Thursday, September 30, 2010

Single test for entry to Central universities from next year

The process of college admissions in India is set for a radical change, with the country's Central universities agreeing to conduct a common entrance test for selecting stu- dents from across the country. India's education minister, who previously scrapped class X exams in favour of grades in an attempt to foster real education and not just learning by rote, said the move was part of an attempt to reform the education system and assess students holistically. Vice-chancellors of 40 Central government-funded universities also agreed to create an inter-university credit transfer system to help students transfer from one university to another.

"The Central universities have decided in principle to have a common aptitude test. The score of the class XII exam and that of the aptitude test will be combined while admitting students to the undergraduate courses across these Central universities," Human Resource Development minister Kapil Sibal announced after a meeting of the Vice-chancellors in the National Capital. The minister added that the new admission process, which will come into effect next year, would not infringe on a university's autonomy.

Central universities such as the Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Banaras Hindu University will also be allowed to retain their unique admission procedures. For example, Jamia can continue 25% of its intake from its own schools. "The unique features will remain. There is going to be wider consultations on the modalities to be followed," Najeeb Jung, Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, said.

The aptitude test will help measure the general knowledge and personality of the students. Sibal said the effort is to take forward the reforms in higher education and to ensure that students are judged holistically rather than on the knowledge they have gleaned from books. Hundreds of thousands of students study in Central universities, considered elite institutions of learning.


Sibal and the Vice-Chancellors also decided to launch four-year integrated B.Sc.-B.Ed. (Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Education) and B.A.-B.Ed. (Bachelor of Arts-Bachelor of Education) courses in order to address the shortage of school teachers. "Students will have the option to get out of the college after three years with just a B.A. or B.Sc. degree or stay for one more year and get a dual degree. This will help create a pool of quality teachers," he said. India is facing a shortage of more than 250,000 teachers in schools and the additional B.Ed. degree would widen the pool of teaching talent.

Source: Mint, September 30, 2010

Central varsities agree on new admission process, says The Economic Times
University education is set to undergo a change. Vice-Chancellors of central universities have agreed on new admission process for undergraduate and postgraduate courses, faculty and student mobility within central universities and a code of conduct for faculty, staff and researchers. In order to improve quality, they have agreed to the idea of global benchmarks, in order to be considered as a "navratna university."

The new selection process would mean that admission could be done on the basis of a combination of marks obtained in class XII and scores obtained in a common aptitude test to be conducted nationally, said HRD minister Kapil Sibal. Weightage given to each of these would be decided by the individual universities. Mr. Sibal said that consensus on the new admission process at the undergraduate level was reached keeping in mind the provisions of the new central university statute which says that admission shall take place on the basis of all-India test. "There was a consensus among Vice-Chancellors of all the central universities to this admission process as the present process puts an immense burden on students," Mr. Sibal said.

A detailed report would be presented within two months by a core committee as to how to implement the decision so that we attempt to start this process in the next academic session. The minister said that the new system would ensure that the students give equal importance to plus two and discourage the rote learning process. "For admission to postgraduate level in these universities," he said the VCs agreed on a admission process which could again be a combination of marks obtained at the graduate level and a common test having some subject component. The modalities would be worked out by the central universities keeping specific requirements in mind. Seven of the 15 new central universities have already adopted a common entrance test for admission.

Mr. Sibal said though the VCs have agreed on this system, unwilling universities can continue with their existing admission process. In an effort to ensure greater student mobility, the system of credit transfer was discussed. This would be in place by the next session. Collaborating universities would enter into bilateral agreements allowing credit transfer and student mobility.

Source: The Economic Times, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Global Education: Student exchange takes wing

Raunak Mehta, 24, could be the envy of many well-settled professionals. This international business management student from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) signed up for the institutes student exchange programme, and a new world opened up to him, literally. All he had to do was take an interview organised by the international exchange cell and landed up at the Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki (Finland), one of the student exchange partners of IIFT. He spent three months (from January to March, 2010), studying and working in Helsinki and discovering Europe Italy, France, Estonia, Germany and Austria. And this, on his maiden visit abroad.

Raunak is not the only lucky one. His 34 other batchmates travelled to the U.S., Italy, Germany, South Korea, Japan and Canada during the same time, studying, experiencing varied cultures and figuring out what it takes to be a global manager. "It was hectic but I loved every bit of it. I did all that I didn't do here," says Raunak. Unlike in India, he submitted a qualitative research paper in marketing (shopping behaviour of Indians in retail formats in Helsinki) and a paper on business, government and society, apart from travelling across Europe to get a feel of work and life in that part of the world.

Raunak and his batchmates are part of a growing crowd of students who experience working and travelling across the world while still in school, thanks to the scaling up of student-exchange programmes at their respective institutes. "This is happening as Indian schools try to position themselves as global brands, foreign institutions eye the booming Indian education sector and companies seek culturally aware, flexible and better-groomed hires," says Prof. Munish Bhargava, Corporate and Placement Advisor at IIFT. Also, the number of student exchange tie-ups has increased many fold, he explains. In contrast, five years ago, with limited seats at IIFT, only two students could visit foreign universities.

Today, top B-schools of the country have an impressive list of global institutions as part of their international linkages which they have added in the last 5-10 years. This includes the School of Public Policy, George Mason University, Cambridge College, Massachusetts, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland in the U.S., ESCP Europe, EDHEC Business School, France, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Leipzig, Germany, Vienna University of Economics & Business Administration and National University of Singapore (NUS), among others. That has allowed many more Indian students to travel abroad and study under different pedagogy and understand international work cultures.

For instance, IIM-Lucknow sent 53 students to 22 universities in four continents this year, up from nine students visiting three universities in 2001. IIM-Calcutta has seen the outgoing students list grow longer from single digits in the early 2000s to 90 students this year who went to 45 different universities. MDI's student count for the exchange programme has gone up 22% from 2007 to 45 students this year. Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, too has seen a similar outflow, up from 10 students in 2005 to 35 in 2009.

A candidate with international exposure is preferred over others, specially in the services industry. Prabhakar Shyam Jha, an MBA in finance from MDI, Gurgaon, realised this during placement. A five-month internship in General Electrics EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) headquarters working capital management division gave him the chance to interact with staff in the region and understand their preferences, working styles and cultural inclination. "My 10-month stay in Paris came in handy when Evalueserve came to recruit at MDI this year as their client base is international," he says. Prabhakar now works as a senior business analyst in the company. Prabhakar spent five months studying at ESCP Europe as part of the student exchange between MDI and ESCP and the rest working at GE. Just the reason students don't mind taking education loans and spending Rs. 200,000-300,000 for the programme.

What has helped their intent further is the growing volume of scholarships awarded to students. Last year, IIM-L students received 13 scholarships, while MDI got six. IIM-C got seven scholarships and 60 students were given grants from Rs. 15,000-30,000 from the institute this year. All this is international aid from global universities that promote themselves as higher education destinations across the globe. "(In) the way we want to promote our school to attract international students, they are doing the same thing. More so, when they (foreign institutes) think it is possible to have their presence in India through various means, including local tie-ups," says Dr. Debashish Sanyal, Dean, NMIMS.

Interest from overseas partners has also led domestic schools to expand areas of exchange. Sujata Rathi, student exchange representative of IIM-C, says, "We have started pursuing international relations aggressively and are seeking student exchanges with more B-schools across the world. That would also mean getting double degree programmes under such exchange." And, its not only new courses but geographies as well as they try to bring diversity in their offerings. Like IIM-L, which is tying up with B-schools in North America and Asia and now plans to reach out to Australian institutes.

That's good news for students like IIFT's Raunak who want to make a mark in the corporate world. "This kind of initial exposure is necessary for getting hired in companies eyeing newer areas of growth and in emerging markets. At least, I will know how to manage in new surroundings. It has prepared me for the long-term," he says.

Source: The Economic Times, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

IIM-A attempts to bring order in salaries, placements

Day zero could soon become history and the hype around eye-popping salary figures contained, if stakeholders in the country’s management education — B-schools and recruiters — agree to standardise the placement process. The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), that introduced a cohort-based placement system for both summers as well as final placements, is now looking for a consensus among top B-schools in the country that will help introduce some standards in the placements process. A consensus is expected to benefit both the students and the recruiters, and would put an end to the race for supremacy among B-schools on the basis of top salary figures.

In order to bring all the concerned stakeholders under one roof and bring about a consensus, IIM-A will organise a 'Recruiters’ Conclave' in Mumbai on October 1 wherein recruiters and representatives of all IIMs and top private B-schools will discuss issues surrounding the placement process. This is perhaps the first attempt made by a B-school to initiate talks on the sensitive issue of placements. Till now, there has been no forum, even among the IIMs, to discuss issues plaguing recruiters, students and the fraternity.

For the conclave, IIM-A has invited recruiters who have been regular at the institute's campus as well as the placement chairpersons of all the operational IIMs and those of private B-schools like SP Jain, MDI, IMT, ISB and XLRI. Student representatives from these B-schools are expected to attend the conference. Currently, each B-School has its own way of announcing the success of the placement process. While some IIMs give out average salaries offered to their grads, a few B-schools capitalise on the highest salaries. Students say, salary figures are debatable as there is a varying proportion of variable pay.

IIM-A is scheduled to make a brief presentation on the strengths of the cohort system which it has adopted in place of the traditional Day-based system. In the cohort-based system, recruiters, classified as per their sectors, get much more time per candidate, thus ensuring that the final choice for both (students and recruiters) comes after taking into account factors such as role and challenge. The new process typically happens over weekends, thus not disrupting the academics.

"We are not trying to propagate or push the cohort system. We are not in any way dictating policies. Each institute implements a placements process that fits them. Though we ourselves have done away with the day system, we still continue to have rolling placements for the course for executives and lateral placements for the post-graduate students. So, through this open forum, we will only be sharing our learnings and in turn, listen to the concerns of recruiters and students. Problems can be solved only through discussions. If there is no forum (as the conclave) no solution will come up," says Prof. Saral Mukherjee, Chairperson - Placements, at IIM-A.

Recuriters at IIM-A who have largely welcomed the new cohort-based system are also expected to share their views during the conclave. "It is a much more matured and rationale system that IIM-A has evolved. There is less pressure on both, students as well as recruiters. It is progressive move. However, I won’t prescribe the system to other institutes. We as recruiters are not looking at standardisation among B-schools. Individual institutes should follow placement systems that suit them and we are willing to adapt," says Mr. Shaleen Madan, Vice President, Human Resource, Lodha Developers, a Mumbai-based real-estate firm which earlier this year had recruited six graduates from both IIM-A and other IIM campuses.

IIM-A had implemented the new placement system during the final placements in March 2010 and later took to the summer placement that willl happen in November. It has so far, remained the sole institute to follow this system. "We had discussed the system informally with the recruiters for about a year and then later went ahead and implemented it. Now, we are going to discuss it officially. We believe that it is our duty to share our learnings with other B-schools," Mr. Mukherjee added.

Reacting to IIM-A's attempt to bring together the country's top B-schools, Prof. Amit Dhiman, Chairperson - Placements, IIM-C. says, "It is a good forum to talk with the industry. The cohort-system is an experimental initiative taken by IIM-A. This could evolve as an alternative to the existing day-system. However, it is upon the individual B-schools to adopt a system that suits their way of functioning. While changing any system, we need to look at the response from all the stakeholders, including those from the industry and students. Issues of logistics (for the recruiters) also need to be explored."

Source: The Economic Times, September 28, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

iProf: A device which resolves e-learning problems

If you ever dreamt of a magic lamp which could fold your entire classroom, lecture notes, tuition classes and the examination centre into a small carry-pack, your genie would be named iProf. For Rs. 15,000 (about US $ 315), this e-learning device provides subject-specific video lectures from top faculty, brain-teasers, customised practice tests, et al on a seven-inch touch screen. Play, pause or rewind your lectures and exams, till you master the subject, without as much as stepping out of your easy chair.

"iProf addresses three major problems that plague e-learning," says Sanjay Purohit, founder and CEO, iProf Learning Solutions. "These problems are: Low computer penetration, content piracy and broadband connectivity. Besides, there is always shortage of good quality professors. We have created an infrastructure solution which is easily scalable, enabling access to high quality education that solves all the issues," he says, emphasising that there is a huge scope in growth for e-learning, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities in India.

A dream venture of Sanjay Purohit and Nitin Kaushik, iProf project was started with a capital investment of Rs. 20 crore (Rs. 200 million) in March this year. What differentiate this tablet from Amazon kindle or Indian infibeam is its target audience. "Students who cannot access some of the best professors and teachers can view and review the lectures and tutorials on this device," says Purohit. "Also, modules can be downloaded without Internet and thus a student can save up to 60-70% as compared to attending a classroom lectures."

Purohit says at Rs. 14,990, the device is positioned as a supplementary learning module which aids in giving the students a platform to revise what they’ve learnt at training. According to Kaushik, Chief Operating Officer at iProf, Brilliant Tutorials, Pune-based Future Vista and Mumbai-based Sinhal Classes have been developing content for iProf. "E-learning has not caught pace in India due to limited Internet connectivity. Through our tablets, students can access lectures any time, any place."

While the tablet manufacturing and technology process is outsourced, iProf sells devices to students through its own distribution channel that comprises company-owned stores called iStudy zones. An aspirant can buy iProf tablet and download the IIT-JEE content within these zone at a high speed. With wi-fi capabilities, iStudy zones also hold doubt-clearing sessions through video conferencing.

With fresh course material on CAT, medical and CA lined up, iProf looks at expanding to 100 iStudy zones by the year end from its current tally of 30 to make self study simple for aspirants. The targets are impressive: $20 million within the first year of operation and $100 million in the third year. Thus, while franchisee module tops the priority of iProf dons, reaching out to aspiring students from various studying centres is close on the wish-list. Professionals beneficiaries like Ankit Barua have all the support for these targets. "iProf proved to be a blessing for me when I didn’t have time to attend classes due to my job. Now, I can refer to any subject, any time and keep pace with the course material."

Source: The Economic Times, September 26, 2010

Number of CAT applicants falling: Registration deadline extended

The Common Admission Test, the route to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), has probably hit a rough patch. The unquestioned king of B-school entrance tests used to gauge the popularity of business education in the country has for the first time extended its registration deadline by a week, probably to convince more candidates into queuing up for the test.

The number of people applying to take CAT has been falling. When the IIMs conducted the paper-pencil test themselves, they looked at restricting the number of takers. But, now that it has been outsourced, the revenue from CAT is suddenly important, said an IIM faculty. For years, the entrance test has been the IIMs golden goose; in 2007- 08,India's blue-chip B-schools raked in Rs 2.98 crore just by conducting CAT.

But in 2009, after 33 years, the test graduated from being a paper-pencil one and that, experts said, left out a large number of aspirants from smaller corners of the country who were not comfortable taking the computer-based test. This year again, the number of cities where test centres have been set up, too, has fallen.

Has that affected the number of those interested in taking the test? Prometric, the American company conducting the computer-based test for the IIMs, said in a press note, "The decision to extend the registration period was undertaken in order to provide candidates with additional opportunity to register and at the request of some candidates who required a longer registration period".

So the last day of registration, which was to end on September 30, has now been pushed to October 7. CAT convener Himanshu Rai said extension of the registration period had nothing to do with the falling registration numbers. "I don't have the data on how many students have registered for CAT-2010 but those wanting to take CAT would have done so by now. Also, if someone has decided not to take the test, they wouldn't".

However, Promteric, which earns its money on the number of candidates who register, is probably looking at converting fence-sitters to rushed last-minute registrations. "What otherwise would explain the reason for extending the dates to sell vouchers too", asked Arks Srinivas, Director of TIME (Kolkata), a coaching academy. He added that there could be no logical reason to extend registration but the falling numbers of CAT takers that had prompted Prometric to keep counters open for longer.

Source: The Times of India, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Electrical engineering top choice of IIT toppers

For years, computer science was a rage among those who made it to the top of the selection list of the joint entrance exam (JEE), which is the passport to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Anumula Jithendar Reddy from Hyderabad who topped the competitive entrance test, didn't take that road much travelled. Instead, he decided to pursue electrical engineering at IIT-Bombay.

There were many like Reddy, whose preferences have shifted with the IT shimmer fading. Picture this: While electrical engineering opened at all-India rank (AIR) 1 and closed at rank 98, computer science, on the Powai campus, dragged on and closed at rank 116. "One will notice the same trend picking up in other IITs next year. But telecommunication is on the top, at least neck-and-neck with computer science. And electrical engineering is as much a rage as computer science, at least in the IITs. After that we have most students opting for mechanical engineering," said an IIT faculty member.

While computer science still attracted a large chunk of the JEE toppers, this year, however, of the top 100 JEE-2010 rankers, about 25% opted for electrical engineering, while they could have got a seat in computer science. Interestingly, pure sciences too seem to have attracted some top rankers. AIR 33 signed up for physics in IIT-Kanpur and engineering physics, too, moved up the popularity charts and opened at rank 48 in Bombay; last year's opening rank for this stream was 303. The trend was noticed in IIT-Madras too where engineering physics opened admission at rank 494 (last year's opening rank was 832).

Statistics on the opening and closing ranks of candidates admitted into the IITs in August 2010 on the basis of their scores in the JEE also revealed that mechanical engineering has been steadily climbing the ratings. At IIT-B, the opening rank in the general category is 56 against last year's 72 and 2008's AIR 171. On the other hand, chemical engineering and civil engineering have descended in the preference list. At IIT-B, chemical engineering opened at rank 561, as against last year, when rank 244 was the first one to opt for it. AIR 887 at IIT-B took up civil engineering, a stream which opened admission at AIR 665 a year ago.

"However, one should not interpret this as a sign of declining preference for the course. You must take into account the fact that some of the aspirants would have opted for other courses at the new IITs as a result of which they would have ranked civil or chemical slightly below in order while exercising their options at the time of admission," explained a dean at the IIT Madras.

Among the new IITs, Patna and Hyderabad were among the first to admit students, most of who signed up for electrical engineering and computer science.

Source: The Times of India, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

IIM-Ahmedabad in top 10 of FT B-school rankings

The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has, for the first time, been ranked number eight for its two-year Postgraduate Programme (PGP). According to the latest Financial Times (FT) Business School rankings for its Masters in Management programme 2010, the premier Indian B-school’s MBA programme has been placed among the top 10 in the list of 65 B-schools. This is the first time IIM-A participated in the ranking assessment.

The Icole Supirieure de Commerce de Paris (ECSP Europe) has topped the rankings this year, improving its last year’s second position, while CEMS, The Global Alliance in Management Education, has been ranked number two. The ranking is done based on 28 parameters.

Also, it’s for the first time that an Indian B-school has been ranked among top 10 for its flagship PG programme. Terming it as a step forward for more meaningful global ventures, IIM-A Director Dr. Samir Kumar Barua said the rankings would help in more international collaborations. Barua said: "We have been ranked number eight for our two-year masters programme in management in the category where the candidates pursuing the course need not have any work experience to join the programme. This is the first time we have participated in the FT rankings. To be a part of the assessment, one has to qualify", said Barua.

The IIM-A is the only Indian business school to be accredited by the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and is now eyeing the U.S. equivalent —by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. "When we go for any meaningful collaboration, international rankings helps", said Barua.

Interestingly, FT has also come out with a special report on management education in India. Said India online editor of the FT, James Fontanella-Khan, "This is the first time an Indian school has made it to the top 10 in FT’s top management masters league table. This reflects the improving standards of teaching and student placement at Indian business schools".

On the emergence of Indian B-schools in world rankings — ISB, Hyderabad has been ranked among the top 20 by FT for its one-year executive programme couple of years ago — Fontanella-Khan said: "A growing number of IIM students end up working for companies globally. However, more has to be done. Indian schools need to attract more foreign talent and faculty. They have only recently started doing so. This also explains why Indian business schools weren’t in the top ranks before. In an ever more globalised world, you need global approach to education".

Source: The Economic Times, September 24, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seven Indian students get prestigious Australian scholarship

Australian High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese today announced that seven Indian students will be offered the prestigious Australian Leadership Award (ALA) scholarship. These scholarships are implemented by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) as part of the Australia Awards initiative. The ALA program aims to develop leadership, build partnerships and enduring linkages between the countries of our region.

"I congratulate these seven outstanding people who have been identified for their potential to provide important policy leadership on their return home. These are individuals with the capability to shape future social and economic policy and development outcomes in India," said the High Commissioner.

The seven successful Indian candidates have been selected to receive one of the 205 ALA Scholarships offered globally in 2011. "The Australia Leadership Awards demonstrate Australia's commitment to developing future leadership and building enduring partnerships with India. This is a relationship that will be of increasing importance to both countries in the years ahead," he said

The awardees will undertake postgraduate studies at some of Australia's most prestigious universities in fields that include: community planning; agricultural development; and intellectual property law. The awardees will also participate in a tailored leadership development program to strengthen their leadership skills, establish networks with emerging leaders in other regional countries, and enhance their understanding of our region's development challenges.


Source: The Economic Times, September 21, 2010

Senior faculty members of IITs, IIMs to get higher grade pay

In what could come as a good news for professors of IITs, IIMs and IISERs, the Government has decided to offer experienced and senior faculty members a higher administrative grade (HAG) pay. According to the decision, senior faculty members would receive an HAG pay of Rs. 67,000 to Rs. 79,000. IIT teachers had gone on an agitation path last year seeking higher pay for senior faculties.

"It has now been decided in consultation with the Department of Expenditure to extend the HAG scale of Rs. 67,000-79,000 without any Grade Pay in place of academic grade pay (AGP) of 12000," said a notification issued by the Ministry of HRD. The new pay scale would also apply to professors of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore apart from professors of IITs and IIMs.

In an earlier order last year, the Ministry had said that professors would be eligible to move to academic grade pay (AGP) of Rs. 12,000 per month after six years of regular service. However, the new notification has done away with the the AGP of Rs. 12,000 per month.

The higher pay grade, said officials, would help retain the best minds in the country and lure many more into the teaching profession.

Source: The Economic Times, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

U.S. B-schools lose lustre for Indian students

The great Indian dream of pursuing an MBA in the U.S. seems to be on the wane. India has been ahead of China when it comes to flooding U.S. B-schools with GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores: from 2005 to 2009, U.S. B-schools received the maximum number of GMAT scores from India. But this year, the dragon has beaten the tiger. So where have all the Indian students gone? They seem to have found a new destination for management education. It's called India.

Here's a look at the facts. In testing year 2005 (July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005), when over 43,000 GMAT scores were sent to management programmes in the U.S. by Indians, a mere 19,196 GMAT scores came from Chinese. Till 2009, India maintained its lead over China. But in testing year 2010 (July 2009-June 2010), for the first time the number of Chinese far outnumbered Indians: 80,000 to the Indians' 65,361.

Ashok Sarathy, Vice-President, GMAT Programme, feels this may have a lot to do with the emergence of high-quality management education in India. "There's been a growing interest in the local market among Indian management aspirants, with high-quality programmes being offered in India. They are now seeing tremendous opportunity in their own economy and in Indian degrees,'' Sarathy told TOI from the U.S.

Sarathy's views are borne out by the statistics. In testing year 2010, over 17,000 Indians sent in their GMAT scores to Indian institutions. Meanwhile, only 1,743 GMAT scores from mainland China (and 5,184 from Hong Kong) were sent to Chinese B-schools in the same period.

While the last five years saw only a marginal increase in GMAT scores sent by Chinese in their own country (but a steady growth in those sent to the U.S.), there has been an almost four-fold rise in the number of Indians applying to Indian management institutions—from 4,879 in 2005 to 17,087 in 2010.

Source: The Economic Times, September 13, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

IITs can undertake medical research

With the IIT Council giving its consent to the institutes to start courses in medicine, IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) can now undertake inter-disciplinary research in the field of medicine, bio-engineering, biotechnology and related subjects. The approval comes even as health ministry has not favoured IITs starting medical courses, suggesting instead that they consider starting Ph.D. programmes, involving collaboration between engineering and medical science.

The council's nod to hiring foreign faculty will also require policy-level changes. Though there are 4,267 vacancies of which only 2,983 have been filled, security clearance is required ahead of hiring of a foreign national at a salary that is on a par with his Indian counterpart. "We will set up a mechanism the with home ministry so that the process can be done without any hiccups," HRD minister Kapil Sibal said. Interestingly, the ministry's proposal for Innovation Universities says foreign nationals will be hired as faculty for which the Citizenship Act needs to be amended.

Lack of consensus on reforms in the JEE — proposed by the Damodar Acharya committee — led the IIT Council to set up another panel, under T. Ramasami, Secretary, Science and Technology, that will submit its report in three months. On JEE there was no consensus on an alternate model for the present system. Though there was agreement that class XII results should be given weightage, the Damodar Acharya panel report, which has suggested normalization of class XII results, did not find enough support. Directors of seven IITs felt that the existing system of test should continue as an add-on examination along with the marks in class XII and aptitude test.

Source: The Times of India, September 11, 2010

Many MBA seats, but no takers

Any takers for MBA? After that scramble for MBA courses and mushrooming of MBA colleges in Bangalore city during the last five years, the storm seems to have died down. Around 30% of colleges offering MBA in the city have surrendered their management seats to the government as they could not find takers for it.

In Karnataka, there are 220 AICTE-approved colleges offering MBA courses. Of these, 64 colleges have surrendered their management seats to the government. This comes to around 1,500 seats and they will be offered to students who have taken the Post-Graduate Common Entrance Test (PGCET) 2010, conducted by Visvesvaraya Technological University, Belgaum, through government quota.

While the number of seats surrendered vary from 10 to 60 among colleges, there are a few colleges that have given up all the seats entitled to them. Some colleges have surrendered their seats a few days ago and these seats will be included in the casual round to be conducted from Monday. The government quota seats are offered for around Rs 50,000 per annum and the management quota for Rs. 300,000 to Rs. 700,000. If the seats go vacant, the colleges will have to bear the loss and therefore they usually give it to the government.

There are no takers for MCA either as 26 colleges have surrendered their seats. The most cited reason for the inability to fill seats is the increase in number of colleges over the years. There are around 25,000 to 26,000 seats available for the course in Karnataka. However, the number of students who took up the PGCET test this time was only 16,000.

"There were 98 colleges in the state in 2005. Five years from then, we have 220 colleges. The 8,500 seats rose to 25,000-26,000 during this period. Most of the colleges had 60 seats then and a few had 120. Now it has risen to 120 and 180. But there is just 10%-12% increase in the number of aspirants,'' said Hari Krishna Maram, governing council member, All India Management Association (AIMA).

This list is only that of AICTE-approved institutions. There are 130 institutions who offer the course but not recognized by AICTE. "Moreover, the students' expectations have changed. They now look for better facilities, faculties and most importantly placements. In many of these colleges, placements are not good. Though companies come, they might not find suitable students. Many students take loan and take these courses. Without jobs they cannot repay the loan," said Maram.

Source: The Times of India (Bangalore), September 11, 2010

IIM-Ahmedabad draws students from across world

For the famed Indian Institute of Management of Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the golden jubilee year has been special. The institute is gearing up to accommodate the highest intake of foreign students under its student exchange programmes this year. According to sources at the IIM-A, the trend is thanks to the fact that India is regarded as among the important, emerging economies of the world.

According to IIM-A authorities, for the trimester from September to December, 65 students have come under exchange programmes from premier European and North American business schools. "Next year, we are expecting more students for various courses," said A.K. Laha, Faculty Co-ordinator at IIM-A.

It has been a constant rise for IIM-A. According to officials, there were 57 students in 2008-09, a number which increased to 69 in 2009-10. For each of the two years, 96 IIM-A students went to foreign institutes for studies. Most of the students from abroad join PGPM, the institute's flagship programme, but there is growing demand for PGPX and double specialisation courses as well.

India has become a hot destination for management graduates across the world. Apart from having one of the biggest growing economies and its world-wide effects, it is India's resource pool of professionals with knowledge of English language that puts foreign nationals at ease.

Atanu Ghosh, Dean, Alumni & External Relationships, told TOI that there was a substantial rise in interest shown by foreign business schools to partner with IIM-A. "The experience of studying in a top institution of India, networking with potential top managers of the country and the continuing growth of India as a economic power are the factors attracting more students from Europe and North America to come and study here," he said.

Tanu Singh, a student and spokesperson for the exchange students at IIM-A, said it is a win-win situation for both the parties. "Our students get to interact with students from other countries and understand their cultures. It is an excellent platform to interact with students across the globe, share ideas with them and work in multi-cultural teams," she said.

Source: The Times of India (Ahmedabad), September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

IGNOU begins tele-education in Africa

The life of Francis Mbangwa, a Kenyan farmer in his late 20s, revolved around crops and fertilizer. He would eagerly wait for the harvest season, sometimes face a severe financial crunch because of a bad crop. Today Francis is a marketing manager in a leading corporate firm in Kenya. The turnaround happened when Francis decided to pursue his bachelor's degree from New Delhi's Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), said to be the world's largest university. "I always wanted an opportunity to expand my frontiers of knowledge. IGNOU came at the right time in Africa. It was through IGNOU that I got a glimpse of the Indian education system. The courses are well structured, affordable, with a focussed approach and a market value," said Mbangwa in a documentary screened here.

In 2008, IGNOU signed an agreement with Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) to begin its tele-education programme. Now, it has been able to reach students in Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Somalia, Rwanda, Senegal, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Benin and Botswana. The project is funded by the Indian government with a budgeted cost of Rs.5.43 billion (US$ 117 million). "It's a collaborative move. We have set up connectivity terminals with Ethiopian authorities for wireless communication," TCIL's Director of technical division Vimal Wakhlu told IANS.

Apart from tele-education, the joint initiative covers 53 member states in African Union, supporting tele-medicine, e-commerce, e-governance, infotainment, resource-mapping and meteorological services. IGNOU has over 2.8 million students and offers 138 courses, most of them long distance. It runs nearly 3,000 study centres and also has 60 overseas centres.


According to officials, the tele-education network is highly popular among students for its academic and vocational courses. "Virtual remote classrooms have enabled a two-way interaction between the teachers and students through mobile telephony and various other tools," an official added. What gave the tele-education network a boost was the state-of-the-art infrastructure in distance education that IGNOU has attained over the years. "Academics, logistics and other operational dimensions of the tele-education system have been the key concerns of its pan-African network," the official added.

For Joyce, another Kenyan, IGNOU came just at the right time in her life. The mother of two kids was disappointed when all the universities she approached asked her to be a full-time student. "It was not possible as I was working in a bank," she said. "I came across IGNOU's distance education programme in Kenya. Trust me, this course has worked wonders for me," she said, adding it was instrumental in her getting a promotion.

Silima Nanda, Director in the International Division at IGNOU, said: "We want to cater to all sections of civilians who want to get back to their studies. These people aspire to be self-employed and we at IGNOU want to give them a platform." The programmes under this network are vocational as well as academic, including masters in business administration, human resources, marketing, tourism management and environment studies and various other professional degrees. Over 600 students have enrolled for these courses, while so far 26 students have already got their MBA degrees, which is the most popular under the tele-education network.

However, Mbangwa feels the programmes offered should be revised with the changing demands of the market. "The Kenyan education system is very competitive; so these courses need to be customised from time to time which will suit the students and meet the highly demanding professions," he added.

Joe Mwangi Mbuthia, Director of the Centre for Open and Distance Education in Kenya, also praised IGNOU's project. "The partnership is excellent. IGNOU has been the best choice for our students because of the high quality study material. It has attained a status higher than any other public university in Kenya," he said. "We plan to introduce more courses. It has removed all barriers of topography for our students," added Mbuthia.

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2010

IITs to offer medical courses, have foreign faculty and students

The prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) would now offer courses in medicine with foreign nationals on permanent faculty positions and students from abroad at the postgraduate level. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of IIT Council presided by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday. The government decided to seek the approval of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for the course, Sibal told reporters. The IIT Council meeting decided to carry out appropriate amendment in the Institute of Technologies Act to enable the IITs to offer the medicine programme, he added.

"We are making sure that wherever the instruction leads to a degree relating to any branch of medicine, then of course clearances from MCI under the Act will have to be taken," Sibal said. He, however, said no MCI approval would be required where IITs engage with inter-disciplinary research for the advancement of learning and dissemination of knowledge not leading to a degree or qualification for the practice of medicine. For this exercise, it has been decided to set up a permanent standing committee under Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, former head of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The Council also decided to enable IITs to recruit foreign faculties which should not be more than 10 per cent of the total faculty strength. "In principle, we agreed that IITs are entitled to recruiting foreign faculties", Sibal said adding they will set up a mechanism with the Home Ministry to ensure there is no "hiccup in the process and there is easy exit and entry of people" as faculties. Some other issues like bringing amendments to the Indian Citizenship Act will also have to be looked into, he said.

IITs have contended that the presence of foreign faculty in their campuses would expose students to globally distinguished professors besides lending a true international flavour in campuses and reducing brain drain. Sibal said the meeting also agreed in principle to admit up to 25 per cent foreign students at the postgraduate level on a "supernumerary basis without affecting the present admission norms for Indian students".

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2010

NIC plans Rs. 50 billion fund to boost innovation

The National Innovation Council (NIC) plans a Rs. 5,000 crore (Rs. 50 billion) fund to foster the culture of innovation in the country with an aim to improve lives of the poor. NIC Chairman Sam Pitroda said the fund will promote the new initiative with the money coming from the government, institutions, corporate and other private investors.

"The broad idea is to start a fund with a corpus of Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion) that would gradually be scaled up to Rs. 5,000 crore. The government will only provide seed capital and 80-90% of the money will flow from others," he said. "It has been decided that the proposed fund will invest realizing special innovative ideas that promote inclusive growth," he said.

The NIC will meet at regular intervals to keep at tab at the developments on the innovation front and devise strategies suited to achieve its goals, he said. The council also proposes to launch a country-wide outreach programme to develop innovation clusters at universities with the help of industry.

As a first step towards promoting the idea of innovation, the Council has decided to identify a day that would be celebrated as National Innovation Day, he said. On the suggestion of NIC member and renowned film producer and director Shekhar Kapur, the Council has also decided to rope in interested parties to launch a reality show based on innovation.

"We want to create a constituency where government, academia, industry and the citizenry are all participants in the innovation movement," said Dr. R Mashelkar, Member NIC and Chairman of National Innovation Foundation. "This will also involve creating an innovation echo-system not only concerned with developing high-tech products, but with enhancing the quality of life for everybody by creating sustainable solutions and changing processes and mindsets," he added.

NIC is represented by Planning Commission members Arun Maira and K. Kasturirangan, former NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik, founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Tata Sons Executive Director R. Gopalkrishnana, Biocon Chairman and MD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and CA Technologies Chairman Saurabh Srivastava.

Source: The Economic Times, September 10, 2010

State education boards oppose IIT-JEE reform plan

Many state education boards have rejected the proposal of giving weightage to class XII marks for admission to IITs on the ground that each board has its own standard of examination and way of evaluation which cannot be put on a par with others. The report on JEE reforms, prepared by a committee headed by IIT Kharagpur's Director Damodar Acharya, will come up for discussion during the IIT Council meeting on Friday and it remains to be seen how the issue will be resolved. The Acharya committee had said that the admission would be based on the class XII marks as well as the marks scored in an aptitude test and an add-on test, based on subjective questions.

The state boards of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and many northern states have said there is a great deal of variation in evaluation that cannot be resolved through the process of normalization. Explaining problems with normalization, a senior official of the Uttar Pradesh Board said, "The process of normalization will result in many state boards inflating marks of children." He gave the example of BITS Pilani that gave up the system of direct admission after normalizing marks of students from all over the country. The reason, the UP official said, was that BITS realized that 70% of its students were coming from one state. Finally, BITS started taking students through its own entrance examination called BITSAT. Now direct admission is limited to state board toppers. He pointed out that even IIT-GATE, UPSC-Civil Services have discarded normalization of marks because it cannot be done effectively.

But Acharya's ideas have found favour with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the state boards of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. An official of the AP board said, "The proposal by Acharya will be good for students and less stressful."

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2010

US, India finalize varsity partnership programme

Ahead of President Barack Obama's visit in November, the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative has been finalised with both the governments pledging US $ 5 million each that will fund university partnerships and faculty development. The Obama-Singh Initiative (OSI) was announced last November to build an enhanced India-U.S. strategic partnership in education. With the OSI in place it remains to be seen if the U.S.-India Joint Council on education takes shape or not before Obama's visit.

In order to implement the initiative, Ministry of Human Resource Development and the U.S. embassy in India will establish the Obama-Singh Joint Working Group with three members each from both sides. The JWG will finalise the governing policy direction and provide final approval for all grants that will be given by the OSI. The OSI will also identify areas for grants, determine the number and amount of grants, approve requests for proposals for grants, and evaluate and award the grants. The entire process will be transparent and merit-based. No institution will get more than one grant.

The U.S. embassy in India will contribute US $ 5 million to the United States-India Educational Foundation that will draft the request for proposal announcement for U.S. higher education institutions. The U.S. embassy will also administer grants to U.S. institutions whose university partnership programmes are selected by the JWG.

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2010

IITs, IIMs get in-house shrinks to beat stress

If getting into any of these premier institutes is difficult, coping with the pressure once inside is even more difficult. A realization that students in a premier institute wake up to once they walk into the campus. Amid the most hectic and tough academic schedules and with the pressure to perform, they realize that stress is their worst enemy. Be it at the 100-year-old IISc or IIT in Mumbai or Chennai or the IIM-B, stress has become a raging campus epidemic. Almost all the institutes have counsellors on campus, both student counsellors and professionals. The latter are approached only when the internal centre cannot handle the case.

Dr. Nalini Dwarakanath, psychologist and social counsellor at IISc, told TOI that she counselled many students every month. There are months when there are hardly any cases and times when there are many, she said. Though counselling days are twice a week, if needed, she goes to the campus on other days as well. In IIT Madras, there is a guidance and counselling unit a student counsellor is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a psychiatrist available at the IIT Hospital. IIT Mumbai has an on-campus hospital and on its rolls are part-time psychologists and psychiatrists. At least one doctor is on campus every day. IIM-B has a 15-member student body called Mitr and a parent body called Vishwas that consists of professional counsellors.

The problems faced by the students range from feelings of loneliness and depression to stress caused by increasing academic demands. The issues don't have to be confined to the classroom. It could be homesickness or a case of academic backlog or even an affair gone awry. We need to remember that these students are nothing more than teenagers or boys and girls in their early 20s, a faculty member from IIT Mumbai said. At IIM-Bangalore, the cases are seen more during the time of placements and exams. The summer placements are during November first week. And in September there are exams. It is mostly first year students who come to the centres as the second year students would have been accustomed to the system by then. "I feel that the cases have come down over the years as the students are mainly people with work experience and they know what they are walking into," said Abhishek Mittal, Mitr volunteer.

The counsellors frequently get students who are worked up with various issues. There are students who come by their own to me. In some cases, they go to the health centre with problems related to stomach and sleeplessness. "When the centre realises that there is nothing physically wrong with them, they refer the student to me. Sometimes even the professors and guides send them," said Dr. Nalini.

The cases at IISc are usually divided into the stages of their course programme --- first year, second year and so on. Students who are in their second and third year of research go through mental agony when their projects don't go well. They lose heart, tend to change the project and even think of discontinuing.

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Find your way out of a student loan default

Ravi Krishnan (name changed) was very happy when he secured admission for an MBA programme in a reputed institute two years ago. He was pleasantly surprised when a bank provided an easy student loan as part of its campus lending programme. However, what he and his batchmates had not imagined was they would almost default on these loans. Just as they were completing their course, the global economic crisis was looming large on the campus recruitment drive. There were offers, but the fancy salaries were not coming their way. The salary was just about enough to make ends meet. They couldn't start repaying the bank immediately as per the loan repayment schedule.

The story will explain the reason behind rising defaults in student loans. We have seen students studying in secondrung B-schools, which do not offer quality placements, struggling to service loans when they do not have any source of income, explains V.N. Kulkarni, Chief Counsellor with the Bank of India-backed Abhay Credit Counselling Centre. The same is the case with students who discover much later that their institute is not recognized by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). They are left in the lurch with slim chances of securing employment.

Rising Defaults
Of late, the education loan portfolio has been in the news for rising defaults, especially in the under-Rs. 400,000 category, where loans are sanctioned sans any collateral. In June 2009, many public sector banks, chief lenders in this category, under the Indian Banks Association (IBA) banner, came up with a distress alleviation measure to help students who couldn't secure a huge pay cheque. The member banks arrived at a consensus to consider genuine requests from students and extend relief on a case-to-case basis, depending on the merits of the rescheduling application. The respite would be in the form of extending the moratorium period to two years from six months/one year under ordinary conditions.

Approach the Bank
If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can approach the manager of the branch that has granted the study loan. There is no prescribed format for submitting such a proposal. The success of your endeavour depends entirely on your negotiation skills and how genuine your problem is. You should explain the situation in detail, explaining the reasons for your inability to repay the loan as per the original schedule. You need to do your homework thoroughly and approach the bank with a comprehensive plan on when and how you intend to start repaying the loan.

Remember, a sincere assessment and genuine intent hold key to convincing the bank on the restructuring proposal. Since banks would have already waited till the completion of your course and the expiry of the moratorium period, they wouldn't want to offer any concessions in terms of the amount payable. If your branch manager does not give a positive response, you can get in touch with the zonal manager or regional manager or the circle officer. Banks are more likely to consider extending the moratorium period rather than accepting requests for reduction in the EMI amount or waiver of penal interest imposed, if any. You should bear in mind that it is not binding on the bank to accept your proposal. It is completely at the bank's discretion, points out Madan Mohan, Chief Counsellor with the ICICI Bank-supported Disha Financial Counselling.

Seek Professional Help
If you are not confident about your abilities to convince the bank about your plight, you can always enlist the help of professionals in the field. The focus of credit counselling centres is primarily on credit cards and personal loans, but you could try asking for advice. "To date, we have counselled people who have been reeling under the debt burden, with education loans being a part of it. We've had parents who are often the guarantors in case of such loans coming to us for counselling. We have not seen student borrowers approaching us for advice; however, if they do, we can offer our guidance in terms of points to be covered in the communication to the bank and the right person to be contacted", says Mr. Kulkarni.

Cover all your bases
If your bank gives a nod to rescheduling your loan, make sure you don't squander the opportunity. Make sure you use the additional time available to make arrangements for repayment when it becomes due as per the revised schedule. You also need to have a back-up plan ready if your job hunt does not reach its logical conclusion when the deferred deadline ends. Save as much as you can and talk to friends and relatives to find out if they can bail you out for a while.

Source: The Economic Times, September 9, 2010

Delhi is also Ph.D. capital of the country

Delhi may be home to only a few universities (19), but that has not stopped it from emerging as the Ph.D. capital of the country. In the last decade, from 1998 to 2007, Delhi has produced over 17% of the total doctoral theses in India. West Bengal is a distant second at 11.9%, followed by Maharashtra, which despite having the largest number of varsities in the country (96), merely contributed 8% to the Ph.D. pool. These figures are based on a sample survey.

This is the first time in India that researchers sifted through thousands of theses lying in university library vaults to tabulate and analyze the country's body of research. The paper researched by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at Bangalore is a pointer to what thousands of doctoral fellows in the country have been exploring and producing on thickets of bound paper. In fact, it took Anitha Kurup, an Associate Professor at NIAS, and Jagdish Arora, Director,Information and Library Network Centre who received a grant from the Tata Consultancy Services a year to get all the raw data in place. In their report, Trend in Higher Education Creation and Analysis of a Database of PhDs in India,they have principally recommended that a single agency should draw up a database on Ph.D.s, and also assimilate the profiles of doctoral fellows.

As observed in the report, two-third of all the Ph.D.s has been awarded to males; and across genders, the attrition rate stands at 50% --- only one out of two people who register for the hallowed Ph.D. degree, manage to reach the finishing line. Delhiites contributed the most, producing 2381 Ph.D.s in the field of medicine, followed by research in pure sciences.

Even in terms of the subjects chosen there has been a noticeable shift in trends. While the largest amount of research has been carried out in pure sciences, in recent years humanities is leading the pack to become the most popular discipline that is being currently explored.

There have been some other interesting changes in the pecking order. The growth in agriculture is seen from the year 2000, when it overtook other disciplines such as engineering and technology, and medicine. But the interest in the field tapered off towards the end of the period, with the numbers falling below engineering and technology in 2007, the report noted. Disciplines that have consistently recorded lower number of Ph.D.s are mostly professional in nature.
Speaking to TOI, Kurup said that as India competes in the information age, Ph.D.s are markers as they contribute to knowledge. "However, I would attach a rider to my research, which is that the number of Ph.D.s has nothing to do with the quality of work we are producing. But first, it is essential to know where our Ph.D.s are being produced and who is bringing them out", she added.

If one were to compare the research output to the local universities, Delhi again performs best in terms of Ph.D.s produced annually in each state (874.7), followed by Haryana (312.4) and Uttar Pradesh (285.3).

Source: The Times of India, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Facing staff crunch, IITs propose hiring foreign faculty

Facing shortage of teaching staff in the wake of capacity augmentation, the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have proposed to appoint foreign nationals to its faculty positions. The move, if accepted, could enable the prestigious institutes to appoint foreign teachers on permanent positions which could be up to 10 per cent of the faculty strength, said IIT officials. The proposal is expected to be deliberated at the next IIT council meeting here on Friday.

IITs have contended that the presence of foreign faculty on IIT campuses will benefit graduating students in the globalised world, besides lending a true international flavour in the campuses and reducing brain drain. Appointment of foreign faculty could also give a boost to IITs' plan to enrol foreign students for the post-graduate programme. IITs have already requested the HRD Ministry to enrol foreign students to the extent of 25 per cent of the total student strength.
"IITs are now being increasingly recognised internationally as attractive destination for students. This perceived superiority needs to be leveraged to the fullest extent as expeditiously as possibly", the officials said. They said that U.S. varsities have benefited by attracting faculty from across the globe and India cannot afford to lose the chance to attract the best talent in teaching and research.

The HRD Ministry had recently permitted IITs to hire Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) as permanent faculty after an initial vetting process. The IIT council meeting could also finalise plans to set up 'centre of studies' devoted to a foreign country with a view to develop expertise on countries of strategic importance. Each IIT, the officials said, could concentrate on a particular country. As in the U.S., such centres will be available for advising the Government especially in terms of strategic negotiations.

The recommendations of the Prof. Acharya Committee on streamlining and rationalising JEE examinations and the prospects of a two-tier examination process will also be discussed at the meeting.

Source: The Economic Times, September 8, 2010

Home-bred Ph.D.s power smaller IIMs

Harshal Lowalekar is only 27 years old and has joined the faculty at the Indian Institute of Management-Indore. Harshal, a fresh doctoral student from IIM-Ahmedabad (IIMA), is just one example from a growing tribe of young and dynamic Ph.D. students, who have recently passed out of the top IIMs and IITs and have chosen to power the pedagogy in some of the smaller IIMs in the country. The incentives seem to be an opportunity to associate with brand IIM and to be an integral part of the growth story of these budding institutes.

A few years ago, the number of Ph.D.s choosing to join academics was hardly 50%. There were significant numbers of students who used to opt for an opening in the industry. However, after the recession and implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission (which saw faculty salaries rise by 60%), academics has suddenly become more attractive. The numbers of students opting to take up teaching as a career has now risen to 80%, says Abraham Koshy, a senior faculty at IIM-A.

The trend is very evident in the recent faculty recruitment at some of the smaller IIMs. While IIM-Indore has recruited around 20 fresh Ph.D.s from the top three IIMs in the last one year, IIM-Shillong has opted to recruit fresh passouts from IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology). Similarly, others like IIM-Lucknow (IIM-L) and IIM-Kozhikode too have recruited Ph.D.s from the IIM talent pool.

"In the last one year, we have recruited about 22 faculty. About three-four of them are from the U.S., while the rest are from the top IIMs. All of them are young and energetic", says N. Ravichandran, Director, IIM-Indore. Similar is the case of IIM-Shillong. "We have recruited fresh Ph.D.s from IIT-Delhi and one faculty is in the process of completing his Ph.D. from IIT-Kanpur", says an official from the institute. This fresh crop of doctoral students passing out of the top IIMs and IITs are proving to be ideal panacea for some of these B-schools that are battling faculty crunch and are more inclined to tap home-bred talent.

When asked why fresh doctoral students were being tapped by the institute, Ravichandran quips, "Who else is available. Moreover, there is a talented crop of young fellows who pass out every year from the top IIMs".
The Director's comment seems to be an extension of what Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal told the Lok Sabha last month.In his reply to the House. Sibal said that about 25% of faculty positions within the IIMs were lying vacant and the government had initiated various long-term measures to attract young people to take up teaching as a career option.

While brand IIM is proving to be an obvious attraction for the doctoral students, the IIMs, in turn, have preferred to bank on their own progeny, as grooming home-bred talent becomes a lot easier for the institutes. The IIM brand is an obvious attraction. But this attraction is more at a basic level. As far as IIM-Indore is concerned, there is a lot of opportunity for inclusive growth. "It is a very young institution, about 10 years old, and the opportunity to grow and be a part of the success story is tremendous", adds Ravichandran while talking about the opportunities that IIM-Indore has to offer to the new recruits.

Similarly, IIM-L,which recently recruited a doctoral student from IIM-Bangalore as faculty, says, "We will prefer taking more of IIM students if we have a chance...." Prof. A. Vinay Kumar, Chairman of the Fellowship Programme at IIM-L, says, "In the recent past, our graduating students took jobs in other IIMs including IIM-Kozhikode and IIM-Indore. Perhaps, the students prefer the IIM work environment to start their careers.

There are a number of vacancies in these new IIMs. However, the rigour of getting into one of the newer IIMs will almost be the same as that of (getting into) some of the older IIMs like IIM-A. I doubt if there is any lowering of guard as far recruiting quality faculty is concerned, says Prof. Koshy of IIM-A.

When asked how the fresh doctoral candidates were making up for their lack of academic experience, Vaibhav Bhamoriya, another fresh doctoral student from IIM-A, who has been recruited by one of the smaller IIMs, says, "The time we have spent in the IIM system gives us confidence to handle MBA students. Moreover, as researchers, we come with sharp, analytical skills which are a tad above the students. Our knowledge about our individual subjects gives us the required edge in the class".

Harshal, who takes classes for PGP (postgraduate programme) students at IIM-Indore feels, "The training and rigour imparted during the doctoral programme has ensured that I am able to handle students,some of whom are much older and experienced than me".

Source: The Economic Times, September 8, 2010

Private institutes to make accounts public

Private higher educational institutions will have to disclose their income and expenditure in a standard format and make them public in line with corporate-style accounting and auditing norms being readied by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).

The guidelines are aimed at promoting openness and accountability in educational institutions, officials say. "The effort is to have transparency in the income and expenditure of higher educational institutes. Things like from which heads they are earning and under which head they are spending", said a senior ministry official who did not want to be named. "Parents, students and society should know clearly about all these things", the official added.

Though all educational institutions need to have their accounts audited, there is scope for manipulation of numbers because of the absence of a standard format, officials say. The numbers are also not required to be made public. The ministry official said the new guidelines would make it mandatory for private sector institutions to make their accounts public. "Like private sector publicly listed companies, they have to put their statements in the public domain", the official said.

Ministry officials say there are concerns that many private institutions engage in malpractices to fleece students. "They may declare the course fee openly, yet several other expenditures like hostel, library (fees) become hidden ways to charge more", said a second ministry official. "As higher education in private sector flourishes, hidden charges becomes a headache for millions of students".

Prashant Bhalla, Vice-President of the private sector Manav Rachna International University in Faridabad, Haryana, said a broad accounting parameter could be ideal. "We can put the accounts in public through newspapers, but we (the private sector) should not be painted as a group only indulging in wrong practices".

All state-funded higher educational institutes send their accounts to the government and are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) before being tabled in Parliament. Non-government educational institutes will have the liberty to name their own auditor. "Since they don't get grants, their accounts will not go to Parliament", added the second official.

According to official statistics, India has 504 universities, 22000 colleges and several thousand technical education institutions. Of the total number of higher educational institutes, at least 60% are controlled by the private sector. At least 13 million students are pursuing higher education across India.

The move to enforce a uniform accounting system for private sector institutions is positive, said Shobha Mishra, Head of the education wing at industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). "With increasing private participation in the higher education sector, attempts to bring transparency is not a bad idea", Mishra said. "I believe there should not be any distinction between public and private sector in education on this subject".

To boost education, the government is increasing its budgetary allocation. In the 2010-11 Budget, India earmarked Rs. 42036 crore (Rs. 420.36 billion) for education, an increase of around 15% from the previous fiscal. Higher education was allocated Rs. 11000 crore (Rs. 110 billion), around 7% more than in 2009-10.

The HRD officials also said the 14 proposed innovation universities, which will have private sector participation and enjoy greater autonomy, will also need to adopt the new accounting standards and make public their income and expenditure through newspaper advertisements and website postings.

The chartered accountants' forum has agreed to prepare the common accounting format on a no-profit, no-loss basis. Amarjit Chopra, President of ICAI, confirmed that the institute was working on auditing standards for higher educational institutions. "By the end of October, the institute will come up with such standards. A committee is being formed for it within the institute", Chopra said.

Source: Mint, September 8, 2010

IISERs plan mobile science labs, Navodaya Vidyalayas

In an effort to draw more school students to pure science, the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) will launch mobile science laboratories in their respective regions and open Navodaya Vidyalayas --- government-run residential schools --- within their campuses.

The institutes will also collaborate with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to give its students access to the laboratories of India's largest public-funded research agency, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said on Tuesday after a meeting with representatives of the five IISERs.

The elite IISERs were established a few years ago by the Union government through the MHRD to stem the decline in science education. These are located in Pune, Mohali, Kolkata, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram.

IISERs also agreed to allow admissions to students passing the International Baccalaureate (IB) board. In India, 72 schools follow the IB board, of which 68 offer two-year diploma courses. IISERs will consider these diplomas on a par with class XII certificates of other school boards.

Only the top 1% of students from Indian schools and those who have cleared the joint entrance exams of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) can apply to IISERs.

Source: Mint, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Easier loans to students, investors on anvil: Kapil Sibal

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has said the National Education Finance Corporation has been asked to provide easier credit rates to investors in the education sector and to facilitate flexibility in repayment of study loans by students. Addressing a gathering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore on Monday, Sibal said: "To attract more investment in the education sector, priority-lending rates would be extended to investors".

"At the moment we are looking at two parts of the Education Finance Corporation, one which guarantees loans to students. The other investment is in the education sector by giving lower credit facilities to investors in the education sector where they have to repay the loans in 20 to 25 years", he added. He further said that the budgetary support for the proposal would be provided by the central government, an issue that is currently under the purview of the Planning Commission for its green signal.

According to the proposal, every student irrespective of their background can avail loans for higher education having secured a seat in a professional college. These loans would carry an interest rate of four per cent and the students need to repay the loans only after they get employed.

Talking about the Right to Education Act's (RTE) clause of 25 per cent seats for the poor, Sibal said that this was a national education goal and will be enforced at any cost. "We will not waver from that goal even an inch. We will give an opportunity to our underprivileged children, legally, by giving 25 per cent reservation to them in private schools. This is the agenda of inclusive education. This is the agenda of the federal government and we will not move away from it", he added. The RTE states at least 25 per cent of the seats should consist of students belonging to 'weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood'.

Source: The Economic Times, September 7, 2010

Gandhi makes a mark at University of New South Wales

The close links between India and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have been highlighted by the unveiling of a bust of Mahatma Gandhi on the Library Lawn of the varsity's campus. The bronze sculpture and a collection of books are a gift from the Government of India to the people of NSW and to the University.

The Consul-General of India in Sydney, Mr. Amit Dasgupta, who presented the gift in October during the height of the student crisis, acknowledged the work being done by UNSW in maintaining close relations with the Indian community and providing a safe environment for Indian students.


At the unveiling, Mr. Dasgupta said that education and globalization are both key in spreading messages against violence. "Gandhi was born in India, but he belongs to each and every one of you," said Mr. Dasgupta, who spoke of the leader's message of non-violence.

The Vice-Chancellor noted that the sculpture is in one of the most prominent places at the University and has already attracted much interest from students. Mr. Dasgupta, the Vice-Chancellor Fred Hilmer and the Treasurer of NSW Eric Roozendaal unveiled the sculpture in front of other prominent members of the University, Indian and broader communities.

The event was held on the 100th anniversary of Wattle Day (September 1). Wattles are usually the first plants to rise from the ashes of bushfires and provide protection for other seedlings. "Wattle is to be a lasting symbol of student safety at UNSW," says the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) Jennie Lang, who says that the plant will be grown around campus as a message of goodwill.

Source: www.indiaedunews.net, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Britain to announce student visas crackdown

Britain is to outline a crackdown on people arriving on student visas Monday as it bids to tighten its immigration system, described by a minister as "largely out of control". Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party has promised to cut net migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands annually.

Shortly after taking power in May as head of a coalition government, Cameron introduced an annual cap on the number of economic migrants from outside the European Union. Immigration Minister Damian Green said the government had inherited a system which was "largely out of control" and described the number of foreign students being let in as "unsustainable", in comments quoted by the BBC. In a speech Monday, he is to call for "smarter immigration controls," according to extracts pre-released by the Home Office.

New Home Office research has revealed that of 186,000 foreign students granted visas in 2004, more than one-fifth were still in Britain five years later. Officials fear many may be working illegally. The number of visas being issued to students and their dependants had risen to over 300,000 by this year, the figures added.

Green will say that Britain needs "smarter immigration controls -- controls which bear down on the numbers coming and welcome those we really need here." He will add: "We cannot assume that everyone coming here has skills that the UK workforce cannot offer and we will not make Britain prosperous in the long-term by telling our own workers not to bother to learn new skills as we can bring them all in from overseas."

In separate comments to the Daily Mail newspaper, he added that while the cap on migrants had been "controversial," it was not in itself enough to cut net migration. He added: "I want a student visa system which encourages the entry of good students to highly trusted institutions but which scrutinises much more closely or cuts out entirely those who are less beneficial to this country."

Source: The Economic Times, September 6, 2010

Preparing for the GMAT Exam

Ashok Sarathy, Vice-President for the GMAT Programme, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), offers tips

A growing number of students in India are discovering the value of an MBA degree for a successful career in today's highly competitive global marketplace. An MBA degree offers you the opportunity to pursue your goals and enhance your earning potential.

The Graduate Management Admission Council 2010 Corporate Recruiters Survey indicates that more employers in India and around the world are recognising the value of business education. Two-thirds of the companies surveyed said they planned to hire MBA graduates for mid-level positions within their organisations. For many, the MBA is also the path to success as an entrepreneur.

If you are planning to apply for admission to a business programme, you are probably also thinking about how to prepare for the GMAT exam. Almost 5,000 programmes at approximately 1,900 business schools around the world use the GMAT exam as an important part of the application process. These include some of the most prestigious institutions in India, such as the Indian School of Business, the Indian Institutes of Management, XLRI and S.P. Jain, among many others. I'd like to share some insights about how students in India say they prepare for the GMAT, as well as additional advice and information to make your preparation as effective as possible.

Where to begin
The first step in preparing for the GMAT is to take some time to become familiar with the exam, including the types of questions and their formats. You can go to our web site, http://www.mba.com/, to understand the test structure. The GMAT exam has some questions that other exams do not have. For example, critical reasoning questions are designed to test the reasoning skills involved in making arguments, evaluating arguments, and formulating or evaluating a plan of action. For data sufficiency questions, you only need to decide if there is enough information to answer the question. If you don't understand this format, you could spend unnecessary time trying to solve the problem.
Now you're ready for the next step in the preparation process: taking a full-length practice GMAT exam, also available at http://www.mba.com/. By seeing how you score in the separate verbal and quantitative sections, you will have a good indicator of where you need the most preparation. GMATPrep offers you two free tests. Alternatively you can take a diagnostic test (GMAT Focus) to give you a sense of how strong your quantitative reasoning skills are.
Once you've identified your weaknesses, using the benchmark or diagnostic test, then devote more time to address these weaknesses. Are you a whiz at mathematical reasoning? You may not need as much time preparing for the quantitative section as you would for the reading and writing sections. An English major may want to spend more preparation time on the quantitative section. Take another test and see how well you do. Repeat this cycle of preparing and testing until you feel you've mastered the content to the best of your ability.
Some test takers consider a test preparation course as a good method to study for the exam, since it allows you to interact with tutors who have a level of mastery over the content and the types of questions that you will encounter on the GMAT. You can also learn how your peers are studying for the exam and may be able to join a study group. However, beware of those courses that promise you a certain GMAT score. Nobody can guarantee a GMAT score only your detailed preparation and your performance on the exam date will determine your GMAT score.

Preparation Time
Performance and the amount of practice will vary from one examinee to the next. We recently surveyed GMAT test takers about the amount of time that they devote to preparing for the exam and these are the results that we found for GMAT test takers in India: nearly 70% of the test takers began preparing for the test at least four weeks in advance of their test date and 52% of the examinees studied for more than 50 hours for the test.

Putting more hours into preparation will not necessarily ensure a higher GMAT score. Remember that this data is self reported and each test taker may be estimating his or her actual study time. So use the data in an advisory capacity. It's up to you to determine how much you should prepare,but I would suggest that you prepare for the exam so the results can reflect your ability and not your knowledge of the test.

Conclusion
While the GMAT is an important part of the admission process, it is only one amongst many factors that schools consider. These factors include your undergraduate grades, the quality of your work experience, recommendation letters, interviews and your application essays. A good GMAT score certainly strengthens your case for admission but doesn't guarantee it. For more information,visit the website (http://www.mba.com/).

Source: The Times of India (Education Times), September 6, 2010

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