Thursday, March 31, 2011

High-tech visas help fund scholarships, anti-fraud

A group that backs a visa program designed to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the US reports that some of the approximately US$ 3 billion in visa fees paid by employers has gone to science and math scholarships, US worker training and anti-fraud activities. A report issued this week by the National Foundation for American Policy points to the use of fees for such programs as a reason to maintain the visa program. The foundation supports policies allowing businesses to hire foreign workers.

The money has paid for 58,000 student scholarships distributed by the National Science Foundation and for 100,000 US workers to get training through the Labor Department, says the report. Some opponents claim the visas cost Americans jobs. H-1B visas allow foreigners to work in the United States. The visas are temporary, good for up to six years and can lead to a permanent residency permit, known as a green card, if an employer sponsors the worker.

Businesses maintain they are important for bringing needed skills that cannot be found in the US and are necessary because waits for green cards, which provide legal residency, are too long. "In addition to being required to pay professionals on H-1B visas the same wage as a comparable US worker, the H1-B fees, the legal costs, the staff time and the uncertainty of the immigration process demonstrate the employers really need these individuals and they're complementing the US workforce rather than taking jobs from US workers,'' said Stuart Anderson, the foundation's Executive Director.

The organization's report was issued the same week a House of Representatives subcommittee plans a hearing on the H1-B visas. It is one in a series that the subcommittee has had about immigration as Republicans in the majority try to build support for tougher immigration enforcement amid the slumping US economy and continued high unemployment rates.

Other hearings have covered the need for a system that can check whether a person is working legally in the US, the Obama administration's preference for auditing employers who hire illegal immigrants rather than conducting more expensive raids and on whether immigrants are taking jobs from American minorities.

According to Anderson's report, businesses that use visas have paid $2.3 billion in scholarship/work training fees and more than $700 million in anti-fraud fees. They also pay visa adjudication fees, can pay fees to get the visa processed more efficiently, legal fees and costs associated with paperwork for dependent family of the worker.

H-1Bs have been criticized as allowing employers to replace American workers with cheaper employees. Thursday's hearing was expected to include discussion of fraud problems in the H-1B program. High-tech companies have lobbied heavily for limiting restrictions on H-1B visas and increasing the numbers available.

Source: The Economic Times, March 31, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New 'quality' test for medical students

India will soon have two new examinations for medical students - one each for undergraduate and postgraduate students. From 2013, Medical Council of India (MCI) has proposed the introduction of Indian Medical Graduate (IMG) degree - a national examination to enhance credibility quotient, "similar to an ISI mark, guaranteeing quality".

This test will take place two months after an UG student appears for the MBBS examination. MCI governing body chief Dr. S.K. Sarin on Tuesday said that this examination would be voluntary and any UG student can appear for it between 2013 and 2016. Plans are afoot to make it mandatory for all UG students from 2017.

MCI also recommended the introduction of a Master of Medicine (MMed) examination - a two-year course after MBBS - for PG students. As per the proposal, doctors, who obtain the MMed degree, will become a specialist in any field they want. These PG students will be trained mainly to enhance clinical skills rather than basic research. Those opting for MMed can also choose to do a six-month rural stint within that two-year timeframe. MMed degree-holders will get an additional 5% marks when they apply for a doctor of medicine (MD) or master of surgery (MS) degree. "Now, students, at times, miss a PG seat for MS or MD for only one mark. This additional 5% marks will give them an added advantage," Dr. Sarin said.

MCI is also giving utmost importance to the one-year compulsory internship that students do after they appear for the MBBS examination. For the first time, students will be graded on how they perform during their internship. Almost 50% of their MBBS marks will be on the internship, which will be added to their IMG theory score.

At present, there is no evaluation to figure out if MBBS students take their year-long internship programme seriously. Most students utilize the time to prepare for their PG examination.

Source: The Times of India, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

India’s Ivy League to face quality audit every 5 years, to enjoy special powers

India’s own Ivy League — the proposed Navaratna Universities — will enjoy a set of special privileges, including the power to penalise non-performing faculty members. To ensure adherrence of these varsities to exemplary standards, their special status will be reviewed every five years by the government and statutory bodies like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). According to the first draft prepared by the government, the selection of these Navaratna universities will be made from the University Grants Commission (UGC)-supported universities after going through strict set of parametres for determining excellence.

These criteria pertain to ranking of institutions by accrediting agencies, quality of teaching, programmes and courses and distinction in research. "Though the number of universities that will become Navaratna is not yet decided, it is proposed that they should be reselected and reviewed every five years. There would be a broad list of UGC-supported institutes first and they would then be short listed," said an official in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The ministry had set up a panel chaired by Seyed Hasnain, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad, to look at the way these universities would be selected and shaped. While selecting these universities, their infrastructure, corpus grants, student profiles and peer recognition will also be taken into account. The audit of the Navaratna universities will be carried out by a team of auditors from the CAG list for the first five years.

This means that during the initial years they will remain outside the scope of CAG’s direct audit. Interestingly, there would also be a penalty for non-performing faculty members unlike the other universities in the country wherein the increments of non-performing staff and faculty will be withheld.

Just like the Navaratna PSUs, these universities will also get autonomy to compete in the global market and also help in curbing student migration to other countries for pursuing higher education.

The eight Ivy League institutions in the US are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. Similarly, Germany and Australia also have categorised their top institutions separately. Germany has nine Universities of Excellence while Australia has Group-8 comprising its top eight universities.

Moreover, the Navaratna universities will be free to start any programme of studies and invite teachers from all over the world. In January, HRD minister Kapil Sibal had said that these universities will be free from the shackles of government control which would be achieved by measures including generous financial support and access to external funding. "We are working on the concept of having Navaratna universities or an Indian Ivy League. We intend to nurture these select universities, like the public sector Navaratnas, by generous financial support, freedom in accessing external funding and total autonomy so as to free them from the shackles of government control," Sibal had said.

Source: Financial Express, March 28, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

IIM-A hikes fees for PGP courses by 5.5 per cent

The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, (IIM-A) has decided to increase fees for its flagship Post Graduate Programme (PGP) in Management and also for Agri-Business Management by 5.5 per cent from the next academic year. With today's decision, the course fees for the PGP and Post Graduate Programme for Executives (PGPX) would approximately be around Rs. 1.45 million and Rs. 2.1 million respectively.

The decision on the fee hike was taken at a meeting of the IIM-A Board of Governors held in Ahmedabad. "The board has decided to increase fees for the PGP courses in management and Agri-Business management by 5.5 per cent," IIM-A Director Samir Barua told PTI. "The course fee for the Post graduate Programme for Executives (PGPX) has also been hiked by five per cent," he said, adding the Board has approved the increase in fees that would be implemented from the next year for the batch of 2011-13.

Last year also, the IIM-A had hiked the course fees for its flagship PGP in management and agri-business management by 9.6 per cent. Barua said that during the meeting the proposal for reducing the number of members in the Board from 25 to 15 was also approved.

With this decision, the central and state government will have two members each on the IIM-A governing council instead of four members each. Earlier, two members each were directly appointed while two each nominated by the central and the state government. "The decision would now be sent to the government for ratification," Barua added.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

HRD Minister calls for mobility of students in university system

The University system must allow mobility to students. The University system needs to rise up from the current approach of limiting itself to teaching in specific streams such as arts and commerce as also limiting students to availing courses that are available only in their institution. This was stated by Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource, while inaugurating a Conference of Vice Chancellors of Central and State Universities in New Delhi today.

Sibal went on to say that the power of the communication revolution taking place in the country must be utilised so that a student in one university can access a course he/she would like to study from another university. He also wondered as to why, when everything in nature is cross disciplinary, in academics there is still debate regarding this issue. Multi-disciplinary study and research will result in creativity, he added.

The minister also underlined the need for uniformity in access to knowledge. He said that you must create a financial, social, economic structure which facilitates access to students. He said that the time has come that confidence in the academic system is shown and that the academic system should also show confidence in itself.

Sibal, during his address, pointed out that enormous interest is being expressed by foreign universities in collaborating with Indian universities or setting up their institutions here. He also said that the general message he got from foreign institutions was that the large student strength in India attracts them to come here, especially for undertaking research.

The Conference of the Vice-Chancellors is being organized in the backdrop of the progress made during the last Five-Years with regard to expansion, inclusion and excellence in higher education and the nature of processes which informed the higher education reform. The two-fold agenda for the Conference is:

  1. to identify development issues, challenges and reform agenda in higher education for the 12th Five-Year Plan period; and
  2. to provide inputs for policy planning and to carry forward the reform process into the 12th Five-Year Plan period.

The overriding theme of the Conference is “University and Society”. The main purpose of the Conference is to come out with inputs for policy planning and development strategies that need to be put in place for making higher education relevant to the present as well as the future needs of our society at large. In all, the following thematic areas have been identified for facilitating discussion during the Conference:

1. Access, Equity, Engagement and Outcome;
2. Content and Quality;
3. Research and Innovation;
4. Faculty Development and Inter-University Resource Sharing;
5. Internationalization in Higher Education;
6. Alternative Modes of Delivery and Higher Education;
7. Models of Financing; and
8. Good Governance

It is proposed to hold eight parallel Technical Sessions devoted to each of the thematic areas in order to come out with specific inputs which will need into the design and implementation of reform programmes during the 12th Plan.

Sam Pitroda, Advisor, Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovation to the Prime Minister, Ms. Vibha Puri Das, Secretary (Higher Education), Prof. Ved Prakash, acting Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC) addressed the gathering, Vice Chancellors from the central and State Universities and other senior officials of the Ministry of HRD were also present.

Source: Press Trust of India, Government of India, March 25, 2011

Academia must come out of past to create future: HRD Minister

Coming down heavily on Vice Chancellors being appointed by political establishments, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said the educational system in the country would thrive only if such practices are brought to an end. Sibal also said he suspected that the academia in India has been "wallowing in the past" and asked them to come out of that to create a future for the students.

"Vice Chancellors are appointed at the instance of political establishment. This must end. If we really want our system to thrive, then academic world should be left free to its own devices in the hope that you create a future for the country," Sibal told Vice Chancellors of Universities across the country. He was addressing them after inaugurating a Vice Chancellors' conference in New Delhi today.

The HRD Minister, who has been pushing for reforms in the Higher Education sector, batted for transparency and accountability in the system where students should also be allowed to assess teachers. "My suspicion is our academia has been wallowing in the past. That may not be under your control...but you need to get out of that to create a future..this is a biggest challenge you face," he said.

Sibal said universities need to be more effervescent, energetic and creative to contribute to the future. "Germination of ideas take place through the university system. If the university system is not effervescent, energetic, creative, then you would be relegated to the knowledge of the past. There will be nothing for you to contribute to the creation of the future," he said.

Making a critical analysis of the present higher education system, he said vice chancellors have the onerous responsibility of nurturing the students and building "societal leadership". Stressing for a fundamental shift in the higher education set up, Sibal envisioned an atmosphere that allows greater student mobility and an academic world that has the freedom to chart its own future.

Sam Pitroda, Advisor to Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, stressed that the Government must "act now" in carrying forward the reforms process in the higher education sector "as there has been no progress in this regard since the last five years".

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 25, 2011

Five Indian American win Soros Fellowship for 2011

Five Indian American students have won the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships, worth $90,000 for over two years for New Americans. Samir Mayekar, Aadel Chaudhuri, Deepa Galaiya, Vivek Ramaswamy and Shankar Sarkar are the recipients of the fellowship.

Mayekar, of Houston, worked on the Obama for America campaign as its budget manager, managing about $600 million in campaign contributions and assisted the chief financial officer in operating the first major presidential campaign to exist outside the public financing system. After Obama's victory, he joined the transition team and eventually served as National Security Director in the White House's Presidential Personnel Office, where he managed the selection process for presidential appointees at all national security agencies. Presently, he is the deputy chief of staff at the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Chaudhuri, 28, born in California and currently finishing his Ph.D. in biology at California Institute of Technology, focuses his research on small RNAs in cancer and the immune system, and has been supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Research Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate research fellowship. As an undergraduate at MIT, Chaudhuri completed two BS degrees, in electrical engineering and computer science, and biology.

Galaiya, 24, is currently on a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellowship. Ramaswamy, 25, of Cincinnati, graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard in 2007, majoring in biology. He was Chairman of the Harvard Political Union and served as one of three undergraduates chosen for an advisory board to select the current president of Harvard.

Sarkar, 25, born in Morristown, New Jersey, had attended Harvard, where he earned undergraduate degrees in applied mathematics and statistics and won election to Phi Beta Kappa. In India, he has worked as a researcher on educational census, gender empowerment, and anti-sex trafficking projects with local NGOs.

Each year, 30 students are chosen for the prestigious awards. The Soros, who are Hungarian immigrants, established the awards in 1997 with a trust of $50 million, to highlight the contributions of new immigrants to the country. The fellowships are given to students pursuing graduate degrees and are unrestricted with regards to field or university; this year's 30 fellows were chosen from more than 1,000 applicants.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 25, 2011

IIIT to break online language barrier

The digital divide between Indian languages will be a thing of past soon as the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad, is all set to launch a machine translation system which enables the users to convert the content from one language to another. To begin with, the IIIT is planning to launch a machine translation system for four pairs of Indian languages for internet users on March 30. Under the project named "Sampark" (meaning contact), the system will enable users to convert the available content from Hindi to Punjabi, Punjabi to Hindi, Urdu to Hindi, and Telugu to Tamil.

"In fact, we are working on 18 pairs of languages. Four more pairs will be added in another 3-4 months and the entire set will be ready in about a year or so," Rajeev Sangal, Director, IIIT told TOI on Thursday. Dipti Misra Sharma, project in-charge, said that the system translation from Punjabi to Hindi and Hindi to Punjabi has been worked out there are a few corners that are required to be smoothened in putting across the Hindi text into Urdu and Tamil into Telugu.

Another expert Rahmat Yousuf Zai, who is working on Urdu-Hindi and Hindi-Urdu translation, opined that there would be some problems of syntax or spelling in the beginning. "Urdu has more complex spelling system than Hindi. Therefore, when Urdu words are read by the machine it could misspell some of them. But all these could be sorted with feedback and suggestions from the users," he added.

On shortlisting of 18 pairs of languages Sharma said, there are 122 languages spoken in India with 234 others described as mother tongues or dialects. Of these, the state has chosen 22 as scheduled languages that covers 96 per cent of population in the country. The combined population of Hindi and Urdu speakers is the fourth largest in the world, she said. The other major linguistic groups are Bengali, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil.

The machine translation of the first four pairs of languages will be launched by A P J Abdul Kalam, former President of India, during the opening of World Wide Web international conference in the city on March 30.

Source: The Economic Times, March 25, 2011

AICTE lowers processing fee for private institutions

The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has reduced the amount of processing fee and money to be deposited by new and existing institutions for the year 2011-12. According to the new fee structure, all technical institutions will have to pay a processing fee of Rs. 500,00 compared with Rs. 750,000 earlier. The fee for minority institutions, institutions set up exclusively for women and those set up in the hilly areas of the North-east has also been reduced. These institutions will now have to pay Rs. 350,000 compared with Rs. 500,000 last year.

The decision was taken at a recent AICTE meeting "in light of representation received from the various associations and for the benefit of technical institutions at large". Most private technical institutions are relieved with the lowering of fee. "We are very happy with AICTE's decision, and will now go ahead with our plans. To begin with, this year we plan to set up an institute in Hyderabad," Dr. A. M. Sherry, Chairman, IMT Group of Institutions, told Business Line.

Dr. H.C. Chaturvedi, Chairman, BIMTECH, welcomed the lowering of fee but wanted AICTE to change the norms regarding fixed deposits. "It is not right for a statutory body to ask us for FDs in its name and even keep the interest earned on it. We will be taking up the matter with the Ministry of Human Resource Development shortly," he said. According to the revised fee structure, posted on AICTE's website, engineering and technology institutions offering the post-graduate diploma and degrees will now have to pay Rs. 3.5 million compared with Rs. 9 million earlier. The fee for exclusive minority, women and NE hilly area institutions has also been reduced to Rs. 2.8 million from Rs. 7.5 million earlier.

Source: Business Line, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bill passed to provide IIT status to 8 institutes, BHU

The Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) today passed a bill to provide status of IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) to eight new institutes and upgrade BHU's Institute of Technology into IIT with government asserting that steps were being taken to address shortage of faculty and quality of higher education. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal , while piloting the bill, also said the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) would not be bifurcated in the process of the giving IIT status to its Institute of Technology.

The Bill seeks to add eight new institutes at Bhubaneshwar, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhour, Mandi, Patna and Ropar as IITs and integrate the Institute of Technology, BHU within the ambit of the Act. All the entities will also be declared as institutions of national importance.

The Bill was approved by voice vote amidst protest by BSP members who feared that the new legislation would distort the existing structure of the BHU, which was established by freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malviya . Leaders from SP also demanded that the present status of the BHU should be maintained. "We will not let down Madan Mohan Malviya...We have no interest in bifurcating the BHU," Sibal said, adding that the vice-chancellor of the BHU would continue to be vice-chairman of the board of governors of the IIT. The amendments to the Act, he said, were needed to enable the new IITs to award degrees to students.

Referring to the issue of shortage of faculty, the Minister said, the government proposed to introduce post-graduate courses in the IITs and connect all institutes with the National Knowledge Network to enable students to pursue courses with the help of teachers in other institutes. He said there was a shortage of 1,216 teachers in old IITs and 1,516 teachers in new IITs as against the authorised strength of 4,105 and 4,765 respectively.

Pointing out that government does not have resources to set up large number of institutes of higher learning in the country, Sibal said there was a need to allow foreign universities and encourage Public Private Partnership (PPP) module. The issues, he said, were being considered by the Standing Committee of Parliament.

Sibal said the country needed 1,000 more universities and 45,000 more colleges in the next decade to meet the requirement of higher education.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 24, 2011

Government plans Rs. 1 billion ad campaign to promote vocational education

The government is expected to launch a Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) advertising campaign to popularize vocational education, which is considered less prestigious, and prepare candidates for jobs in industries that are facing a shortage of skilled workers. Ads would be placed in print, television and on the internet --- particularly social networking websites --- to encourage youngsters to train to become plumbers and automobile technicians, among other things, said Dilip Chenoy, Managing Director at National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The government aims to impart such skills to around 500 million people by 2020.

India's automobile sector alone faces a shortage of 300,000 skilled workers, according to a KPMG survey released last year. Vocational education would bring significant change in the job market by increasing employment and raising productivity, said Narayanan Ramaswamy, Executive Director (Education) at KPMG. Another NSDC official said people assume vocational education is for poor students and may not be rewarding enough. This attitude needs to change, he said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

NSDC is a public-private partnership between the Central government and industry lobbies such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM). "Our partners have indicated the need to adopt a communication medium to improve the acceptability (of vocational education)," Chenoy said.

The ad campaign is likely to start by September, said the anonymous NSDC official mentioned above. NSDC is yet to award the contract for the campaign, but has met at least three advertising agencies. Their presentations have been forwarded to the Prime Minister's Skill Development Council, he said. He said youngsters spend a lot of time on social media, or websites such as Facebook, Orkut and Twitter, and advertising on these websites would be particularly useful in catching their attention.

"Any effort to reach out to the masses needs a sustained campaign," said Sudhir Sahni, President, Advertisement at the agency Ogilvy and Mather. He said his company has given a presentation on the subject. "Now the number of institutes offering vocational education is more than students going there. So it's a supply-demand issue --- maybe because people don't think skill education is exciting or fruitful," said Sahni, who declined to give details of the proposal. A campaign can change the attitude and tell people that vocational education can provide them better employment than the usual academic line, he said.

Though NSDC has signed agreements with at least 23 organizations to promote skill development across India, less than 25,000 students have received training in the last one year, according to government data.

Source: Mint, March 24, 2011

US Tri Valley University visa scam tip of an iceberg, says probe report

A visa scam at Tri Valley University (TVU) in California, that has affected hundreds of Indian students, is just the tip of an iceberg and a large number of such institutes exist in the US, a probe report here has said. "Other colleges --- most of them unaccredited --- exploit byzantine federal regulations, enrolling almost exclusively foreign students and charging them upward of $ 3,000 for a chance to work legally in the US," said the report released by Chronicle of Higher Education.

Such educational institute flourish in California and Virginia, where regulations are lax, and many of their practises --- for instance, holding some classes on only three weekends per semester --- are unconventional, to say the least, the report added. "These colleges usher in thousands of foreign students and generate millions of dollars in profits because they have the power, bestowed by the US government, to help students get visas," it said, adding while these institutions are well-known among Indian students looking to work full-time, they have managed to go mostly unnoticed in the US.

In more than a dozen interviews to Chronicle, students at these institutions say that an American degree, any American degree, will help them get a better job or earn a promotion back home, the report said. "They say they choose these unaccredited colleges for their flexibility, their low cost, academic quality and because of the recommendations of other students from their home region. In online forums, students are more blunt: What they actually talk about is who will let them work 'from Day 1'," it said.

According to the report, Homeland-security officials say they are not blind to the existence of other Tri-Valleys, although they wouldn't comment on, or even confirm, current investigations. "They concede that regulations governing foreign-student employment are vulnerable to exploitation. These areas are ripe for abuse," said a top administrator with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which monitors 10,300 schools and colleges that grant visa documents.

"We look very closely," it said. "Officials say that the agency is doing the best it can, given its resources and authority. An increase in Sevis fees --- the system is entirely self-financed --- will support the creation of a new enforcement unit focused solely on school and college violations and allow for the creation of a 60-person team of regionally based liaisons to act as contacts and more closely monitor colleges on the ground," the report said.

According to a federal complaint filed in a California court in January, the TVU had helped foreign nationals, mostly Indians, illegally acquire immigration status. The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals. The university was closed on charges of massive visa fraud.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 24, 2011

MHRD to launch survey on state of higher education

Faced with inadequate information on the subject, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will, for the first time in more than 60 years, launch a massive survey on the state of higher education in the country. The task has been given to the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) and is likely to be completed in a year's time.

"Higher education in the country is plagued by lack of reliable data. It has hampered policy initiatives that need to be taken. For instance, the data on Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) does not get updated properly taking into account the private sectors increasing intervention in higher education," an official said.

The decision to undertake the mammoth exercise was taken by a task force headed by a senior HRD official. The collection of data is expected to begin shortly and NUEPA would seek the help of educational institutions throughout the country to carry out the survey.

The aim of the survey is to provide adequate and reliable data on higher education. The survey intends to cover all institutions of higher education both public and private in the country. These include all universities, including deemed universities, institutions of national importance and other institutions of university level, general and professional / technical including engineering, medical, dental, veterinary, agriculture, computer, management, law, pharmacy, teacher training, etc. Even colleges and institutions that offer post-secondary education like polytechnics will be included in the survey.

"It would give us a real picture of higher education in the country," the official said. This exercise would be loosely based on the model of survey of elementary education that is carried out by NUEPA every year. "Once we have the basic data, the plan is to update it annually just the way it is done for elementary education," the official said. The survey would collect data on basic profile of institutions like management, affiliation status, courses offered, and income and expenditure of the institutions, besides the data on enrolment and faculty.

Source: The Times of India, March 24, 2011

Post-study, work no longer option in UK

Tougher entry criteria, limits on work entitlements and the closure of the post-study route are among the latest changes to the UK student visa system announced on Tuesday. UK Border Agency Regional Director Chris Dix on Wednesday said students going to the UK for a degree will no longer be allowed a two-year timeline to look for job opportunities after their course ends. This is one of the major changes to the UK immigration policy. The Tier-I (post-study work) route will be closed from April 2012.

Dix said so far students had free access to the labour market for two years after their course ended and it allowed them to do low-skilled jobs. According to the new rules, only graduates with offers of skilled jobs from sponsoring employers will be able to stay on for work, provided the jobs match their skill-levels. Further, the salary offered by a company would have to be a minimum of £20,000 a year. Dix added, "The firm has to be registered to accept overseas workers in the Tier-II point system."

Overseas study specialist Amrit Sujan said, "The new rules are not likely to affect Indian students who go for the academic experience." But a foreign university representative in India said the new rules may have a negative impact. Also, the English language requirement has been changed to a higher level (from B1 to B2). This change will come into effect from April 6.

Source: The Times of India, March 24, 2011

US journal says more universities duping Indians

Tri-Valley University is only one of many dubious and unaccredited universities in the US that are duping foreign students — especially Indians — reported a leading US journal on higher education. The report was based on an investigation carried out after the TVU scam in January, involving Indian students who were trapped in the US, following the university getting implicated in immigration fraud charges.

The journal claimed the University of Northern Virginia, the International Technological University (ITU) and Herguan University were among those that had been following a TVU-like business model. But they are not known to be facing any federal action.

"These universities are names that kept cropping up in our investigation, and so caught our attention. The investigation raises questions about how strictly the federal government is being able to ensure the quality of institutions it allows to admit foreign students," Karin Fischer, one of the journal’s reporters, told HT.

The Washington DC-based Chronicle of Higher Education — the most widely read higher education publication in US academic circles — said in the report published this week that a combination of "lax" regulations and "chinks in the student visa system" were allowing these institutions to dupe students. The University of Northern Virginia claimed it was the most popular American university for foreign students, but was comfortable remaining largely unknown, according to the report.

"Dubious, non-accredited universities use loopholes in the rules to get permission from the authorities to admit foreign students, the journal said, adding that they falsely claimed that their credits were recognised by other accredited universities. "Genuine, accredited universities complained to us that their students were leaving for dubious institutions after arriving in the US," Fischer said.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Irish company picks 3 'partners' from IIM-Ahmedabad

Call it incubation of a different kind. Ireland-headquartered engineering company Ingersoll Rand (IR) has hired three students from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) as 'Entrepreneur Partners' for a period of two years. Usually, students get either placed in companies or start own ventures. With this experiment, IR plans to mentor the students and help them turn independent entrepreneurs who partner with the company to expand business at the end of two years.

The relationship is mutually beneficial. IR will get good talent. And, students who dream to become entrepreneurs but cannot afford huge capital investments get a solid launch pad. The graduates would be first exposed to the company's products and geographies in the first year and treated as employees with a fixed salary. In the second year, the pay will be variable and students are supposed to choose a vertical and start developing a business of their own based on the product offerings.

"I always wanted to run my own firm but was not sure about the venture. But this programme has given me the platform to work across sectors before deciding on my area of expertise. I will also be allowed to use the company's brand name and the mentoring will certainly help," says K. Hanuman, a post-graduate programme student of IIM-A's 2009-11 batch.

The company targets to create business lines worth Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) over the next three years, independently looked after by people like these graduates. To drive the results, IR wants to infuse entrepreneurial energy through a pilot project called 'Entrepreneurial Management Program'.

"The contract includes working in rotation at four main locations of IR in India in the first year. I will have to come up with a business plan in the last six months and if I come up with some solution related to IR products, my venture will be sponsored by IR. This is a unique opportunity for graduates who are looking at becoming entrepreneurs," says Sandeep Kumar Gupta, another student.

Source: The Times of India, March 23, 2011

UK cuts visas, Indians to be hit

In a move that will hit Indian and Chinese nationals, the British government Tuesday said it would cut the number of student visas for non-Europeans by up to 80,000 a year, saying the regime was being abused as an easy route to migration. It also announced steps to drastically cut the number of dependents students will be allowed to bring, while cracking down on bogus colleges and limiting the opportunities for students to stay on and work. Only those graduates with offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer will be allowed to stay.

There are some 34,000 Indian pursuing higher studies in the UK, according to Indian estimates. British estimates, which take sub-graduate studies into account, are over the 50,000 mark, the highest after Chinese.

The steps come in spite of concerns conveyed by New Delhi. Home secretary Theresa May told HT that the Indian government was as keen as the British to ensure the quality of education on offer. "They want students to be able to come to the UK but they also want it to be fair to students — they want them to be able to study in genuine courses."

The measures are part of the government’s resolve to bring down the overall non-EU immigrants from around 200,000 last year to "tens of thousands" by 2015. Universities have opposed the steps, which they fear will bring down the £40 billion (Rs. 30 trillion)-a-year income that foreign students bring.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 23, 2011

IIT-Madras, Lafarge to launch cement research project

The first joint project by French cement major Lafarge Group's research arm and the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) is expected to kick start soon, an official said here on Wednesday. Speaking to reporters, Revindra Gettu, professor at IIT-M's Department of Civil Engineering, said the research project will test the durability of concrete as a building material in different climatic conditions.

The cement major's research arm, Lafarge Research Centre, and IIT-M last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding, under which the IIT's civil engineering department set up a laboratory to carry out joint research programmes. Lafarge Research Centre has funded the laboratory to the tune of Rs.1.5 crore (Rs. 15 million) over a period of three years.

According to Prof. Gettu, the tests will be conducted on concrete in different parts of India to identify the carbonation and its effects on concrete in different atmospheric conditions. "Lafarge aims to improve the performance of concrete to address sustainable construction and global warming challenges. This is done through cutting-edge scientific research and forming partnerships with other institutes and organizations," said Pascal Casanova, head of Lafarge Group's Research and Development.

The French group has four cement plants in India - two in Chhattisgarh, and one grinding plant each in Jharkhand and West Bengal. Lafarge has also set up a gypsum plasterboard plant at Khushkhera in Rajasthan.

Source:, March 23, 2011

UK formally announces new restrictions on student visas

Britain is toughening its student visa rules, closing bogus colleges and turning away students who can't speak English well in a bid to reduce immigration, officials said on Tuesday. The clampdown could cut the number of foreign students and their dependents by about 100,000 people a year under the plan, Home Secretary Theresa May said. "You need to speak English to learn at our education establishments. If you can't, we won't give you a visa,'' she said.

The number of foreign students coming into the country have more than trebled in the last ten years and they now account for a far larger number of incoming population than those who apply as workers or family, May said. The minimum English proficiency for degree-level students will be raised and assessed with tests, although universities will be permitted to make their own assessments, May said.

Border Agency officers will also be given discretion to refuse entry to students who cannot speak English without an interpreter, or who are clearly below the minimum standard for university, May said. However, students who lack the required level of English for university will still be allowed to attend preparatory courses that help them progress to university.

The measures will also limit the amount of work students and fresh graduates can undertake. Students studying at private colleges will be barred from working, while those wishing to stay in the country after their studies can only do so if they find employment that pays at least 20,000 pounds (US$ 38,000) a year.

Source: The Economic Times, March 23, 2011

GMR Chairman pledges US$ 340 million for education

GMR Group Chairman Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao, a first-generation entrepreneur hailing from Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, on Tuesday pledged US$ 340 million (Rs. 1,540 crore), which is equivalent to his personal share in the infrastructure conglomerate, to improve education among the undeserved sections of the society. The move comes on a day when Warren Buffet, the billionaire Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, arrived on his maiden trip to India to promote philanthropy among the the country's richest. Rao has committed his funds to the group's charitable wing GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, which has a presence in India and abroad, focuses on education and vocational training for the underprivileged.

The 60-year-old G M Rao, who started as a jute trader three decades ago, went on to create a Rs. 5,000-crore (Rs. 50 billion) enterprise spread across energy, airports and roads. Rao joins the growing list of Indian industrialists who are creating endowments to support social causes. "I have always believed that we have a responsibility to give back to the society in which we thrive and we owe our success to," Rao said.

Last year, tech czar Azim Premji donated over Rs. 8,000 crore (Rs. 80 billion) by transferring a small part of his stake in Wipro to his foundation focused on improving primary education. Reliance Industries created a foundation to provide affordable healthcare and meaningful rural development in 2009. India's largest private sector firm set aside Rs. 500 crore (Rs. 5 billion) for this initiative.

Indian billionaires have ramped up their philanthropic work in recent past but still lag their western counterparts. A 2010 Bain & Co. report said that India's contribution to charity was just 0.6% of its GDP, while it was 2.2% in the US and 1.3% in the UK.

HCL founder Shiv Nadar gifted Rs. 580 crore (Rs. 5.8 billion) to his foundation that works to strengthen the country's education framework . While these new-generation entrepreneurs are ploughing back a part of their wealth for the society, traditional conglomerates such as Tatas and Godrejs have gifted some of their holdings to charitable trusts engaged with learning institutes and hospitals.

Source: The Times of India, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Private medical institutes to have campuses abroad

Private medical schools in India may soon be able to set up campuses abroad like their engineering and management counterparts under new regulations the Ministry of Health is planning. The ministry is proposing the regulations after several private medical institutions challenged the government and the Medical Council of India (MCI) legally, for rejecting proposed foreign campuses, top government sources have told HT.

The regulations are aimed at ensuring that there is no compromise in the quality of medical education offered by Indian institutions in campuses abroad, sources said. The health ministry has written to Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to seek their feedback on allowing Indian institutions to set up campuses abroad.

Rules of the MCI currently bar the automatic recognition of any medical degree earned outside the territory of India -even if offered by an institution headquartered in India. This means that degrees earned at the foreign campuses of Indian institutions are at par with foreign degrees. Students have to appear for and clear an MCI screening test before they can practice in India.

Institutions offering other streams of education --- such as management or engineering --- are however eligible to set up campuses abroad at present, based on rules and regulations they must follow. Deemed universities too are eligible to set up campuses abroad --- if they satisfy stringent new regulations introduced by the government in 2010. "There is a sense it is impractical today to have a blanket policy of non-recognition of medical degrees earned at campuses of Indian institutions abroad," a health ministry source said.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 22, 2011

UK to slash foreign student visas by 100,000 annually

British Home Secretary Theresa May would reportedly announce that the number of foreign student visas issued annually would be slashed by 100,000. May would also announce scores of measures to deal with fake colleges and tighten the rules, including restrictions on those wanting to study at below degree level, The Telegraph reports. The government would also reportedly cut down on a controversial scheme in half, which allows thousands of foreign graduates to stay on after completing their degree to look for work there.

The British government has reportedly planned to take such actions after it was revealed that one in seven foreign students in the country are studying in fake private colleges. Whitehall sources are of the opinion that the move, along with other measures like a tighter English language requirement, will cut the number of students arriving in the UK each year by 80,000. The paper quoted a Home Office spokeswoman as saying that the students' immigration has doubled in the last ten years, adding that most of them use the facility to work and not study in that country.

"This Government recognises the important contribution that international students make to the UK's economy, and to making our education system one of the best in the world. But it has become very apparent that the old student visa regime failed to control immigration and failed to protect legitimate students from poor quality colleges," she said. "Too much trust has been placed on largely unregulated colleges and too many people used to come as students but were primarily working, not studying. We want to refocus the system as a temporary route, available to only the brightest and best," the spokeswoman added.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 22, 2011

Higher Education Reforms: Top colleges to award own degrees

Top colleges in the country like St. Stephen's in Delhi and St. Xavier's in Kolkata may be allowed to give their own degrees if the recommendation of a committee set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is accepted. The ministry has in fact set up a panel to create a roadmap for implementing the recommendations of the Madhav Menon committee about autonomy in higher education --- which suggested that top colleges be allowed to give degrees --- and reports by committee of vice-chancellors on issues like centralized admission test.

On the issue of colleges awarding degrees, sources said: "It all depends on what the HRD committee thinks." The panel consists of the special secretary, two additional secretaries, the joint secretary, higher eduction, chairpersons of the UGC (University Grants Commission) and AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), and two members to be co-opted from the Menon and VCs' committee.

Earlier this month, the Menon panel had said there was a need for paradigm shift in the way higher education is conducted in the country. It said the office of the visitor for central universities be done away with. The powers of visitor --- in most cases it is the President --- should be vested with the chancellor of the central varsity. The committee also said that universities should review their functioning at the end of each decade. Already, the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) provides for review every 10 years.

The committee had also said that IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) be turned into universities. It said on the lines of the IIT Council, a similar council of vice-chancellors of central universities should be constituted. It also said that the practice of appointing bureaucrats to university positions should be discouraged.

The committee of VCs of Central universities had recommended a common entrance test for admission in postgraduate courses and M. Phil./Ph.D. across the 42 such varsities. Another panel on "Navratna Universities" has recommended direct funding from the Centre, freedom to fix faculty salary and student fee, withholding increment to non-performers, etc.

Source: The Times of India, March 22, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Globalisation of Indian CAs need of the hour: ICAI

Rapidly growing Indian economy and the strides taken by Indian firms to go global have thrown up the need for "globalisation of Indian accountants" to tap into growing opportunities, the President of the Indian Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) said on Saturday.

"India is growing at a rapid pace, a lot of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) is flowing into the country, Indian companies are setting offices abroad, acquiring firms and merging it to grow bigger and global. In the light of these developments, it is important that Indian accountants also globalise," ICAI President G. Ramaswamy said on sidelines of the Branch Audit meet organized by the Bangalore chapter of the Southern India Regional Council (SIRC) of the ICAI.

In order to achieve this, ICAI has tied up with many accounting institutes and it recently signed an MoU with the Canadian Institute for Chartered Accountants, he said. "We are also working with the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants," Ramaswamy said.

Talking about the growing opportunities for CAs, he said, "The IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) is expected to throw ample opportunities for CAs in India." The Institute has already trained around 2,607 members through a 100-hour intensive training programme that prepares CAs for adoption of the IFRS to meet the future requirement, he said.

Explaining the attractive remuneration on offer, he said the average entry level salary of Rs. 900,000 per annum is expected to scale up to Rs. 2 million in the next five years. "Last year during a campus recruitement programme organized by the Institute, three candidates barely in their early twenties were offered Rs. 2.1 million per annum for an international posting. For domestic posting, the best offer received was Rs. 1.5 million per annum," he said.

The ICAI has also set up an IFRS Implementation committee, which envisages involvement of a number of CAs in the implementation of IFRS across the countries, he said. "CAs are in huge demand, not only in the financial sector but also in BPOs, KPOs and software firms," Ramaswamy said.

Going forward with the implementation of the IFRS, a huge amount of outsourcing work is expected to come to India.
The ICAI has already entered into an agreement with the IFRS council of Japan for ousourcing of accounting work, he said, adding one of India's software majors is estimated to have hired 800 CAs in its BPO and around 2,000 overall.

Talking about various initiatives of ICAI, he said it had written to the Central Government to empower it to act against erring firms after suitably amending the relevant Act, to avert big coporate frauds like the Satyam scam. If empowered, the ICAI proposes action against firms in those cases in which there are continuous and repetitive acts of negligience, jeopardizing public interest or there is proven collusion in perpetration of a fraud, he said.

The ICAI, which is a statutory body established under the Chartered Accountants Act for regulation of the profession of CAs in India, is also contemplating measures for initiating changes in the disciplinary mechanism, including taking up public intererest cases on priority, he said.

In the current year, with a view to conclude ICAI disciplinary proceedings in the Satyam matter at its earliest (subject to parties approaching courts) a disciplinary committee has been set up exclusively for the same which would endeavour to complete the hearings and put it on a fast track mode against erring individual auditors, he said.

Source: The Economic Times, March 20, 2011

IIM-Bangalore ups fee for long-term courses

Holding back the fee hike for its flagship Post-graduate Programme in Management (PGP), the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) will increase next year's fee for two of its long-term programmes aimed at working professionals.

The fee for the one-year Executive Post-graduate Programme in Management (EPGP) will go up by Rs. 108,000 for the 2011 batch. The intensive programme designed for senior managers will come with a price tag of Rs. 2.055 million this year, and Rs. 2.15 million with family accommodation. Last year, the institute charged Rs. 1.87 million and Rs. 1.97 million respectively. This will be the first time that fees are being revised for the EPGP after it was launched in 2009.

"In the first two years, we retained the same fee structure. For the 2011 batch, the hike is unavoidable due to rising costs and increase in expenses to offer international immersion component," an IIM-B official said. Up to 75 candidates with 7 to 15 years of full-time work experience will be admitted for the next batch.

The B-school will also revise fee for its over-decade-old Post-graduate Programme in Software Enterprise Management, a hit among techies. The flexible course will cost Rs. 950,000 from 2011, Rs. 50,000 more than last year. At its board of governors meeting earlier this year, the B-school decided not to increase fee for the two-year Post-graduate Programme for 2011, but approved hikes for other long-duration courses.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 20, 2011

UK for sending its students to study science, tech in India

United Kingdom which has one of the world's most reputed educational institutions is also looking forward to send its students to study in India in the areas of science and technology and software development, British Council (India) Director Rob Lynes said today.

"One of the things I am keen to do is to get more students from the United Kingdom to India to study here because at the moment there aren't enough students coming from UK to study in India," Lynes, who is also the Minister (Cultural Affairs), told reporters on the sidelines of a programme which marked the launching of UK's first National Alumni Network in India by British Council in Hyderabad.

"There are fantastic universities, colleges and institutions in India and there are some partnerships between institutions in UK and India and as part of these research links we want to see that students from UK can take up the opportunity of coming here to study ..... for at least one term," he said adding, "We are hopeful in the coming years it will be a two-way flow of students between both the countries."

Lynes said students from UK can take up studies in the fields of science and technology, software development, microbiology that are the areas of strength in India. He further said the British Council is working towards developing a Global Alumni Network (of students) who have studied in United Kingdom and is also planning to launch a website in this regard. "Whether students have studied in UK from China, India or Germany, we are working on how we can build a global alumni network and are also working on building a website," he said.

To a query on whether UK intended to set up campuses of British Universities in India, he said that they would wait on the outcome as the Foreign Universities Bill which has been approved by the Union Cabinet last year was presently before the Parliament.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 20, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Apex body to regulate stem cell research finally in place

Stem cell use in the country will now be completely regulated. Four years after putting in place guidelines for stem cell research, prescribing stringent measures to regulate its use by research and medical institutions, the Union Ministry of Health has finally set up the National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NAC-SCRT). This 12-member committee, headed by Dr. Alok Srivastava, haematologist from CMC Vellore, will "review all controversial and ethically sensitive stem cell research proposals" and "oversee, monitor and make policies on stem cell use in India."

The Indian Council of Medical Reseach (ICMR) along with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) formulated and finalized the guidelines for stem cell use in 2007. According to the guidelines, a NAC-SCRT had to be constituted "to regulate stem cell research in India". NAC-SCRT will examine the scientific, technical, ethical, legal and social issues involving each and every human embryonic stem cell research. All institutions and investigators carrying out research on human stem cells will have to be registered with NAC-SCRT through an Institutional Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (IC-SCRT). All research studies and clinical trials will need prior approval of IC-SCRT and NAC-SCRT.

All new stem lines will be created and all established cell lines from any source, imported or created in India, will also have to be registered with IC-SCRT and NAC-SCRT. The permissible areas of research include invitro studies on established cell lines from any type of stem cell – hES (Human Embryonic Stem cells), hEG (Human Embryonic Germ Cells), hSS ( Human Somatic Stem Cells) or foetal adult stem cells, provided they are registered with IC-SCRT. NAC-SCRT will obtain periodic reports from all institutes working with stem cells and undertake surprise site visits as and when required to ensure adherence to standards.

Stem cells are master cells that have the capacity to multiply and regenerate diseased organs. An ICMR official added: "The need to monitor stem cell research in India has increased greatly, with a large number of institutions passing off unscientific research as therapy."

Source: The Times of India, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

AICTE’s new focus: Churning out more PhDs

In order to promote research among faculty members and help produce more PhDs, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has decided to include all government and government-aided institutions as quality improvement programme (QIP) centres. At present, there are 200 such centres but after the inclusion of all government-aided institutions, the number will increase by 350.

Under the QIP, faculty members of degree-level institutions are given the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications to Masters and PhD levels. Similarly, under the scheme QIP (poly), polytechnic teachers can pursue Masters degree programmes. Course-wise development and other short-term training programmes are also conducted under the QIP.

"This will revive research amongst faculty and produce more PhDs. Hence, a more faculty members would be needed to be provided with QIP scholarships. This is already in place and we introduced this almost three months back," said S.S. Mantha, acting Chairman, AICTE.

The QIP was initiated in 1970-71 to improve the quality and standards of technical education by focussing on faculty development, which includes M Tech and doctoral programmes. Short-term courses at QIP centres includes curriculum development, which consists of laboratory development, preparation of instructional materials and text-books and practical training in-industry for teachers of engineering colleges and polytechnics.

At present, almost 500 teachers are being supported under this scheme. These programmes are generally carried out in the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and several other select institutions in the country. AICTE will partially fund the new centres for offering these services. The criteria for institutions to qualify in becoming QIP centres is that they should be conducting post graduate programmes for five years in that discipline. IIT-Madras has 107 QIP scholars of which 99 are for PhD and M. Tech. They include 20 women in PhD and 4 in M. Tech.

Source: Financial Express, March 18, 2011

Supreme Court breather to B-schools on regulation

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a breather to hundreds of management schools by ordering an interim stay on the new guidelines issued by the government to regulate their admissions and fees. The order will allow business schools that offer a postgraduate diploma in management (PGDM) to decide their course fees and select students from entrance examinations of their choice in the forthcoming academic year.

Lobby groups Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI) and Association of Indian Management Schools (AIMS) had approached the apex court against the regulations notified in December by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the country's nodal technical education regulator.

According to the regulations, the course fee at PGDM institutes would be fixed by committees constituted by the respective state governments. The schools would have to rely on state-level entrance examinations to admit students and include five state government and AICTE officials on their management boards.

"The apex court has now given an interim relief to all PGDM institutes. They can select students based on CAT (Common Admission Test) for management schools, MAT (Management Aptitude Test) or a state-level entrance, if there is any," said Naresh Kaushik, a lawyer for EPSI.

"We have not seen the order so far and will comment after reading the court direction," AICTE Acting Chairman S.S.
Mantha said. Kaushik said the schools would continue to decide their course fee for now, but would have to inform AICTE and state governments about it. The court also ordered that the management boards of these schools would have only two official invitees, one each from the state government and AICTE.

The stay order is only for this year. Kaushik said AICTE could submit a counter-affidavit in the court challenging the stay. He also said AICTE's decision to ban all part-time courses in management would not come into effect immediately --- following the court direction --- until a decision is taken by the court.

H. Chaturvedi, Director of Greater Noida-based Birla Institute of Management Technology, said business schools are relieved by the stay order. "This is good news for all PGDM institutes and thousands of students. This will help us as the admission session is coming up. If anybody is cheating, then we are in favour of punishment for those institutes, but AICTE should not target everybody," said Chaturvedi, a member of EPSI and AIMS. Some 550 PGDM institutes will benefit from the order. Chaturvedi said more than 100,000 students are enrolled at these institutes.

Source: Mint, March 18, 2011

MCI concerned over entry of foreign institutes

The Union Ministry of Health and Medical Council of India (MCI) have expressed their concerns over opening up the higher education sector to foreign education institutions. Officials from the health sector, on Thursday, deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. The parliamentary panel has been discussing the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010.

Sources said that both the senior health ministry official and head of the board of governors of the MCI S.K. Sarin expressed concern over the impact of opening up the sector to foreign education providers. Desposing before the panel, the ministry official said that the health ministry was working on a separate bill that would address the issues of education in the medical sector. Sources said that the ministry official told the panel that the bill, which would deal comprehensively with the health sector, was in advanced stages of preparation.

In elaborating their concerns about allowing foreign education providers in the health sector, the officials raised the issue of faculty shortage and standardisation of quality. The panel was told that there is at present a shortage of 3,000 to 4,000 faculty members in the existing institutions in the health sector. There also exists a shortage of 700,000 to 800,000 doctors. In what would be an echo of concerns raised by the BJP, Left and sections of the domestic higher education segment, the health officials raised the spectre of faculty moving out to the foreign education providers on the back of better remuneration and facilities. This would deepen the crisis that is already quite acute in the domestic medical institutions.

Ethical issues regarding quality was another concern. The MCI has maintained that any institution that offers medical degrees has to submit to its scrutiny. The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill does not provide for this scrutiny. The Medical Council had earlier written to the Ministry of HRD drawing attention to the fact that the bill in its current form does not allow for the MCI to undertake rigorous scrutiny prior to setting up a campus. The council has been designated as the statutory authority for health sector, but there appears to be no reference to scrutiny.

Sources said that the parliamentary standing will now be consulting foreign experts from institutions like the London School of Economics, Oxford and Stanford. It will also invite representatives of foreign universities which have footprints outside their home country. This would include French business school INSEAD, which has campuses in France, Abu Dhabi and Singapore, and the Wharton Business School which has a campus in Singapore.

Source: The Economic Times, March 18, 2011

MCI to grade medical colleges

For medical aspirants across India, the options during admission broadly boil down to two. Their first preference is almost any public college which offers the MBBS degree at throw-away rates, followed by the private colleges where education is a lot dearer. But, which is the second best college among the government institutes in Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu or Karnataka? Making that choice will get a lot more hardboiled as the Medical Council of India (MCI) has decided to assess and grade their colleges. A student will now be able to make a tough call on whether to sign up at JIPMER, Puducherry; or Christian Medical College, Vellore; or at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.

The Council, which has so far been a college-recognizing and doctor-licencing body, is now looking at expanding its mandate. "We want to see how we can improve the quality in medical education. To date, we just checked the faculty strength, infrastructure and looked at other parameters. Now, we need to see how to up the quality of the country's medical colleges," said Dr. Devi Shetty, a member of the MCI board of governors.

Stemming the rot that has set in will not be easy. But improving quality of medical institutes is in sync with the larger framework that the MCI's vision document 2015 spells out: "Raising the bar for Indian healthcare to match the global standards". The Vision-2015 document prescribes sweeping reforms for the under-graduate and post-graduate medical education programmes. The document aims at evolving strategies for the road ahead in an ever-expanding medical education sector that has not been able to focus on quality.

So, from the quality of the curriculum to the patient inflow, from adopting new technology in teaching-learning to the quality of research carried out, the assessment process will consider all that before a college is graded. While the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), has graded some medical colleges of the country, not all the institutes are graded. It is unclear if the MCI will make assessment mandatory or not, but Dr. Shetty added, "We are in the process of taking inputs from the NAAC and the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers on the quality processes we need to develop."

With the MCI rethinking the direction medical education should take, colleges will have to put the quality factor on steroids.

Source: The Times of India, March 18, 2011

First-time recruiters flood IIMs

First-time recruiters, especially foreign companies, have come in search of quality talent at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) this year. ChrysCapital, EXL Services and Deutsche Post DHL are some of the names that have knocked on IIM doors in search of talent this year. They are also offering 20% more than the average salary notched up by the institutes for positions in some of the fastest-growing economies of the world. While IIM-Bangalore (IIM-B)saw a 100% rise in first-time recruiters, IIM-Lucknow (IIM-L) registered a 60% rise. There has been a similar rush at the other IIMs, where these recruiters were seen offering jobs in economically-flourishing locations in the Middle East, like Abu Dhabi, and in the Southeast Asian cities of Singapore and Hong Kong.

"The turnout of first-time recruiters was indeed unprecedented and much higher this year than in the past few years. First-time recruiters that visited only IIM-Calcutta (IIM-C) include international firms like Japanese Investment Bank, Daiwa and the consulting firm Essex Lake Group," says Sharadh Venkataraman, Recruitment Coordinator at the institute. He adds the number of new recruiters has gone up to 21 from last year's 15. "We expect the salaries offered by the new recruiters to be 15-20% higher than the average salary (around Rs. 15,60,000)," Venkataraman added.

The roles offered by these firms at IIM-C point to an interesting mix. While Daiwa recruited for investment banking positions, Nielsen & Co. selected students for their emerging leadership programme in finance. Flipkart attracted students with an entrepreneurial bent of mind and offered roles in various domains. Essex Lake Group and EXL Services recruited students for consulting roles, while Deutsche Post DHL selected candidates for in-house consulting.

Experts believe the superlative growth in regions like the Middle East and Southeast Asia are opening the doors to lucrative job offers. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Qatar and Singapore registered a growth of 16% and 14% respectively, in 2010. They were among the fastest growing economies in the world last year.

The number of first-time recruiters is far higher at the IIMs of Lucknow, Bangalore and Kozhikode. "Last year, we had around 32 new recruiters at IIM-L, and this year there has been a more than 60% rise in the number," says a recruitments cell spokesperson, adding that here, too, students have been hired for positions in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Some new companies visiting IIM-L were Amazon, Microsoft IDC, IIFL, ICICI Securities and Deutsche Post DHL.

IIM-B, which was visited by only 17 new companies last year, saw a 100% increase this time, with companies from Belgium, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the Netherlands, the US and UAE visiting. Among others, ChrysCapital, Nokia, Infosys Consulting, Deutsche Post DHL and Lenovo visited this time.

"There is a huge demand for talent and that's the main reason for the rise in the number of first-time recruiters. With the economy doing well, many companies eyeing the future have come hiring," says Sapna Agarwal, head of IIM-B career development services. Half the first-timers at IIM-B were from finance, she added.

HR consultants feel overseas recruiters are making a beeline for the IIMs because they have left an impressive footprint in the global markets. "Overseas recruiters who plan to set up base in India or expand existing operations, will normally hire from India, provide overseas exposure and deploy them back to the country," says Sunil Goel, Director of the executive search firm, GlobalHunt.

Anuj Kumar, VP, human resources at Fujitsu Consulting India, which hired for the first time from IIM-K, says the company was happy with the quality of talent and will be back to hire in large numbers next year. At the smaller IIMs like Kozhikode, the number of first-timers, or those visiting the campus after a gap of two years, is 38 --- about 35% of the total number of companies that came by.

Source: The Economic Times, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

600 more MBBS seats in AIIMS-like institutes

Come 2012 academic session and the medical colleges of the six AIIMS-like institutions will be open to undergraduate medical education (MBBS). The construction of the six medical colleges — each with 100 MBBS seats — will be completed in August. However, the super-speciality hospitals, which are being built along with the colleges will be completed by 2012. They will be functional from the next year.

In total, each AIIMS-like institution has been built at nearly Rs. 847 crore (Rs. 8.47 billion), up from Rs. 332 crore (Rs. 3.32 billion) that was originally estimated. Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Wednesday: "The medical colleges in the six AIIMS-like institutions will start operating from the next year. The super-speciality hospitals will follow." He added: "More than US$ 2.5 billion will be spent in the next 2-3 years to establish six state-of-art tertiary care institutions modelled on the lines of our premier institute All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the under-developed and under-served regions of the country."

Around 94 eminent scientists, doctors and academicians have applied for the posts of directors in these six institutes. A health ministry's search-and-selection panel is finalizing the names of six directors from these aspirants' list. The colleges are located at Patna, Raipur, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur and Rishikesh under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

"Constructing the medical colleges took 15-18 months. Civil work will end by August-September. There will be 600 additional MBBS seats. The hospitals will be ready next year. Each will have 960 beds, including 500 beds for the medical college hospital, 300 beds for speciality/super speciality and 100 beds for ICU/accident trauma,"an official said.

In the second phase of PMSSY, the government has also approved setting up of two more such institutions.Union Health Secretary K. Chandramouli told TOI that "the present schedule is to admit MBBS students from 2012. The hospital will be ready a year later."

Source: The Times of India, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ethics to be taught in MBBS curriculum

Medical Council of India (MCI) has decided to incorporate "medical professionalism" under the revised MBBS curriculum as ethics is increasingly coming under scrutiny. As per an MCI note, "medical ethics and professionalism forms the basis of contact between doctors and society and so it is imperative that professionalism and ethical issues in practice should be incorporated into medical curriculum."

MCI's undergraduate education working group, headed by Prof. George Mathew, Principal of Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, has strongly recommended its introduction. Prof. Mathew told TOI, "the details are still being finalized. We will formally introduce medical ethics in the curriculum."

Prof. Sandeep Guleria, Professor of Surgery, All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who is member of the working group, added, "There is a huge problem of ethics in medical profession. Since ethics is a very important part of medicine, we will introduce lectures formally."

Source: The Times of India, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Setting up of UNESCO institute in India approved

The union cabinet Tuesday approved the establishment of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development here as part of a UNESCO initiative. The institute will strengthen educational and knowledge base for promoting education of peace and sustainable development-related research. It will be managed through an operational agreement between the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and India, according to an official statement.

The estimated expenditure for setting up the institute will be Rs. 223.68 crore (Rs. 2.23 billion) over a period of seven years. Its establishment as a category one institute of the UNESCO was recommended by the international agency's executive board at its 182nd session held in September 2009 and approved by 35th the session of General Conference of the UNESCO in October 2009, the statement said.

"It will put India into the group of select countries with a category one institute of UNESCO. Currently there are 11 category one Institutes of the UNESCO in the world, out of which nine are located in the developed countries while the remaining two are located in developing countries namely, Ethiopia and Venezuela," the statement said. Category one institutes and centres are an integral part of the UNESCO and their governing bodies are either elected by the General Conference or appointed in whole or part by the Director General, UNESCO, and report to the General Conference.

"It will serve as a platform for India to emerge as a global leader from the Asia-Pacific region in the areas of education for peace and sustainable development," it added. The institute will also contribute to capacity building needs of member states with focus on Asia and the Pacific region.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 15, 2011

IIM-Shillong placement gives hope to new IIMs

The Indian Institute of Mangement (IIM), Shillong, has started campus placement for graduates through video conference after facing difficulty in attracting a large number of companies to give choices in placement to students last year. The business school's success is inspiring other new IIMs in small cities, which find it difficult to attract employers as they are inconveniently located or don't have an established brand name, to turn to e-recruitment.

"We know there is a location disadvantage and we are a young IIM. But that should not be a bottleneck for our students' placement," said H.S. Chhabra, Professor In-charge of placement at IIM-Shillong. "This year we have placed at least one-third of our students through e-recruitment." Chhabra said video conferencing allows company officials who don't want to visit the campus to chat with prospective employees, give presentations and make job offers. "Out of 66 of our students, 22 have got through this process this year." He did not name the companies, saying details of the placement season would be furnished only after it gets over.

Bharat Gulia, Senior Manager, Education, at consulting firm Ernst & Young, said necessity leads to such innovations in placement. Company executives don't like going to far-off places for recruitment when there are connectivity problems, he said. "In case of IIM-Shillong, the nearest airport is Guwahati (in Assam). So recruitment through videoconference is a good way out just not for Shillong but all new IIMs," he said. Companies sometimes want to hire just a few students, and it doesn't make sense to go all the way in such a case, Gulia said.

This is the second year of campus placement for IIM-Shillong, which was launched in 2008. Last year, though they managed to place all their students, it was difficult to attract large number of corporate houses. Some other IIMs, which started classes last year and will go for placement in a year's time, said they may follow IIM-Shillong's lead. "This gives optimism. It has given a lot of encouragement to all of us," IIM-Raipur's Director B.S. Sahay said. "In spite of location, transportation and young brand name, we are optimistic to give good placement to our talented students."

Besides Raipur, new IIMs were launched in Rohtak, Ranchi and Trichy last year; two more IIMs are set to open shop at Kashipur in Uttarakhand and Udaipur in Rajasthan by the coming academic session. While these campuses are being opened to ensure that students in smaller cities and town also have access to good business schools, their location does hamper campus placement as companies find it much easier to recruit from IIMs and other established business schools in metros like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

Chhabra said IIM-Shillong's tech savvy has helped it establish its name faster than its peers. "In four years, we have established ourselves well. The faculty- teacher ratio is good, we have IT (information technology)-enabled classrooms and Vsat (very small aperture terminal, a two- way satellite ground station) facility."

Source: Mint, March 15, 2011

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