Thursday, December 29, 2011

Will higher education see a sea change?

From news about abolishment of the Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Exam (IIT-JEE) to the pending Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2011 was touted to be the year of reforms in the education sector. So, when the sector ushers itself into 2012, the stakeholders see the new year as one requiring consolidation in several areas. Partly because most of the proposed reforms in 2011 fell by the wayside even as the Lokpal-Anna Hazare storm racked the Parliament paralysing the houses and postponing business in the monsoon and the winter sessions. Business Standard tells you how the new year would look like for the higher education sector in India.

Bill please!
A total of 11 Bills were pending in Parliament, including the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutional, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, the Education Tribunals Bill and the Institutes of Technology Amendment Bill. These Bills have been pending for the past year-an-a-half. According to experts, one of the impact that the Foreign Universities Bill will have once it is passed, would be on the quality of education in the country in 2012.

"Even the lower end institutes in the US, for example, are better than the mid-level institutes in India. As and when foreign universities are allowed to set up campuses in the country, it will improve quality because of competition and give students more options," said Gautam Puri, MD, CareerLauncher.

Just because the reforms have not come through does not, however, mean that business has stopped, say industry insiders. "Many private universities are now engaging more actively with foreign partners for content creation, for getting faculty and for joint degree programmes, which foreign partners also find more lucrative than setting up independent campuses," said Sandeep Aneja of Kaizen Private Equity.

Many windows, one door!
Many are of the opinion that the problem with the current system is that there are too many authorities with too much overlap. The Medical Council of India (MCI), the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) are always getting into turf tussles.

According to Gautam Puri, the regulation of the segment is fragmented and the focus is largely on the development of physical infrastructure in regulation rather than ensuring overall quality. This, say analysts, is where the need for an overall authority comes into the picture.

"Reforms and an overarching authority are essential because as of now the educational authorities have become licensing bodies. This needs to change, and a regulatory body should be put in place," said Narayanan Ramaswamy, head, education practice, KPMG. Ramaswamy also opined that even when these Bills were passed, the effect would not be immediate. The positive would be that the intent would become clear and things would be seen as moving in the right direction.

IIMs: Overseas bound?
Just when it seemed that faculty crunch had cut their wings, the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bangalore hinted at coming together in creating an international campus. On the sidelines of a joint IIM-A and IIM-C conference in October 2011, Samir Barua, Director of IIM-A, said that the IIMs were awaiting operational autonomy, which he expects should come through within a year, after adding that overseas campus in Singapore and Dubai could be considered. So if things fructify, the three premier IIMs may as well begin work on their overseas campus in 2012. The Ministry of HRD had in October 2009 given an in-principle approval for IIMs to set up campuses abroad.

AICTE's maiden management test
Come February, country's technical education regulator, AICTE, will launch its Common Management Admission Test or CMAT. The test, a point of discussion in the academic circle, has made B-schools unhappy much before its launch. Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI), an association of B-schools, is mulling legal action against AICTE.

Source: Business Standard, December 29, 2011

More students opting for higher education

Student enrolment in higher education has seen a sharp increase, a development that’s expected to hearten policymakers, educationists and industry in a country where companies have for long complained about the lack of a sufficiently deep talent pool. The national gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education, or the proportion of school graduates aged between 18 and 23 years entering college-level courses, rose from 12.5% in 2007-08 to 17.27% in 2009-10. At the start of the decade, only one in 10 students was opting for higher education after school. In 1980, India’s GER was 5%. GER is computed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which oversees the functioning of universities and is tasked with maintaining standards in institutes of higher learning in the country.

The increase in GER could mean a rise in the supply of skilled personnel in India, where companies ranging from computer service providers to retailers have been confronting a shortage of skilled and “employable” personnel. Of the total workforce in the country, around 15% is skilled. For private educational institutes, the increased enrolment points to a higher revenue-earning opportunity. “As per our fresh calculation, the GER of the country is 17.27%. This means access to higher education is improving significantly,” said Ved Prakash, Chairman of UGC.

The number is also significant because the government had been targeting a GER of 16% only by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan (March 2012), a fact the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), another government body, underlines on its official website. However, the progress may be testing the limitations of a country that has also been struggling to fill teacher vacancies, at present estimated as high as 30-33%. Consequently, the institutes may not be able to absorb the growing number of students opting for higher education.

Prakash said that the fresh calculation is based on the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data published in 2011, which is again two years old. “If we have the latest data, then the GER, we feel, could be close to 20% now,” the UGC chairman said, forecasting that the enrolment ratio will be 25% by the end of 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).

Though the national number is impressive, the state-level picture is likely to be uneven. While the calculation is yet to be made, a study by Ernst & Young and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) earlier this year showed Delhi leading the table of best-performing states with a GER of 31.9% in 2009-10, followed by Maharashtra, where the enrolment ratio was 25.9%. At the bottom were Tripura at 6.6% and Assam at 6.7%; Bihar had a GER of 8.5%, and West Bengal, 7.8%.

Industry executives are cautious about the latest data. Quantity without adequate quality will not serve the purpose, they said, because increased enrolment doesn’t necessarily translate into higher proficiency of the emerging workforce. “When the economy grows, attrition increases to the tune of 16-20%. It means, there is a shortage of human resources. Increasing the number is important, but unless there is quality, this shortfall will not be taken care of,” said R.C. Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the country’s largest car maker. “The problem will not be solved unless quality goes up. Other than enrolment figures, it is also important to look at the quality of education.”

Prakash of UGC said that the main challenge is to “make education available to all”. As per UGC data, India has some 31,324 higher educational institutes, of which 611 are degree-awarding ones. Of this, 42 are central universities, 284 state universities, 129 deemed universities and 48 are so-called institutes of national importance. In 1950-51, India had 27 universities and just 578 colleges.

Sharda Prasad, Director General of Employment and Training (DGET) at the Union Ministry of Labour, said the NSSO data shows that many students preferred to pursue higher education instead of entering the job market in 2004-2009. “Some who dropped out of school wanted to finish schooling, some others pursued higher education. This has certainly helped the GER grow,” Prasad said.

M. Damodaran​, a former chief of the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), said: “Quantity is important, but just talking about quantity without looking at quality is not comforting. I keep listening from companies that they don’t get quality human resources...many engineers are not employable. While numbers are important, I would like to see what is its quality,” said Damodaran, who is chairman of the board of governors at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Tiruchirappalli.

Still, the numbers show that access to higher education has increased, said Manish Sabharwal, chief executive officer at TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd, a training and staffing firm. “Once we take care of the access and quantity, the quality will be taken care of,” he said. “Access will create demand for quality institutes and those not providing it will face closure. We have started seeing this as several institutes are now struggling to fill their entire seat capacity.”

Source: Mint, December 29, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

India fares poorly in global learning study

A global study of learning standards in 74 countries has ranked India all but at the bottom, sounding a wake-up call for the country’s education system. China came out on top. It was the first time that India participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), coordinated by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). India’s participation was in a pilot project, confined to schools from Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh.

The findings are significant because they come at a time when India is making a big push in education and improving the skills of its workforce. If the results from the two states hold good for the rest of the country, India’s long-term competitiveness may be in question.

Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh traditionally rank high on human development parameters and are considered to be among India’s more progressive states. The India Human Development Report 2011, prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), categorized them as “median” states, putting them significantly ahead of the national average. IAMR is an autonomous arm of the Planning Commission.

For literacy, Himachal Pradesh ranked 4 and Tamil Nadu 11 in the National Family Health Survey released in 2007. Yet, in the PISA study, Tamil Nadu ranked 72 and Himachal Pradesh 73, just ahead of Kyrgyzstan in mathematics and overall reading skills. The eastern Chinese metropolis of Shanghai topped the PISA rankings in all three categories — overall reading skills, mathematical and scientific literacy.

PISA is an international study that began in 2000. It aims to assess education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in participating economies. To be sure, there are some reservations about the findings of the study. Such comparisons may not be fair as they are not between equals, says Manish Sabharwal, chief executive officer of human resources training and placement firm Teamlease Services Pvt. Ltd. Yet, he argued, it does serve as a timely warning. “Industries are already facing a problem because of poor quality (of graduates),” Sabharwal said. “What we need to do is repair and prepare. Repair by imparting skill training and prepare by improving the school system, which is the main gateway.”

In Tamil Nadu, only 17% of students were estimated to possess proficiency in reading that is at or above the baseline needed to be effective and productive in life. In Himachal Pradesh, this level is 11%. “This compares to 81% of students performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on an average,” said the study. In other words, only a little over one in six students in Tamil Nadu and nearly one in 10 students in Himachal Pradesh are performing at the OECD average. A similar trend was observed in mathematical and scientific literacy, too.

Anurag Behar, chief executive officer of the Azim Premji Foundation, said the study’s findings were alarming.
This is because the PISA study found that only 12% of students in Himachal Pradesh and 15% in Tamil Nadu were proficient in mathematics against an OECD average of 75%; when it came to scientific literacy among students of class X, the proficiency level in Tamil Nadu was 16% and in Himachal, 11%, as against an OECD average proficiency of 82%. In Malaysia, 56% of students were proficient in reading and 41% in mathematics. Similarly, in the United Arab Emirates, the mathematics proficiency levels was estimated at 49% and for reading, 60%. Like India, both countries participated for the first time.

Behar says there is a need for a complete change of India’s teacher education system and a shift from rote learning-driven school education to understanding-driven curricula. “We also need to reduce the policy-implemenation gap,” he said.

Tamil Nadu education minster C.V.Shanmugam declined to comment on the study’s findings, asserting that the state’s education system is good. “In the last five years, 56,000 teachers were recruited... In which state do they give students laptops?” he said, referring to chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s free laptop scheme for students that was part of her campaign for elections that brought her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam​ party back to power in May. “We give incentives for students attending higher secondary. We give Rs. 1,500 (a year) to class X students, Rs. 1,500 to class XI and Rs. 2,000 to class XII. We give Rs. 5,000 if they clear class XII. So steps are being taken to improve the existing system,” he claimed.

Himachal Pradesh education minister Ishwar Dass Dhiman defended his state’s education system. In elementary schools, the enrolment has reached 99.3%, for instance, he said. “If they have taken samples from the interior areas of our state, then we cannot say anything. We are now hiring better qualified teachers to improve the teaching of students.”

Pramath Sinha, an education entrepreneur and former dean of the Indian School of Business​, Hyderabad, said he knew about the deficiencies of India’s education system but was still shocked to find India so low in the PISA rankings. “I belive our lack of urgency will take away the demographic dividend that we could have reaped,” Sinha said.

Not everyone agrees. The study may not be based on an apple-to-apple comparison, says Vipul Prakash, managing director of Elixir Consulting, a recruitment process outsourcing firm. “If you look at the entire people entering the workforce, you may find lack of quality. But if you take the top 10% then they are perhaps the best in the world. This 10% is quite a large number which is giving India a competitive upper hand.”

Source: Mint, December 20, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

MNCs lose IIM interns to SMEs

Seldom do you see the likes of Hindustan Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline, Deutsche Bank and HSBC competing for talent with Calicut-based VKC Footwear, V-Guard, AVT group and non-profit organisations such as Janaagraha and Kudumbhasree. Yet, they were - during the recent Indian Institute of Management-Kozhikode (IIM-K) internship placements.

There, and in IIM-Indore too, students this year have shown they aint just enticed by the big brands and monies that global corporations offer. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and non-profits are attractive too, if challenging roles are on offer. About 15% of the 328 students at IIM-Kozhikode have chosen to intern with SMEs. At IIM-Indore, about 6.5% of the batch - 30 students - has opted to intern with SMEs in 2012.

"This is the first time these South-based (SMEs) are coming to the IIM-K campus," said Arjun Mohan, member, placement committee. The reason, Mohan said, was that some of these companies wanted to grow their turnover five-fold in the next five years. And they wanted the right talent. If students get a taste of the possibilities with SMEs during internship, there's a chance they might consider them while deciding on their jobs. Professor Ashish Sadh, chairman, placements at IIM-Indore, said: "SMEs bring a lot of sector diversity to the campus. They could be operating in businesses like e- waste management to carbon trading to clean water supply." Firms, such as Gurgaon-based e-waste management provider Green Vortex and boutique investment bank ARC Financial Services, have recruited summer interns from IIM-Indore.

At IIM-K, Australia-based investment banking firm Macquarie offered the highest stipend of Rs. 160,000. But what worked in the favour of SMEs and non-profits was their job profiles. Sanish MS needed a lot of thought and "inputs from friends in the corporate world" before he decided to let an offer from an MNC pass in favour of one from VKC Footwear. "VKC has offered me the sales and marketing profile as any other marketing MNC would do. Apart from that, I would be working on branding their new product launch and ideas in the pipeline," he said. "The other advantage I have over working in MNCs is that I would be interacting with the top management of VKC on a daily basis, which would expose me to the day-to-day management activity at an organisational level."

Classmate Manju Nair U has accepted an internship with the AVT Group. "Many companies are looking to expand beyond the region (South), and such expansions would open up opportunities for more meaty roles during internship," she said. Companies are dangling the job-profile carrot. Thomas Kadaven, general manager (HR and administration) at AVT McCormick Ingredients and AVT Natural Products, said: "Our company is on an expansion spree and we are looking at second-line employees. We already have first-line employees, who are the experienced people from IIMs. The second line is the freshers from IIMs who can add new and innovative ideas."

Anjan Das Gupta, sales head of Eastern Condiments, said, "We plan to reach a turnover of Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion) in the next few years (from Rs. 5 billion now). And we need these graduates to give fresh insights for our business growth." It was easy for the Kerala-based group to seek out candidates from Kozhikode.

Green Vortex, which was set up in 2008, has recruited interns from non-IIM schools such as Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, in the past. It offers 20,000 as stipend to these students for a two-month internship. This year, it not only took interns from IIM-Indore, but also visited the IIMs at Kozhikode and Lucknow. Shankar Sharma, co-founder of Green Vortex, said, "In a large company, they would probably work in a specific role and get limited exposure. With us, they can work in various domains such as sales and marketing, finance, HR simultaneously, getting a bigger exposure to running a start-up effectively."

Himanshu Jain, one of the founders of ARC Financial Services, says: "A large investment bank may not involve candidates with every aspect of a deal. We, on the other hand, provide them exposure to every stage of the deal. They get to work on live projects, which add a great deal to their knowledge and understanding of the investment banking industry." While the increasing lure of the SMEs is evident, candidates still largely prefer a big company when it comes to employment. "Compensation is one major constraint. We can't offer them a salary like an international bank does. In fact, the stipend that we pay is also quite negligible," said ARC's Jain.

Source: The Economic Times, November 14, 2011

Number of Indian students enrolled in US colleges falls in 5 years

The number of Indian students enrolled in the US colleges and universities fell for the first time in five years in academic year 2010-11, according to a US report. Indian students, the second largest international cohort in the US, decreased by 1% to 104,000 while the Chinese grew to 158,000, or nearly 22% of the total international student population, the Open Doors report said. International students at US colleges and universities rose 5% to 723,277.

For Institute of International Education (IIE), the organisation which publishes the Open Doors report in partnership with the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the fall in numbers of Indian students in the US is not very significant. IIE President & CEO Allan Goodman said there are twice as many Indian students enrolled in higher education in the US than in the next leading host country, the UK. They include the total number of Indian students who are currently in the US, including those who finish one level and move on to the next, and others who are on their two-year optional practical training period.

"A drop in this number shows among other things, a larger number of students leaving the US after their higher studies and a drop in the total graduate enrolments from India," says Vijaya Khandavilli, an education consultant in Delhi. She said students going to US are now becoming more cost-conscious, choosy and brand aware. Goodman said the trend was probably a result of the economic slowdown and low employment rates in the US. "The US economy is now picking up and so are international student enrolments in the US. This is likely to show up in next year's report," says Rahul Choudaha, a New York-based education expert.

The report said China stood first for the second year in a row. South Korea came third with more than 73,000 students. "One reason for an increased flow of Chinese and Korean students to the US is probably their willingness to fund their own studies. Indian students, who enjoy a huge advantage over most other countries, in terms of English language skills, however are looking for scholarship options and could sometimes drop plans to study in the US if funds are not available," says Daniel C. Levy, distinguished professor at the University of Albany.

For the 10th straight year, the University of Southern California topped with 8,615 international students in 2010-11. University of Illinois was second with 7,991 followed by the New York University with 7,988 foreign students.

Source: The Economic Times, November 14, 2011

Foreign Universities Bill: MHRD rejects ‘by invitation only’ proposal

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has rejected the standing committee’s suggestion that entry of foreign universities should be “by invitation” only, on the lines of the policy followed in China and Malaysia to weed out second rate foreign institutions from setting up campuses in the country.

After reviewing the models followed in the rest of the world, the committee on Foreign Education Providers (Regulation) Bill had listed seven structures. Of these, the conditions of mandatory accreditation at home, entry by invitation and partnership with local institutions were acceptable to the AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

But the MHRD has rejected the suggestion to limit entry to only those institutions which are invited. “How do we do differential treatment? We have regulations that will take care of the quality of these institutions. We have agreed to having only those institutions that have been accredited in their home countries and have also been accredited here. They have to be at least 20 years old,” said a ministry official.

The committee had suggested that 50 per cent of the faculty in the institutions should be from their parent or associated institutions outside India for at least the first 10 years. However, the ministry has said faculty shortage is a temporary issue and would be resolved over a few years. The Bill is to be sent to the cabinet in the next fortnight.

Source: The Indian Express, November 14, 2011

'We want more Indian students in Scotland'

Michael Russell, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, is visiting India at a time when Europe is going through an economic crisis and, on the other hand, strict student visa rules are threatening UK universities. However, Russell’s agenda is clear — he wants more Indian students in Scottish universities. In a chat with FE’s Kirtika Suneja, he explains the reasons for doing so. Edited excerpts:

Scottish institutes have been partnering with Indian varsities very aggressively for the last few years. What is fuelling these collaborations?
Almost 95% of Scottish universities have collaborated with Indian institutes and we are focusing on India and China for higher education and, hence, encouraging Scottish institutions for partnerships. With globalisation of education, business education has become important in the global economy. In fact, the Scottish delegation to FICCI this year is the strongest ever. Of the total of 230,000 students in our universities, 3,185 are Indian students; thus, they make up just over 1%. However, it is worth noting that they make up 8% of international students and 14% of non-EU students. We want to increase the number of Indian students in Scotland.

How do you plan to achieve this?
There are three parts of education — drawing Indian students to Scotland, developing partnerships between institutions and producing different models in higher education by promoting high-level research. In fact, we have set up University of Strathclyde’s first overseas campus in Greater Noida near Delhi in partnership with infrastructure company SKIL. We will have more such long-term partnerships.

But constantly changing student visa rules in UK universities maybe a deterrent in achieving this …
We have opposed the visa regulations and are openly welcoming international students. We want internationalisation of Scottish education and, as a matter of fact, international students get us good business.

Besides partnerships, are Scottish universities also interested in setting up campuses in India, as is proposed in the Foreign Education Bill, or are mentoring the upcoming Innovation Universities?
We are interested in setting up new campuses — not only in India but elsewhere also. Mentoring the Innovation Universities is a good idea, especially in the areas of energy, liberal arts, creativity and teacher training.

Scotland has invested in research pools to encourage research. Where does India figure in the scheme of things?
Scotland and India have the potential to create research polls and over 150 million pounds have been invested in 11 research pooling investments. India is good for mechanical engineering and energy research.

What about promoting skills and training …
I am also looking after further education in Scotland that is developing the skills potential and encouraging the skills providers. We have a strong system of validation and credit framework. We are reforming the system of further education in Scotland by reducing the number of non-departmental public bodies.

Source: The Financial Express, November 14, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Universities of Calcutta, Glasgow sign MoU

The University of Calcutta signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the University of Glasgow in Scotland on Saturday focusing on collaboration between the two institutions in the field of arts, particularly Museum Studies.

University of Calcutta Vice-Chancellor Prof. Suranjan Das and University of Glasgow Vice-Chancellor Prof. Anton Muscatelli signed the MoU at a function. The collaboration will commence with a fellowship for a faculty member or post-graduate student of the University of Calcutta to undertake a Masters in Museum Studies at Glasgow in 2012.

The University of Glasgow will also offer a position for a student to assist in curating an exhibition from the special collections of the Scottish university in Kolkata in 2013-14. The two universities will also conduct student and staff exchange programmes and collaborate on research projects, lectures and symposia.

Source: The Hindu, November 13, 2011

Pitroda for early passage of higher education Bills

Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, is unhappy with the delay in implementation of higher education reforms. Pitroda who was speaking at the FICCI Higher Education Summit in New Delhi said, “I am personally not happy with what has happened to the higher education recommendations. We have been waiting for government to act. We have talked enough about what needs to be done for higher education. We can’t spend another decade talking about higher education. We have bills drafted relating to foreign universities, innovation universities, and overarching bodies. But none of these bills have been tabled or passed. That is a big challenge.”

About 12 bills including Foreign Education Providers’ Bill; Unfair Practices Bill; Tribunal Bill and the Accreditation Bill will be passed in the coming winter session of the Parliament and the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill 2010 and Innovation University Bill will be introduced in the winter session of the Parliament. These bills were to be introduced in the monsoon session of the Parliament.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in 2005 decided to set up National Knowledge Commission (NKC) under Pitroda’s chairmanship to look at knowledge institutions and infrastructure that we would need in the 21st century. Immediately after knowledge commission’s recommendations, another committee was set up headed by Professor Yash Pal. But none of the recommendations by these committees set up by the government have been implemented so far. Professor Yash Pal has earlier expressed his displeasure about non-implementation of his report on ‘Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education’ that he gave to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in June 2009.

“Higher education is very critical in our journey going forward. If we are critical to grow at 8-10 per cent, higher education has to play an important role. While we are debating higher education for the last five years, the time now is to focus on action,” Pitroda said. The delay in implementation of the reforms is a serious impediment for the economic development of the country, Pitroda said, adding that things are changing rapidly. “The web, social network are essentially changing the very fabric of learning. Learning models are very different. Our customers are the kids, who are used to doing things very differently. We will have to keep that in mind.”

As part of its reforms in higher education, the government is creating a $5-billion National Knowledge Network (NKN) which is expected to be ready in about nine months. The network would be a state-of-the-art multi-gigabit pan-India network for providing a unified high speed network backbone for all knowledge related institutions in the country. It would facilitate the building of quality institutions with requisite research facilities and creating a pool of highly trained professionals. The NKN will enable scientists, researchers and students from different backgrounds and diverse geographies to work closely for advancing human development in critical and emerging areas.

“The NKN would be a platform for delivering effective distance education where teachers and students can interact in real time. This is especially significant in a country like India where access to education is limited by factors such as geography, lack of infrastructure facilities, etc. The network enables co-sharing of information such as classroom lectures, presentations and handouts among different institutions,” Pitroda said.

Source: Business Standard, November 13, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Manipal Education set to add more courses, plans campus in Sri Lanka

The Rs. 1,100-crore (Rs. 11 billion) Manipal Education is looking at expanding its corporate education and training portfolio beyond banking to newer sectors like healthcare, construction, transportation, media and entertainment amid plans to widen its international presence with a university campus in Sri Lanka. The company whose investors include IT czars Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji, expects its revenue from corporate training and education to contribute a fourth of overall revenue in the next four to five years from 15% at present. For Manipal Education, 60% of its revenue comes from outside India, while 40% is generated within the country.

“In India corporate education and training is a huge market. We are looking at technical areas like diagnostics and healthcare management. Construction is another sector we see large potential right from basic construction work to supervisory and managerial jobs,” said Anand Sudarshan, managing director and CEO, Manipal Education. In all these verticals, Manipal will have corporate tie ups offering diplomas, certificate courses and short-term programmes. The group currently offers a banking and finance course for probationary officers at the ICICI Bank and Bank of Baroda, with two more banks in the pipeline.

The company also runs short-term and certificate programmes for entry-level retail sector. It has tie-ups with retail majors like Shoppers Stop and Reliance Retail. Manipal hopes to partner with at least 40-50 companies in the next the five years for customised education and training formats. The group’s corporate education arm includes companies such as Meritrac, a testing and assessment company, IndiaSkills, a joint venture initiative with City and Guild, UK for skills certification and U21 Global, an online business school.

While the Indian industry requires more than 15 million skilled workers per year, the country’s formal education system has been said to have fallen short when it comes to creating employable graduates. Sensing large market potential, job training institutes have rushed to fill the employability gap, giving rise to a huge corporate training market in the country, which is pegged at over Rs. 2,000 crore (Rs. 20 billion), excluding the IT training programmes. According to Kaizen Education Report, 2010, the corporate training market in India is growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22% over the last four years.

As part of the education group’s overseas expansion, last year in November, the company announced plans to set up a $180 million multi-disciplinary international university in Malaysia. Outside of India, the group owns and operates educational institutions in Antigua, Dubia, Nepal and Malaysia through Manipal Universal Learning (MUL), an education and training company. While MUL only provides training services in India, it owns and operates educational institutions abroad, which are allowed to have profit-based models.

In February 2010 MUL managed to rope in Rs. 200 crore (Rs. 2 billion) from PremjiInvest, while Narayana Murthy's Catamaran also invested Rs. 200 crore in December. “We are not looking at raising any more funds at present. We are also not exploring IPO any time soon,” said Sudarshan

Source: The Financial Express, November 12, 2011

York University looks to team up with Indian institutions

A high-powered delegation comprising three deans from Toronto's York University representing the Faculty of Science and Engineering (Dr. Janusz Kozinski), the Faculty of Health Sciences (Dr. Harvey Skinner) and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (Dr. Martin Singer) is currently touring India to explore collaboration opportunities with educational institutions here.

The team has already had meetings with several colleges, aspiring private universities and research institutions in different parts of the country including Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, primarily to promote faculty and student exchange programmes.

York University is Canada's third largest university and one of world's leading inter-disciplinary teaching and research universities with 54,000 students in ten different faculties offering as many as 5,000 courses. The operating budget for 2010 was $890 million.

Brainstorming workshop
The visit of three Deans to India follows a high level workshop — Canada-India Frontiers 2011 — held in Toronto on October 11-12 where over 100 researchers, engineers, technologists and scientists from both countries brainstormed ways and means to collaborate in diverse areas such as life sciences, space exploration, energy and advanced materials.

High level officials and specialists from India's Defence Research and Development Organisation, Indian Space Research Organisation, Indian Institute of Technology and several Indian universities participated, with Dr. Vijay Saraswat, scientific advisor to Indian Defence Minister and Dr. W. Selvamurthy, chief controller DRDO, as the key academic speakers.

Energy sector
In an exclusive chat with Business Line last week during his visit to Mumbai, Dr. Kozinski, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering who spearheaded the Canada-India workshop, said research advances made by his faculty have immediate application and use for India, a country where enormous possibilities exist for collaboration in the energy sector, space and materials sciences.

Defence to bio-war
Of immense importance to India is a technology developed by Dr. Kozinski himself, called e-WARN (Early Warning and Advance Response Network) which has the capability to detect, quantify and initiate an effective response to chemical and biological warfare. It is learnt that e-WARN technology is under consideration at the highest level in the government.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, November 12, 2011

'Alumni control can play big role in enhancing university stature'

The higher the degree of alumni control in a university, the higher its ranking, said Prof. Shailendra Mehta, Visiting Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and Duke Corporate Education. This is because it is the alumni who value the university the most, he added.

There are two key criteria to determine the success of any university, he said. First, it has to be a not-for-profit set-up. “They can be private but not for profit,” said Prof. Mehta, at the FICCI Higher Education Summit. Second, the university has to be controlled by its alumni.

An analysis of the global rankings of educational institutes shows that the majority at the top were from the US. According to the Shanghai Jiao Tong Rankings 2010, 17 of the top 20 universities were from the US, with UC Berkeley, Stanford and MIT following Harvard, which was top-most. Again, of the top 20 US universities, 19 are controlled by alumni and the top five have 100 per cent alumni control.

“Who has the most stake in a university doing well? The people who value it the most — the alumni. For, the college you go to determines the kind of person you will be and your network of influence,” said Prof. Mehta. Harvard has almost always been controlled by its alumni, barring a few years. Most universities from Yale to Columbia followed suit. The other criteria that play a role in determining a university's success are national wealth, large population, private philanthropy and unitary governance, he added.

Dr, Jonathan Adams, Director of Research Evaluation, Thomson Reuters, said India should reject the bubble reputation if it wants its universities to grow. Universities are complex organisations and cannot be reduced to a single index. There should be appropriate benchmarks…the focus should be on developing the core of the organisation, he said. India had a lot of catching up to do in research. While its GDP growth rate is high, other indicators beg improvement. The UK has a lower GDP but still produces 7.8 per cent of the world's research output in comparison to India's 3.5 per cent, he added.

The economy can grow from 7.6 to 8 per cent till March 2012, said Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, on the sidelines of the event. “At 7.6 per cent, the economy is growing faster than any economy in the world. Our objective should not be to worry about the fact that it has slowed down, but how to make it grow at 8 per cent plus next year,” he said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, November 12, 2011

Plan panel sets tone for reform in education

The government is considering state-funding of research at private institutions and allowing Indian universities to recruit foreign nationals as permanent faculty, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia​ said on Friday. While currently, government research funding is confined to state-run institutes, “we are trying to change things”, Ahluwalia said.

“The challenge before planners, policymakers and educationists, both in the public and private sector, is to produce world class Indian universities that could be counted in the Top 200 rating list. In the next 20 years, we must see a significant number of educational institutions in that category,” he said.

Ahluwalia said that he is personally open to allowing for-profit academic institutes but this would call for a policy shift. “I think private education players need to lobby for removal of dysfunctional regulations,” he said. There is also the need to permit Indian universities to hire foreign scholars as permanent faculty, Ahluwalia said. This would not happen unless the government removes the restriction on employment of international faculty, he said. The government only allows foreign faculty to be appointed on a contractual basis at present.

According to an Ernst and Young report, there is high imbalance and disparity in India’s higher education. At least, 48% universities and 69% colleges have inadequate infrastructure and almost half of the positions for professors, readers and lecturers were vacant, the report reveals. Overall, the national enrolment average is 13.8% of those who are eligible to pursue higher education. There is a marked disparity in higher education across states, according to the report, while there was 31% enrolment in Delhi, the figure is only 8.3 % in Assam.

Rajan Saxena, Vice-Chancellor of Narsee Monjee University in Mumbai, said that though private sector is a big contributor to higher education, it needs a favourable policy environment from the government. “Funding and fee deregulation can be a great help,” he said.

For higher education, the 12th Five Year Plan objective was expansion, equality of access and excellence, Ahluwalia said, adding that the target was to raise the gross enrolment ratio from the current level of 15% to 30% over the next 15 years. “Expansion of higher education has to be balanced with equality of access, especially for those living in areas where educational institutes did not exist,” he said.

Source: Mint, November 12, 2011

IIHT, Microsoft launch cloud computing programme

Leading technology training organisation IIHT launched a cloud-based ‘Learning-as-a-Service’ cloud computing training programme using Microsoft virtualisation technologies today. IIHT’s cloud computing programme — which was developed in collaboration with IT major Microsoft — will cater to the growing demand for trained and certified cloud computing experts in the IT industry, the company MD and CEO, Mr. Keshava Raju, told reporters.

IIHT will train and certify 100,000 cloud professionals globally, including in India, over the next three years, Mr. Raju said, adding “This service platform is accessible anywhere, anytime and on any device instantly, on demand.” The service supports up to 20,000 individuals on the cloud at a time and subscribers only need to pay on use, he said.

During his visit to India last year, Microsoft CEO, Mr. Steve Ballmer, had announced that cloud computing would generate 300,000 jobs in India over the next five years. Gartner estimated that the cloud market would be worth $150 billion by 2013.

IIHT, which also launched a one-of-its-kind certification programme, IIHT Certified Cloud Expert, and Microsoft Corporation have also announced a strategic tie-up. Under the partnership, IIHT will integrate highly sought-after licensed Microsoft course content into its career and short-term courses, Microsoft Learnings Senior Regional Sales Director, Mr. Kyle Uphoff, said. Along with career and short-term IT courses, students will get the added advantage of Microsoft certification and training to enhance their skills and job opportunities, he said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, November 12, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

More colleges, less learning

The annual FICCI-Ernst & Young report has shown interesting data about the situation of the Indian higher education sector especially the number of institutions that have come up in the country and in fact, are growing faster than the enrollment numbers! India has the largest higher education system in the world, with 31,000 institutes compared with 6,742 in the US and 4,297 in China. So, while the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the number of institutions in India is 11%, that of student enrollments is only 6%.

So lucrative is the higher education market that more than 5,000 colleges were added in the last one year alone. In the last decade, the number of universities in the country has grown at a CAGR of 7.5% as against the 4.7% growth observed from 1951-2001. The number of colleges have grown at a CAGR of 11% in the period 2001-2011 as against 6.1% in the period 1951-2001. However, these numbers don’t shed light on the fundamental challenges of access, equity and the quality of education in many of these institutes.

According to a report by TeamLease Services, 57% of India’s youth suffer some degree of unemployability and these 82.5 million unemployable youth fall in three skill repair buckets — last mile repair, interventional and structural. The report explains that 90% of employment opportunities require vocational skills, but 90% of our college and school output has bookish knowledge. Further, the poor quality of skills and education shows up in low incomes rather than unemployment as 58% of graduates make less than Rs. 75,000 per year. At present, the total cost of training for the youth comes close to Rs. 490,000 crore (Rs. 4.9 trillion) over a period of two years to train those that are unemployable or sub-optimally employable.

It is no doubt that we are producing more and more of unemployable graduates. How seriously it impairs the supply side of the university or college faculty market needs hardly to be emphasised. Besides recruitment of quality faculty, a complex regulatory structure is another key deterrent. These reflect in a variety of factors like faculty, infrastructure and the number of accredited institutes. University and college infrastructural deficiencies were such that 45% of the positions for professors, 51% positions for readers, and 53% positions for lecturers were vacant in Indian universities in 2007-08.

Not only this, but the system is plagued with outdated curricula and ill-equipped libraries (an average nine books per student vs 53 in IIT-Bombay). Government data shows that as of March 2011, only 161 universities and 4,371 colleges were accredited by NAAC. The inherent weakness in the system leads to a situation where a large pool of youth, though willing to work, is unemployable due to various reasons, of which skills is one. With such dismal quality standards, it is probably the private sector that can be the saving grace for the country’s higher education system.

The trend of the private sector assumes greater significance as the majority of institutions offering programmes in professional disciplines such as engineering, pharmacy, and hotel management, have been established by the private sector. As of 2006-07, private sector participation ranged from 50-95% of the total number of institutions for various professional courses. Private sector involvement is also important because almost 44% of the central government spend on higher education is allocated to the UGC, which, in turn, assists colleges mainly in the form of grants for their maintenance and development, and not much is being pumped for capacity development.

Currently, 14.6 million students are enrolled in the higher education sector; an additional capacity of about 25 million seats would be required over the next decade to cater to the increased demand. This would need an investment of Rs. 10 lakh crore (Rs. 10 trillion) by 2020 to create an additional capacity of 25 million seats. The private sector, which accounts for 52% of the total enrollment, would invest Rs. 50,000 crore (Rs. 500 billion) of this per year.

The report emphasises the current not-for-profit structure of education, which implies institutions can be established only in three forms: trusts, societies and Section 25 companies. The government must consider allowing for-profit education while putting in place a regulatory framework to ensure that for-profit players impart education of a certain standard.

According to the TeamLease report, spending 10% of GDP on skill repair will generate extra income of 61% of GDP for the current unemployable youth. This is more than a 600% return on investment. However, handing over education to the hands of people who will treat it as a business and not a social good may not be the best solution forward. In fact, the government itself has found an answer to its problem in the way of public-private partnership (PPP).

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is mulling different PPP models for higher education that would likely comprise concession agreements distinct from those for other areas of physical infrastructure like ports, roads and power. Different models are also being looked at in terms of basic infrastructure, outsourcing, equity or hybrid and reverse outsourcing. A PPP for polytechnics and Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) is already on the cards but here, too, the private parties seek greater autonomy. It is the quality of higher education that is treading a thin line here and the future of 234 million young people (15-24 years) which hangs in the balance.
(This article is written by Kirtka Suneja.)

Source: The Financial Express, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Head start on the learning curve: Universities in India and abroad are reaching out to young talent

Indian B-schools and international universities are now traversing the extra mile to catch potential students at a young age. The Indian Institute of Management-Indore (IIM-I), Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB), Harvard University and University of California, Irvine, are some of the prominent institutes that are approaching prospective students at the undergraduate level through various initiatives. While ISB connects with young students through its Young Leaders Programme (YLP), Harvard University’s Secondary School Programme (SSP), a high school summer programme, allows them to explore subjects which are not available in high school and earn college credit in Harvard courses.

Last week, the University of California (UC), Irvine, launched its International Undergraduate Preparation Program (IUPP) which will prepare qualified students for undergraduate admission and academic success at the university. Within the IUPP, UC has launched two new tracks — engineering track and biological sciences track — for Indian students. Each track has a special curriculum of essential freshmen courses that is designed and overseen by the respective school of engineering or biological sciences. UC officials believe that this initiative will help prepare participants to score higher in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and gives them an opportunity to take American and academic culture courses to better assimilate with the local culture.

Angelika P. Volkman, Director of International Programs at the University of California, Irvine, says, “Students are enrolled in three quarters’ worth of freshmen courses alongside matriculated students, the credits from which can be applied to UC Irvine or other university undergraduate studies. This means that Indian students still graduate within four years’ time.”

ISB’s YLP on the other hand aims to identify young achievers from across the world. The talent of these undergraduate students may be reflected in their outstanding academic records and/or extra-curricular achievements. YLP provides guaranteed admission to one-year Post Graduate Programme (PGP) at ISB, after one year and nine months of work experience.

Deepak Chandra, Dean of Indian School of Business, says, “It is important to get in good students to your school. Plus, developmental efforts should start at an early age. We have tried to identify the right people at an early stage. Our Young Leaders Programme is an initiative in this direction.” The response to the programme, he says, is quite good but since ISB is selective, only about 50 students made it this year. The programme also accelerates career growth during the two pre-PGP years through structured learning and mentorship programmes and concludes with admission to post graduate programme in management.

To get selected, apart from having an outstanding record in academics and extra-curricular activities, candidates have to submit GMAT scores and go through an on-campus selection process. Each selected candidate is given a YLP scholarship of Rs. 100,000, in addition to their existing need, merit and corporate scholarships.

Harvard University’s SSP, the university’s website says, is open to all high school students who will graduate in 2012, 2013 or 2014, and meet the application and admission criteria. An email sent to Professor Venkatesh N Murthy for Harvard Summer Programme in India remained unanswered. IIM-Indore has also launched a five-year integrated programme in management that will provide both undergraduate and post graduate education. The institute will begin the programme on November 14.

Source: Business Standard, November 10, 2011

Scope for greater private role in higher education: E&Y

There is scope for greater private sector participation in higher education, says a recent Ernst & Young report. The report, brought out in collaboration with industry chamber, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), presents a case for loosening regulatory framework.

Private educational institutions have been mushrooming in the past few years. The percentage of students enrolled in unaided private institutions has also been growing, according to the report. Education is a lucrative business currently as India figures at the top of the most-sought after markets in the world with a population of 234 million in the 15 to 24 years age group, says the report.

With the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, a surge in enrolment at the primary and middle levels is expected, which would create a huge eligible pool for enrolment in higher education in the long term, it says. State governments are focussed on capacity creation and a bulk of the expenditure is unplanned, directed toward maintenance and administration of existing institutions, claims the report.

The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of India is rising but is not as yet on par with international GERs. The Government has set a target of achieving 30 per cent GER by 2020, which means about 40 million students enrolments. At present, there are 14.6 million students in higher education sector. The private sector wants to target this additional capacity of 25 million seats over the next decade.

E&Y estimates an investment of Rs. 1 million crore (Rs. 10 trillion), an average of Rs. 0.4 million per seat. Of this, the private sector would be required to contribute Rs. 50,000 crore or Rs. 500 billion (assuming that private sector accounts for 52 per cent of total enrolment).

The report lists the corporate and academic collaborations private players must make and the marketing and brand building initiatives required to keep the business of education going good.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, November 10, 2011

HDFC plans foray into education

Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC) has announced strategic plans to enter the education sector. The home loan firm believes that the education sector will provide HDFC another opportunity to enable middle income households to access quality yet affordable education spread across nearly every segment over the student learning life cycle.

HDFC’s strategy is to enter India’s vast education sector by way of participating in the segment of schools. The long-term objective is to create a visible impact on school systems across the country by providing school management and other allied services, apart from setting up initial flagship schools. HDFC’s foray into the education sector will be undertaken through a wholly-owned subsidiary which will serve as a platform to provide a portfolio of education and allied services.

HDFC also plans to enter the vocational education and training space by undertaking career enhancement programs, initially offered to graduates across the country. The objective is to address the twin challenges of employability and deployability being increasingly experienced across several industry sectors including the financial sector. HDFC had earlier entered the education finance sector through its subsidiary, Credila Financial Services Private Limited. Credila is India’s first education loan company.

Deepak Parekh, Chairman, HDFC said, “Our education initiative has been conceived as an answer to the question ‘Why can’t equal opportunities be provided to middle income households to secure affordable and quality education for their children leading to better careers and better lives?’. To support such an initiative, we will start with some baby steps and envisage building an education organisation on the principles of efficiency, effectiveness, integrity and transparency which have been so successfully applied and institutionalised within HDFC.”

Renu Sud Karnad, Managing Director, HDFC, who is overseeing this initiative said, “HDFC plans to add value in the student’s entire life cycle from the first mile of a school to the last mile of a career. Keki Mistry, Vice-Chairman and CEO, HDFC said, “There is an opportunity to treat education as a long-term investment theme providing yet another opportunity like housing to fulfill social objective at the same time to create value for all stakeholders.”

Source: The Financial Express, November 10, 2011

Australia eases student visa rules

Mired in negative publicity from the alleged racial attacks on foreign students, Australia has decided to make changes to its visa programme for students. This includes cutting down on financial requirements for some categories of visas. Fiona Richard, COO at Oceanic Consultants, described the changes positive. “We are sure that the reforms will encourage genuine students and will see the return of Australia as a favoured desitination for education.”

The first phase of changes were announced on November 5. These focus on improving the competitiveness of Australia’s education sector among foreign students. According to the release, the changes flow from the recent strategic review of Australia’s student visa programme Further changes, including streamlined visa processing arrangements for participating universities, are due to be implemented in 2012.

Aslo, student visa applicants will need to include a confirmation of enrollment (COE), issued by their intended education provider, as part of their student visa applications. This will improve processing time as students will no longer need to wait for a pre-visa assessment (PVA) letter to be issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) before arranging their COE.

Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese, said, “I strongly support these changes which will make Australia a more attractive study destination for high-quality students from India seeking to gain international education. Australia is a quality education destination and these changes will further strengthen that reputation.”

A new temporary entrant criterion has also been put into efect. This will assist Australia to ensure that students are intending a temporary stay only for the purposes of education.

Source: The Financial Express, November 10, 2011

B. Tech. course in Metro Engineering from 2013

The technology to start and run Metro services may soon become a specialised course in Indian universities. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has approved the plan to allow universities to formulate B.Tech. courses in Metro engineering, sources said. The course will give students a four-year engineering degree and is aimed at training engineers to fuel the development in the transport system across the country.

“The idea actually came from the Delhi Metro administration. It had written to the minister of human resource development, asking him to allow universities to start a course that would provide personnel trained in the field of Metro rail transport systems,” said a senior AICTE official who did not want to be named.

Currently, IIT-Delhi and IIT-Madras conduct training programmes in Metro engineering. “The Metro rail system has seen huge success in foreign countries as well as in our own. It is the pride of Delhi. Also, it is a field that will see tremendous growth in the coming years as more and more cities are planning their Metro lines. We think it’s important that specialised engineers are trained for this,” the official added. While the Delhi Metro rail started in 2002, the first phase of Bengaluru Metro started a month back.

Since the Metro has various specialisations in terms of technical expertise, the course is expected to give students an option of choosing for either electrical, mechanical or civil engineering for Metro in the last year. The course is expected to start in 2013 and the first batch of students will pass out in 2017.

Metro engineering is the 274th B. Tech. course to be approved by the AICTE. The body has been favouring specialised courses such as petrochemical engineering in the last few years.

Source: Hindustan Times, November 10, 2011

Kolkata girl equals Amartya Sen's feat: Wins Cambridge University High Honours

A 23-year-old from Kolkata, who works as a trade analyst in Mumbai, has become only the third Indian after Amartya Sen and Sir Partho Dasgupta to win one of Cambridge University’s highest honours. Mahima Khanna, who has often been involved in Planning Commission assignments, has topped the 2010-11 MPhil class of economics at Cambridge and will receive the prestigious Stevenson Prize. Nobel laureate Sen was the first Indian to win the award in 1956. Dasgupta, the other Indian recipient, is a Cambridge professor emeritus who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contribution to nutrition and developmental economics.

“Imagine sharing the roll of honour with the gods in my field of study,” Mahima gushes after being informed of the award through an email from the dean’s office. Her talent and academic accomplishments will take her places, but Mahima wants to work in India. The changing matrices of the Indian economy post-liberalization, says the young economist who aspires for a career in the World Bank, are of particular interest to her. “My MPhil papers were related to trade liberalization and informality, based on evidences from the manufacturing sector in India. The size of the informal sector in India is growing. The government should patronize it. India’s fiscal deficits and interest rates also interest me,” she says.

For a daughter of doctor parents and with golfing skills that Annika Sorenstam would be proud of, economics was an unusual choice. But Mahima’s heart lay in the intricacies of numbers and logic rather than those of the human body. After her schooling at premier institutions like Loreto House and La Martiniere for Girls, she cleared the medical joint entrance examination, but eventually took admission in St. Xavier’s College. When she graduated in 2009, she had topped Calcutta University. She went to Cambridge on a Commonwealth scholarship for her PG degree. She excelled there, too, ranking second, and stayed on for her MPhil.

When she isn’t cracking mathematical puzzles or solving economic riddles, Mahima loves to tee off. While in Kolkata, she played amateur golf at the RCGC and Tolly Club. She went on to play in golfing events in the UK, UAE and Kenya. But the focus remains firmly on her career. Mahima attributes her success to grandfather Swarn Kumra. An engineer who studied in London University, it was he who instilled the love of numbers and logic in her. “The day after the JEE results were out and I got the chance to study medicine, I held his hands and went and took admission in economics at St. Xavier’s. He remains my pillar of strength,” she says.

Mahima Khanna, who works as a trade analyst in Mumbai, has been involved in several Planning Commission assignments. The 23-yr-old, who won the Commonwealth scholarship to go to Cambridge, came 2nd in MSc. She cleared med JEE, but chose economics at St. Xavier’s and topped Calcutta University. Mahima is an amateur golf player and has played in the UK, UAE and Kenya.

Source: The Times of India, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Higher Education Reforms in France

The education landscape of France is changing. The country is all set to gain a competitive edge in higher education and research. It has focused goals to create comprehensive universities that are internationally competitive. As the vice chancellor of universities of Paris Edouard Husson succinctly puts it, “We are working towards creating universities of excellence.”

“The French are proud to be different. For long they have been aware of the lack of attractiveness of their universities, the need to internationalise and the problems of governance faced by their institutions. The shock caused by international rankings (such as Shanghai) has had the effect of creating a general consensus on the need for reform,” he says.

Three major complementary processes involving French universities are currently underway. These involve financial investments, creating and regrouping education clusters, and giving autonomy to universities where presidents of universities are now managers with their own budgets. Between 2007 and 2012, the state would have undertaken a total additional expenditure of 9 billion euros in higher education and research. Despite the financial crisis, the ministry of higher education and research has put in 22 billion euros as investment. “We want to prepare our future and ensure that our reform process is a success,” Laurent Wauquiez, minister of higher education and research, told HT Education in Paris. The amount of 22 billion euros is from a 35 billion euros ‘Investing in the Future’ fund that will be focused on higher education, with independent experts picking the best ideas, rather than ministers, Wauquiez said.

Edouard Husson agrees that in the education market, France has a tough competition with the US and the UK. “We have a high percentage of students coming to France to write PhDs but not many to do masters. We need to be more competitive in that direction. We have 18,000 students from India and 30,000 Chinese students but mostly masters and doctorate students. We also have to work hard for bachelors figures. My goal would be to see university of Paris sign agreements with most Indian universities. This I feel is a more realistic goal. We’re now offering more courses in English,” he adds.

Source: HT Educaion, November 9, 2011

Cambridge launches study on ancient India

Britain's Cambridge University, one of the world's leading seats of learning, has embarked on a landmark exercise in 'linguistic archaeology', which is expected to unearth greater knowledge of India's ancient intellectual and religious traditions. The effort will involve completion of a comprehensive examination of the South Asian manuscript collection at the university's library, which includes the oldest dated and illustrated Sanskrit document in the world. The estimated 2,000 manuscripts in Cambridge's collection are said to reflect South Asian thinking on astronomy, grammar, law, philosophy, poetry and religion. Some of these are written on now-fragile birch bark and palm leaf.

Heading the project will be Sanskrit specialists Dr. Vincenzo Vergiani and Dr. Eivind Kahrs. The former said: "In a world that seems increasingly small, every artefact documenting the history of ancient civilizations has become part of a global heritage to be carefully preserved and studied." He added: "Among such artefacts, manuscripts occupy a distinctive place-they speak to us with the actual words of long-gone men and women, bringing their beliefs, ideas and sensibilities to life."

He, then, explained: "One reason this collection is so important is because of the age of many of the manuscripts. In the heat and humidity of India, materials deteriorate quickly and manuscripts needed to be copied again and again. As a result, many of the early Indian texts no longer exist." A discovery made in 1883 represents treasures like a 10th-century Buddhist Sanskrit manuscript from India - the oldest dated and illustrated Sanskrit manuscript known anywhere. Some of the oldest holdings were discovered in Nepal. These now priceless cultural and historical artefacts were rescued in the 1870s from a disused temple, where they had survived largely by chance.

"The word Sanskrit means refined or perfected. From a very early stage, its speakers were obsessed with handing down their sacred texts intact," Vergiani elaborated. "Out of this developed an attention to how the language works. A grammatical tradition arose that produced, around the 4th century BC, the work of Panini, an amazing intellectual achievement and arguably the beginning of linguistics worldwide, which made the language stable and transmissible." It is this robustness that Dr. Vergiani believes explains how the language became so prevalent in South Asia - a situation that has been likened to the spread of Latin across Europe.

Source: The Times of India, November 9, 2011

Labour Ministry survey reveals 30% ITI grads still jobless

Despite industry having preference from government trained manpower about 30% of the pass-outs failed to get a job in 2009 after getting vocational training from public sector institutes, a government survey has found. The reason, according to a survey done by ministry of labour, says that non-availability of jobs or low salary were the two prime reasons for high unemployment rate in Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). Most of the trainees were found to be from low-income group with monthly family income of less than Rs. 5,000.

The government has pumped lot of money for revamping it is with Rs 1.6 crore (Rs. 16 million) each given to 100 it is in 2005-06 and World Bank funding upgradation of 400 ITIs. In addition, 1,090 ITIs have been upgraded with the help of private partners and the government giving Rs 2.5 crore interest free loan to each vocational college for upgradation of training infrastructure.

On the curriculum side, 46 new trades have been added and special courses have been run with the help of the industry to train the trainers. The government has also initiated a scheme - apprenticeship training scheme - to get on field training. The impetus was given to provide adequately trained manpower for the economy growing at over eight percent annual rate.

But, many pass-outs found that the industry preferred cheap labour, which was available in abundant in the market and therefore, did not offer them adequate salary. Many of the trainees expressed unhappiness over inadequate stipend, fewer opportunities for learning new skills and involvement of trainees in low end jobs.

The survey conducted to assess the nature and quality of training in it is and employability of trainees found that practical training was lacking in the module. Many of the trainers also felt that the syllabus has not been synchronized with the needs of industry.

Even though the government has opened over 400 new training institutes, there was short supply of trained manpower in industrially developed areas such as Gurgaon and Mumbai and more in lesser industrially developed areas. "Hence, they (trainees) have to migrate," the survey said. Another grey area pointed out was shortage of trainers in most ITIs and majority being ad-hoc or on contract. "Teachers were also engaged in other activities," the survey said.

The survey also found that women have been left out from the revamp. There are few hostel facilities for women and trades suited for females such as hair and skin car and front office jobs, the survey report submitted to the government in October said. Only 36 % of vocational training institutes have hostel facility.

Source: Hindustan Times, November 9, 2011

Higher education sector needs Rs. 10 trillion by 2020

Comprising over 31,000 institutions, the higher education system in India needs an investment of Rs. 10 trillion by 2020 to create an additional capacity of 25 million seats. The private sector, which accounts for 52% of the total enrollment, would invest Rs. 50,000 crore (Rs. 500 billion) of this per year. These are the findings of the annual FICCI-Ernst &Young report, which also reveals that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the number of institutions at 11% is faster than that of student enrollments of 6%. In fact, more than 5,000 colleges have been added in the last one year alone.

Further, the market is expected to grow as the number of students enrolled in Classes 9-12, which is an indicator of potential demand for higher education, has increased at a CAGR of 5.7% over 1996-2008, in line with the growth in higher education enrollment. “The demand for graduates is there but the capacity in each institute is not very large. However, many institutes are going vacant because of lack of quality education,” explained Shobha Mishra Ghosh, Director, FICCI's education committee.

Geographically, the central region has experienced the highest increase in number of institutions, while the southern region has exhibited the highest increase in student enrollment. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) currently stands at about 13.8%, with west India having the highest GER of 25.7%.

In fact, the report has pointed out that the government's target of 30% GER by 2020 seems difficult to achieve at the current pace of development and, hence, it should go the US way and allow for-profit education as that will encourage investment in the sector. If India is to meet its 30% GER target by 2020, about 40 million students should be enrolled in the higher education system in 2020.

"The Indian government should consider allowing for-profit education while putting in place a regulatory framework to ensure that for-profit players impart a certain standard of education. This will enable greater private capital inflow for setting up new capacity and therefore assist in achieving the government’s GER targets,” the report recommends.

As for the infrastructure, 48% of universities and 69% of colleges have infrastructure deficiencies, the report says. The report also says that currently, state private universities are concentrated in a handful of states·the top five states account for about 65% of such varsities as they have put in place enabling regulatory environments and provide government support.

Source: The Financial Express, November 9, 2011

Polytechnics to have industry backing

In a move to bridge the demand-supply gap for skilled labour, the government plans to set up 300 polytechnics in the country in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. Under the scheme, the Centre will pay Rs. 3 crore (Rs. 30 million) per polytechnic while the state would be expected to shell out Rs. 2 crore (Rs. 20 million) besides offering land for the institute. PPP in polytechnics is a part of the umbrella plan for PPP in higher education in the 12th Five Year Plan.

"Each polytechnic requires Rs. 10-12 crore (Rs. 100-120 million) to be set up. The rest of the investment will be put in by the private players. We have invited industry chambers like the CII, FICCI and SIAM for talks and expect them to share the best practices with the government,” S.S. Mantha, AICTE Chairman told FE.

In fact, under the sub-mission on polytechnics coordinated action on skill development, the government plans to provide short-term skill and vocational training to rural community and unorganised sectors under a renewed Community Polytechnic Scheme in 1,000 polytechnics. Of these, 300 are to be set up in the PPP mode.

There are almost 2,500 polytechnics in the country and their annual intake is approximately half that of the the degree level engineering institutions. They offer three-year diploma programmes in engineering and technology, applied arts and crafts and other courses. “We are looking at 10 polytechnics per state in the PPP mode as till now this model was used only in the infrastructure and road construction industries,” Mantha added.

The council has met state secretaries and decided that the private partners will have to deposit Rs. 10 crore (Rs. 100 million) for the construction of building, equipment and running of the polytechnic. “We are always interested in skill development but it is not qualified as to what the government expects from the industry. The contours of the partnership are yet to be defined,” said Sandhya Chintala, senior director, Education Initiative, NASSCOM.

As per the AICTE's policy document, the same company may fund different polytechnics and there can be no exclusive arrangements between an institute and firms. Further, the industry partners are eligible for 60% of the total seats on the board of governors.

Source: The Financial Express, November 9, 2011

Exploring foreign education? Make a 'creditable' history

Studying abroad can be daunting, financially. It can turn out to be an expensive affair. What's more, arrival in a foreign land poses new challenges for students. These could be in the form of regulations, to which adjustments have to be made.

For instance, you need a credit record for everything abroad. It is checked when you go to rent an apartment or apply for a mobile connection. A good record can help strike better deals. This is especially important for a student who plans to stay after course completion.

Many would think having his/her bank's branch abroad would solve some of the problems. But, no. If you have an account with, say, Standard Chartered, it does not mean the foreign branch will consider or access your Indian credit record. You need to build a fresh record while abroad. This can take six to eight months.

Bank and related transaction: Opening an account is still not a tough task, as most universities have tie-ups and yours could provide you all documents and address proof. And, once you start operating the account, your record starts getting built, based on transactions via the debit card and net baking. Through these, you could build a favourable credit past.

Depending on the type of transactions and account balance, students can apply for credit card(s). However, exercise caution, else you'll land yourself in a debt trap. Abhishek Sadekar, studying at Syracuse University, US, recalls how a friend got a credit card with a limit of $400 and no interest for the first six months. He could pay the minimum amount of $20. The friend used the card liberally and ended paying hefty interest later. Obviously, this impacted his credit history, affecting his future borrowings.

Accommodation: Vinayak Kamath of GB Education, a Mumbai-based consultancy, says, "Most universities have limited on-campus accommodation. Plus, it is quite expensive as compared to off-campus ones (sharing basis)." But, renting an apartment requires good credit record and/or guarantors (friends/relatives there with good credit pasts).

Mansi Ghalsasi, 25, a student of Monash University, Australia, says, "As international students, we did not have a pre-existing credit history. Neither did we have relations who could stand in as guarantors." Three of her friends and she had to pay an extra A$300 or Rs 15,000 per month. According to Karan Gupta, an education consultant, "The ideal solution here is paying three-six months rent in advance or a security deposit." Which means Ghalsasi would have to pay A$1,500-3,000 or Rs. 75,000-150,000 upfront.

Phone contracts: Credit histories can get marred by basic mistakes, as Gaurang Nabar, a student of Architectural Association's College of Architecture in London found out. In the UK, one gets a mobile phone contract (post-paid connection) only after a compulsory credit check. International students can't get one immediately. They must use pre-paid connections.

Unfortunately for Nabar, who did not submit sufficient documents to establish his residency in London, the post-paid connection was discontinued. Two months later, he was contacted by a collecting agent for a pending payment of £60. "I had instructed my bank to stop direct debits to the service provider. Hence, the delay. My credit history suffered and I am unable to get a phone contract," he rues.

Source: Business Standard, November 9, 2011

Infotel Broadband buys 38.5% in Extramarks Education

Infotel Broadband, the Reliance Industries subsidiary that holds pan-India wireless broadband permits, has acquired 38.5% stake in Extramarks Education, a company focused on school education and digital learning, for an undisclosed amount. The investment in Extramarks has been made through an affiliate company Reliance Strategic Investments, RIL said in a statement on Tuesday.

However, investment will enable Extramarks to pursue growth plans, it said, indicating that RIL invested in freshly issued shares. Extramarks' content is distributed digitally, making it valuable to Infotel that plans to launch wireless broadband services.

Infotel is the only company in India to have bandwidth for highspeed wireless broadband service across the country. Reliance Industries bought the company in mid-2010, shortly after Infotel won spectrum at a government auction, for approximately Rs. 13,000 crore (Rs. 130 billion).

The company plans to launch services in mid-2012. "The relationship with Reliance is the start of an exciting phase for Extramarks. Over the last two years we have progressed on our journey of revolutionising the domestic education sector through technology-enabled smart solutions and active participation in infrastructure development," Extramarks Chairman Atul Kulshreshta said in a statement.

In May 2010, the Ambani brothers terminated a non-compete agreement of five years, allowing RIL's re-entry into telecom. RIL's entry is expected to trigger a tariff war in the data services space, say industry experts. The company may offer data at Rs. 10 per gigabit, compared with Rs. 100 for most operators currently, say people familiar with its plans. While analysts have said RIL is likely to acquire a mobile service operator to complete its service offerings, the company has maintained it will only service the Internet and data market.

Source: The Economic Times, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

IIMs' quest to break free

Will the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) — all thirteen of them — be able to finally break-free from the yoke of the government and under a new era of emancipation, scale higher ground? This is certainly the hope of many of the institutes and as recently as November 2nd, the directors and chairmen of IIMs across the country approached the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), to discuss this very issue, almost a decade after the demand for autonomy was first voiced.The MHRD has gone so far as to voice ‘support’ for the complete independence of older IIMs — Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Kozhikode, Indore, Lucknow and Bangalore — given that they are financially independent, while the seven new IIMs will continue to get support from the ministry.

So far, IIM Bangalore (IIM-B) has been the trailblazer for change. It has amended its memoranda of agreement (MoA) earlier this year and with the amendment, has received the right to manage its own funds and decide its own budget, take on key faculty appointment and promotion, appoint directors as well as expand its campus footprint. “Others including Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Kozhikode, Indore, and Lucknow are in the process of amending their MoAs as well,” said a senior ministry official.

These developments may seem hardly profound on the surface of it, but for a beleaguered group of colleges colonised by the central government, this is a very big deal. After all, not so long ago in 2002, a saffron-clad Murli Manohar Joshi, the then HRD minister, instituted sweeping changes in the curricula of the IIMs, intensifying fears of saffronisation of management education. In 2004, stakeholders were relieved to see NDA’s Arjun Singh as the new minister but he too disappointed, delivering a caste-based quota across IIMs. Now, however, the IIMs face the most realistic chance to be masters of their own fate.

This doesn’t mean that the rest of the road is going to be smooth. There are two issues that continue to spark both outrage and debate.To understand the first controversy, it is instrumental to understand the following: Each IIM is governed by a board of governors (BoG), which is responsible for making the majority of transactional decisions. The BoG is then overseen by a ‘Society’ — an overarching IIM Council — which has representation from the MHRD minister, representatives of the state government, and a vice chancellor of the state university. Guidelines about changes in governance, faculty management and funding structures were based on the recommendations of three different prior committees headed by former Maruti Suzuki Chairman R.C. Bhargava, Rediff founder, Ajit Balakrishnan and Hari Bhatia Co-Chairman and Managing Director of Jubilant Organosys respectively.

Under the current rules, the IIM board has 24 members. A new proposal suggests that this number be brought between 14-16 members, who mandatorily have to attend 75 per cent of all meetings. “The idea behind reducing board size is to ensure that people who are active remain on the board. Where the proposal of seats in the society in lieu of corporate funding is concerned, that has not found acceptance,” says Devi Singh, Director IIM-Lucknow. The Bhargava Committee had recommended that the societies be trimmed to 20 members so that the rest could be given to those who gave monetary donations.

This strategy hasn’t gone down well with some. “Just for IIM-Ahmedabad, 5000-odd alumnae are now in well placed positions. Raising Rs. 500 crore (Rs. 5 billion) from just them is an easy task. How can one even think about selling stake in IIMs to corporates for money? It is unthinkable,” said Bakul Dholakia, past director, IIM-A. Then, there’s the Balakrishnan Committee suggestion that teachers be required to complete a minimum of 160 hours of teaching time. “Are we clerks? How can the ministry ask us for annual teaching plans, when the discipline itself is evolving?” Says an equally perturbed IIM-A faculty member: “We cannot be told how to plan our lessons. An average of 90 hours of classroom teaching that we do requires 60 hours of backroom work.”

Some feel that other areas of the IIM education spectrum will also suffer. “Mandating a larger compulsory time window for classroom teaching will make a direct casualty out of research,” said Asish Bhattacharya, Director, IIM-Kolkata, who served on the IIM faculty for 11 years. “It is like a vicious circle. The move will affect research merit and, in-turn accountability. In the long run then the purpose of autonomy, and the search for merit itself is defeated,” Bhattacharya argues.

The raucous protests by the faculty across the older IIMs, especially Kolkata and Ahmedabad, have meant that the process of MoA amendment has been delayed, and is slated to remain in limbo for the next year or so. “To be honest, those problems have not yet been solved. We expect some consensus to develop over the year,” said Samir Barua, Director, IIM-Ahmedabad.

Different schools have different needs. Consequently, according to Debasish Chatterjee, Director of IIM-Kozhikode , the restrictions and accountability parameters for every IIM have to be different. For a school like Kozhikode, the need for autonomy is directly linked to the need to expand. “Given our hilltop location, there is no scope for growth. We are in the process of getting some land in Kochi, a natural progress for us. Autonomy is essential in as much as it gives us the chance to set up satellite campuses, both domestic and international,” explains Chatterjee.

That IIMs have been trying to expand domestically and abroad is well known. As far back as 2005, IIM-A almost closed the deal to set up another institute in Maharashtra. Now, there has been talk of discussing campuses in Singapore and Dubai. Also in the works is a collaboration between the three oldest IIMs.“A joint international campus, where synergies, and resources might be shared between A B C is a possibility. Things should concretise next year,” said Samir Barua, Director, IIM-A. Detractors however have argued that instead of strengthening the IIM brand, the move might lead to its dilution. “Look at the international campus of an institute like SP Jain, where the international campus is seen as the money making scheme where only students who do not have merit to make it to the India campus find entry,” argues Dholakia.

M.J. Xavier, Director, IIM-Ranchi points to Article 3 of the MoA, which is essentially the raison d’etre of the IIMs: “To serve the needs of business, industry, Government and society at large through programmes and activities developed to serve the mission; Build leaders and entrepreneurs through holistic, transformative and innovative education.” Can the evolution of more independent decision making powers for IIMs fulfil these fundamental objectives? Have they been doing so? Those are the important questions on everyone’s lips in figuring out a way forward.

Source: Business Standard, November 8, 2011

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