Monday, August 30, 2010

GRE up for revision

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test is up for a revamp. As part of its strategy to upgrade and evolve, the Educational Testing Services' (ETS) GRE will be switching over to a more technically advanced version that includes features to go back within a section and edit your answers and an on-screen score calculator for the quantitative reasoning section. The changed format will come into effect in August 2011.

"The decision to revise the GRE General Test was made to meet both the needs of the test taker and the needs of the score users. The GRE revised general test has been re- designed to be more aligned with the skills that students need to be successful in today's graduate and business schools", said David Payne, Senior Vice-President, ETS, New Jersey, US, in an email interview.

Some of the changes include a greater emphasis on reading, no antonyms or analogies; new navigation features (including the ability to edit answers, skip questions and go back to them later, giving students the freedom to use more of their traditional test-taking strategies).

There will also be new types of questions in the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections. The idea is to test students on real-life scenarios that reflect the "kind of thinking they'll do in today's demanding graduate and business school programmes", says Payne.

Source: Mint, August 30, 2010

CAT dates are out: October 27 to November 24

The countdown for Common Admission Test 2010 (CAT 2010), which will determine admissions of MBA aspirants to various Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other top B-schools across the country, starts from Monday with the sale of vouchers for registration. While the sale of vouchers will continue till September 27, registration will be on till September 30.

CAT 2009 has been rather controversial, as widespread technical snags in the first ever computer-based test marred it. In order to make CAT 2010 glitch-free, the testing window has been extended to 20 days this year. Last year, the exam also witnessed a dip in the number of students, whereas, in the preceding years it registered a steady 15-20 % increase in the number of applications. While last year 242,000 aspirants registered for the test, it was a decline from the peak 276,000 registered in 2008.

CAT 2010 has been advanced by over a month, starting from October 27. Giving the dates for CAT 2010, its convener Professor Himanshu Rai of IIM, Lucknow, said, "The exams will be conducted from October 27 to November 24, 2010, while the results will be declared on January 12, 2011".

Apart from the seven IIMs, this year, 144 other B-schools have registered for use of CAT 2010 scores. The vouchers can be obtained from select Axis Bank ( branches for Rs. 1400, while for SC/ST candidates the cost of vouchers is Rs. 700.

Source: The Times of India, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More autonomy for innovation varsities?

The day-long meeting on Saturday on draft bill on Innovation Universities made a series of suggestions in a bid to give more flexibility and autonomy to the proposed institutions. HRD minister Kapil Sibal said most of the suggestions have been accepted, and are likely to be incorporated in the final draft. The bill is likely to be introduced during the winter session of Parliament after inter-ministerial consultations, the minister added.

The key suggestion was that since these universities will be innovative in nature, the bill should clearly spell out and even define outcomes that it plans to achieve. The nature of administrative structure, too, figured prominently in the discussion. For instance, it was felt that there is no need to have both academic board and board of governors. Delayering of administrative structure was suggested, a source said.

There was an overwhelming view about giving more flexibility in appointment of faculty. In this regard, a specific provision limiting appointment by invitation of any graduating student with high academic distinction to 20% was objected to. Why limit it to 20% Let the innovation universities decide, a senior academician argued. Since Innovative Universities will be set up around a theme, it was felt that they should be multi-disciplinary in nature. It was suggested that while theme could be a good idea for the university to start with, gradually it can develop a multi-disciplinary approach.

Many participants in the meeting agreed that legislation on Innovation Universities should be taken forward, but at the same time the existing institutions should not be ignored, and an attempt must also be made to reform them. It can be a parallel process, Sibal said. According to the minister, themes for Innovation Universities will be decided not by the government but by the institutions themselves.

The government will set up 14 fully-funded Innovation Universities in Greater Noida, Amritsar, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Mysore, Gandhinagar, Jaipur, Kolkata, Bhopal and Kochi. But the number of universities to be set up by private sector has not yet been decided.

Source: The Times of India, August 29, 2010

Universities for innovation: HRD minister meets stakeholders

Keen to build up India’s higher education and research infrastructure, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) took another step towards giving concrete shape to the concept of “universities for innovation”. The human resource development minister Kapil Sibal met with stakeholders, experts and academics on Saturday to discuss the legislation setting up these universities.

A draft of the legislation had already been circulated. Part of the effort to make India a global education hub, each innovation university will be built around a theme or subject. It is proposed that these institutions will have total autonomy in appointments, collaborations, resource generation and nomenclature of degrees.

At Saturday’s consultation it was decided that similar efforts would have to be made to help existing institutions achieve world class standards in teaching, research and innovation. Those present suggested that the draft Universities for Innovation Bill needs to be modified and outcomes more clearly specified and spelt out in the relevant provisions.

It was suggested that innovation and research outcomes should be "objective and verifiable". Private promoters suggested changes in the legislation to "ensure that the initiative and energy of promoters is not stifled in an excess regulatory framework".

There was agreement on the fact that there was no harm in setting up solution based institutions, with one or more themes as the guiding core principle but that they should still benefit the community at large. For this purpose these universities should have broader, generic base in terms of structure and programme.

Source: The Economic Times, August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Panel for steep hike in IIM Ph.D. funds

A high-powered committee that evaluated faculty and research in the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) has recommended that in order to step up the production of Ph.D.s from the IIM system, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) should fund Rs. 30 lakh (Rs. 3 million) per doctoral candidate for four years. The committee, headed by IIM-Calcutta Chairman Ajit Balakrishnan, believes such an initiative will help step up output of Ph.D.s in IIMs to 150 per year from the present 50 every year. IIMs have also been told to increase their internal funding of research projects and make research less dependent on external sponsorships. External sponsorship, it said, often resulted in hagiography as sponsors reserved the right to edit the final product.

The committee, set up in April, also said that MHRD should fund a quarterly practitioner-oriented journal along the lines of Harvard Business Review which should be titled "IIM Business Review". The journal should consist research from across the IIM system using professional editors. Also, an annual IIM World Research Conference be held, it said.

As for the system of performance appraisal and compensation to faculty, the committee recommended that each teacher must teach a minimum of 120 sessions across the academic programmes. It was much less than the demand made on faculty in management schools all over the world. In real terms, it would mean 150-160 hours of classroom teaching.

Recognizing that once a faculty member becomes an IIM Director, he has to forego all consulting and training income, the committee recommended that directors be paid an additional amount of Rs. 10-12 lakh (Rs. 1-1.2 million)per year as an incentive. The committee justified the extra income since it would come from the earnings of IIM and would also be as per recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission.

To deal with faculty shortage, the committee said IIMs should hire practice-oriented faculty: practising managers with 10 years of work experience and a good MBA degree. Ph.D. as qualification should not be insisted, it said. Also, research scholars from abroad should be invited on three-year contracts to take up residence with a light teaching load to guide research scholars. It has given the example of how Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study gained prominence when Einstein came as a research scholar.

Source: The Times of India, August 28, 2010

IIMs explain how they mark candidates

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have revealed how they mark candidates in the competitive Common Admission Test (CAT). Not everything depends on how you perform, what also matters is the difficulty level of the paper you take. The IIMs along with Prometric have devised a formula to equalize the scores of candidates taking the varied versions of the test. This year, the IIMs will also allow management aspirants to change the date and the venue of sitting for the exam too. Himanshu Rai, Chairman of the CAT 2010 Committee, said: "We are allowing candidates to change the test taking location and time till September 30. But a new venue and time slot will be given based on availability. The IIMs have also worked out a method of fair assessment, for the CAT will use multiple test papers. However the difficulty of the content may vary slightly with every paper, but will be comparable".

To facilitate fair comparison, each form will contain a small number of items that will be shared with one or more other forms. These items are termed as equator blocks. By comparing responses to these equator block items across multiple forms the candidates ability level will be evaluated and the precise difficulty of the forms calculated, stated the IIMs. Later, equated raw scores will be placed on a common scale to ensure appropriate interpretation of the scores, a process called scaling. Officials said that raw scores will be calculated for every section based on the number of questions the candidate has correctly or incorrectly answered and also omitted. Three points are given for each correct answer and 1 negative point for each incorrect answer. There will be no points for questions that are not answered.

A CAT paper consists of three sections and each would be evaluated and four-scaled scores will be given to each candidate. However a high score in one section would not guarantee high scores in the others. The percentile rankings will remain constant. They will be provided for each individual section as well as for the overall exam score.

Source: The Times of India, August 28, 2010

Two Bangaloreans on MIT list of outstanding innovators

Two employees of Microsoft Research in Bangalore, one of whom has since left the company to start an NGO, are among 35 people hailed as outstanding innovators under the age of 35 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's prestigious publication Technology Review. Indrani Medhi (31), was recognized for her development of text-free user interfaces (UIs) that allow any illiterate person, on first contact with a computer, to immediately deploy it to find jobs, get medical information, and perform banking transactions with minimal or no assistance. Rikin B. Gandhi (28), now with the NGO Digital Green, created a solution to help farmers adopt better practices. The solution, first piloted in Hubli and now implemented in several locations in the country, has been demonstrated to be 10 times more effective, per rupee spent, in converting farmers to better farming practices than classical approaches.

Narayanan Suresh, Group Editor of Technology Review India, told TOI this selection indicated that young innovators in India were doing cutting-edge work like their counterparts worldwide. Its also a sign of things to come. Many global experts have predicted that Indians in India will play a major role in the technologies of tomorrow, he said. The last time an Indian in India featured in this TR35 list was in 2002.

Source: The Times of India, August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

India to accept Chinese college degrees

Even as China and India hit another icy patch in their stormy relations, there is great news headed towards thousands of Indian students in China. They may soon no longer need to worry about the legitimacy of their degrees on returning home. A long-awaited pact between the two countries is on the verge of being signed. India and China will treat each other's degrees as equivalent under the agreement, which Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is set to take up with his Chinese counterpart next month, top government sources told HT. Sibal will visit China from September 10 to 16, before heading to the U.S. on September 21, the sources said. He will attend the World Economic Forum in Tianjin between September 13 and 16.

The mutual recognition agreement with China — which the sources said is almost ready for signing — will, however, not cover medicine and pharmacy programmes, they added. China has emerged as a major higher education destination for Indians over the past six years. Firms that help students apply for studies abroad estimate over 7,000 Indians are pursuing higher education programmes in China. Medicine is the most popular field for Indians there but many are also studying engineering and the humanities — especially languages.

World-class facilities combined with fees much lower than in the West or Australia are attributed as the main reasons for China's rise as an education hub for Indians. However, unlike most programmes in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, Chinese courses are not recognized here. This has left several students in the lurch on returning home. They are unable to apply for higher studies and their degrees are not treated at par with Indian qualifications when they seek jobs. India and China had in 2006 signed an agreement for cooperation in education. But that pact was just restricted to exchange programmes.

Source: Hindustan Times, August 27, 2010

CVC asks MHRD to furnish dossier on deemed universities

Finally, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has got going on the deemed university mess. It has raised the most fundamental question about the experts sent by University Grants Commission (UGC) who had recommended deemed university status to higher educational institutions. CVC has asked the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to furnish details about the manner in which UGC constituted its expert committee. It has sought clarifications whether the decision to set up the expert committee was taken by an individual or was the collective one by the panel. CVC wants to know about the number of deemed universities that have been set up in the past five years, and names of the people who were frequently involved in the expert committee as well as names of all those who were part of it.

CVC sources said the commission had written to the ministry nearly three months ago and only now the ministry has forwarded the query to UGC. On the basis of UGC's reply, the ministry will forward the details to CVC. Sources in UGC confirmed receiving the CVC query. It could be the basis of a comprehensive inquiry on the setting up of deemed universities, a CVC source said.

The fact that the objectivity of expert committee could be questionable since the entire cost of travel allowance and dearness allowance of the expert committee was not borne by UGC but by the respective institutes that were inspected by the panel members. UGC has stated this while replying to an RTI query by the TOI correspondent. Besides, expert committees expenses being borne by respective institutes and not UGC weakens the case of deemed universities in the Supreme Court. Lawyers, who are pleading for the deemed universities, have been arguing that the view of UGC's expert committee should be considered final, and it has more legal bearing than the review committee set up by the MHRD.

Deemed universities have been arguing that the ministry's review committee that looked into their functioning and found 44 of them to be unsuitable is illegal. They claim that under the UGC Act, deemed universities were set up on the basis of the report of its expert committee, and, consequently, the deemed status can only be revoked by UGC.

Source: The Times of India, August 27, 2010

CSAT to replace civil services prelims from 2011

The government will soon come out with a detailed syllabus of the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) a new scheme of examination, which is to replace the existing civil services (preliminary) examination from 2011. The test is meant for shortlisting candidates for the civil services (main) examination, being conducted every year to recruit officers in IAS, IFS, IPS and other elite central services. The Centre had in March approved the proposal for introduction of CSAT in place of civil services (preliminary) from next year, and subsequently asked the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to work out its syllabus. The government will shortly notify the new scheme of examination giving details of the syllabus which is being worked out. CSAT is expected to come into force from the civil services examination, 2011, said minister of state for personnel Prithviraj Chavan.

In written response to a parliamentary question in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Chavan said: "In CSAT, one of the optional subjects which a candidate could have chosen out of 23 optional has been replaced with a common paper on aptitude test". Referring to the syllabus, which is yet to be finalized, sources in the ministry explained that the candidates may now have to appear in two objective type papers, having special emphasis on testing their aptitude for civil services as well as on ethical and moral dimension of decision making. Both these papers having equal weightage will be common to all candidates in place of one common paper (general awareness) and one optional paper (any particular subject of choice) under the existing system, which lays greater emphasis on subject knowledge.

As of now, the change will be effective only for the first of the three stages of the CSE from 2011 onwards. The second and third stages civil services (main) examination and interview, respectively will remain the same till a panel of experts goes into various aspects of the entire system and submits its report. The proposal to this effect was sent to PMO last year by UPSC.

Officials familiar with the proposal explained that the changes had been suggested by various committees. Most of the panels had advocated for laying greater emphasis on aptitude of candidates than their subject's knowledge, arguing that the specialists or experts of any particular subject may not necessarily be good civil servants unless they have actual inclination towards it.

Source: The Times of India, August 27, 2010

Slowdown over, executive MBA high in demand

A year after the global financial crisis that saw students from the best B-schools across the world struggling for a job in the corporate sector, a survey on application trends for management education this year throws up some rather interesting findings. According to the survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) that conducts GMAT an MBA entrance test used by B-schools across the world, there has been a steep rise in the popularity of the executive MBA for mid-career professionals, as well as an increase in part-time MBAs for those juggling jobs, families and other responsibilities. Simultaneously, there has been a decline in the applications received for the plain vanilla fulltime MBA. The GMAC survey reflects data from 665 graduate management programmes in 39 countries. This year, 59% of Executive MBA (EMBA) programmes saw an increase in the number of applications, reversing a three-year decline. Only 37% of EMBA programmes showed gains last year.

Expectations of economic recovery may have encouraged corporate support for EMBA programs and driven top managers to obtain new knowledge and skills, says GMACs report. According to Dave Wilson, president and CEO of GMAT, the survey highlights the importance of flexibility and creativity in delivering management education.

What's startling, though, is the fact that there has been a sharp decline in the popularity of the full-time MBA programme for the second consecutive year. Only 44% of fulltime MBA programmes saw applications rise this year, down from 77% in 2008, when applications to these programmes peaked.

GMAC's survey attempts to understand just why this has happened. The economic recovery is underway, but signs of recession still remain. The pace of the recovery has been slower than after previous economic downturns. History shows that a recession often spurs individuals to pursue their education full time.

Source: The Times of India, August 27, 2010

HC suspends five judges caught copying during LLM exam

Five judges belonging to the state subordinate judiciary were suspended by the Andhra Pradesh high court on Wednesday for allegedly copying while writing their LLM exams at the Arts College of Kakatiya University in Warangal. The incident took place on Tuesday. One of the judges was found copying from a law book hidden under his answersheet. Written slips and pages torn from textbooks were seized from other judges. The copying material was confiscated by university invigilators who stopped the judges from writing any further. The judges were doing LLM under the distance module from Kakatiya University as the degree would help them get increments.

Those placed under suspension include K. Ajitsimha Rao, Senior Civil Judge, Ranga Reddy district; M. Kistappa, Principal Senior Civil Judge, Anantapur; P. Vijayendar Reddy, Second Additional District Judge, Ranga Reddy district; M. Srinivasachary, Senior Civil Judge in Bapatla of Guntur district and Hanumantha Rao, Additional Junior Civil Judge in Warangal.

According to the university's additional controller of examinations, the candidates were taking exams when a team made a surprise visit.

Source: The Times of India, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

IIPM not recognized by the government, says UGC

The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), run by Arindam Chaudhuri, is not recognized by the government or any of India's higher education bodies, says a public notice issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

New Delhi-based IIPM "does not have the right of conferring or granting degrees as specified by the University Grants Commission", such as master of business administration, bachelor of business administration and bachelor of computer applications, reads the notice. It adds that IIPM is not recognized by the ministry of human resource development (MHRD), UGC or the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). "IIPM is advertising its courses by using the name of UGC, MHRD and AICTE", UGC Vice-Chairman Ved Prakash said. "It is indulging in cheating".

UGC issued the notice in the last week of July, after the Andhra Pradesh State Council of Higher Education sent a letter to IIPM on 19 July questioning the authenticity of courses it offers at its Hyderabad branch. The notice was published as an advertisement in some newspapers. "....this is by direction to inform that the council has received a complaint alleging that the institution (IIPM) has been functioning by offering various academic programmes violating the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Education Act and regulations of the Central agencies", read the letter. Mint has a copy of the letter.

In e-mailed comments, IIPM group president for corporate affairs Amit Saxena conceded that the institute wasn't a university nor was it empowered to award degrees on its own "and nor does it do (so)". "However IIPM is the on-site academic partner of M.S. University which grants its degrees to IIPM students", Saxena wrote in the e-mail, adding that IIPM had made representations to the UGC and Andhra Pradesh State Council of Higher Education to "clarify the stand". He said the subject was sub judice at the Delhi high court.

IIPM is authorized to offer two-year MBA and three-year BBA and BCA courses under technical collaboration in all its 18 centres, said S. Manickam, Registrar of Tirunelveli-based Manomaniam Sundaranar (M.S.) University, in a letter enclosed by Saxena. Mint couldn't immediately reach Manickam for comment.

The Andhra Pradesh state council had asked IIPM to provide recognition and affiliation letters from the state government and Central agencies. "We had received a complaint from student union group ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and based on that we had written to IIPM and a few more institutes", the council's secretary M.D. Christopher said. "They have replied to us, but we are yet to see the content of it. We are going to set up a committee which will review the explanations". If IIPM is found in breach of law, Christopher said the council would inform the state government and let it decide if any action is to be taken.

Source: Mint, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maharashtra to set up country's first vocational university

The Maharashtra government is considering a move to set up the first of its kind vocational university in the country, said minister for higher and technical education Rajesh Tope on Tuesday. Through such university, the government will promote establishment of colleges, which will offer degrees in a range of vocational trades, he said. "The move will ensure an apt social status for students passing out with degrees in vocational studies besides facilitating vertical mobility for those passing Standards XI and XII with vocational subjects", said Tope. "As of now, such students have no option but to join conventional arts, science or commerce streams after Standard XII," he said.

"The department of higher and technical education was no more keen on granting new colleges in conventional arts, science and commerce streams looking at the issue of burgeoning educated unemployment. We haven't granted a single such college this year and we plan to pursue this approach in future too," said Tope.

"The thrust, instead, has to be on promoting vocational skills that not only add value to the academic knowledge acquired by students but also raise the prospect of their employability in the industry and other professional fields", he said. The prevailing content for certificate and diploma courses in vocational streams can be upgraded and brought to the level required for colleges, to set up vocational colleges at strategic locations especially in rural areas, he said.

"We require need-based education, which can meet the socio-economic requirements of specific areas. If we can give such education in rural areas, then it will go a long way in arresting the rural-to-urban migration besides contributing to the growth of rural economy," Tope said. "The community colleges, which emphasise on developing job-oriented skills among those students, who have been left out of the academic mainstream for some reason or the other, have an important role to play. However, barring a few institutions, there haven't been many takers for community colleges", he said.

A key reason behind such reluctance on the part of the institutions is, the economic viability of community colleges under the present scheme. "We need to accord a vocational training provider (VTP) status to the community colleges that are to be set up in future. This will ensure course-wise funds from the Union government as well as reimbursement of course fee for students. The institutions will have little burden to take", said Tope. He promised all possible support and help in grant of VTP status to institutions desiring to set up community colleges.

Source: The Times of India, August 25, 2010

Old boy shells out Rs. 320 million for Mumbai University

The University of Mumbai has received its largest private donation from an old boy in the city. A commerce graduate from Podar College, Asit Koticha (52), Chairman and founder-promoter of the ASK Group, a financial services and investment company, gifted his alma mater a purse of Rs. 32 crore (Rs. 320 million), to set up an international convention centre and a school of philosophy. But the plans drawn up for the project require roughly Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) for execution, and Koticha says he is talking to some of his friends to chip in too.

Probably the largest gift a conventional Indian university has received in recent times has enthused its heads, who have drawn up mega plans for its utilization. "There is need for a convention centre. I plan to set up a self-sufficient facility that holds conventions, conferences, as well as hosts visiting scholars. Apart from a large conference hall, it will have accommodation facilities and many halls to hold parallel sessions", says MU Vice-Chancellor Rajan Welukar.

I am what I studied during graduation, says alumni Asit Koticha
If one were to draw up a balance sheet, Asit Koticha has made a windfall. A commerce graduate from Matungas Podar College who paid Rs. 1,000 for his course,rose up the financial order: market analysts put Kotichas net worth today at Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion). A media-shy Koticha and his brother Sameer Koticha have been gifting money since the time day they started earning. The CSR (corporate social responsibility) arm of their 25-year-old company ASK Group works in areas of health, education and housing. Apart from constructing 51 schools in Rajkot and setting up blood bank centres in Gujarat through the Life Foundation, Koticha has handed keys to hundreds of tribal families in Karjat through the Habitat for Humanity organisation, which builds low-cost housing for the underprivileged.

The financial wizard spends his time at home reading on investments, and when he is not doing that, he is poring over philosophical texts. That, says Koticha, is how he has always been. Three generations of the Kotichas have studied at the university. And they decided not to miss an opportunity of giving back, which came their way through a former employer. A colleague from ASK joined the university's philosophy department as faculty member. "When he told me that the university was setting up a philosophy school, I got interested and wanted to contribute Rs. 2 crore (Rs. 20 million) for it. Later, when I met the Vice-Chancellor, he spoke about a convention centre.I was more than happy to help".

Speaking to TOI about his days as a young student, Koticha said: "A lot of factors have been responsible for pushing him to open his heart to the university. As a student of Podar College, I not only benefited from the education, but also participated in a lot of activities. I learnt valuable lessons. I paid Rs. 1,000 at Podar and made all this. I am what I studied during my years of graduation".

Source: The Times of India, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cabinet approves unchanged Educational Tribunal Bill

The Union cabinet has approved the Educational Tribunal Bill, 2010 that aims to provide fast solutions on issues related to disputes in matters of higher education, choosing to ignore changes suggested by a Parliamentary standing committee three days ago, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

According to the draft education Bill, which suggests a two-tier structure for dispute management, while the state tribunals will adjudicate on matters concerning teachers, employees and students of institutions in the respective states, a national tribunal will deal with matters concerning regulatory bodies in higher education and issues involving institutes located in two or more states. "The Bill has got cabinet approval and we are pushing it without any change", the official said, requesting anonymity. "The Bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament before the session expires on 26 August".

The Standing Committee headed by former labour minister and Congress parliamentarian Oscar Fernandes had recommended wider consultation with the states in the drafting of the Bill and also the greater participation of people who have excelled in academics in the tribunals. "If they are not accepting any of the suggestions, then what is the need for such committees?", said N.K. Singh, member of the Standing Committee and former member of the Planning Commission. "We have given some recommendations and now it's up to the government. We have urged them to make the Bill broadbased through wider consultations and take more persons with academic excellence as members of the tribunals", Singh added. "It will not come to the committee again, but we will debate it in the house once it is placed for discussion".

The Bill was first introduced in the Parliament in May and then referred to the standing committee, which submitted its report on 20 August. While all states will have a state tribunal, it will be supervised by the national tribunal, which will adjudicate on disputes between higher educational institutions and statutory authorities, and higher educational institutions and affiliating universities in the case of Central universities. It shall have appellate jurisdiction on the orders of the state tribunals. The orders of the national tribunal can only be appealed in the Supreme Court. Both the national and state tribunals' orders will be equivalent to the decree of a civil court. People or institutions not complying with their orders will be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of three years or a fine of up to Rs. 10 lakhs (Rs. 1 million) or both.

With private educational institutes set to continue growing, the number of disputes are likely to increase. "The judicial process is quite long in India and here tribunals can solve issues faster for the betterment of both educational institutes and students", said the official cited above.

Source: Mint, August 24, 2010

MHRD seeks overhaul of engineering distance courses

In a bid to substantially overhaul engineering and management education through distance mode, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has said any approval of these courses by Distance Education Council (DEC) will have to be done jointly by the tripartite committee of University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and DEC. In case of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the largest university imparting distance education, the ministry has said though it does not require AICTE clearance, IGNOU will have to follow its regulations.

The ministry has also set up a committee under noted legal expert N.R. Madhava Menon to suggest how to resolve overlapping areas of work among the three regulators UGC, AICTE and DEC. AICTE regulations will specify how to carry out management and engineering courses in the distance mode. It will spell out how much of the course should be done through classroom teaching, laboratory work and distance modes, a source said, adding engineering cannot be done without laboratory experience. The ministry's decision comes in the wake of widespread complaints against institutes imparting management and engineering courses in the distance mode without seeking the mandated clearance from AICTE.

Source: The Times of India, August 24, 2010

CAT window expanded, to begin on October 27

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have flagged off the admission season to B-schools by announcing the dates for the Common Admission Test (CAT), which is set to begin on October 27 in 33 cities across the country. Based on last year's feedback, testing agency Prometric has made several changes to ensure smooth conduct of the exams this year. CAT 2009, when the test first went online, was riddled with glitches. This year the testing window has been expanded from 10 days to 20 days. The exam will be spread out between October 27 and November 24 to ensure that too many candidates don't log in at the same time and jam the server.

The implementing agencies, too, have been changed this year. The IIMs have decided to let go of NIIT, which was the implementing agency for CAT 2009, and have instead chosen Everonn Education and Meri-Trac as delivery partners for this year's test. Everonn is an existing test delivery partner of Prometrics IT certification business, and Meritrac, too, has a good track record in conducting examinations in India. They will ensure site-readiness of the test centres, and be in charge of test administration and onsite technical support, said Soumitra Roy, Managing Director of Prometric, India.

Source: The Times of India, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Deemed univs-like scam in teacher training institutes

It has the makings of another educational scam, almost like the one involving deemed universities. The only difference is that it relates to teacher education. The indictment comes from a high-powered committee of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) that went into the functioning of Northern Regional Centre (NRC) of National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) and found massive irregularities in granting recognition to teacher training institutes and even disregard for the parent organization. Irregularities and corruption in NRC had its impact on teacher education in six states Haryana, Himachal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and the union territory of Chandigarh all of whom fall under its jurisdiction. A similar situation prevails in other regional committees of NCTE and soon their functioning will also be reviewed, a source said.

The committee has recommended repatriation of the current regional director and action against errant officials.It has also said NRC be reconstituted and wide-ranging procedural changes be brought in. Even NCTE has been criticized for its failure to monitor the functioning of NRC. The committee, headed by a joint secretary of the MHRD,said NRC delayed issuing deficiency letters to institutions seeking NCTE approval. NCTE regulation of 2009 states that deficiency letter be issued within 45 days whereas in case of 20 institutions, such communication was sent after two-three months. NCR also delayed its communication to the state government seeking its clearance within a month.

This also happened in case of 20 institutions. In cases where deficiencies were pointed out, the review committee found that it was done without proper examination of fact on records. Even the NRC regional director has been blamed for failing to notice that deficiencies being pointed out were not correct. The NRC communicated deficiencies which were vague and did not specify the exact nature of deficiency, the report said,citing vague deficiencies like details in land document did not match with details in affidavit and so on.

In what indicates manipulation, the MHRD committee also found that as per NCTE norms, applications seeking clearance were not processed chronologically and even the well-laid out system of preparing comprehensive agenda notes highlighting the proposal, comments of the visiting team, recommendation of state governments were not followed.

Almost like UGC's role in giving deemed university status to private institutions, the committee found lack of consistency in decision-making. The panel pointed out that in one meeting of NRC, it decided to refuse recognition to one institute for lacking infrastructure but in the same meeting, another institute with similar deficiencies was issued notice.

Source: The Times of India, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CAT entrance to begin from October 27

The Common Admission Test (CAT) for the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and some other top B-schools in the country will be held between October 27 and November 24, CAT authorities said today. Forms for the test will be available until September 27, but aspirants can register themselves between August 30 and September 30, CAT convenor Prof. Himanshu Rai (IIM-Lucknow) said. "This year's computer-aided tests will be held in 78 test sites across 33 cities", he added.

The tests will be conducted on 20 different days in a span of 28-days. "Breaks have been kept in view of the festival season, and to cushion for corrections that need to be made during the test days", Prof. Rai said. The results will be out by January 12, 2011.

CAT 2009 was the first computer-aided test for the coveted institutes, a shift from the regular pen and paper format. In 2009, the tests were conducted in 32 cities and at nearly double the number of test sites. CAT 2009 drew a lot of flak since it was interrupted by technical glitches that included virus attacks and systems crashes.

Although the registration process remains the same as last year, CAT aspirants can change their preferences of venue and date anytime during the registration period this year. "The entire system has been overhauled. We have taken care of all possible glitches", Prof. Rai said.

Source: The Economic Times, August 22, 2010

Medical bill passed in Parliament amid acrimony

As over 100 school students watched from the visitors gallery, Lok Sabha plunged into complete turmoil with Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal disrupting proceedings with their demand for a higher raise in salaries for parliamentarians. Amid the din, a bill to amend the Medical Council of India Act was passed by a voice vote, triggering angry protests by Bharatiya Janata Party which wanted a debate on the legislation. The House passed the Medical Council of India (MCI) as well as amendments to the Trade Marks bill within five minutes, as Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs stormed into the well of the House shouting slogans against the low hike. They said it was an insult to Parliament.

After deputy speaker Karia Munda adjourned the House for the day, agitated Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena members sat on a dharna in the well of the House, shouted slogans and threw torn copies of the MCI bill. Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kirti Azad was seen shouting, "is this democracy?" as he tore a copy of the bill.
Bharatiya Janata Party members were heard saying that they will continue to sit in the well of the House till Saturday morning.

As the protests continued in the House, Lok Sabha staff asked the media, by then the only spectators of the agitation, to leave the press gallery as the House had adjourned for the day. Later, the Left too joined the protests against passage of the MCI bill without any debate.

Earlier in the day, the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal led by their leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad created a ruckus forcing two adjournments. While business remained almost paralysed in both Houses on Friday, Parliament is sitting on Saturday to make up for the lost time. The government has conveyed to political parties that the session could be extended beyond August 28 if pending business is not completed. Major legislative business includes the nuclear liability bill and the MPs salaries and allowances bill.

Source: The Economic Times, August 21, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Financial inclusion: IIM Indore brings banking to poor

With nearly 60% of the country's population unbanked and the government pledging to bring banking to the lowest stratum of society, the Indian Institute of Management, Indore (IIM-I) has decided to do its bit on financial inclusion. For its annual management summit Ahvan, the institute has decided to unveil a programme called Samanvay, where IIM-I students will help underprivileged people in and around the campus open bank accounts and get insurance cover. "There's a clear need for financial services as about 90% of the population here is unbanked", said Ravi Chandran, Director, IIM-I. The project will commence from September with the unveiling of the annual summit. The institute has involved its faculty to oversee the project. It believes that such initiatives will make students socially sensitive.

IIM-I is in talks with Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Canara Bank for opening accounts. The accounts will have zero or a minimum balance requirement for those who dont have access to banking, said Amitava Bandyopadhyay, the programme's convener and a second-year student at IIMI. Given the work profile and lifestyle of the people, the institute has also decided to help them get insured, like personal accident policy for construction workers and health insurance for housewives. "National Insurance Company has shown interest, and it has insurance products that suit our target group", says Amitava.

"Seven hundred students from both the batches will contribute at least 100 towards the insurance premium and logistical expenditure of about Rs. 10,000. We will pay the premium for the first year only. The idea is to create awareness and let people experience the benefits of risk management", said Biswadip Paul, a second year student. The students will organise a series of workshops on risk management with the beneficiaries to make the programme sustainable.

It was found that lack of information and documentation (like address proof), and not poverty, was the main reason for not having a bank account. So, the IIM-I students are trying to organise employment certificates or domicile documents from the sarpanch to be used in lieu of address proof. Each student contributor will be mapped one-to-one with the beneficiary. "It will give a sense of ownership in the initiative and encourage participants to take up more such causes in future", said Amitava.

Through Samanvay, the institute hopes to reach out to about 150-200 people who work inside the campus as daily-wage labourers or security guards. But the main aim is to take the project outside the IIM-I campus to nearby villages. "We are going to nearby villages like Janpavkuti, Bharpuwa, Bhagpura and Ambara with an approximate total population of 2,500", adds Biswadip.

Source: The Economic Times, August 20, 2010

IIMs feel OBC quota weight

Having finished implementing the 27% OBC quota over the last three years, the resources of the country's premier B-schools the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) stand stretched. While some of the IIMs have gone about increasing class size and introducing more sections, others like IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Indore have introduced afternoon classes for first year students. Critics, however, argue that larger class sizes and concepts like afternoon classes may take a toll on the pedagogy and rob the programme of its surprise element. "It was not possible for us to run five parallel sections. So from this year, we have introduced afternoon shifts for first year students of the Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) and Agri-Business Management programme", says IIM-A Dean B.H. Jajoo. Each of these sections (or classes) has about 90 students.

Till last year, the first year classes at IIM-A started at 8:45 am and finished at 1:10 pm. "We have a very expensive infrastructure and were using it only for about four and-a-half hours daily. With the introduction of afternoon shifts (that comprise two sections between 2:30 pm and 6:55 pm), we will be using the infrastructure for almost the entire day", he explains. The increase in number of sections is to accommodate the rising number of students. We have added 151 in three years or so.

Till 2003, there were about 220 students spread across three sections, with each having a little over 70 students. In the last few years, the number of students and classes sizes have increased steadily. Currently, the size of the 2010- 12 batch stands at 431, with each section comprising 85-90 students. The number of students at IIM-A is far greater than the 70-odd per section in IIM-Lucknow. IIM-Indore which also has a class strength similar to IIM-A (90 per section) has also introduced afternoon classes. However, other IIMs like IIM-Lucknow (IIM-L) and IIM-Bangalore (IIM-B) are continuing to run parallel sections. While IIM-L runs six parallel sections, IIM-B runs about five sections in the morning. IIM-Lucknow had started its sixth section last year and is running them simultaneously in the morning. "The faculty is putting in extra effort, and taking up higher teaching load to ensure that parallel sessions continue to run smoothly", says Prof. Ashwani Kumar, Chairman of PGP at IIM-L. After the quota implementation, we have added one more section to the existing four. "We are running five parallel sections in the morning", says Ishwar Murthy, PGP Chairperson, IIM-B.

The introduction of afternoon classes has, however, not gone down well with many. "The steady increase in class size could also affect teaching quality. There are specific marks assigned to students for interacting in the class. Increasing student strength in a class could have an adverse impact on classroom discussions", says a faculty member on condition of anonymity. "Afternoon shifts are a compromise on the pedagogy. It will not only affect the evaluation system, but will also rob the surprise element from the sudden quizzes and case discussions", an ex-faculty member of IIM-A points out.

An IIM-Indore faculty member, however, feels that while pedagogy has not been affected by the afternoon classes, load on the faculty has increased. "The faculty is now required to prepare two sets of quizzes, one each for the sections held in the morning and afternoon", he said. IIM-A feels afternoon classes will ensure strategic rest for faculty, which earlier had to take back-to-back lectures. Mr. Jajoo too thinks afternoon classes will not affect the research work of the faculty members, nor will it affect the students.

IIM-A alumni, however, insist that for an institute of IIM-A's stature it would not be difficult to adapt to the changes. "There are ways like multiple sets of questions that can be employed to maintain uniformity", says a student who passed out last year.

Source: The Economic Times, August 20, 2010

IIM pre-placement: It's raining offers, again

Pre-placement offers (PPOs) for students of the country's top notch business management institutes, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), have started pouring in much ahead of schedule. PPOs are made by companies to candidates who intern with them for around two months during the summers. Early offers indicate employers want to retain talent ahead of the final placements in January next year. Better corporate earnings over the last one year has boosted job prospects in the country as companies are looking to expand operations after going slow on recruitment with bare minimum increments till last year. Companies across sectors are looking to hire and they would surely use PPO as a medium to lap up good talent from across IIMs as there is a sense of familiarity on both sides, said a senior human resource executive who recently moved from a pharma company to one of the country's biggest conglomerates. The war for talent is definitely going to be more intensive this year, he said requesting anonymity.

Picture this: IIM Calcutta has reported 37 PPOs, more than twice compared to 15 such job offers received by its students in the same period last year. This means that nearly 10% of the batch already have a job offer, a mark they could achieve only around October last year.
Last year nobody was sure how placements were going to shape up since companies came out with fewer PPOs. This year, early offers have given us much more confidence and placement prospects for our batch are already looking brighter, said Paromita Chakravarty, a student from IIM-C, who recently received an offer from an FMCG giant. This year, PPOs at IIM-C include those from consulting firms McKinsey & Co., Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Co. and AT Kearney besides international banks such as UBS, Nomura and Morgan Stanley. Majority of the offers from these banks are for international positions like Singapore, London and New York. Apart from MNCs, Tata Administrative Services and Hindustan Unilever have also offered jobs to students at IIM-C. About 18 students are also going through pre-placement interviews at the campus, most of which are likely to get converted into PPOs in the coming days.

IIM Lucknow has reported 22 PPOs so far, from recruiters such as McKinsey & Co., BCG, Hindustan Unilever, Aditya Birla Group, Essar Group and L&T. Although, a number of companies have give PPOs already, the real rush of PPOs would be felt only by October, said IIM-L recruitment coordinator Rahul Tom Joseph. Both IIM-A and IIM-B did not disclose the numbers but said that PPOs have primarily come from consulting firms and a few investment banks.

At IIM-B, PPOs started coming from July and the institute says the numbers are at par with last year. The trend looks healthy, says IIM-B placement head Sapna Agarwal. If we go by the sentiments during final placements for students passing out early this year and the PPOs being offered now,the scenario looks quite bright. But we need to be cautious and invite more companies, since our batch size is larger this year, she added. IIM Kozhikode has received one PPO while 15 of its students are in the process of pre placement interviews by companies including Tata Motors, HSBC, Deloitte, Escorts, Citibank and J P Morgan.

IIM-C placement chairman Prof. Amit Dhiman is hopeful that the institute would attract more PPOs than last year. PPOs are usually seen as a reflection of how the coming placement season is going to be. So far, placements 2011 look more promising than 2010, he said. Those involved with placement coordination cells of the IIMs say while PPOs this year has been much better, they are yet to see the good old days of 2006 and 2007. The economic slowdown in 2008, however, made companies cautious, a trend that changed only marginally last year.

Source: The Economic Times, August 20, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

A taste of India: Overseas universities eager to participate in India's educational revolution

Everyone seems to have an interest in the world's largest democracy. Amid the turbulence, India has emerged as a safe and growing economy, hence, attracting increased Western interest. The British Prime Minister David Cameron led the largest delegation in recent memory to India a few weeks ago. Secretary of State for Business and President of the Board of Trade, Vince Cable, who was part of the British delegation, observed, "This is the first significant business delegation the new (U.K.) government has sent overseas. That's a reflection of the importance we place on India as an economic partner".

The University of Melbourne has announced plans to establish an Australia-India Institute with the assistance of an $8 million grant from the Commonwealth Government and some funding by the university. The University of New South Wales and La Trobe University are also the founding members. The objective of the institute is to undertake practical collaborative research in a range of disciplines in order to strengthen relations between Australia and India and to promote a deeper understanding of trade, scientific, political, cultural and social issues between the two countries. Several universities and business schools worldwide have expressed interest in having a presence in India, which is more than simply an international office.

Duke University, U.S., is one such university. While explaining the importance of having a more embedded presence in India, Blair Sheppard, Dean, Duke-Fuqua School of Business, says, "It is imperative to be connected with the countries that will shape the future world discourse. Duke is keen to launch a talent identification programme in schools similar to the one in the U.S., for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Also, it wants to offer courses tailored to the Indian market".

Besides, Western universities are keen to participate in Indias educational revolution. Cambridge University, Open University in the U.K. and Yale University in the U.S., among others, plan to partner with the Indian government to establish research-intensive innovation universities. Brown University, Rhode Island, launched a "Year of India 2009-10" to build on the long-term ties and develop new ones in the fields of business, medicine and the arts. The liberal arts school has a partnership with St. Stephens College and Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College as part of its "Global Study Initiative". Matthew Gutmann, Vice-President for International Affairs, Professor of Anthropology, Brown University, says: "Our student exchange partnership with St. Stephens College in Delhi University began in 1991 and was renewed last March. Now Brown is in discussions with universities and other academic institutions in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata about new collaborations in the fields of health and environment".

The rise of India in the global education stage, however, goes beyond collaborative research, student exchange and campus presence. In the last 10 years, India has emerged as a major destination for the location of multinational research and development (R&D ) activities. According to Jaideep Prabhu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business and Enterprise, University of Cambridge, "A study my co-authors and I did of the Fortune 500 firms R&D centres around the world revealed that in 2008 India was the 7th most popular destination for multinational R&D (after the U.S., Germany, Japan, U.K., China and France)". Prabhu, who is also the Director, Centre for India & Global Business, Cambridge Judge Business School, further adds, "What makes this particularly impressive is that India would have rated nowhere only 10 years ago. The main types of R&D activity that have been located in Indian labs were elements of large-scale technical projects whose source and destination were developed markets".

Prabhu says a major reason for the attractiveness of India as a global research hub has been the large number of scientific and technical personnel that it offers. This is only the first phase in a fast evolving scenario. In the next phase, multinationals will use their India labs as a place to develop affordable and sustainable innovations. "These innovations will be inspired by India but will find application not only in India and other emerging markets, but also Western markets that are increasingly looking for affordable and sustainable solutions in energy, health, food and education", he adds.

This informative article is written by Malini Sen, Times News Network
Source: The Times of India (Education Times), August 16, 2010

NCHER proposes central registry for VC appointments

A central registry process for the appointment of vice-chancellors has been proposed by the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2010. The bill that will make way for the apex body National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) has been formulated by a task-force appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on the basis of the recommendations made by the Yashpal Committee report. In the draft of the bill, the task-force has suggested that one of the roles of the NCHER will be to streamline the process of appointment of vice-chancellors, which is uneven in state and central universities. There will be a central registry process for the appointment of vice-chancellors of the state and central university. Necessary steps have been taken to promote candidates with proven leadership qualities. Anyone who thinks that he or she is qualified and competent to be appointed as a VC can register with NCHER, says Narendra Jadhav, Member, Planning Commission and a member of the task-force.

The NCHER will comprise a constitution of seven members and a collegium (a group of ruling officials each with equal rank and power). Academicians from various fields will form the collegium, which would shortlist candidates for the post of vice-chancellor. In order to make the process transparent, the NCHER will then put the names of the selected candidates on the website to be viewed by institutes in search of a vice-chancellor.

Selection Process: Till now, there were no uniform yardsticks to select a vice-chancellor either in state universities or in central universities. In case of central universities, a selection committee comprising three members selects a VC. In the case of Delhi University (DU), two members from the university's executive council and one from the government form a search committee. They sift the applications of recommended candidates. The selected names are then sent to the government and the President of India finally appoints the VC. In case of state universities, the governor appoints the VCs. It is at the state level that an appointment becomes a political affair, says M.M. Agarwal, Head, Faculty of Arts, DU, who has been a member of earlier search committees.

According to B.B. Bhattacharya, VC, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), VCs are leaders and their decisions play an important role in the overall image of the institution. If a VC's appointment is government driven, it gets reflected in the unlawful activities, etc. of the university. Endorsing his view, M. Anandakrishnan, a member of the task-force appointed to formulate NCHER, says, "Sometimes, instead of academic qualifications, factors such as caste, community, region and ideology become important issues for the appointment of a VC. Activities in universities then become a politicised affair".

Listing some other issues, A.K. Bakhshi, Director, Institute of Life Long Learning, and Head, Department of Chemistry, DU, says, "The yardstick to appoint a VC remains subjective. We have failed to create a rigorous process for the appointment of VCs. We must ensure that a VC, along with requisite academic and administrative qualification, must also possess soft-skills like communication, leadership qualities, innovative ideas and a larger vision. Perhaps this is why our universities fail to match international standards. He also feels that the name of the new VC should be announced well in advance to ensure continuity in administration and academic life of the university.

Fair Chance: According to the new proposal, the central registry will give a chance to everyone aspiring for the post. The bill in its initial drafts had made it mandatory for the central and state universities to select a VC only from the list recommended by the NCHER collegium. However, the proposed bill has met with strong opposition from the state governments, since they would now lose autonomy. The bill has made it optional for states to select a candidate from the list that will be uploaded on the website, says Anandakrishnan.

On a concluding note, Chandra Krishnamurthy, Vice-Chancellor, SNDT Women's University, Mumbai, observes, "The registry process will now give a fair chance to deserving candidates with no political influence. Also, she adds that a list on the website would give universities the freedom to select a candidate in keeping with its specific demands.

Source: The Times of India (Education Times), August 16, 2010

IITs, IIMs to dump grades?

The country's centres of excellence, mentored by foreign governments, have graded their graduates based on a Western system --- the cumulative grade point index for several years. Now, a section of them is moving to a more conventional marking system based on percentage after public sector undertaking (PSU) companies recruiting from top institutes have asked the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and NITs (National Institutes of Technology) to provide an equivalence of their grades by giving percentages. Each institute, autonomous in nature, has its own grading system. Most IITs award a cumulative performance index (CPI) on a scale of one to 10 but IIT-Kanpur does not award odd-number grades. And, among the IIMs, those in Ahmedabad and Bangalore award a CGPA on a scale of one to four like American universities but IIM-Calcutta grades its students on a range of one to nine points.

This, according to PSUs, creates a lot of confusion and hence the move to ask for a more conventional grading system. But, just like the current varied marking system, the decision to move to percentages, too, has elicited divergent opinions among India's premier educational institutes. Some are internally drawing up an equivalence and will publish that on the report card but others say they dont feel the need to carry out such an exercise.

Professor in charge of placements at IIT-Bombay Ravi Sinha said, "Each PSU has its own human resource policy and they want us to provide our grade equivalence for the minimum threshold level which they can interpret. So, IIT-Bombay, keeping in mind students' interest in its senate decided to flesh out an equivalence so that a system of conversion equivalence should emerge from reliable data and a clear and unambiguous basis to stand the test of time".

But most NITs have asked the PSUs to either devise their conversion table or refer the matter to the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). "I have a method of grading my students and the PSUs should draw up their own method of assessing the graduates they hire. We have referred the case to the AICTE", NIT-Nagpur Director S.S. Gokhale said. IIT-Guwahati Director Gautam Barua too said converting grades into percentage was no easy answer. IIT-Delhi Chairman (Placement ) Kushal Sen confirmed that such a request had come from the PSUs but there is no way we can convert CPI to percentages.

Many of the IIMs, however, have already designed a formula to convert. "PSU recruiters last year had the same request. They wanted us to provide the corresponding percentage for our CG", IIM-Bangalore placement official Sapna Agrawal said.

Source: The Times of India, August 16, 2010

Architecture council under CBI scanner over affiliations

The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) has tightened the noose around the Council of Architecture (CoA), an apex body of professional architects which has been accused of granting affiliations to institutions and courses without any authority. On August 13, the agency conducted raids in Goa and Delhi and seized documents related to unauthorized affiliations granted to several courses and institutes in India. The raid in Goa was carried out at Vidya Vardhan's Institute of Design, Environment and Architecture, whose director V.S. Sohoni is also the President of CoA. Sohoni is alleged to have violated various guidelines of the central government in running CoA, a national level autonomous body recognized by the Union government. CBI had last year received a letter from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), after which a preliminary investigation was launched.

COA is similar to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India where professionals need to register themselves. It has no right to give recognition to courses or colleges. We have found several such cases where CoA's name was used to grant recognition. Sohoni's college in Goa is also one of the institutes where students were given false representation, said a CBI official. We are probing all such colleges and institutions which have been given affiliation during the tenure of Sohoni, who has been the head of COA since 2004. The documents seized have been sent for forensic examination. The role of other officials of COA is also under scanner and nationwide raids are being carried out to unearth the entire scam. We have come to know during investigation that in many cases, the Council did not even seek approval of the ministry in decision-making, the official added.

The power to recognize a course or institute is vested with the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) only. This is not first time that an apex institution has come under the radar of CBI. Last year, it had arrested the top brass of AICTE for allegedly demanding bribe to give recognition to institutes. More recently, Medical Council of India (MCI) chief Ketan Desai was arrested on similar charges by the CBI and an FIR was registered against him.

Source: The Times of India, August 16, 2010

MCI in a fix over plea against 159 docs on endorsements

The Medical Council of India's attempt to wriggle out of taking action against the Indian Medical Association for endorsing products of various companies has come to naught with the council being given a list of names of 159 doctors who were party to making the decision to endorse the products. The list includes the names of Dr. Ketan Desai, former president of the MCI who had brought in the MCI regulation banning doctors and doctors professional organisations from endorsing products, the current IMA national president Dr. G. Samaram, and current national secretary Dr. Dharam Prakash.

The MCI had responded to a complaint against IMAs endorsement saying that the IMA does not come under the purview of MCI. MCI's response further assured that if complete details of any medical practitioner, registered with MCI, who indulged in violation of the MCI regulations, was provided, the Council shall initiate appropriate action. The complainant Dr. K.V. Babu has now provided the names of 159 doctors who were party to the decision to endorse products in 2008 and sought action against every one of these doctors who come under the purview of the MCI.

In November 2008, the Central Working Committee of IMA had approved the MoU signed with Pepsi to endorse Quaker Oats and Tropicana juices and the MoU with Dabur to endorse its Odomos cream, gel and lotions. The endorsement, supposed to be in operation till March 2011, brought in Rs. 2.25 crore (Rs. 22.5 million) revenue for the IMA. The proceedings of the Central Working Committee meeting show that endorsement money was meant to be used for clearing travel allowance of the IMA members and for international activities affecting IMAs global presence.

Dr. Babu pointed out that the MCI regulations clearly stated that doctors were not to take travel allowances from any private industry or endorse products. He calculated that the amount of Rs. 2.25 crore earned on the decision of 159 doctors when divided amongst them,worked out to be over Rs. 100,000 per head. According to the quantum of punishment decided by the MCI for various levels of violations, the penalty for accepting anything above Rs. 100,000 is penal erasure from the registry for one year. However, no action has been taken so far.

Source: The Times of India, August 16, 2010

Surgeon crunch paralyses neuro department at AIIMS

The neuro-surgery department at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is facing a serious shortage of surgeons because of which the waiting period for neuro-surgery has gone up to 2013. But this is not preventing doctors from taking up international fellowships. In this year alone, three doctors have been allowed to go on fellowship and deputation to U.S. and Kuwait. The department has a sanctioned strength of 12 neuro-surgeons, of which only eight posts are filled. But as three neuro-surgeons have gone Prof. B.S. Sharma has gone on deputation to Kuwait, Dr. Rajinder Kumar is in the U.S. on a fellowship and Dr. Manish Kumar Sharma will soon be leaving for the U.S., the department is left with nearly one-third of its sanctioned strength.

Our waiting list has gone up to 2013. Even in the private ward, the waiting period is till December this year. The doctors are working under tremendous pressure, said a senior doctor. On asking why doctors are being allowed to go abroad on fellowships when work in the department is getting affected, Dr. A.K. Mahapatra, Head of the Department of Neuro-surgery, said, "Though we have an acute shortage of staff, we can't stop people from going on fellowships. If I don't clear the files, they will resign. We will face shortage of doctors then as well. The waiting for neuro-surgery is going up as people trust the doctors here and the treatment is also economical. If the department had full strength, then it doesn't matter if three or four doctors leave".

According to sources, AIIMS is not recruiting doctors and the promotion of middle-level faculty is also on hold. Our interviews were held seven years ago. Close to 50% of the middle-level faculty is not getting promoted, which is increasing their frustration. With some doctors going on fellowship, only a handful of people are left to do the work, said a senior doctor. Said Dr. Mahapatra, "I have written several letters to the Director and AIIMS administration informing them about the departments condition, but no action has been taken. If we don't get more doctors, the waiting list in neuro-surgery will just go up".

Source: The Times of India, August 16, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

IIT-Bombay graduates pledge 1% of pay to alma mater

Charity begins on campus. Or so believe 735 students of the current outgoing batch of IIT-Bombay (IIT-B ) who have pledged 1% of their salaries to their alma mater. At a rough count taking the starting salary of a fresh graduate to be Rs. 12 lakh (Rs. 1.2 million) per annum that is likely to add a robust Rs. 50 lakh (Rs. 5 million) to IIT-B's coffers in the first year alone. The seed of this initiative came from alumnus Bakul Desai, an entrepreneur who lives in Hyderabad. Desai, a graduate of the 1982 batch, came up with the idea of a programme now being called Give One for IIT-B. In the second year we hope to bring in Rs. 1 crore (Rs. 10 million); in the third, Rs. 1.5 crore (Rs. 15 million) and so on, says Desai. No pressure of course, but it appears that most the 735 students, or approximately 70% of the graduating batch, is more than willing to pledge a fraction of their salaries.

Every year, it was becoming harder to chase alumni and request them to give something for the institute, says Desai, who is part of the alumni associations fund-raising team. So we thought, why not start young, with the fresh graduates, and hope that this will inculcate in them a habit of giving. He adds: The pledge is not a lifetime thing, so students need not feel compelled to continue, if any of them feel the pinch. It will be renewed every year, and if someone is not happy with the way his or her money has been utilised, he/she can choose to stop giving. Every year, IIT-B receives Rs. 10-15 crore (Rs. 100-150 million) in donations from alumnus. But this, of course, is different from the payroll giving it is trying to foster among its recent graduates.

The process, says A.Q. Contractor, Dean for Alumni & Corporate Relations, will be completely transparent, with a website being set up to track the donations, and inform donors about how their money is being used. Give One to IIT-B will help people who are not in a position to give spectacular amounts at one go, but prefer to give smaller amounts over a longer period, says Mr. Contractor. That way, it doesn't pinch them too much. In fact, the alumni association is not expecting much in the first year, when students are just about settling into their jobs, and payscales are likely to be low.

Still, on their part, the students are more than happy to open their purse strings. Anurag Kumar, 23, who just graduated from the aerospace engineering department, says: "IIT-B has given all of us so much, and academics is just a small part of it. It helps shape all of us into well-rounded, responsible individuals, and you can't put a cap on what you give back for that. It has been my home away from home for the last four years, and Im happy to give something for it".

Donations from alumnus have, hitherto, been tied up with specific kinds of research or scholarships. The payroll giving by fresh grads will go towards things that normally dont attract government (or donor) funds hostel upkeep and improvement, retirement benefits for staff, supplementing existing government scholarships for students or raising money for them to attend various conferences and workshops that they usually can't afford, and such. Also, seeing this initiative take off, Mr. Contractor hopes, will shame the older alumni into giving more. And 1% of their salaries is likely to be quite generous.

Source: The Economic Times, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010

MHRD to get Rs. 2310 billion for Right to Education

India's Union Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee said that the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) ministry would be allocated Rs. 2310 billion over the next three years to set up infrastructure for implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The HRD minister has said Rs. 2310 billion crore will be required for implementing the RTE Act in the next three years for setting up schools, appointment of teachers and building infrastructure. "I have said the money will be provided", said Mr Mukherjee at a seminar on Economic Vision of the Indian National Congress held on Sunday.

Mr. Mukherjee's comments come in the backdrop of a recent government decision to embark on a nationwide consultation process with stakeholders to overcome teething trouble in implementing the RTE Act. The first meeting will be held on August 14, in which all issues pertaining to implementation of the law will be discussed, HRD minister Kapil Sibal had told reporters earlier. There are many issues in implementation of the RTE law. "We are meeting the principals and all the stakeholders on August 14 to identify the problems and discuss solutions", he said.

Mr. Mukherjee also added that the Centre would provide legal teeth to the Right to Health and Right to Food through a legal enactment. He said providing such rights and budgetary support to implement those programmes were made possible because of the economic growth that India had achieved over the past few years. It was not possible in the 1980s. But now, I am confident of providing budgetary support for bringing about an all-inclusive growth, he said. The government is also determined to give 25 kilos of rice or wheat to the BPL (below poverty line) families at a pre-determined price of Rs. 3 per kilo irrespective of the market rates, he added.

The finance minister announced a spate of initiatives in Dhaka to enhance economic ties between India and Bangladesh. During the FMs Bangladesh visit, India on Saturday inked a $1-billion loan agreement with Bangladesh, which is the biggest it has offered to a foreign country. The billion dollar loan is being offered at 1.75% interest and will be repayable over a 20-year span.

Source: The Economic Times, August 9, 2010

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