Friday, January 28, 2011

Shifting industry needs prompts Great Lakes to tweak courses

The constant refrain from industry that business school products are not being proper fits in job roles has prompted Chennai-based Great Lakes Institute of Management to tweak its curriculum, focusing in particular on the mergers and acquisitions space, and emerging business sectors.

"Reports suggest that there were US$ 68 billion worth of M&A activity involving Indian companies in 2010, which was a three-fold growth over the previous year and there are several new emerging sectors which are not adequately reflected in the offerings at business schools in the country," says S. Sriram, Executive Director of GLIM.

Sriram says it is a "genuine complaint" by the industry that a majority of business school products are not business ready, and that the objective of biz schools should be to churn out youngsters who are "business ready, and be running on hitting the ground," adding that there was also a need for senior managers to be able to take up responsibilities in emerging domains.

GLIM has identified energy management as one of the new areas for management training, and tied up with the Bauer College, University of Houston. Sriram said the choice for a tie-up with Bauer College was made, considering that Houston is the energy capital of the world, and that the Indian energy sector would require significant numbers of energy professionals in the near future. The course will involve participants to attend classes in different geographies including Houston, and also a faculty pool that will travel across geographies. Sriram said the institute was in talks with all major oil companies in the country for equipping their management pools with the latest developments in the energy sector.

He said the Indian biz school scenario was poised to witness major changes in the coming days, with programmes reflecting the industry’s latent needs being represented in the curriculum. One such change being witnessed is an increasing number of twinning courses being launched by B-schools, he said, involving courses that are consumed across different international geographies.

Source: The Economic Times, January 28, 2011

ICAI inks MoU to train accountants in UAE

Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has signed an MoU with an Abu Dhabi-based research institute to train mid-rank accountants in the UAE. ICAI and Centre of Excellence, Research and Training (CERT), the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), had signed the MoU to start a one-year 'Accounting Technician' diploma course mainly to cater to Emirati students.

ICAI will develop the course curriculum for the diploma, the first batch of which is expected to commence in July. The course will be tailor-made to suit the local laws and regulations. ICAI's Dubai chapter, with 15,000 members, is its largest overseas chapter.

In Dubai, ICAI is also conducting International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) certification course for its members at its Knowledge Village training office. The institute has launched a nationwide campaign to spread awareness on the convergence of Indian accounting standards with IFRS. As a preliminary step, IFRS certificate and IFRS e-learning system had already been started and so far over 2000 students have cleared the course.

Source: The Economic Times, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Response by Taj employees to 26/11 a case study at Harvard

The heroic response by employees of Mumbai's landmark Taj Hotel during the 26/11 terror attacks is now a case study at Harvard Business School (HBS) that focusses on the staff's selfless service for its customers and how they went beyond their call of duty to save lives. The multimedia case study 'Terror at the Taj Bombay: Customer-Centric Leadership' by HBS professor Rohit Deshpande documents "the bravery and resourcefulness shown by rank-and-file employees" during the attack.

The study mainly focusses on "why did the Taj employees stay at their posts (during the attacks), jeopardising their safety in order to save hotel guests" and how can that level of loyalty and dedication be replicated elsewhere. A dozen Taj employees died trying to save the lives of the hotel guests during the attacks.

"Not even the senior managers could explain the behaviour of these employees," Deshpande is quoted as saying in HBS Working Knowledge, a forum on the faculty's research and ideas. Deshpande said even though the employees "knew all the back exits" in the hotel and could have easily fled the building, some stayed back to help the guests. "The natural human instinct would be to flee. These are people who instinctively did the right thing. And in the process, some of them, unfortunately, gave their lives to save guests."

A documentary-style account of events, the case includes video interviews with hotel staff and footage of the attack. It shows how leadership displayed by people in the bottom rank to the top levels in the organisational hierarchy helped in saving lives. It also focusses on the hotel's history, its approach to recruiting and training employees, the Indian culture's "guest is God" philosophy and how the hotel would recover after the attacks.

Another key concept of the study is that in India and the developing world, "there is a much more paternalistic equation between employer and employee that creates a kinship." Terming it as one of the "hardest cases" he has worked on, Mumbai-native Deshpande said it was hard to see people confront their trauma again.

"We objectify it, keep emotion at a distance, but after 15 minutes of questions with a video camera in a darkened room, there are deeper, more personal reflections of what happened," he says in the HBS Working Knowledge.

Deshpande said Taj employees felt a sense of loyalty to the hotel as well as a sense of responsibility to the guests. He cites the example of a general manager who insisted on staying put and help direct a response to the attack even after learning that his wife and sons had died in a fire on the hotel's top floor. "Nothing in the employees' training could have prepared them for such an unprecedented situation," Deshpande said.

Deshpande has taught the case in the School's Owner/President Management Executive Education programme. It can also be taught as an example of managing the post-crisis recovery of a flagship corporate brand, he added.

Source: The Economic Times, January 27, 2011

Professionals launch India's own Rhodes Scholarship programme

A group of Indian profes-sionals has launched a fellowship modelled after the UK's Rhodes Scholarship, under which well-known names from the corporate, professional and academic world will mentor students. Winners of the Young India Fellowship (YIF) will be offered "holistic learning" for a year in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, US, said Pramath Raj Sinha, founder-director of YIF and founding dean of Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.

The curriculum will stretch across a range of areas, from corporate strategy and micro-economics to literature, sociology, anthropology, liberal arts and engineering. Students will be trained to think critically, and will also be offered a perspective on public institutions and issues such as casteism.

"In our country, education is very narrow-based and we have taken this initiative to bring a change. It will bring together 50 young leaders from different parts for the one-year fellowship programme --- all for free," Sinha said. The programme will pay for education, boarding and lodging of the fellows. A total of 50 sponsors will donate Rs. 800,000 each. Some of these have already come on board, he said.

A panel of experts will visit campuses across the country, meet students and ask them to apply. YIF is expecting about 2,000 applications this year. Sinha said the first batch will enrol in six months. YIF is in talks with some institutes in Delhi-National Capital Region to host the programme, but is yet to make a decision. While the fellows will study a range of areas, they will be allowed to focus on areas of their interest.

Sinha said fellows would be individually mentored by corporate and intellectual leaders such as Infosys Technology Ltd. Chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy; HDFC Ltd. Chairman Deepak Parekh; NIIT Chairman Rajendra Pawar; ISB Dean Ajit Rangnekar; historian Ramachandra Guha; Sanjeev Sanyal, founder of green think tank Sustainable Planet Institute; C.V. Madhukar, Founder-Director of PRS Legislative Research; and Kaushik Basu, Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry.

Eduardo D. Glandt, Dean at University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science, said in statement that nearly a dozen faculty members from the university will teach in the YIF programme. "The fellowship is designed to not only build perspectives and open minds, but also to impart practical skills of problem solving, which include scientific thinking, engineering and business analysis, writing and communication, team-work and leadership to the participants. We are confident that YIF will become India's most prestigious fellowship programme," Glandt said.

The University of Pennsylvania is the second from the so-called Ivy League of eight highly regarded US universities to team up with Indian institutes for a leadership programme. Before it, the Yale University has signed an agreement with Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, to develop a leadership programme.

Ashish Dhawan, Senior Managing Director at ChrysCapital Investment Advisors and one of the mentors of YIF, said: "Young India Fellowship brings liberal arts to the centre stage." YIF's model, the Rhodes Scholarship, is an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford.

Sanyal of Sustainable Planet Institute, who was a Rhodes Scholar himself and is now a YIF mentor, said the spirit of the two programmes is similar. "We are looking at young leaders just finishing their under-graduation or just completed graduation, who are not only good in academics but also good in taking risks and thinking out-of-the-box," he said.

Source: Mint, January 27, 2011

ISB to offer management programme with Rs. 700,000 annual stipend

Looking to churn out high-quality faculties, the Indian School of Business (ISB) will soon offer a fully-funded Fellow Programme in Management, that will also provide students with an annual stipend of up to Rs. 700,000. The Hyderabad-based ISB is planning to start the Fellow Programme in Management (FPM) in September 2011. "FPM would be equivalent to any Ph.D. programme (in management) worldwide... The programme would be fully-funded and students would receive a of up to Rs. 700,000 every year," ISB's Dean Ajit Rangnekar told PTI.

A full-time programme, FPM would be for a period of four to five years. With this programme, ISB would focus on creating research-focused people, who would qualify for faculty positions in top business schools. According to ISB's Senior Associate Dean Sanjay Kallapur, FPM would be introduced from September this year and the first batch is expected to have about 10 to 15 students.

An excellent academic record as well as a good score in GMAT or GRE are among the pre-requisites FPM. Graduates, postgraduates and those without any work experience can also apply, he noted. The academic year for the programme would be divided into five terms, each having a duration of two months.

FPM would be offered in seven areas --- Accounting, Financial Economics, Information Systems, Marketing, Operations Management, Organizational Behaviour, and Strategy.

The programme incorporates knowledge and best practices from global business school INSEAD. Regarding expenses related to FPM, Rangnekar said that ISB is expecting to see a cost of about Rs. 200 to 300 million, including stipend to students and salaries to teachers.

Source: The Economic Times, January 27, 2011

CAT trainers offer short-term courses

Preparatory institutes are tweaking teaching methods for employed candidates seeking entry into business schools. Industry requirements are changing and more candidates with work experience are now applying for common admission test or CAT, mirroring a global trend for B-school education, globally.

B-schools too prefer students with work experience as recruiters tend to choose them over fresh grads, hence the rising preference among young executives to take a career break and pursue MBA. CAT score opens doors to some 150 Indian B-schools including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) that offer Post-Graduate Programme in Management. CAT trainers are now adopting shorter modules like week-end courses that suit working candidates.

The changing scenario in the management education is forcing all stakeholders to move further towards global practices. Coaching centres say students these days want to get work experience first and then start CAT preparations. Owner of a Delhi-based CAT coaching centre says IIMs are selecting more students with work experience and other B-schools are following suit keeping the recruiters’ requirement in mind. The number of candidates appearing for CAT is decreasing, but there are more candidates with work experience.

In 2008, around 271,000 students appeared for CAT. The number dropped to 242,000 in 2009 when it changed its format to computer-based test. Later, in 2010, some 204,000 students registered for CAT, but 186,000 actually took the test. "Overall CAT aspirants are decreasing, but we see a significant increase in the number of students with work experience." The last few years have seen a considerable increase in the percentage of students with work experience finally being selected by IIMs and other top B-schools.

This change in the intake has a positive co-relation with the number of jobs offered to the work-ex candidates vis-a-vis freshers. The fact that students with even one-year of work experience are eligible for lateral placements (better roles and higher pay packets) makes it more enticing for students to enter the IIMs. "Settling for the not-so-prominent B-schools for lack of work experience would only mean a lower return on investment in the long run," said Kamlesh Sajnani, MD of IMS Learning Resources. IIM-Lucknow has announced a weightage of 2.5 points for working candidates in its admission policy for the year 2011.

"Globally, B-schools have management students who have work experience. In India, the trend is picking up. Recruiters want to hire a person, who has a better insight of knowledge and practice. We also want to bring in diversity in the classroom," said Prof. Himanshu Rai, Chairman, Admission at IIM-L. "We want a mixed batch. Also, the student, who has a work experience of 2-3 years, can understand management education better than a fresher. In coming years, most of the B-schools will make a serious effort to create balanced batches," Prof. Rai added.

IIM-L had 258 students with more than one-year of work experience out of a total 307 students in the 2008-10 batch. The number has now increased to 311 students with work experience in the 2010-12 batch which has a total of 390 students. Similarly, IIM-Ahmedabad had 198 students with work experience out of a total of 297 students in 2008-10 batch. The number has risen to 229 students for 2010-12 batch that has 380 students.

Consequently, CAT training institutes see an increasing demand for short-term courses against the traditional 18-month-long courses. "While the long- term programme has traditionally been a requirement for students in the pre-final year of graduation, final year students as well as candidates with work experience have always preferred shorter duration programmes ranging from 6 to 9 months with workshops. As the proportion of CAT-takers gets more and more skewed towards the work experience candidates, we will naturally see a greater demand for such short duration training programmes," Mr. Sajnani added.

Ahmedabad-based Endeavor too is witnessing change in students' profiles and their requirements. "Students are becoming aware about what they deserve and therefore, the overall number of CAT aspirants is decreasing. However, the number of aspirants with work experience is increasing. Many working professionals do not need classroom environment for CAT preparations. For them, we have started a Web portal. We have around 200 students from cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Mysore, Gandhinagar, Vadodara etc., who are preparing for CAT through this portal," said Hitesh Devalia, partner at Endeavor. The institute is also planning to launch video-based CAT coaching classes for the working people.

Indore-based PT Education has seen 7% growth in enrollment of students with work experience. "They wish to have their next break through a professional management education. We have started week-end batches for the experienced CAT aspirants. Also, there will be a need for courses with convenient timings, tailor-made soft-skill development module and special personal counseling," said Manish Saraf, COO of PT Education.

Source: The Economic Times, January 27, 2011

IIM-Bangalore & Intel tie up soon to promote Next Big Idea

The Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) on Monday announced a new initiative, Next Big Idea, aimed at fostering greater entrepreneurial growth across the country. IIM-B will partner with global chip maker Intel and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to nurture innovative ideas culled from business plan competitions until they can be turned into sustainable businesses.

"No idea is a bad idea, this initiative is part of our strategy to building the entrepreneurial ecosystem," said K. Kumar, Chairperson, N.S. Raghavan Center for Entrepreneurial Learning, IIM-B. "The design of the programme views business plan competitions as a means to the development of successful ventures and not an end in itself," he added.

Through this platform any individual or team can post their innovative ideas and seek mentoring, access to incubation and angel funds to convert an idea into a business. "It is an inclusive approach and sharing of best practices. And we will nurture broad range of ideas from areas such as biotechnology, education, clean technology, telecom, software, electronics, manufacturing and even social ventures," said Chandar Sundaram, Consultant at IIM-B.

"We need to bring this awareness among entrepreneurs that there is lot of government support available to them," said Dr. Anita Gupta, head for micro enterprise and skill development at government-run DST. She said that DST provides a funding of Rs. 40 crore (Rs. 400 million) each year to support various ventures and ideas and so far around 1,500 startups have been supported and funded in the last 10 years.

The next stage in The Next Big Idea initiative will be an intensive training workshop for 40 winners of business plan competitions conducted by partnering academic institutions, direct entry teams and nominated teams. After short listing to 10 finalists, the most promising teams will be selected, and sponsored to attend an international business plan competition in the United States.

Source: The Economic Times, January 27, 2011

Tuitions often costlier than fees: 27% urban students spend on coaching

Private coaching constitutes a significantly large portion of the expense students incur on education, sometimes even bigger than the expenditure on school fees, a study says. In Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, school students who go for tuitions spend more on private coaching than the average school student does on all items including school fees, transport, books and stationary and uniforms.

These are the findings of a in 2007-08 National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) study on participation and expenditure on education by people aged between 5 and 29. Among the larger states, West Bengal records the highest proportion of education expenditure on private coaching, about 40%. This is when the total amount spent on education is averaged across all students irrespective of whether they take private coaching or not. No other component of school education in West Bengal constitutes as big a chunk of the total expenditure as private coaching. In urban West Bengal, the spending on private coaching is as high as 48% of the education expenses.

Other big states that spend a considerable share on private tutoring are Bihar (21%), Orissa (20%), Gujarat (20%), Maharashtra (16%) and Jharkhand (15%). In most of these states, including West Bengal, school fees are quite low. The exception is Maharashtra, where it is rather high, about 38%, comprising the biggest chunk of average money spent on education in a state per student annually. In Bihar and Orissa, rural students seem to be spending a much larger share on private tuitions than their urban counterparts, 24% in rural areas against 18% in urban Bihar and 28% in rural Orissa vis-a-vis 16% in urban areas. This could be because most rural students in these states attend government schools where fees are quite low. The states accounting for the smallest proportion on private coaching are Andhra Pradesh (3%), Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, 4% each. There is little difference in the pattern between rural and urban areas in these states.

If the average amount spent on private coaching per year is calculated taking into account only those students who take private tuitions, then, among the bigger states, Gujarat has the highest spending of Rs. 3,318. Maharashtra follows with Rs. 3,273. Karnataka comes next with Rs. 2,604 and Delhi Rs. 2,593. It is least in Tamil Nadu (Rs. 1,052) and in Andhra Pradesh where it works out to an average of just Rs. 1,108 per student per year. Across the country, about 27% of students in urban areas and 15% of those in the rural parts spent money on private coaching, which included school as well as technical and vocational education.

The average yearly spending by rural school students who took private coaching was less than half of what was spent by their urban counterparts. In Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh even rural students spent well over 60% of what the urban students paid for private coaching.

The greatest difference between what rural students and their urban counterpart spent on private tuition was in West Bengal. The urban spending on private tuition averaged Rs. 3,485 a year per student, among the highest in the country. In the rural areas, it was a meager Rs. 377, the lowest average rural spending on private coaching in the entire country.

Source: The Times of India, January 27, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

IIM-Raipur plans research on Chhattisgarh's natural resources

The Indian Institute of Management-Raipur (IIM-R) plans courses and research centres to study Chhattisgarh's natural resources and energy management, hoping to contribute to its home state's development. "The state we are in is zero power-cut state. At least 44% of its geography is forest cover. This will be our focus, to be different and more worthwhile," IIM-R Director B.S. Sahay said. "Chhattisgarh will become a developed state within 10 years, and we will play our role in helping them achieve it," he said in an interview on Wednesday. Sahay was in Delhi to attend a conference organized by the All India Management Association.

The 10 IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) are India's elite business schools, and IIM-R became the youngest of the lot when it began operations last year. While IIM graduates form the cream of India's business leaders, the institutes have been criticized for neglecting research. That is where IIM-R wants to make a difference, said Sahay, who was earlier Director of the Management Development Institute (MDI_, Gurgaon. "We have to do research of contemporary relevance, which is beneficial for the growth of the economy," he said.

The institute plans to introduce courses in energy management and forest management in the next academic year beginning July. It will also carry out case studies on power generation and coal, focusing on how to use the mineral for economic development. Chhattisgarh has 17% of India's coal reserves as well as the potential to harness solar energy. The state plans to add 1,500 MW of generation capacity by the end of 2012 with the help of two power projects being set up by Chhattisgarh State Power Generation Co. Ltd, taking total capacity to 3,500 MW. Such an energy rich state is bound to attract energy-intensive industries. IIM-R said it wants to contribute to the process by drawing up case studies and preparing research papers that the government and the private sector would find useful. "This will increase exposure for our students," Sahay said.

Sahay said that in addition to its flagship two-year master's in business administration programme, IIM-R plans to offer executive courses for managers as well as customized courses for companies. Besides training students to become corporate executives, IIM-R also wants them to be aware of social and cultural concerns, he added. "While we have arranged for a luncheon meeting with a corporate czar for our students, they have just finished a project on museums in the state. This should help the department concerned in the state to devise ways for its conservation and other issues," Sahay said.

To lead the institute's research work, IIM-R plans to hire 10-15 faculty members with a rich research background this year. It currently has very few full-time teachers. IIM-R admitted 70 students in its first batch last year, and plans to increase that number in the next academic session. "Being new is not a constraint, but an opportunity for us," Sahay said.

M.R. Rao, Dean Emeritus at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, said new IIMs will find it easier to establish themselves as global brands. "When you start, you don't have the baggage of the past. You can orient yourself with a global vision. Research and desire to give solutions to society will be key for better brand building," Rao said. “The problem in India is we talk about global standards but end up as teaching institutes only. We have to be research-oriented institutions in the higher education space. If they (new IIMs) are thinking of giving solutions, then it's great."

Sahay said the central and state governments have been supportive. "The state has allocated 200 acres of land for the permanent campus and we hope it will be ready in two-three years," he said. "Once we move to the new campus in New Raipur, you will see some centres of excellence there. The effort is to address regional issues while aiming for international stature."

Source: Mint, January 25, 2011

Common test for PG, MPhil, PhD in central universities

A committee of vice-chancellors of central universities (CUs) has recommended common entrance test for admissions into postgraduate (PG) and MPhil/PhD courses across 42 CUs. Sources in the committee said if the model works well, it can be adopted at the undergraduate level. However, the report is silent on admissions into undergraduate courses.

Another panel on Nava-ratna Universities — Indian equivalent of Ivy League varsities — has recommended direct funding from the central government, freedom to fix salaries, fee structure, reward for performing teachers, cutting increment to non-performers and flexibility to invite the best faculty from any part of the world.

The recommendation on common entrance test could evoke strong reactions. Set up late last year by HRD minister Kapil Sibal, it said common entrance for PG courses should be based on both performances in entrance test and in the graduate examination. Performance in the first two years of graduation would be factored. The weightage for performance in graduate course may be 30%, and 70% weightage could be given to performance in the entrance test.

The entrance test will consist of two sections: scholastic aptitude and knowledge of subject in which admission is being sought. The committee has suggested that relative weightage between the two could be in the ratio of 40:60. The panel has said universities with special character/historical reasons could be free to have their own admission process.

In case of MPhil or PhD courses, the committee has recommended, common entrance could be similar to the UGC National Eligibility Test for Junior Research Fellowship. The varsities would be free to have their own interviews for MPhil and PhD courses. The institutions would also have the freedom to decide weightage for the interview, but it should not be more than 40% in any case.

Source: The Times of India, January 25, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Government rejects fee hike for IITs

Aspirants for the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) can heave a sigh of relief as government has shot down a proposal to hike the fees of undergraduate programmes of the premier technical institutes by about four times. The Anil Kakodkar committee, which was set up to study the roadmap for the autonomy and future of the IITs, had recommended that the fees be raised from Rs. 50,000 per annum to Rs. 200,000 to Rs. 250,000 per annum.

However, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal rejected the proposal, saying it will act as a "deterrent" to aspiring students, said sources in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The committee has been asked to rework the fee structure taking into account the aspirations of all sections.

The committee report came up for discussion at the IIT Council meeting here today, where Sibal announced the setting up of 50 research parks at a cost of Rs. 200 crores (Rs. 2 billion) during the 12th Five Year Plan Period. These could be set up on PPP mode encouraging private players to carry out research activities in collaboration with government institutions. One park is already in existence in Chennai.

Taking note of the fact that credit-based practices was being followed by different IITs for promotion of students from one semester to the next, the meeting agreed that academic bodies of IITs should consider acquisition of credits as a criteria for movement of students and grant of degrees to bring uniformity, said a statement issued by the MHRD. The observation came after the Report of Prof. S.G. Dhande Committee on the uniform/homogeneous criteria for promoting student from one semester to next in the IITs was discussed in detail.

The meeting also decided that the appointment of Directors should be made through a process of open advertisement so that a wider base is created for the purpose of selection. It also decided that in-principle approval may be granted for setting up an IIT in Mauritius with the help of the Indian Institutes of Technology, the statement said.

Source: The Economic Times, January 21, 2011

56 Indian-Americans semi-finalists in Intel competition

Fifty six high school students of Indian-American community were named amongst the 300 semi-finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search which is considered as America's most prestigious pre-college science competition. California has the highest number of the semi finalists, 41 out of which seven are Indian Americans, followed by New York 11, Maryland seven, Texas six and the rest of the Indian-Americans are from various other states.

This year's semi-finalists were selected from 1,744 applicants representing 172 schools and are competing for US$ 1.25 million in awards. Each of them receive a US$ 1,000 grant. The schools also get US$ 1,000 for each semi-finalist named.

Colleges and universities regard the Intel STS Semi-finalist award to be evidence of exceptional academic promise. Each semi-finalist is provided with a certificate of accomplishment, which may be sent with their applications for college admission and scholarships.

From amongst the 300 semi-finalists, 40 finalists will be announced on January 26. The finalists will attend the Intel Science Talent Institute in Washington DC in March and participate in a final judging process to share US$ 630,000 in awards.

STS Alumni have made extraordinary contributions in the field of science and hold more than 100 of the world's most coveted science and maths honours, including seven Nobel prizes and four National Medals of Science.

Source: The Economic Times, January 21, 2011

Shemford to invest Rs. 15 billion to set up 100 schools

The Shemford group plans to invest Rs. 1500 crore (Rs. 15 billion) to expand its network of schools, which teach from classes I through XII, in India and other parts of Asia. The group, which runs 15 schools in India, says it will open another 100 schools over the next four years.

"The education scenario in India is broadening and we think this is the time to ex-pand, after being in the market for 20 years," Managing Director Amol Arora said. "We are looking at Rs. 1500 crore investment in the setting up of these schools in India, South Asia and the Middle East." Arora said private businesses were looking to play a wider role in the education sector. "The government too has made it private players-friendly by announcing its intention to open thousands of schools in the private-public-partnership model," he said.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) plans to open 2500 schools across India with the help of private companies. Arora said Shemford wants to be a partner under this scheme, as well as similar schemes launched by the Rajasthan and Punjab state governments.

Each new Shemford school will admit up to 1500 students.The group will fund 20% of the expansion with its own capital. For the rest, it will either raise money from private equity firms or sign on franchisees. It has already opened talks with prospective partners in Nepal and Sri Lanka, Arora said. "Brand India education is very popular in these countries, and we are looking to enter and establish ourselves in these countries," he said. Shemford also runs around 150 pre-schools under the brand name Shemrock, which made its international debut in Nepal last year.

Narayanan Ramaswamy, Executive Director of consulting firm KPMG, said education is a growing sector in India and private companies are entering the market in increasing numbers. "It's a lucrative market for private players either to enter or expand their base." Arora said there is a shortfall of 200,000 schools in India.

All the Shemford schools will be affiliated to either the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), including the ones being opened abroad. CBSE had launched an international curriculum for schools situated outside India last year. These schools will follow the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum.

Shemford schools will be information and communication technology-enabled, and students will receive digital content in addition to regular text-books. In November, Shemford signed an agreement with a Doha, Qatar-based school for providing content and exploring further opportunities to set up schools in West Asia that would cater to the large non-resident Indian population.

Arora said Shemford is in no hurry to go public. "That may not be our target right now, but we would go that way some years down the line."

Source: Mint, January 21, 2011

GMAT: Indians good at maths, Chinese better

Here's proof that Indians have a flair for mathematics. Indians scored higher than the global average in GMAT's quantitative section that tests math skills in 2010. But Chinese students have the highest average in quantitative scores, and India is far behind, at seventh position.

The US, which accounts for the largest number of students appearing for GMAT, trails both India and China in the quantitative section, as well as in overall performance. B-schools worldwide use Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores to select students.

India's high scores at the GMAT may be because over 60% of Indian GMAT test-takers had an engineering background, while only 15% candidates globally were engineers. High mathematics scores may also have to do with an education system that favours math and science over the liberal arts.

The quantitative section tests students basic math skills built up over a lifetime. Education systems in different countries vary in the emphasis on certain subjects, like math. "This is often reflected in GMAT scores. We have found that students who come from countries which lay a great emphasis on high-stakes tests tend to perform better in the GMAT," says Alex Chisholm, Senior Analyst, Research & Development, with the Graduate Management Admission Council, the body that conducts GMAT.

While the worldwide average score in the quantitative section was 37, for India, it was 42. India also had a higher average total score (578) when compared to the global average (544). "Indians are, to a large extent, more competitive than the rest of the world. We value an MBA degree far more. Others aren't hungry for an MBA the way we are. If an American gets a good job as an undergraduate, there's little chance that he will pursue a postgraduate degree, whereas in India, many hit the glass-ceiling without an MBA," said overseas education consultant Pratibha Jain. She also points to the fact that in India, an MBA improves ones social status and self-image.

China's performance, overall as well as for the quantitative section, is also better than India's. Jain said this could be because Chinese students are more disciplined than Indians, who often get complacent. Engineering courses in China lay greater emphasis on quantitative analysis. The Chinese know that while language is a handicap for them, math is their strength, and so they work to excel at it, Jain said. When it comes to quantitative analysis, the gap between India and China is rather wide, with several countries including Taiwan, Japan and South Korea ranking higher than India.

GMAT scores from the US come as a bit of a surprise. Though the US has over 127,000 GMAT test-takers, more than double the number for India and China put together, the average quantitative score as well as the average total score for the US is less than the global average. US scores are lower than those from India and China.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), January 21, 2011

Prepare to pay more for IIT degree

The government is considering the possibility of transferring government subsidy for fees from undergraduate to post graduate programmes in IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology). Beyond moving funds from the undergraduate level, the government is proposing to make more funds available at the post graduate and research level. This would be in keeping with efforts to improve research output at the IITs.

This proposal builds on the recommendation of the Anil Kakodkar Committee to raise fees for undergraduate courses in IIT. The report recommends that tuition fees in the 15 IITs be increased from the current level of Rs. 50,000 a year to nearly Rs. 250,000. The issue of raising fees at the undergraduate level will be taken up for discussion at the IIT Council meeting on Friday.

A senior official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said that the proposal of raising undergraduate fees is feasible. "The undergraduate programme can pay for itself, as students do end up getting high paying jobs. But this will not mean that the government withdraws from providing subsidy. We will have more freeships and scholarships at the undergraduate level, and we will put in more money at the post graduate level," the official said.

The Kakodkar Committee is understood not to have suggested a similar hike for the postgraduate level. The rationale being that a higher fee could discourage students from joining at the postgraduate level. This in turn would impact the pool of researchers and faculty members. Shortages in both areas are already a cause of concern. The proposal to shift funding to the post graduate level addresses the issue flagged by the committee.

It is clear, that a substantially higher funding for post graduate and research programmes will have to come on the back of increased tuition for the undergraduate student. However, the decision to raise IIT fees is fraught with dangers. With the real possibility of the Reserve Bank hiking interests rates to tackle inflation, any decision to raise tuition fees would not find acceptance.

There is also the argument that the IITs have in the past been more democratic in their admissions, as compared to the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management), and a higher tuition fee would impact that culture. To this end, the committee has suggested a easy-loan scheme for the poorer students. Even if the number of freeships and scholarships are increased, the government will need to consider the associated problems that students face when they seek to access this. Till date, the government has been squeamish about increasing fees. A February 2010 proposal by IIT-Kanpur to gradually raise tuition fees to Rs. 400,000 over a ten-year period is yet to be accepted.

Source: The Economic Times, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Studying at IIT may get costlier with fee revision

An education from any of the premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) may soon become a costly affair. You may have to shell out a cool Rs. 200,000 more to get that coveted degree from IIT. This is the key recommendation of the five-member Anil Kakodkar committee, which submitted its proposals on making IITs more self-sufficient to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) a while ago. The boards of all 15 IITs are expected to meet on Friday to study these recommendations.

Sources say the idea behind hiking the undergraduate fees from Rs. 50,000 a year to Rs 250,000 a year is to reduce the institute's dependence on government grants.

Sources say the committee might also discuss the possibility of hiking fees at the postgraduate level in the near future. But for the moment, apart from a fee hike, Friday's meeting will also deal with a proposal to push for lower interest rates on education loans -- a move that will increase the number of students enrolling at IITs.

Source:, January 20, 2011

TutorVista promoter now sets goal to create US$ 1 billion brand

When British publishing and education firm Pearson Plc. announced buying a majority stake in Bangalore's TutorVista on Tuesday, valuing the online tutoring company at $230 million (Rs. 10.44 billion), there was a sense of déjà vu for long-time observers of promoter Krishnan Ganesh. Ganesh has founded three companies prior to TutorVista. His first, IT&T Ltd., a hardware maintenance firm, was acquired by iGate Corp. in 2000; Customer Asset was sold to ICICI One-Source (now FirstSource) in 2002; and Marketics Technologies India Pvt. Ltd., a company he mentored and invested in, was bought by WNS (Holdings) Ltd in 2007.

The Pearson deal's done, but the serial entrepreneur isn't ready to move on to his next venture immediately. "Leveraging the Pearson brand, the goal now is to go to US$ 1 billion valuation from the current US$ 230 million in three years," he says. "The clock is ticking ---1,000 days, US$ 1 billion."

TutorVista, on a service road that branches off from the old airport road in Bangalore, is unprepossessing. The decor is functional and the office a bit chaotic and frugal, reflecting the values of the promoter. After a celebratory dinner on Tuesday evening, Ganesh began his day at 4 a.m. to fly to Bangalore, to give a pep talk to employees on the deal.

Ganesh did a course in mechanical engineering from Delhi College of Engineering in 1982 and joined Telco (Tata Motors Ltd in its earlier incarnation) in Jamshedpur. "I hated my job on the shop floor," he says. He moved on to study at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kolkata. After graduating in 1985, he joined a company then known as Hindustan Computers Ltd (now HCL Technologies Ltd., India's fourth largest information technology firms) as executive assistant to its founder Shiv Nadar.

Nadar, he fondly reminiscences, taught him to take bold decisions. When HCL faced a problem in its customer service department, Nadar sent Ganesh to fix it. "At 25, if you have 400 people reporting to you, then you start thinking, why should I do this for others? Why can't I do it for myself?" he says.

That was an era when multiple vendors sold hardware that were not compatible with each other. Ganesh and two friends founded IT&T, a hardware maintenance firm working in the area of system integration. In 1998, when he moved away from the company for what he says are personal reasons, Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel Ltd., asked him to take over a loss-making company called Bharti British Telecom, a joint venture acquired from Wipro Ltd.

Ganesh turned the company around in two years. "The interesting thing is I did not fire a single person nor change a single direct report to me. So, sometimes, for resolving things, it is all about providing direction, leadership and putting in systems and processes." TutorVista took about three years to fructify, and in between Ganesh mentored and invested in Marketics, in which he invested "less than half-a-million" dollars. WNS eventually bought the company for US$ 63 million.

TutorVista has 2,000 teachers in India, who cater to some 20,000 students, mostly in the US, via the Internet. School tuition in the US typically costs $ 40 an hour. That, Ganesh says, meant three things: "One, it was available only for the rich. Two, you have to be desperate enough to want it. Three, because the meter is ticking, people were only going to use it for the minimum time necessary."

One model some start-ups attempted was to lower the cost. "That is the classic, cost-based, offshore model." Ganesh wanted to be disruptive. So he offered tuitions online at $100 per month, unlimited. "That immediately puts it into the monthly budget of families."

For all his thrift, Ganesh allowed himself one indulgence when he sold Customer Asset some eight years ago: a Mer- cedes-Benz. "Lower-end, C-class," he says. Following the Pearson deal, he's changing to a BMW. He says it can't be labelled an indulgence. "I am just changing the car, right?"

Source: Mint, January 20, 2011

IIT undergrad course to be research-oriented?

A high-powered committee under T. Ramaswamy, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, has recommended that the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) curriculum at the undergraduate level should change from uniform syllabus to system-based curriculum selection, making it research-oriented.

The IIT Council will discuss the report on Friday. The committee said course content at the undergraduate level does not inspire students to take up research in India. Its report expresses concern at the low level of IIT undergraduates opting for research and says at least 10-15% of them should be brought to do doctoral research in the next five years.

At master's and doctoral level, the report says, IITs should align the curriculum to meet industrial needs without complications. "Since master's and doctoral research activities are generally specific to the institutions and range of faculty strength, alignment to suit location specific needs may be more easily realised," it says, suggesting an interactive portal could be established between IITs and industrial chambers. The portal should have problems faced by industries and students may be asked to select research problems for master's and doctoral level research programmes.

The committee has also recommended setting up of a Research Support Technical Cadre. Creation of such a cadre, the report says, will allow IITs to undertake research projects that require continuity. At present undergraduate and research students have to provide research and development (R&D) support. The committee has also said that research councils of nine members be set up for each IIT before the next academic year. The council will play an advisory role in selection of research priorities.

Ramaswamy is yet to give the report on reforms in IIT-Joint Entrance Examination. Sources said the committee is working on a percentile-based scheme to bring all state boards on par. The scheme is based on the percentile-based merit list, formed across all the state boards, for Department of Science and Technology's Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scholarships that go to the top 1% students (up to 99 percentile). IIT faculty members, however, say such a scheme is good for an INSPIRE merit list, where the decision is either 'qualified' or 'not-qualified'.

Source: The Times of India, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Indian Chancellor earns highest status in research for Houston University

Under the stewardship of its first Indian born woman Chancellor, Houston University has received the Tier One recognition, the highest designation given to any institution which have "very high research activity". Renu Khator, who born in Uttar Pradesh, took over as the Chancellor and President of Houston University in January 2008 which has more than 65,000 students and a budget that exceeds US$ 1.3 billion.

"I give the credit to our faculty, our staff, our students and our Board of Regents who have been so supportive the last two or three years," she said, adding her administration has been firmly committed to this Tier One goal. Khator, who this week begins her fourth year in office, had predicted a five-to-seven year journey towards the Tier One status. "I knew there was work to be done... we have been focusing so hard on every single piece, trying to make sure we can support the faculty, support the staff in doing the kinds of things that will take us toward Tier One," she said.

The Carnegie Foundation is a US research centre that evaluates and classifies colleges and universities based on empirical data. It classifies more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the US. Less than 300 are classified as research universities. In its newly published classifications, it cites 109 varsities for Top Tier designation which have very high research activity.

"Yes, we have obtained the designation of Tier One research, but I want to see our university be nationally competitive in support and services it provides to students, and in the kinds of students it attracts," Khator said.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), January 19, 2011

Online tests gain traction in India

The first time that the Common Admission Test (CAT) went online, almost everything that could go wrong did. Those seeking admission to India's top management schools had computers crashing on them, leaving them unable to complete the test and forcing the organisers to offer examinees another go at answering the paper.

But that inauspicious beginning in 2009 marked a watershed of sorts. From being a pencil-and-paper affair, testing in India is giving way to the computerized, online variety. By the time CAT 2010 rolled around, the experience was virtually glitch-free, proving it was an idea whose time had come as the gateway to the Indian tertiary education sector. At least 100,000 students will give computer-based exams to seek a berth in leading engineering colleges in the coming academic session. That's in addition to the more than 200,000 who apply for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) through CAT.

Others with online tests include Mumbai's Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and a common one for law schools. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has decided to take the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) online for about 100,000 aspirants, or a tenth of the total, with the rest giving their test offline. The exam, key to securing a berth in leading architecture and engineering schools such as the National Institutes of Technology (NITs), will eventually be fully computerized.

Geetam University of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat Technology University also have online admission tests. The Management Aptitude Test (MAT) conducted by the All Indian Management Association for entry into nearly 500 private business schools is available in both traditional and online versions.

Online tests offer a window during which they can be written --- for instance, 20 days for CAT 2010 and three months for NMAT, the Narsee Monjee exam. This makes them less daunting for examinees. "The computer adaptive exams are reducing stress and becoming a matter of convenience for applicants. Paper-pencil tests are generally one-day affairs. They don't have the flexibility of you choosing the day, whereas online exams give you that advantage," said Mohit Kataria, a young engineer in Pune, who wants to study management at one of the leading B-schools.

"The online exams are generally spread over (several) weeks and give you the freedom of choosing a convenient date during that window," said Kataria, who has appeared for both CAT formats. "This helps in showing your true potential on your best day. Instead of aspirants reaching out to exams, it's like exams are reaching out to aspirants." He also cites the convenience of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as the exam can be given more than once in a year.

Computerization has also made the application process easier, said Sambit Mahapatra, a second-year student at International Management Institute (IMI), a private business school based in Greater Noida, near New Delhi. "You can just download the form, fill it up and upload it rather than moving around from one place to another and standing in long queues," he said. "I have read in newspapers that the IIMs are planning to allow students (to appear for CAT) more than once a year. If that happens it would be a great advantage," said the student who got admission based on his CAT score in 2009.

The traditional testing method is on its way out, said Anand Sudershan, CEO of Manipal Education Group, which selects students for the university it runs through computer-based exams.
G. Raghurama, Director at BITS Pilani, agrees. "Eventually, the paper-pencil test will be redundant as the computer-based test is more transparent, hassle-free and scalable," he said.

The increased penetration of computers and Internet access will speed up the acceptance of online testing, said Smarajit Dey, President, Strategic Initiatives, NIIT, which provided ground support for CAT 2009, conducted by Prometric Inc.--- a US-headquartered firm that conducts tests.

While computer penetration in India is less than 10%, a study published by Intel Corp. and IMRB International in August 2010 said PC penetration in urban India has doubled in the last three years from 19% to 38%. According to official statistics, there are nearly 80 million Internet users.

Before the IIMs took CAT online, two leading institutes tried their hand at computer-based entrance exams --- XLRI Jamshedpur and BITS Pilani --- in 2002. BITS first made the switch for some of their masters courses and a few years later, all admissions became computer- based. "As a technology institute we wanted to do something different and went for computer-based entrance from 2005," said Raghurama. "There were 57,000 applicants and we conducted the exam in partnership with Eduquity Career Technologies Pvt. Ltd., an Indian test-assessment company headquartered in Bangalore. There were some apprehensions but we managed it well across 14 cities." Last year, more than 130,000 applied for BITS campuses in Rajasthan, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. "In 2011, we expect to get more applicants, hence we're taking it to 27 cities, six more than last year... over a 30-day window," Raghurama added.

XLRI, a leading management institute, decided to take its entrance exam online across 20 cities to begin with, but the experience was not trouble-free. "We suspended it midway as we faced some problems in a few centres," said M.
Shukla, the professor in charge of external relations at XLRI. "Since then we are back to our pen-paper test." The process involved sending CDs to each centre in order to synchronize the machines there with the central server. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US, "some of our CDs containing exam materials were stuck in airports due to security issues and we decided to scrap it," Shukla said. "The pen-paper test is going well with us but if you ask me whether we will shift to the new format, the answer will be yes. Computer-based testing is the need of the hour and we will switch back to it," he said. "Due to the convenience and the scalable model, it will outperform the tra- ditional method." There were some genuine infrastructure issues at the start but "we have overcome this", said R. Dhirendra, CEO of Eduquity Careers.

The online method has to contend with three key challenges in India --- paper leakage, impersonation and logistics, according to Sanjiv Kataria, an education consultant in Delhi. Once these are overcome, teaching staff can focus on their primary duties. "Instead of professors taking leave from teaching for administrative work, now they can hand over these tasks and non-teaching hassles to someone else," Kataria said.

Two of the world's biggest testing companies, Pearson Plc. and Prometric, are active in India with dedicated local branches. Pearson conducts NMAT and CLAT, the common law entrance exam. Local firms include NIIT's online test division, Merit Track, Everonne, Eduquity and AtTest, a unit of Aptech Ltd.

Dey of NIIT estimates the business to be worth not less than Rs. 800 crore (Rs. 8 billion) and expected to double in the next three years. Madan Padaki, co-founder and chief executive officer of Merit Track, said the company started operations in 2000 to capture the information technology (IT) boom in India. "A report in 2000 said that the IT industry will employ one million people by 2010 and we thought there will be need for professional test conductors for at least 10 million applicants," he said. Having established themselves in the IT recruitment process market, it entered the higher education space in 2007. "Currently, 35% of our tests are online tests and we believe in three years it will be around 70%," said Padaki. Merit Track, which has tested one crore (10 million) people both in the online and offline formats, was also a partner of Prometric in CAT 2010. The company also conducts Gujarat Technological University's common entrance test.

Aptech Ltd. is carrying out half a million online tests every year for a number of distance education universities, said Ninad Karpe, chief executive officer. "The higher education sector has understood that to scale up an exam without causing hassles either to students or to the faculties, they need to switch over to computer-based exams," he said.

The IIMs, meanwhile, are thinking about setting up a company to conduct the online CAT as reported by Mint on 26 November. "We have formed a committee on this direction. This will take CAT to the international standard," said Devi Singh, Director IIM-Lucknow, who supervised CAT 2010 for the IIMs.

There are, however, infrastructure issues that need to be resolved. "To make online exams pervasive, we need to have high-speed Internet connections and larger computer penetration in smaller cities. Power backup is another area that needs to be taken care of," said R. Dhirendra of Eduquity Career Technologies.

A survey carried out in March 2010 by Merit Track in association with some con- sultants said at least 75% of vice-chancel- lors believe that online exams are the fu- ture in tertiary education. “At least 50% of the universities surveyed felt that they will shift to a computer-based selection pro- cess within 12-36 months,“ said the re- port, which surveyed 75 varsities and in- stitutes in the country.

Source: Mint, January 19, 2011

Indian students in Australia fall 30% in two years

The number of Indians admitted into Australian universities has fallen by around 30% after a spate of violent attacks against them in the past two years, foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said. However, the government is satisfied with the steps Australia has taken to ensure the safety of Indian students in that country, Prakash told reporters on Tuesday.

The comments came ahead of Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna's three-day visit starting Wednesday for talks with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd. Attacks on Indian students snowballed into a diplomatic crisis between India and Australia after the death of Indian accounting student, Nitin Garg, last year. The attack on Garg was among the scores of cases of violence reported against Indian students in recent years.

Indian students contribute between $3 billion (Rs. 136.5 billion) and $4 billion to Australia's foreign education industry, which is worth an estimated $15.4 billion, and one of the country's top foreign exchange earners.

Source: Mint, January 19, 2011

IIM-B likely to make work experience must for entry

An internal committee of the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) is all set up to revamp the flagship two-year postgraduate programme. The panel has proposed many changes like increasing weightage for leadership potential, ethical and social sensitivity, making 22-month work experience mandatory for admission, reducing emphasis on extremely high percentile in Common Admission Test (CAT) and making summer placements optional for students.

The IIM-B is planning to change the way students are selected, what they will be taught and how they should be evaluated. Asking the IIM-B to cut down on the emphasis on CAT scores during admission, the committee headed by Prof. C. Manohar Reddy has recommended increasing the weightage for leadership potential, ethical and social sensitivity. It has also proposed making work experience of at least 22 months mandatory.

The panel wants at least 10% of the batch to comprise international students within the next decade to increase diversity. The Class of 2011 and 2012 have 23% and 28% students respectively without work experience. The committee has recommended making summer internship optional. Stop the practice of pre-placement talks and interviews for the summer internship. Instead the selection of summer internship should be done on the basis of resumes, states the report, accessed exclusively by TOI.

Source: The Times of India, January 19, 2011

Hiring of IIT directors to be made more transparent

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Council meeting on Friday would make the system of appointment of directors more transparent. The council would also consider a proposal from the Mauritius government to set up an International Institute of Technology.

For the first time, the Council will give clearance to set up an Open Access Institutional Repository that will feature research papers by IIT students and faculty on a common platform. IIT sources said, directors are now appointed only through a search process in which many people are invited to apply for the job. Also, senior academicians recommend names to search committee. "The current system is not transparent," a source said. The new system will entail search-cum-selection. Jobs for IIT directors will be advertised.

"It will expand the sphere of selection. Even senior academicians from abroad can apply. There are many people of Indian origin who want to come back, but are unaware of job prospects," the source said. The new system would be implemented in case of IIT-Delhi, since its director would be completing his tenure in October.

Setting up of International Institute of Technology in Mauritius is in line with a similar proposal from Singapore. Sources in the Ministry of HRD said, "IITs can only provide technical support. It should be at no cost to the Indian exchequer." India is also going to insist that the institute cannot be called IIT, even if it stands for International Institute of Technology.

The IIT Council would decide how the IIT system would cooperate in setting up the proposed institute. Of the various committees set up by the ministry, the one headed by T. Ramaswami, Secretary of Department of Science & Technology, has given its report on the curriculum review.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), January 19, 2011

India's education market unique: Pearson India Chairman

Education and learning company Pearson is looking at ways to expand its wings in the Indian market. It has formed a joint venture with Educomp to provide vocational education services and has now acquired TutorVista, a Bangalore-based education company that offers online tutoring, test prep and other services. John Makinson, Chairman of Pearson India says that the education sector is very exciting in India and gives the company a lot of opportunities to explore. Excerpts from an interview with ET's Mahima Puri & Sruthijith KK:

How will the latest acquisition of TutorVista help Pearson in the Indian market?
This acquisition can be seen as the company's commitment to education and skills development in India. The investment in TutorVista gives us control of the world's largest online tutoring business and, crucially, a platform on which to build a leading presence in the Indian private schools sector. It has given us the scale and the growth opportunity that we were looking for.It will also bring us close to consumers in India.

What makes you so bullish on the education business in India?
There isn't any other market for education like India in the world, not even China. Education sector is very exciting in India and as the world's largest education company, this gives us a lot of opportunities to explore.

Which are the other emerging markets that Pearson is looking at aggressively?
Brazil and China would be two such markets that are relevant from education perspective.

How does organic expansion stack with acquisitions as a strategy for growth in India?
There are a lot of organic growth opportunities, like increasing digital content development, creating educational products, providing online platforms for colleges, testing and assessment services and vocational training.

What is it that you find lacking in India's education market?
If we look at the formal education in India, there isn't an awful lot lacking. But there is lack of investment in technology in education in India, even in the private universities.

As a business, what is the single largest challenge for you in India?
I think the challenge is to come to grits with the scale and economics of the market. It is about providing quality education at affordable prices to a large number of people. We are willing to serve not only those at the bottom of the pyramid, but also consumers in metros, Tier-I and Tier-II cities. Also, it would be helpful to tear apart the principle of whether education space is an activity legitimate for commercial organisations to make a profit. That is one change that India can probably bring in.

Source: The Economic Times, January 19, 2011

Pearson's TutorVista deal one of the biggest in Indian education sector

In one of the biggest acquisitions in the Indian education sector, UK-based publishing house, Pearson, has acquired a majority stake in TutorVista, a Bangalore-based online education services company. Pearson will pay Rs. 577 crore (Rs. 5.77 billion) to increase its holding to 76%, valuing the five year-old company at Rs. 960 crore (Rs. 9.6 billion). Pearson had bought 16% in TutorVista in 2009 for Rs. 54 crore (Rs. 540 million).

The deal, announced on Tuesday, will provide complete exits to the other equity investors in the firm Sequoia Capital India, Lightspeeed Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and education major Manipal Group-who together contributed to the total funding of US$ 33 million raised by the firm over the last five years.

"At close to 7x returns, this would rate as one of the very best seed investments in India," said K.P. Balaraj, Managing Director of Sequoia Capital India, which put in over US$ 10 million in the firm. Pearson will also acquire an additional 4% of the equity by buying out shares of minority shareholders," according to Krishnan Ganesh, founder of TutorVista.

"Pearson will ultimately own 80% of the company that will function as an independent entity with the balance 20% owned by promoters and the management team," he added. Ganesh and co-founder Meena Ganesh will retain two seats on the TutorVista board that will include three directors from Pearson.

Set up in 2005, TutorVista provides online tutoring services to about 10,000 students each month. It uses Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) and online whiteboards to connect instructors in India with school and college students, mostly in North America. In tandem with the Manipal Group, the company also provides curriculum design, teacher training, technology solutions and school administration services to 11 schools across India. "While the Manipal Group has exited from the company, we can continue to use the brand name in our K-12 school services for five years," said Ganesh. The Indian firm will now retail the broad range of Pearson products across the country.

Source: The Economic Times, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New IITs hit by poor infrastructure: HRD Minister

The eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) that were permitted to set up in 2008 do not have the necessary infrastructure and are not up to the mark making it difficult for the country's prestigious institutions to retain faculty, said Kapil Sibal, Minister for HRD, Science and Technology and Telecom.

The Minister blamed the state governments for not allotting the required land for setting up permanent campuses for these institutions. "These new IITs are functioning in temporary campuses and unable to attract new faculties. Due to the same reason we are finding it difficult to retain faculties. We need commitment from state governments for at least 500 acres of land without any liabilities attached to it," Sibal said on the sidelines of Geospatial World Forum which began in Hyderabad today. The ministry started these new IITs three years ago. Each institution should have at least 90 teachers from all disciplines. According to reports most of the institutions do not have the required number of teaching staff.

According to the Minister, these new IITs are yet to get permanent campuses. In some states like Andhra Pradesh, where land has been allotted, building and other infrastructure is not in place yet. Sibal said the ministry is holding talks with respective State Governments on the issue of land allocation. "It is not only the IITs which are suffering. Even the new Central universities announced by the Centre are finding it difficult to get land in states," Sibal told reporters.

In 2008, the Union Ministry of HRD had announced setting up eight new IITs and seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) along with 30 Central and 'world class universities' in the country. The new IITs have come up in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), January 18, 2011

TeamLease to set up vocational education university in Gujarat

Staffing company TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd. announced on Monday it is setting up a vocational education university in Gujarat to help plug an increasing skill gap in India's labour force. This comes after the Union government recently announced its intention to set up a national vocational education framework to cater to millions of students who cannot, or do not, take up higher education.

TeamLease has entered into an agreement with the Gujarat government to set up TeamLease University (TLU), comprising 22 community colleges across the state. Though there are several skill training institutes in the country, this will be the first university for vocational education. "We have a very small vocational training sector in India.
Only 5% of students go for vocational training while the number is nearly 80-90% in developed countries," said Pawan Agarwal, a civil servant and author of the book, Indian Higher Education: Envisioning the Future. "While a direct comparison doesn't make sense because agriculture is a dominant occupation in India, the difference is still very significant."

While developed countries give a lot of focus to vocational education, a lack of sufficient skilled labour is a major worry in India, the second-fastest growing major economy. According to data available with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the country has around 7,500 technical institutes for higher education and only 2,500 polytechnic institutes. "A large number of students in countries like the US and Singapore go for vocational education. Perhaps, India needs to do that as skill is very important while landing a job," said Mona Mourshed, Partner (Education), at consulting firm McKinsey and Co. "Youth unemployability is a bigger problem than youth unemployment," said Gujarat's Principal Secretary (Education) Hasmukh Adhia, who signed the agreement on behalf of the state government.

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, TeamLease Services, said his company is adopting the university system because global experience shows that community colleges improve accessibility, increase inclusiveness, lower costs and create vertical mobility. "Community colleges in the US typically provide skill-based training and are integrated into the formal higher learning system. This has been successfully emulated elsewhere in the world in what is called 'short cycle higher education', that has a shorter duration, mobility into higher education, and is held in good regard, socially. In contrast, vocational training in India is being catered to by the unorganized training sector," said Agarwal.

TLU will offer what it calls an "associate degree", rather than a diploma, which will confer credits recognized by degree programmes. "After a student passes a diploma programme, he typically has to start afresh if he wants to pursue a degree. A student passing out of TLU's accounting technician course, on the other hand, will be able to join a B.Com. programme in the third year," said Sabharwal, although this will apply only in Gujarat for now. "When we look at expansion on the national level, going forward we will approach the UGC (University Grants Commission) so we can plug into their credit transfer system," he said. UGC is India's regulator for higher education.

Some institutes already offer associate degrees in India. Among them are Delhi's Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and a network of community colleges in Chennai run under the Indian Centre for Research and Development of Community Education. Each of TLU's 22 colleges will look at enrolling 300-700 students.

Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal recently announced plans for a vocational education framework for millions of students who either drop out of schools or don't pursue higher education for socio-economic reasons. While 220 million students pursue school education, fewer than 15 million take up higher education. The ministry has set up committees comprising experts from the information technology, telecom and automobile sectors to devise model curricula for vocational education in the relevant fields.

India pegged its unemployment rate at 9.4% in 2010, an increase of 1.2 percentage points over 2004-05, when the previous comprehensive survey was done.

Source: Mint, January 18, 2011

Lancet for joint action in education and health

The hopes of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of bringing medical education under the ambit of the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) received a boost from an independent global report by The Lancet Commission. The ministry has been locked in a turf battle with the health and law ministries over the ambit of the proposed regulator.

Sources said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been appreciative of the suggested framework of the NCHER. However, despite the merits of the framework proposed by the ministry-appointed taskforce, the Prime Minister is understood to have suggested further consultation with stakeholders like the law and health ministries. The MHRD appointed NCHER taskforce is expected to hold consultations with the other ministries.

In this context, the Lancet Commission’s report "Education of Heath Professionals For the 21st Century" serves to strengthen the argument made by the NCHER taskforce. The report clearly calls for aligning national efforts through joint planning in the education and health sectors. It has suggested engaging all stakeholders in the reform process and developing global collaborative networks for mutual strengthening. It has suggested establishment of joint planning mechanisms in every country to engage key stakeholders, especially the ministries of education and health, professional associations, an the academic community, to overcome fragmentation by assessment of national conditions, setting priorities, shaping policies, tracking change and harmonising the supply and demand for health professionals to meet the health needs of the population.

The ministries of human resource development, health and law are caught in a turf war, with each having drafted bills to regulate respective professional education. The taskforce set up by the MHRD has drafted a bill for establishing the NCHER, which would replace all existing regulatory bodies in various disciplines like medical, engineering, legal and other professions. Agriculture, which is a state subject, has not been brought under the proposed overarching regulator. The health ministry has refused to give up medical education. It has taken refuge in the announcement made in the President’s Address to argue that medical education can’t be brought under the NCHER.

Source: The Economic Times, January 18, 2011

Pearson snaps up 76% in TutorVista; invests another US$ 127 million

British media group Pearson Plc is acquiring Bangalore-based education services firm TutorVista Global Pvt. Ltd. by increasing its stake to 76% for US$ 127 million. Pearson had picked up around a 17% stake in TutorVista in June 2009 and with this deal has invested a total of around US$ 139 million in the firm. The current deal involves Pearson picking up another 59% stake for US$ 127 million, valuing the six year old company at US$ 215.24 million (nearly Rs 10 billion).

The company, founded by serial entrepreneur K. Ganesh, had attracted interest from a host a private equity majors in round where it was expected to raise US$ 50 million. TutorVista has raised venture funding from investors like Sequoia Capital India and Lightspeed venture partners, and later also attracted strategic investors like Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) besides Pearson. These investors hold 55% stake in TutorVista while Ganesh and his management with stock options hold the rest. TutorVista holding entity had so far raised US$ 38 million in its rounds of venture funding.

TutorVista was founded in 2005 as an online tutoring firm and has since then expanded its presence across the value chain. It provides digital content and technology platforms to private and government schools under long term contracts currently serving 3,300 classrooms. Its online tutoring business reaches 10,000 students per month. TutorVista also has test preparation and tuition business, where it operates a network of 60 centres. It also provides services like curriculum design, teacher training, technology solutions and school administration services to K-12 schools.

Pearson expects the acquisition to enhance Pearson’s adjusted earnings per share and return on invested capital in 2012, its first full year. "TutorVista is an innovative and effective education company that we have worked with and respected for several years. This acquisition – which we believe is the largest transaction in education in India by any company – signals our excitement about the vitality of India’s education sector," said Marjorie Scardino, Pearson's chief executive.

Source:, January 18, 2011

QInvest picks up stake in education company FIIT-JEE

QInvest, Qatar’s leading investment bank, has acquired a stake in FIIT-JEE Ltd., India’s leading test preparation company for engineering and medical entrance examinations. Neither the acquisition cost nor the stake acquired is disclosed. VCCircle had recently reported that the Delhi-headquartered company was raising another round of private equity including a partial stake sale by promoters. In July 2009, the company had raised Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) from Matrix Partners.

FIIT-JEE was founded in 1992 by Dinesh Kumar Goel initially to train students for competitive entrance examinations for prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Currently, the company has over 30,000 students enrolled in its coaching programs across 50 centers and 35 integrated school programs in India and the Middle East. FIIT-JEE recently expanded its programs to include training for SAT, Olympiads and National Talent Search Examination (NTSE), a national level scholarship program in India to identify and nurture talented students.

Commenting on the deal, Dinesh Kumar Goel, Chairman of FIIT-JEE, said: "Partnering with QInvest will help FIIT-JEE establish a stronger presence in the Middle East." Anuj Khanna, Head of Investment Management at QInvest, said: "The test preparation market in India is estimated to be approximately US$ 2 billion and is growing at a rate of 15-20%."

This is the third deal of QInvest in India. In February 2010, Qinvest picked up 25% in investment banking and broking firm Ambit Corporate Finance for Rs". 250 crore (Rs. 2.5 billion). In November 2010, Asian Business Exhibition & Conferences Ltd (ABECL) raised an undisclosed amount in exchange for 28% stake from QInvest.

Source:, January 18, 2011

Deoband head has MBA, is pro-modern education

Maulana Gulam Mohammad Vastanvi, a cleric who holds an MBA from Maharashtra and has been feted for introducing modern education at a madarsa in Akkalkuwa in Nandurbar, has been elected Vice-Chancellor of Dar-ul- Uloom Deoband. Vastanvi was selected on January 10 after the death of Maulana Marghoob Rahman, who was Mohtamim (vice-chancellor) of the institution for 30 years.

For the first time in the 200 years of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, a Gujarati has taken the top post. Vastanvi belongs to Vastan village in Surat district and studied at a seminary at Tadkeshwar near Kim. He got his Aalim and Faazil degrees from the Tadkeshwar seminary itself. Born and brought up in the tribal-dominated and economically backward area of the state, Vastanvi chose to work in tribal areas of Maharashtra. After completing his studies, the cleric taught at Kantharia for nearly a decade before setting up the reputed Jamia Islamia Ishaat-ul-Uloom at Akkalkuwa in Maharashtras Nandurbar district.

The Jamia in Akkalkuwa offers various courses in engineering, medicine, pharmacy and education apart from other regular and short-term courses. The introduction of modern education was Vastanvi's initiative. The model has been replicated in other parts of Maharashtra. The science stream has recently been introduced in Jamia's associated centre in Kosamba in south Gujarat. For these efforts, Vastanvi was also given "Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad " Award by the Maharashtra government.

Having bagged one of the most respected posts among Islamic clerics, Vastanvi said: "It's a great opportunity for me to work for a most respected institution. It is a proud moment for a Gujarati too as for the first time a Gujarati has become Vice-Chancellor of Dar-ul-Uloom. Maulana Marghoob Rahman had worked for the Dar-ul-Uloom for 30 long years and keeping his contributions in mind, I will work for the institute," he added.

Vastanvi's election was celebrated in Tadkeshwar during his recent visit to the village where he studied. Several Islamic clerics from the region and villagers of all faiths attended his felicitation.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), January 18, 2011

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