually, about 80 per cent of them would be appointed from India and stationed at Hyderabad. There were plans to admit international students, to partner with local technology and allied players, to offer value addition to students apart from taking up industry-based research in engineering stream.

Source: Business Standard, May 10, 2010 (Reported by B. Krishna Mohan)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Max India in talks with foreign varsities to set up medical college

Max India founder and chairman Analjit Singh is in talks with four foreign universities to set up a medical college in the country. Singh, an alumnus of Boston University, confirmed the development but declined to divulge details. “I am planning a serious education play and I am in talks with four international universities for a potential partnership but it’s too early to talk about it,” Singh told Business Standard. He added the proposal was still on the drawing board. However, sources in the company said Singh plans to set up a medical college in line with his strategy “to convert Max Healthcare into a place where world-class research and development and education can go hand in hand”. Boston University is among the four varsities he is talking to.

The education sector is no stranger to Singh. He is currently an executive board member of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, where he is facilitating the funding of a new campus at Mohali, Punjab, with an investment of Rs. 50 crore (Rs. 500 million). Apart from Singh, Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice-chairman and Managing Director of Bharti Enterprises Limited; Sunil Kant Munjal, Managing Director and CEO of Hero Corporate Service and Atul Punj, Chairman, Punj Lloyd Group, have invested Rs. 50 crore each for ISB’s Mohali campus. Singh is also chairman of the board of governors of The Doon School, Dehradun, besides being a board member of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.

Last month, the government allowed private firms to set up medical colleges in the country. With this, healthcare chains such as Fortis Healthcare, Max Healthcare, and Apollo Hospitals are free to start their own medical colleges. Prior to this, only state-run bodies, universities and private, religious or charitable trusts were allowed to set up medical colleges. In 2008, a government notification had allowed private companies to set up not-for-profit medical colleges.

Management consulting firm McKinsey had suggested reorganisation of Singh’s business some years ago and it had identified four investment areas for him — insurance, healthcare, education and hospitality. While Singh runs Max New York Life Insurance Company, Max Bupa Health Insurance and Max Healthcare, education and hospitality is the next big sector he is looking at.

Medical education is much in demand. At present, 23,000 students graduate from 300 medical colleges each year. Most of them enroll for post-graduation courses while some leave to study abroad. With 15,600 post-graduate seats available in teaching institutions, 6,000 in non-teaching hospitals such as Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi and 400 in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and PGI, Chandigarh, there are few MBBS doctors left to join superspeciality hospitals, where they are needed for providing round-the-clock care.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines state that a person intending to set up a medical college has to provide two performance bank guarantees from a commercial bank valid for a period of five years. The first guarantee is to be made for a sum of Rs. 1 crore (Rs. 10 million) for 50 admissions, Rs. 1.5 crore for 100 admissions and Rs. 2 crore for 150 admissions. The second bank guarantee is for infrastructural facilities of the medical college and requires Rs. 3.5 crore for a 400-bed hospital, Rs. 5.5 crore for a 500-bed hospital and Rs. 7.5 crore for a 750-bed hospital.

Source: Business Standard, May 10, 2010 (Reported by Kalpana Pathak)

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