Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NITs to attract foreign students

The officials of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) feel there might be something, after all, to the melting pot the metaphor used by colleges in the U.S. to describe diversity on campus. Now, they want a similar thing in India. In a March 4, 2010, circular to the National Institutes of Technology (formerly Regional Engineering Colleges), the MHRD has asked them to go all out to attract foreign students. Not just non-resident Indians (NRIs) or people of Indian origin (PIO), but students from the U.S., U.K. and Australia as well. As officials see it, building diversity on campus is just a step away from preparing students to subsequently deal with increasing diversity at the workplace.

Our curriculum is at par with international levels. What we lack is branding, and this will happen only when more foreign students apply to India, says MHRD deputy advisor N. Mohan Das. In the letter, the MHRD entrusts the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) with the responsibility to evolve a framework for publicising schemes by creating a web-portal for application, submissions and the entire admissions process. The reason for roping in NITs is that while these institutes are second-rung in India after the IITs, they are not recognized abroad. At the same time, the meltdown has made students look at relatively inexpensive options in Asian countries, for both study and work, making it the right time to go international.

Currently, the 15% quota reserved for foreign students is filled by NRIs and PIOs from the Gulf. "We do not get quality students due to a lack of information", says Prof. Sunil Sarangi, Director of NIT Rourkela, Orissa. Most people look at the U.S. or U.K., unaware of the facilities available here. In its first year, the program will focus on publicizing Indian tech institutions in places with a substantial Indian population, like Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Later, the aim will be to target students from countries known to provide quality education, like the U.S., U.K., France and Australia. NIT alumnus, home on vacation and teachers on official visits abroad, are expected to organize popularisation drives.

Even though the institutes are wooing foreign students, they are quite clear there will be strict norms for admissions. While the MHRD wants to make the admissions process under the direct admission of studies abroad scheme more user-friendly, Indian institutions say they will only accept quality students. We are modelling the system along the lines of those in the U.K. and U.S., says Prof. Sandeep Sancheti of NITK Surathkal, Mentor-Director of NIT Goa. Entrance to foreign students from this year will be based on their scores from international admissions tests like the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) unlike earlier, when their school-leaving mark sheets would suffice.

That doesn't deter people like Catherine Nalubega of Ukraine, who is currently doing her second year civil engineering at NITK and plans to live on in India. Nalubega picked NITK over options in Russia and China, and feels the Indian governments scholarship schemes, if promoted better, will attract more foreign students. Having more foreign students will also bring in foreign exchange; especially when the recession has made people look at value-for-money, cost-effective education options. Its a win-win for everyone.

Source: The Economic Times, June 30, 2010

IIM-Ahmedabad may open campus in Hyderabad

The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on Tuesday said it is in talks with Andhra Pradesh to open a campus in Hyderabad. IIM-A does not have any campus outside Ahmedabad, though other IIMs exist at Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Shillong and Ranchi. All IIMs are owned by the Union government. "The institute has suggested to the Andhra Pradesh government to allocate 150 acres of land and provide funding to the tune of Rs. 100 crore to establish the campus", IIM-A said in a statement.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah has in a letter to Vijaypat Singhania, Chairman of the board of governors of IIM-A, promised land and funds, but hasn't specified the amount. The state government would facilitate setting up a campus in Hyderabad by "allocating necessary land and providing required support for successful realization of the initiative", he said in the letter dated 31 May.

IIM-A will not be the first to open an off-site campus. IIM Lucknow, for instance, has a campus in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi. IIM-A did not say by when it would launch the Hyderabad campus. The school said executive education courses would be offered at the new campus initially and it would explore the possibility of offering its two-year core MBA program there. The Ahmedabad and Hyderabad campuses would be linked through technology, it said. IIM-A admitted 380 students in its core MBA program this year. It also offers a full-time two-year agriculture business management program, apart from executive education courses.

Source: Mint, June 30, 2010

UGC issues new guidelines for evaluation of teachers

Seniority will no longer be the sole criterion for promoting university teachers. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has laid down new guidelines to evaluate teachers on their contributions to innovation in learning through patent registrations, sponsored project works, articles in research journals, guiding M.Phil. and doctoral students, and helping the government in framing policy. A copy of the new guidelines was reviewed by Mint.

The guidelines, approved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and sent to Union government-run universities and colleges on Monday, say university teachers would earn extra points during performance appraisals for additional activities such as carrying out research, writing textbooks that can be prescribed for institutions, and earning nominations to higher education-related committees.

"The guidelines aims to make teaching holistic from a student's point of view. While students will get the benefit, the new rules will give teachers an advantage to get promoted faster than the current trend", said an MHRD official, requesting anonymity.

The guidelines will initially be implemented in Union government-run institutions, which account for fewer than 25% of the 470 universities and nearly 22,000 colleges. Vinod Raina, an educationist, said the new system will improve the quality of teachers. "A review of their work is good. It should not happen that they are not doing anything for 30 years yet getting promotions".

Atul Sood, an associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre for the Study of Regional Development, however, was critical of the new guidelines. "While adopting global standards for appraisal, the government must provide global-standard infrastructure. Equality of condition is a prerequisite for equality in evaluation", he said, adding that many colleges and universities do not even have proper buildings.

Source: Mint, June 30, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MHRD's IIIT plan hits roadblock

An ambitious proposal of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) to set up 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) could be a non-starter with the finance ministry not favouring it during the 11th Five Year Plan. A note issued by the MHRD for clearance of the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) has been returned by the Ministry of Finance with the suggestion that the proposal may be considered during the 12th Plan, official sources said.

The HRD ministry had proposed to start the institutes in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode during the 11th Plan (2007-2012). "The finance ministry did not agree to the proposal of setting up of 20 IIITs in 11th Plan. It has said the scheme can be considered during the 12th Plan", the sources said. The MHRD is yet to decide its future course of action on the matter and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal will take a call on the matter.

The MHRD had earlier prepared a PPP model for setting up 20 IIITs under which the expenditure could be shared in the ratio of 85 to 15 between the government and industry. According to the EFC note prepared by the ministry for these projects, each IIIT would be set up with an investment of Rs. 200 crore (Rs. 2 billion) and the government would bear 85 per cent of the expenditure. Of the 85 per cent spending, the Centre would provide 50 per cent and the state government would bear 35 per cent of the expenditure. It means the Centre will provide Rs. 100 crore while the state government will give Rs. 70 crore (Rs. 700 million) and the industry Rs. 30 crore for setting up of each IIIT. The Planning Commission had also given in-principle approval.

The ministry had overruled aproposal of NASSCOM, the country’s information technology and business process outsourcing trade body, which had prepared a detailed project report suggesting that the private sector should bear more than 50 per cent of the cost. As per the plan, each IIIT would be a centre of excellence and specialise in a specific area. These institutes would concentrate more on basic than applied research.

The ministry was supposed to bring in a bill in Parliament to confer them with the status of institutes of national importance. Some of the IIITs were supposed to be set up in northeastern states. If the industry did not come forward, the Ministry for Development of the North-Eastern Region would have provided additional funds. The buildings and campuses of these institutes were supposed to be made environment-friendly.

Source: Business Standard, June 23, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kapil Sibal for common medical and engineering entrance exam

Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal is serious about placing the student at the centre of his ambitious education reforms program. In an effort to reduce examination stress, the ministry is considering merging the Central Board of Secondary Education-conducted all India pre-medical test and the all India engineering entrance examination. Mr. Sibal put forward this proposal at the state education ministers’ conference on Friday. "This is being done to reduce multiplicity to entry to higher education institutions and to save the students from sitting for two separate exams", he said.

The logic was simple, both sets of examinations have common subjects—physics and chemistry, while those opting for medical course have to appear for an additional biology paper and the engineering stream for a mathematics paper. However, if a student wants to appear for both streams, at present s/he needs to take separate entrance tests, and has to sit for the physics and chemistry tests twice. This duplication, Mr. Sibal felt, was unnecessary. Merging the two examinations would resolve this problem. Mr. Sibal said that the ministry would seek consultations on the proposal in the coming year.

Stressing on the need for a common entrance test after Class XII, Mr. Sibal said that this would serve to test general awareness and aptitude. The Class XII board examinations would test the students’ knowledge of the subject. "The education ministers are not adverse to idea", Mr. Sibal said. For entrance to professional institutions, Class XII marks and marks of common entrance test put together could be the criteria. Impressing upon the state governments also to adopt the system, Mr. Sibal said the marks of different examination boards could be equalised through a mathematical formula for weightage. "We are trying to prepare a system under which students will not have to appear in exams after exams", he said.

The common core curriculum, required for removing disparity of syllabi that necessitates different entrance exams catering to different boards, had already been devised by the Council of Boards of School Education (COBSE) in India for science and maths. "This will give an opportunity to children from economically weaker sections who are not able to avail of coaching and get through the current system of entrance exams", he said while adding that the proposal was at a debating stage and the need for it had been felt as the current system was being seen as unfair to the poor and the underprivileged. "If you have a core curriculum, it will be easier for all the states to hold exam and evaluate", Mr. Sibal said.

The minister also stressed on the need for a national framework on vocational education. Mr. Sibal said that there was another proposal for setting up a national institute for assessment and evaluation for schools which would serve as an advisory institution to help school boards volunteering to seek such help in assessment and evaluation. The advices would not be binding but would help benchmark institutes with global standards.

The ministry will work on a curriculum framework for value education as examinations "are only a gateway to higher education" whereas values last and guide a lifetime, Mr. Sibal said. The minister also unveiled a proposal to provide 60,00,000 teachers life and health insurance. "I discussed with state education ministers on Friday on the plan for starting insurance and housing schemes for 60,00,000 teachers. In principle approval has been given by them for the schemes", Mr. Sibal said. The scheme is part of the the ministry’s effort to improve the offering that students are given in the education system. "When teachers are taken care of, students benefit as well. this is part of our efforts to make the system child-centric".

The insurance schemes will require financial contributions from the Centre, the states and the teachers. The group housing scheme will be administered at the central level but will not require financial contribution from the Centre or the state governments. The health and life insurance schemes are proposed to cost far less for teachers premium wise compared to individual schemes or even schemes run at the state level.

The state education ministers welcomed the proposal, but said they would be able to communicate formal approval after discussing it with their finance ministers. The life insurance cover would guarantee a minimum of about Rs. 500,000 on retirement and Rs. 200,000 on death during service. The health cover, limited to hospitalisation of the teacher, spouse, two children and parents, is being worked on two options—either on a maximum cover of Rs. 125,000, which would mean lesser premium and another option of cover of Rs. 300,000, which would mean a higher premium. The group housing scheme is being envisaged to be centrally administered through a portal, with construction to be done by NBCC, land to be bought at institutional rates and group housing societies to be formed by teachers.

Source: The Economic Times, June 19, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New norms for vocational study

In order to address the skill shortage, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has proposed a National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF) on international lines to link various qualifications and set common principles and guidelines for nationally recognized qualification system. Eleven countries presently have NVQFs including Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK.

The unified system of national qualification will cover schools, vocational education and training institutions and higher education sector. NVQF is based on nationally recognized occupational standards which details listing of all major activities that a worker must perform in the occupation or competency standards - a detailed listing of the knowledge, skills and attitude that a worker should possess to perform a task written by the particular employment-led sector skills council.

NVQF, to be discussed in the meeting of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), is to implement PM Manmohan Singh's stress to set up a Vocational Education Mission. CABE will also discuss new legislations like the NCHER Bill, setting up of national depository for certificates and issues like common science and mathematics curriculum in Class 11 and 12.

The PM had declared setting up of 1,600 new industrial training institutes and polytechnics,10,000 new vocational schools and 50,000 new skill development centres to ensure 10 million students get vocational training. Currently, 17 ministries / departments deliver vocational educational training programs to 2.8 million people.

Source: The Times of India, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Forging academic certificates may attract stiff penalties

Faking academic certificates may soon attract a fine of up to Rs.10 crore (Rs. 100 million) and a jail term of up to 10 years under a draft law to build an online depository of certificates issued by all recognized educational institutions in India. Currently, people who run rackets offering counterfeit certificates, institute officials who help them, and students who procure them face just a few months' imprisonment and a few thousand rupees as a fine. Though no statistics are available, officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which oversees education in India, say the incidence of forging academic certificates has increased with improving technology.

According to First Advantage Pvt. Ltd, a background screening firm, at least 15% of resumes they checked last year had false information, creating the need for such a database, as reported by Mint on 25 March. The Bill to create a National Academic Depository, likely to be tabled in Parliament in a couple of months, will include provisions to give stringent punishment to those who forge certificates, two ministry officials said. "Any forgery of certificates will cost an institute management or a group of people jail term up to 10 years. The management can also get a penalty of up to Rs. 10 crore, or both, for doing this illegal activity", one official said.

More than 22,000 recognized colleges, 470 universities, thousands of technical institutes, and school boards across the country will be able to submit copies of the certificates they have issued to build the academic e-depository.
They will be charged for the service. The move will allow institutions and offices to check the academic history of those who apply for admissions or jobs for a fee. Students, too, will no longer have to worry about losing or misplacing their certificates, the official said. For a nominal charge, they will have lifelong access to the online certificates from anywhere in the world. Around 2.54 million students earn a graduate or post-graduate degree every year, in addition to 9.5 million students who clear their secondary school examinations.

"We have now invited suggestions (regarding the draft law) from various stakeholders, including central government departments, and after getting their input, we will go ahead with the provisions", another ministry official said.

The National Academic Depository will be maintained by one of the two depository managers that are registered with markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India, National Securities Depository Ltd. and Central Depository Services (India) Ltd. The depository managers will be responsible for ensuring the sanctitiy of the certificates, and any interpolation --- even on accout of a technical glitch --- can attract a fine of up to Rs. 50,00,000, MHRD officials said.

Article by Prashant K. Nanda in Mint, June 14, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

B-schools outsource placements to HR firms

A large number of management schools in the country have begun outsourcing the process of student placements to human resource (HR) consultants. Traditionally, B-schools have an in-house placement team, headed by a faculty member. Several B-schools, on condition of anonymity, confirmed they had hired HR consultancies to find jobs for their students. Many of them also plan to have the agencies help out with placing their students as interns with companies.

Take the case of Bangalore-based B-school, Enrich Management Academy (EMA), which will offer a two-year post graduate progamme in management from this academic year. The institute is simultaneously launching operations in Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai. The institute is mentored by N.S. Ramaswamy, founder-director of Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM-B). EMA plans to have an intake of 60 students in each location. EMA has tied up with TROI Management Consultants — a company engaged in recruitment, training and staffing services. Officials from EMA said, the management consultant company would work with students from the day they get enrolled into the institute. "We will work with the students to understand their background and the sectors they are interested to work in", said J Ramesh Kumar, general manager-operations, TROI. Accordingly, the company will help facilitate internships and final recruitments for the students by identifying the right employers. "We know the needs and expectations of companies when it comes to hiring and we will also know the student profiles. Hence, we can match them perfectly", added Kumar.

Delhi-based International Management Institute (IMI), too, said it was in discussion with an HR consultancy for campus placements last year but managed placements on its own. HR consultants take up the job at two levels — helping the students design their resumes along with grooming them and providing them with jobs. These firms charge between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 60,000 per student according to the head of one of the top 10 recruiting firms in the country. "The B-schools account for the HR consultants fee in the fee they charge from the students. So they don’t find it difficult to pay the company per student", added the head.

Hyderabad-based TMI Network, a recruitment advertising agency said 200-300 B-schools approached them to place their students last year. "Serving a B-school while serving our clients translates into conflict of interest. You cannot take money from the company and from the college as well for the same job. It amounts to fraud. The only way consultants can help B-schools is by telling them how to manage placements or what the companies expect from the students", said T. Muralidharan, founder TMI Network.

The reasons for outsourcing placements are many. Till 2007, for instance, placements were a smooth affair for B-schools. However, after the economic crisis and the industry putting a freeze on hiring, institutes had a tough time finding jobs for all their students in 2008 and 2009. "The way a consultant approaches the industry is different from the way we approach it. A faculty member or a student group can only do limited amount of networking. A consultancy can help better in connecting us with the recruiting companies", reasoned a placement chairperson of a Pune-based B-school, which did not wish to be identified.

Meanwhile, to tackle recession, the prominent B-schools including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have altered their placements strategy. Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), for instance, introduced the ‘cohort process’ (calling a group of companies from a specific sector rather than just a few major companies from across sectors who take their pick on the first day itself) while some others are looking at extending the number of days allotted for placement. IIM Bangalore hired a full-time professional to head its placement process, now called career development services.

Source: Business Standard, June 10, 2010

Government to lobby for Indian students in Australia

The Indian government has stepped up efforts to protect the interests of students from the country who are likely to be affected due to the proposed changes in Australia's migration rules. The Labour party-led Australian government that has been trying to repair its tarnished image after the attacks on Indian students has proposed changes in permanent residency rules aimed at a demand-driven general skilled migration intake. Under the proposed rules, the skilled occupation list for getting permanent resident status in Australia has been pared from 450 to 150, with popular courses such as cooking missing.

The issue has assumed such significance that it is slated to come up in talks between the overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi and Australian representatives during his upcoming visit to that country. Ravi, who is leaving for Australia on Saturday for a five-day visit, said: “We have already held two rounds of discussions on this issue with the Australian officials. We have requested them to make the new rule prospective. We have been assured that many of the students will be accommodated.“

"This will largely remove the incentive for overseas students to apply for a particular course simply in the hope of being granted permanent residency", Australian foreign affairs minister Stephen Smith had said earlier.

The new migration rules announced by the Kevin Rudd government that come into effect from 1 July will impact students coming from countries such as China and India who contribute around $18 billion (Rs. 84,600 crore) to the Australian economy. Of around 600,000 overseas student enrolments in Australia in 2009, 20%, or 120,000, were from India.

"Around 75% of these students are in the vocational education and training sector. A very large number of them may have to pack their bags and go home. This would become a very serious issue", said Amit Dasgupta, the Indian Consul General in Sydney. The Indian government doesn't want the implementation of the changes with retrospective effect.

Source: Mint, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Indo-U.S. council to boost education

The enhanced partnership between the Indian and American governments in several spheres has also brought about significant changes in the education sector. The two countries are now working closely towards setting of an Indo-U.S. Education Council. The council will ensure greater cooperation in the sector.

HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who was part of a high-level Indian delegation to the U.S., said: "The council will be in place before the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to India. It will be formally announced at that time". The minister said the council would involve academicians, entrepreneurs and government representatives as its members.

Sibal, who had met U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and discussed bilateral cooperation in education, said the two countries were working towards "equivalence of educational degrees". He said, "We are working towards evolving a basic minimum procedure for equivalence of degrees".

As far as the foreign education providers’ Bill was concerned, the minister, who met the heads of various U.S. higher education institutions, said they were keenly awaiting the passing of the legislation. The Bill has been referred to a standing committee. "We must first decide whether this Bill is good for us or not. We will lose out on big investment opportunities if we reject this Bill", Sibal said.

Source: Mail Today, June 10, 2010

Infosys & Georgia Tech plan R&D hub in Hyderabad

Georgia Institute of Technology is planning to establish a small but top quality post-graduate research institution in Hyderabad in collaboration with Infosys Technologies - one of India's largest IT companies. The proposed facility will include centers for excellence in information technology and information systems, energy systems, biotechnology and infrastructure studies, a top university official said.

The initiative is an outcome of the welcome given to foreign universities by human resource minister Kapil Sibal and the recent introduction of the Foreign Universities Bill in Parliament. Such an avenue for the higher education system in India has been hanging in fire for several years due to opposition from critics who feared it would make Indian higher education westernised and elitist.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed in this regard by Gary Schuster, Georgia Tech’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Infosys CEO S. Gopalakrishnan. "Since Infosys has a presence both in Atlanta and Hyderabad, there are collaborative opportunities in both locations. Such alliances are critical to our goal of developing a global university and to enhancing closer educational, scientific and economic ties between the U.S. and India", said Schuster.

According to him, for the past several years the partnership between Georgia Tech and Infosys has been strong in Atlanta, where the company has rapidly expanded its local workforce by hiring several hundred engineers. "Georgia Tech faculty and Infosys’ engineers and scientists will now have the opportunity to work together on emerging computing and web technologies that promise to add new efficiencies of cost and scale to rapidly expand markets in retail, manufacturing, commerce, energy and finance", Schuster added.

"We are hopeful that the passage of this (University) bill will allow us to expand our proposed activities beyond the research focus, to include an educational program that will offer Georgia Tech Ph.D. and master’s degrees to students in India", said Vijay Madisetti, Executive Director of Georgia Tech’s India initiative.

Georgia Tech is currently ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report’s top public universities, and has research and educational initiatives in France, Ireland, Singapore, Shanghai and Costa Rica. More than 20,000 of its students are enrolled in its colleges of architecture, computing and engineering, among others.

Source: Mail Today, June 10, 2010

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Higher education watchdog to be all inclusive

The single higher education body that is being set up will most likely be a unified one that includes medical, agricultural, legal as well as higher education. The final draft bill to set up the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) notes that all streams would come under the bodys ambit, despite various ministries having indicated they want to regulate their own territories.

When the task force invited experts, all of them recommended that the NCHER should be an all-encompassing one, covering all areas of education. There are efforts going on to convince the Union health minister to be a part of the NCHER. In the end, I see a single unified body emerging to handle all the aspects of post-school education, said a member of the panel that penned the final draft for the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2010, a copy of which is with TOI.

The draft bill states that along with the Prime Minister, both the Union human resources development minister and the Union health minister would be a part of the selection committee that would recommend to the President who should head the NCHER. Similarly, even the general council,which would be the working group of the NCHER, has members from all the professional bodies associated with health sciences - Medical Council of India, the Dental Council of India and other such bodies.

The Union agriculture ministry and the Union law ministry have already conceded to the thought of the NCHER handling the educational aspects, said sources. So that the Union health ministry also warms to the idea, the draft bill clarifies that the commission would not step on its turf.

The bill reads: College or institution intending to impart medical education shall provide an assessment report of its attached hospital and clinical establishment prepared in such a manner and in accordance with such norms as may be specified by the central government ... which refers to the ministry concerned with the subject matter of medical education. Even the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences has a place on the general council.

Members of the panel that drafted the bill said that the document would now be shared with the states in the June 19 meeting of the Central Advisory Board for Education (CABE). Interestingly, among its many tasks, the NCHER would also be put in charge of regulating the entry and operation of foreign universities.

The Higher Education Financial Services Corporation, too, would come under the NCHER. This corporation would be responsible for giving out loans to students to take up higher education and to institutes to build and develop campuses.

At a time when most Indian states are setting up specialized universities that compartmentalise areas of medical and technical education, the final draft has also recognised the importance of interdisciplinary education and introduced a concept of setting up inter-university centres that would set up research facilities for a group of varsities to carry out cutting-edge research. Whether medical or agricultural or legal, a panel member said, "The real answers lie at the cusp of two streams".

Report by Hemali Chhapia in The Times of India, June 6, 2010

Friday, June 04, 2010

New learning mantra: Borrow to study

More students in India are opting for education loans to meet the cost of higher education than ever before. In nine months, between April and December 2009, banks gave out Rs. 35,000 crore (Rs. 350 billion) in education loans, 20 per cent more than they did in the entire financial year of 2008-09. Rising cost of education, easy availability of loans and the growing ability of borrowers to repay are the reasons cited for the increase.

Banks expect education loans to grow by 40 per cent or more every year. "Our education portfolio grew over 40 per cent in 2009- 10. We expect the portfolio to sustain that growth or even surpass it in the next few years,“ said T.M. Bhasin, Chairman & Managing Director, Indian Bank. The bank had by December 2009 given loans to 18,60,000 students, compared to 15,27,000 in 2008.

Expansion in the education sector has also fuelled the demand for loans. In the last three years alone, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 12 central universities and seven more Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have come up. IIM-Ahmedabad now charges Rs. 13,70,000 for its post-graduate program. In 2007, the fee was Rs. 400,000. The IITs have proposed an eight-fold increase in fees from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 400,000 a year.

Self-financing private institutions account for 80 per cent of engineering and more than 50 per cent seats in medicine. "Most of our loan disbursement is concentrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, which have a huge share of private institutions", said Indian Bank's Bhasin. Confident of getting their money back, banks are willing to lend. "If a student completes a course, there is reasonable hope that he will get a job and repay", said T.Y. Prabhu, Chairman & Managing Director, Oriental Bank of Commerce.

Article by Swaha Sahoo in Hindustan Times, June 4, 2010

Indian universities explore global opportunities

Some of India's best-known educational institutes are opening branches abroad, hoping to attract expatriate Indians as well as locals by offering professional courses at inexpensive rates. They are initially targeting countries and regions with large Indian communities, such as West Asia, South-East Asia, the U.S. and the U.K., but also intend to branch out to China, Africa and Latin America later.

"Indian education has entered an age of liberalization", said L.K. Maheshwari, Vice- chancellor of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani. BITS already has a campus in Dubai, and is ready to open another in Mauritius. Maheshwari said the institute was invited by Mauritius to open a branch there some years ago, but political instability in that country delayed their plans. "Now things are moving and a campus in that country is expected soon", said Maheshwari, adding that BITS has also been invited to Singapore, Lebanon and Syria.

The Manipal University has invested more than US$ 200 million (Rs. 930 crore) to open campuses in Malaysia, Antigua, Nepal and Dubai. The Malaysia campus is a medical school currently but plans are afoot to convert it into a full-fledged university. "Globalization is a two-way process and our institutes going abroad is a part of that. We have plans for Middle East, Africa, where there is an aspiring young population", said Anand Sudarshan, Chief Executive of the Manipal group, whose Indian campuses are located in Karnataka, Sikkim and Goa.

The Amity University is opening two campuses in the U.S. this year. "We started one campus each in the U.K. and Singapore last year, and this time two new campus are coming up in New York and San Francisco", said Aseem Chouhan, Additional President of the Amity education group.

Ujjwal K. Chowdhury, Executive Director at the International School of Business and Media (ISB&M), said his school is opening a campus each in the U.S. and Nepal next year. "An American international college in Springfield is joining hands with us for a campus". Chowdhury expects 60% of students at these campuses to be non-resident Indians or of Indian origin. The rest would be locals as well as immigrant students from other countries. In the US, his institute would offer courses at 40% below market rates. ISB&M and Amity award international degrees at foreign campuses, but BITS offers the same degree it does in India.

Even government-run institutes are not far behind. Last month, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) referred Singapore's request for an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to the IIT council. It is also seriously considering an IIT campus in Qatar. Although there are no figures available on the number of institutes that have gone abroad, four-five deemed universities have applied to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to open foreign campuses, UGC Chairman S. Thorat said.

Experts are divided on the impact this trend may have on education in India. "Indian education will become richer when it becomes multifaceted and accepts variety", said education analyst Narayan Ramaswamy, who is also Executive Director at audit and consulting firm KPMG. "What is happening right now is perfectly natural and good for the country". But educationist Prof. Yash Pal said private educational institutes going abroad to boost revenues "has no bearing on the Indian education system".

Article by Prashant K. Nanda in Mint, June 4, 2010

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