Thursday, April 28, 2011

Azim Premji pledges Rs. 100 billion for schools project

Wipro's Azim Premji is set to give some competition to two of the world's most richest and most active philanthropists - Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The Azim Premji Foundation will spend Rs. 10,000 crore (Rs. 100 billion) for setting up schools and educational institutes across the country, the foundation's CEO, Dilip Ranjekar, announced in Latur on Wednesday.

He said that two model schools would be built in each district, including Latur. "We aim to churn out good teachers, who will nurture best students in the country. We are investing our money in the field of education as the present system focuses on only marks and not ability of students," he said, adding that merit would be the sole criteria for admissions to institutes built by the foundation.

Ranjekar said that Buffett and Gates had pledged a staggering amount of money for the improvement of the education sector worldwide, and the Azim Premji Foundation would seek to do the same. Some of the institutes that the organisation plans to set up will offer post-graduate courses, including management.

While discussing the needs of an efficient educational system, Ranjekar pointed out the diminishing gaps between two generations. "Time is changing so fast that the generation gap, which was once considered a good 30 years, is now just three years. If we don't understand the needs of today's youth, we will face huge problems in future," he said. He also stressed on the urgency to understand the interaction among the youth.

Ranjekar feels "injustice, inequality and discordance" are the three major issues the world faces. He said that only 1 per cent of the world's population had 40 per cent of the wealth. "In our country, we get shoes in an AC showroom and vegetables on roadsides near drains," he said, adding that the youth was indifferent and self-centered.

He revealed that in India, there are 1.3 million schools, 250 million students and 6 million teachers. "One teacher has to teach many subjects, which dissolves the interest of the students as well as the teacher. We need to build a system that will churn out teachers," he said.

Last year, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced a campaign to get other American billionaires to give at least 50 per cent of their wealth to charity. More than 50 Americans, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, have signed up for the campaign, called 'The Giving Pledge'.

Gates and Buffett --- with an estimated net worth of US$ 56 billion and $ 50 billion, respectively --- have extended the initiative to India and China. Last month, the two met Indian industrialists and tycoons and urged them to take the pledge. Gates has been active in philanthropy through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2006, Buffett announced that he would spend 99 per cent of his wealth on philanthropy.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), April 28, 2011

One-year MBA back with a bang at IIMs

After a lacklustre response during the recessionary period, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are back to attracting working professionals to the campuses for one year management programmes. Batch sizes at the IIMs have risen 20 to 40 per cent this year. The IIMs which conduct one-year post graduate programme for executives, say the rise is a natural outcome of successful placements of last year and there is a considerable rise in applications as well as batch size.

"Since we were able to place all our students successfully last year, this year we saw around 30 per cent rise in applications for our post graduate programme for executives (PGPEX)," said Pandurang Bhatta, Chairperson PGPEX at IIM, Calcutta (IIM-C). However, due to infrastructure constraints, the institute has not been able to expand the batch size of 50. The institute intends to increase the batch size post infrastructure expansion including addition in hostel rooms.

Ditto at IIM, Lucknow (IIM-L), which has seen around 40 per cent rise in its batch size. IIM-L also saw considerable response for its one-year full-time, International Programme in Management for Executives (IPMX). With the batch size rising from 48 last year to 67 this year, the institute believes it is the buoyant placement scenario that has changed the tide.

"We started this programme during recession but we got a good lot of 45 people in the first batch in 2008-09. However, in the second batch, things began to improve. In the initial two years, all the IT companies were holding on to their offers. But this year we hear Wipro and Infosys are now recruiting in bulk," said Archana Shukla, Dean Noida Campus and Chairperson IPMX at IIM-L.

Even IIM, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), whose PGPX programme was ranked 11th worldwide in the Global MBA Rankings 2011 by Financial Times, has for the first time seen the batch size of its post graduate programme in management for executives (PGPX) crossing the 100 mark. The 2011-12 batch this year has seen 102 students, up from 86 last year. "The students have joined the PGPX 2011-12 batch from a large application pool and after an elaborate selection process," said Shailesh Gandhi, Chairperson of PGPX at IIM-A.

At IIM-A, recruiters who participated during the 2011 placements include — A. T. Kearney, Arthur D. Little, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Corporate Executive Board, Philips, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Google, Facebook, Infosys, TCS, Accenture, CapGemini, Mindtree, Amazon, Polaris, HCL, Hero Honda, Reliance Industries Limited, and RPG Group among others.

What could also reiterate buoyancy in these one-year programmes for working professionals is the return of the regular sectors. According to Bhatta, working professionals mostly from IT and related sectors used to opt for the programmes, something which had tapered off during economic slowdown. However, this year, regular sectors like IT and telecom have returned to the campuses.

"Mainly IT consultancy, and manufacturing are the regular sectors which have returned in terms of applications for the programmes. Last year it was the telecom sector that came in large numbers. Moving forward, we are talking to public sector companies and are interested in diversifying batch profile to enhance the programme. With buoyancy returning, next year we may also market this programme in West Asia as well," said Bhatta.

The IIMs select candidate based on professional experience, academic record, GMAT score and personal interviews. While IIM-C charges Rs. 1.4 million for the one-year management programme, IIM-A charges Rs. 2.1 million for the same.

Source: Business Standard, April 28, 2011

New IIM faculty to follow 160-hour teaching rule

All new teachers at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) may have to teach 160 hours a year despite faculty protests against the move and a series of other reforms proposed by two government panels. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has asked the country's new seven IIMs to implement the new criterion while hiring faculty, top government officials have told HT. The older IIMs too have the ministry’s approval in-principle to use the controversial new rule in hiring new faculty, officials said, adding that the government was clear that it had no intention of forcing any IIM to accept any reform.

"We have instructed the new IIMs to adopt this condition while hiring faculty. The older IIMs too can adopt the mechanism while hiring the new faculty," a senior official said. The new IIMs are completely dependent on government funding while the IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta hardly depend on any government aid.

The new rule — the first attempt to put in place a minimum number of teaching hours for IIM faculty — will not automatically extend to the current faculty. Only if the Boards of Governors of individual IIMs approve the move, can it be applied to the older faculty, sources said. Boards can also exempt faculty who want to focus on research and are therefore unable to teach for 160 hours a year.

Panels appointed by HRD minister Kapil Sibal under Maruti Chairman R.C. Bhargava and Rediff boss Ajit Balakrishnan proposed a series of changes including increasing the number of teaching hours for every faculty member at the IIMs from about 100 on average to about 160 and reducing the size of IIM Boards. The reform proposals include dramatically changing the "ownership" of the IIMs to make membership of the managing societies of the premier B-schools dependent on large donations, and increasing the power of Boards.

Faculty associations across the IIMs have been protesting against the proposed reforms, alleging that they would lead to backdoor privatization, erosion of autonomy, and change the fundamental governing structures that have made the B-schools the best in the country.

Source: Hindustan Times, April 28, 2011

B-schools to even out placement reporting norms

Various MBA schools and stakeholders plan to meet in June to discuss reporting standards and make them more transparent, as proposed by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) in October last year. The necessity for such a meeting came up because more and more aspirants are relying on these reports to make their choices.

"The exact date of the meeting will be announced in the first week of May, after which we will be inviting all stakeholders, including B-schools, companies, alumni, placement chairpersons of the other IIMs and the media to share our experience and take forward the process of finalising the placement reporting standards," said Prof. Saral Mukherjee, faculty and head of the placement committee at IIM-A.

External Audit
Institutes that agree to the final draft of the reporting standards would become signatories and have their reports audited by an external auditor, Prof. Mukherjee told Business Line. A first draft of the reporting standards had been put on the IIM-A web site. Based on the feedback, the format would be fine-tuned, he said.

IIM-A is collecting data of the recently concluded placement process. A report of this in a new format would soon be released, he said, and added that most recruiters had co-operated and submitted their reports. The focus of the new format would be on aggregate statistics rather than personalised data to protect the privacy of students.

Dual Level
The report will work at two levels – when recruiters give offers to students and another when the institute shares data with the media. This is to ensure that no false or misleading information is spread and a true picture emerges. There is no comparable basis for offers.

While one recruiter includes meals, car allowance, bonus and a one-time payment in the cost to company, another may not. In such a situation, a student finds it difficult to make a choice, Prof. Mukherjee said. "Though there have been no voices of dissent, doubts had been expressed when the idea was first proposed."

Smaller B-schools worried whether all recruiters would willingly give the institutes the reports in the particular format. IIM-A hopes that it will be able to acclimatise the recruiters with the process because of its bigger bargaining power with the industry than smaller B-schools, and by implementing the system first.

Source: Business Line, April 28, 2011

Consider class XII, X marks for higher studies: Ramasami Committee

Class XII marks will matter if a student is seeking admission to higher education institutes, including Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), says a proposal currently being considered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD).

Class X marks in both science and non-science subjects will also be taken into account, highly placed sources said. The suggestions have been made by a committee headed by T. Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology. With an aim to do away with multiple entrance examinations after Class XII, the MHRD had constituted the committee to suggest a single-exam formula to determine admissions to IITs, all engineering courses and — over a period of time — all higher education institutes as well.

The committee, which shared its first draft with the ministry last week, is learnt to have recommended that due weightage be given to school marks, both Class X and Class XII. Accordingly, a weighted average score arrived at after factoring in Class X and XII scores — and performance in a single national-level aptitude test — is proposed to be used to determine admissions to higher education institutes.

If applicable, performance in Olympiads conducted mostly by CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) to test students' grasp over science subjects will also be counted. The national test will assess a student's general aptitude and will have elements of an advanced test to test in-depth knowledge and grasp of subjects. Marks obtained in the Class X and XII board exams in both science and non-science subjects will be factored in as the thrust, experts feel, should not be on the traditional Physics-Chemistry-Mathematics (PCM) combination alone.

The proposal will be put in public domain to get inputs from all stakeholders — students, parents and teachers — over the next three months before firming it up. The average score will be used to develop an index of scholastic level to determine admissions.

Source: The Indian Express, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Indians selected as Yale World Fellows

Two Indians --- Monika Halan and Sonali Kochhar --- have been selected for the prestigious Yale World Fellows, which is Yale University's signature global leadership development initiative.

Monika Halan is editor of Mint Money, India's second-largest business newspaper, which has an exclusive partnership with the Wall Street Journal. She is a media personality who is well known for her financial expertise. A medical doctor and clinical researcher, Sonali Kochhar is Medical Director, India, Institute for OneWorld Health. She leads efforts to develop safe, affordable, and accessible drugs and vaccines for diseases prevalent in the developing world, including HIV/AIDS. She previously served as the medical director for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

In all 16 talented individuals have been selected for World Fellows for 2011. This year's World Fellows include an executive at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; a director at the World Economic Forum; the director of the World Health Organization's tuberculosis control program in China; a policymaker in Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the executive director of Greenpeace Brazil.

"We received more than twice as many nominations this year than ever before, evidence of the growing reputation and global awareness of this unique opportunity for leadership development," said the Program's Director Michael Cappello, Professor of Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine. "The 2011 fellows were carefully selected from an incredibly deep and talented pool of international leaders. We are delighted to welcome them to Yale this fall," Capppello said.

This year's cohort brings the total number of Yale World Fellows to 171, representing 77 countries. "I am thrilled and humbled," said Gavin Sheppard, a 2011 World Fellow and innovative cultural entrepreneur from Canada who uses art and music as tools for youth inclusion, capacity building, safer cities, and economic growth.

From August to December, the 2011 World Fellows will enroll in a specially designed seminar taught by leading Yale faculty; audit any of the 3,000 courses offered at the University; participate in weekly dinners with distinguished guest speakers; receive individualized skill-building training; and meet with US and foreign leaders.

Past World Fellows have met with then-UN secretary general Kofi Annan, World Trade Organization director-general Pascal Lamy, Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others.

The Yale World Fellows Program has at its core three main goals: to provide advanced training to emerging leaders from diverse disciplines and countries, to link this network of world leaders to each other and to Yale, and to expand and deepen international understanding at Yale.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), April 27, 2011

Canada promises faster immigration, more student visas

Just days before Canadian parliamentary elections on May 2, political leaders are wooing Indo-Canadians by promising less waiting time for immigration and more student visas from India. Speaking at a roundtable organized by the Canada- India Foundation (CIF) here, top leaders of the opposition Liberal Party promised a comprehensive relationship with India. They said their party government will take the bilateral ties beyond trade to increase immigration and tourism from India and foster deeper education and research cooperation.

Top Liberal Party leader and Toronto MP Bob Rae reminded Indo-Canadians the role played by his party leader and former prime minister Paul Martin in ushering in G20 to include India and other developing economies for wider consultation on global economic issues. He said Canada should focus on its core competencies in engaging with India and leverage its expertise to continue to push for stronger nuclear ties with India.

Suggesting more visas for Indian students to study in Canada, John McCallum, MP from the Toronto suburb of Markham-Unionville, said Australia was "eating Canada's lunch'' in attracting Indian students and the federal government must usher in friendlier policies on visa and work. Canada currently gets about 3,500 Indian students compared to over 40,000 going to Australia each year.

Rob Oliphant, MP from the Toronto constituency of Don Valley West, said his party had identified Gujarat as a great business destination 20 years ago. He said he was happy that the current Canadian government has recognized the importance of Gujarat by being a partner country at this year's Vibrant Gujarat Summit. Since Canada still doesn't have any official presence in Gujarat, he favoured a full consular office in the state.

Oliphant promised that his party government would reduce wait times for the family class immigration category from 11-13 years now to five to six years. He also said his party government would be more careful in addresses sensitive issues like the visit of union minister Kamal Nath here last year which led to protests by Sikh groups for his alleged involvement in the 1984 riots.

Bengali-origin Rana Sarkar, who is contesting for parliament for the first time from the Toronto constituency of Scarborough Rouge River, said that based on past history, his Liberal Party has "the DNA for dealing with India and now there is need for India 2.0 engagement strategy.''

Maria Minna, MP from the Toronto constituency of Beaches-East York, emphasized the need for serious engagement of the Indian diaspora for deepening Canada-India relations. Canada-India Foundation leaders Aditya Jha and Ramesh Chotai, said the Indian diaspora was pleased that the Liberal Party recognizes its role in shaping Canadian policies. Representatives of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, IIT Alumni of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization also quizzed Canadian politicians about India.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), April 27, 2011

From next year, new IIMs may have common admission criteria

Seat selection on the lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), common admission criteria and single-location group discussion and personal interviews: these are some key reforms the new bunch of Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) could usher in next year while picking candidates through from one of the toughest B-school admission tests in the world.

At a meeting with the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) last week, directors and chairpersons of the six new IIMs proposed common admission criteria where sectional cut-offs in the Common Admission Test (CAT) and other weightages will be equal among them.

IIMs at Rohtak, Trichy and Raipur already had such criteria for the 2011-13 batch. Other IIMs at Ranchi, Udaipur and Kashipur will join this system next year. On the anvil is also an IIT-like system of seat selection.

Source: The Times of India, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Can 'Inspire' inspire students to take up science?

School science toppers from across the country — get ready for a special invitation to take up science in higher education and as a career. The Centre is tying up with over 30 central and state boards across India, to send a special letter to students who emerge toppers in the science stream in Class XII examinations this May and June. These include the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

Under the plan, the letter will specially inform these toppers about the science ministry’s ambitions INSIPRE scholarships in a unique bid to attract these students to science in higher education and as a career choice, top government officials told HT.

"It is a most unique method which we are trying and are very hopeful about," a senior official in the Department of Science and Technology (DST) said. The DST met officials of all school boards earlier this month, and the boards suggested sending special letters to science toppers, sources said. The letters will only be sent to the top 1% of science students in each board — only these students are eligible for the INSPIRE Scholarship for Higher Education.

The INSPIRE programme was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008 as a part of his plan to draw bright young students back into science, at a time when financially more lucrative educational and career prospects have reduced the attraction of science.

The scholarship for higher education offers a whopping Rs. 80,000 a year to each winner for the duration of their undergraduate or masters programme in science in Indian institutions. The DST offers 1000 such scholarships each year.

But the government has struggled to find enough takers for the scholarship — suggesting inadequate awareness of the programme and possibly declining numbers of toppers taking up science after school, officials said. The special letter will ensure that the topper is aware of the INSPIRE scholarship, while also serving as a select invitation to pursue science ahead.

Source: Hindustan Times, April 26, 2011

Faculty unhappy with IIM restructuring and governance reforms

Earlier this month, Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Calcutta faculty had made public their unhappiness over the governance and restructuring reforms in the IIMs proposed by two committees set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

Now, in the latest article published in the Economic & Political Weekly, two IIM Bangalore faculty members have launched a scathing attack on the committee’s reports and IIM Directors. Titled "Governance of IIMs - a critique of the Bhargava Committee Report", the article penned by Amit Gupta and Ganesh N. Prabhu says the R.C. Bhargava Committee report on new governance structure of the IIMs, co-authored by three current directors, "is a blatantly self-serving report by directors who seek to centralise power and destroy the decentralised governance structure that has made the IIMs institutions of excellence".

Accusing the committee of operating in isolation and without any consultation with the "only permanent and major stakeholder — the faculty", the article rips apart the report for "seeking to destroy the decentralised governance that has been the strength of IIMs".

The committee on a new 'Governance Structure for IIMs' has advocated reducing the size of IIM Boards and Society, reconstituting the society to allow alumni, corporates and suitable individuals to become members on payment of a donation ranging from Rs. 5 crore (Rs. 50 million) to Rs. 20 crore (Rs. 200 million), 160 teaching hours per year for faculty, besides annual reviews, redesignating IIM Directors as CEO & President among other proposals.

Rejecting the committee's arguments on IIM Boards setting up annual targets for faculty and the emphasis on faculty income through executive programmes, the article notes that "the statements in the report relating to faculty are largely negative and show contempt for the faculty". It further adds that the IIM faculty enjoy substantial autonomy in allocating their time beyond their teaching commitments and this autonomy is "critical to excellence and productivity at IIMs".

The "overemphasis on role and importance of directors" of IIMs also does not seem to have gone down well. Objecting to proposals to hike the IIM Director’s salary and re-designate them as CEO, the IIM faculty members have argued that while the committee intends to reduce the legitimate role of faculty, it aims to increase the illegitimate role of directors and the board to control the faculty. It is also argued that the new empowered Board and Director as proposed by the committee will only centralise power.

Terming the idea of reviving the IIM Society and allowing donation-based membership as "most absurd", the critique argues that this will only facilitate a backdoor entry to privatisation where moneyed people will take over the prestigious IIMs and might seek a return on their investment by serving their own interests and even influence student admissions. Warning against allowing IIMs to become "fiefdoms of people with money", the article emphasises the need to "preserve the democratic and process-oriented of the IIM model with all its frustrations and problems".

Source: The Indian Express, April 26, 2011

ICMR panel to monitor transfer of biological samples for research, trade

The government has decided to tighten its control over the transfer of "biological material" for research and commercial purposes. On Monday, a committee was constituted by the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which after analysing "expected outcomes" and its "implications", will allow "transfer" of such material for commercial and research purposes.

The committee will "consider" the cases related to transfer of biological material for commercial purposes, "evaluate" where infectious biological material/samples are proposed to be transferred — from foreign research centres to Indian diagnostic laboratories/research centres or vice-versa — and "consider" transfer of human biological waste material for commercial purposes. Sources said the mover was important in the context of the latest report by Lancet on the superbug.

Sources said information specifying name and address of the institution/agency providing bio-material, agency where bio-material is proposed to be transferred, nature and type of bio-material to be transferred, number of samples to be transferred, purpose of transfer of the material (including the type of research, investigations to be carried out), approval of the head of the organisation, source of funds through which transfer of samples will be financed, expected outcomes/future leads, implications on National Health Programmes will have to be placed in the knowledge of committee.

The committee will be sent a duly filled up application form for transfer of samples, copy of Material Transfer Agreement (MTA), clearance from an ethics committee, copy of patient information sheet giving details on the utilisation of samples of the patient for a particular research/ R&D study and the kind of benefit (direct/indirect or no benefit) for appropriate decision-making by the patient.

The committee will also have a copy of "import certificate" issued by the relevant foreign regulatory authority to the foreign laboratory receiving the Indian biological samples.

Source: The indian Express, April 26, 2011

Gates Foundation sanctions Rs. 4.6 million to Punjab Agri University

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has sanctioned Rs. 46 lakh (Rs. 4.6 million) to Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to undertake research on poverty in the state. With an objective of tracking changes in rural poverty in the household and village economies of Punjab, the project will initially run for three years (2011-14) and is likely to be extended for another five years, an official release said.

Mr. Manjit Singh Kang, Vice Chancellor, PAU said the project is need of the hour as the state is reeling under economic squeeze, indebtedness and farmer suicides, and poverty ratio in small and marginal farmers and agriculture labourer household have risen in recent years. He said the main purpose of the project is to develop data base at farmer household level on consumption and production parameters, and track changes in poverty and other economic variables over time.

Aiming at strengthening capacity building in the university for further policy analysis in the agriculture sector, the project will be implemented in all the three zones representing sub-mountainous areas, Central Punjab and Southern Punjab. The district level data for agriculture sector will also be collected to arrive at a clearer profile on the spatial attributes and correlates of poverty.

R. S. Sidhu, Principal Investigator (Project)-cum-Dean, College of Basic Sciences and Humanities, PAU, said this project concurrently runs in India and Bangladesh and is being implemented by National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), New Delhi and ICRISAT, Hyderabad.

At first, the project was intended to be taken up in Semi-Arid Tropics and Humid Tropics India and Punjab was not intended in its coverage, he said. During the launch of this project in India in 2009, a meeting with Gates Foundation at Delhi was held where they (Kang and Sidhu) pitched for the inclusion of Punjab in the ambit of this study because of its relevance and importance.

Source: Press Trust of India, April 26, 2011

MCI proposes national eligibility test for PG courses

In line with its decision to revamp medical education in the country, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has proposed to hold national eligibility-cum-entrance tests (NEET) for post-graduate and super speciality courses in a changed format from next year.

A total of 1,50,000 under-graduate candidates, who have completed internship, or those expecting to complete by March 31, 2012, will be eligible to take the tests for entrance to post-graduate courses. It will be notified in August 2011 with applications collected by September end, MCI sources said. The admit cards will be dispatched by the middle of November. The examination will be online type conducted in the middle of January, 2012, and the number of sessions will be finalised after the feasibility is explored.

The MD/MS courses will commence from May 2, 2012. The candidates aspiring for direct five-year neurosurgery and neurology super-specialty or similar courses will have to take this NEET-PG examination for the courses commencing in August.

There will be a common paper with 180 questions at MBBS standard to be answered in three hours. The NEET for super specialities (NEET-SS) for 2012 would be held for candidates who have completed post-graduation or those expecting to complete post-graduation by June 15, 2012.

About 6,000-7,000 candidates are expected to take the examination with courses commencing from August 1, 2012. It will be notified in February 2012 in all online formats by April end. The admit cards will be dispatched by the middle of May and the exam will be conducted in the middle of June. The paper will consist of about 150-180 questions of three hours duration, the sources said, adding the examination will be online.

The changes in the examination patterns are yet to be cleared by the Union Health Ministry.

Another proposed examination, the MCI Indian Medical Graduate (IMG) licentiate examination is also proposed to be held for the first time in 2013. The examination will consist of questions to assess minimum defined standards for an IMG. Approximately 35,000-40,000 medical graduates will take the licentiate examination. Foreign graduates who intend to practice in India will have to qualify in the examination.

Source: Business Line, April 26, 2011

IISc, Deakin join hands to fight cancer with nanotechnology

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Australia's Deakin University have joined efforts to build a nanotechnology-based drug delivery system to target cancer stem cells. Deakin University scientists led by Wei Duan, Director of Deakin Medical School's nano-medicine programme, have developed a ribonucleic acid (RNA) antibody nearly one-tenth the size of a natural antibody to act like a guided missile to seek and bind to cancer stem cells.

"IISc would be joining hands in producing nano-sized lipid particles that will encapsulate the desired drug and other cancer-targeting epitopes (part of a molecule recognized by the im- mune system) for delivery," Wei said in an e-mail interview. "The assembling and testing, clinical trials will be done in our laboratory."

The project has a funding of about Rs. 4.14 crore (Rs. 41.4 million), with Rs. 8 million sanctioned by India's Department of Science and Technology and US$ 700,000 (Rs. 33.4 million) by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Cancer treatment currently uses two main approaches --- chemotherapy that uses chemicals and radiation therapy using laser beams to kill cells cells. A third approach is based on nanotechnology. Therapies like polymer nano-tubes carrying anti-cancer drug and building nano-particles to replace the DNA in cancerous cells with healthy ones are in the research stage.

In a targeted drug delivery system, antibodies that bind to target cells and stimulate the immune system to attack the affected cells are used to kill the tumours. But cancer stem cells are usually resistant to drugs. So even if the cancer cells are killed, the root stays alive and can regenerate. This makes the root cells an important target in new treatments, Wei said.

In the IISc-Deakin programme, the system is designed to deliver drugs directly to stem cells, or the root of cancerous cells. When injected or taken orally, the system floats in the body till it reaches stem cells, penetrates them and melts, releasing the drug and killing the specified cell.

"Our research caught the attention of Wei, who wrote to us on possible collaboration to work together," said Santanu Bhattacharya, faculty member at the Department of Organic Chemistry in IISc, who has been working in the field of lipids for two decades.

While IISc brings expertise in developing nano-sized lipids, Wei's team has expertise in making chemical antibodies.
The nano-sized lipid aggregates being developed by IISc in Bangalore will be combined with the antibody and tested in Deakin University's laboratory in pre-clinical tests. "This is capable of better penetration across the cells since it has very small size and possesses the specific information for targeting cancer cells as opposed to healthy cells," Bhattacharya said. "Also, such lipid aggregates should have no adverse immunogenic reactions."

Apart from IISc, Deakin University's School of Medicine and its Institute for Technology Research and Innovation are collaborating with Australia-based hospital Barwon Health's Andrew Love Cancer Centre and ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Ltd. on the project.

According to the World Health Organisation, cancer caused 7.6 million deaths (13% of all deaths) globally in 2008, which is expected to rise to about 11 million in 2030.

"Personalised treatment is being used for cancer these days, where affected cells are targeted. However, we still target the whole body, and in the process, end up killing some unaffected cells as well," said B. S. Ajai Kumar, radiation oncologist and Chairman of Health-Care Global Enterprises Ltd., which does research and development of innovative cancer treatment methods. "The nanotechnology-based drug system is one step advanced in this category, which targets the affected stem cells."

Wei said the IISc-Deakin product will need five years to reach the market and can be adapted to other ailments as well such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and diabetes.

Source: Mint, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

French studies head to India for higher studies

When the merchants of Rouen set sail from France for the eastern seas in the 16th century, they had only one aim to have their share in the most happening trading post in the world. India still beckons the French, but the new wave of visitors, mostly students, seems to prefer the balmy south India to the shores of Surat.

Chennai, Vellore, Puducherry (earlier known as Pondicherry) and other south Indian cities are increasingly featuring in the career plans of students from France. Last year, eight students from various French universities came to the University of Madras on exchange programmes. The number has gone up to 26 in the current (2010-11) academic year, say university officials.

"The exchange programme has been on for the past five years. The demand is growing and this year students from around 14 French universities wanted to come down," says Chitra Krishnan, Head, Department of French, University of Madras. It is the same scene in Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M), says an official with the institute's international relations office. "This year there are more than 10 students," says the official.

Floriane Bollazi, a 23-year-old economics student from the University of Lyon, chose Chennai as she wanted to experience a different culture. "Tamil Nadu is more traditional than highly westernised places like Delhi. In Chennai, I get to learn about Dravidian culture and also pursue my course," says Bollazi, who arrived in July 2010.

Reputed technical education institutions such as IIT-M, Anna University, Jawaharlal Institute of Post-graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) are also major draws. "I got an internship in Bangalore partly because I did one semester at IIT-M," says Clement Quertelet, 23, an engineering student from Paris. IIT-M has agreements with 12 French higher education institutions, such as Polytechnic Schools and Central Schools.

A big chunk of the exchange programmes are organised by a Franco-Indian academic consortium formed in 2008 by associations of universities in both the countries. Once Conference des Presidents d universities' and conference des directeurs des ecoles d ingenieurs francaises' signed agreements with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), several partner institutions formed tie-ups. For instance, the University of Technological and Health Sciences in Grenoble has exchange programmes with the Delhi University and Anna University in nanoscience and nanotechnology (MSc). The latest such agreement was signed between seven IITs and Paris-Tech (a consortium of Grandes Ecoles) when President Nicholas Sarkozy visited Indian visiting last year.

Students come to south India for studying specific areas in medicine too, says an official with the French consulate in Puducherry. "Many prefer JIPMER in Puducherry so they can study tropical diseases as there is a threat of these infections making a comeback in Europe due to global warming," he says.

The other group that heads down south consists of students and researchers of social issues. Barbara S., a political science student from Lyon, found southern India to be the perfect place for her research on refugees. "I found that Tamil Nadu has a number of refugee camps," she says. The 24-year-old, who arrived in August 2010, is now doing a post-graduate degree in defence and strategic studies at the University of Madras. She has also landed an internship with an organisation that works for the cause of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. "I got my first field-level work experience here," she says. "It will really help my career."

Though most students say that their Indian sojourns would look good on their resumes and help them land jobs easily, there are a few complaints too. Jeremie Berlioux, a 21-year-old political science student, says he did not have much choice when it came to selecting universities under the exchange programme. Quertelet had only two places IIT-M and VIT to choose from.

Also, many face difficulties finding accommodation. Bolazzi says, "It was hard to find a flat because owners didn't want non-Indians or non-Tamils." She finally found a place but is yet to feel at home. These problems have not dampened their enthusiasm for the place. For many, it is an opportunity to brush up on their English and figure out new areas of economic growth, says the consular official. "And they prefer south India as there is not much of a law and order problem that might interfere with their tight schedules," he adds.

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

Shiv Nadar Foundation to establish university in Greater Noida

The Shiv Nadar Foundation today said it will establish a university in Greater Noida to offer undergraduate, postgraduate and professional degrees across a number of disciplines. The Uttar Pradesh government has enacted the necessary legislation for the establishment of the Shiv Nadar University in the state, a statement said.

"UP has an extremely progressive approach towards education and we are thankful for the support of the state government which has approved our proposal to establish the Shiv Nadar University," Shiv Nadar Foundation Trustee TSR Subramanian said. Apart from the students it will benefit directly, it will also contribute to the development of the state by enhancing its position as an education hub," Subramanian said.

The Shiv Nadar Foundation has also appointed Nikhil Sinha as the founding Vice-Chancellor of the University. The Shiv Nadar University will commence operations this academic year.

The University will begin its academic programmes with the launch of the School of Engineering this academic year and plans to roll out other schools in the coming years, including schools of business, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. The University's most significant differentiator will be the strong emphasis on inter-disciplinary research that will cut across all schools, the statement said.

"While India can be justifiably proud of having a robust education infrastructure, it has not uniformly kept in tune with the current Indian and global needs in higher education. The progressive outlook of Uttar Pradesh has enabled us to set up a University with a multidisciplinary and research led character to address many of these issues," HCL Technologies and Shiv Nadar Foundation Chairman Shiv Nadar said.

Last year, HCL Corporation, promoted by Nadar and his family, sold a 2.5 per cent stake in group firm HCL Technologies to raise over Rs. 581 crore (Rs. 5.81 billion), the proceeds of which were to be utilised for the Foundation.

The University is located on a 286 acre campus in Greater Noida and Phase-I of the campus development plan would accommodate 4,000 students. When fully completed, the campus will accommodate 8,000 students, the statement added.

The Foundation has been established by HCL founder Shiv Nadar. It focusses on philanthropic activities in the field of education and had set up the SSN Institutions in 1996. It runs the VidyaGyan schools and is also setting up Shiv Nadar Schools across India.

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

Net tech test gets lukewarm response from students

The pilot run of the online All India Engineering/Architecture Entrance Examination (AIEEE) has received a lukewarm response with only 4,904 students registering themselves for the Net version while over 1.1 million aspirants will still be going for the traditional mode.

The Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE ), which conducts the exam, was planning to register 100,000 students for the online version this year. Interestingly, the board is also planning to scale it up to a complete online examination in a year or two.

But CBSE officials are upbeat and said the plans were in place to make it a complete online exam in the near future. "I don't see it as lukewarm. We have created a capacity of 100,000,but we are happy with the 5,000-odd registration, primarily because there are registrations from across 20 cities and none of our centres is going vacant. We will see increase in numbers in subsequent years," said CBSE Chairman Vineet Joshi.

CBSE officials are of the view that as this is the first time that the exam is going online and most students are comfortable with pen-and-paper-based exams, aspirants are apprehensive of making a shift. "One should not measure the success of the exam by its number but by its conduct. And we are confident of the smooth conduct of the online exam. These are teething problems, but the success of the CAT (Common Admission Test for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management) is an indication that computer-based test (CBT) is the future," said the media coordinator of CBSE, Rama Sharma.

AIEEE has witnessed a dip in the overall registration this year as well. In all, over 1.11 million aspirants registered for the test to be conducted on May 1, while in 2010, over 1.2 million students took the exam, making it the world's largest entrance test.

Both the CBT and paper-based tests will be conducted simultaneously across 20 cities and 81 cities, respectively, between 9.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. The paper-based test will also be conducted in Dubai and Riyadh on the same day.

Source: The Times of India, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

IIT faculty getting younger by the year

Campuses across India are getting younger. Aggressive, single and idealistic were, for long, associated with students. Today, faculty shares the same space. In the 1980s, anyone who walked into a packed class at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) was a grey-haired wise 60-year-old. Most had folded their crazy daily schedule and decided to settle on a leafy quiet campus in a job that didn't come with unachievable targets of the corporate world.

Today, the age gap between a faculty and a student is closing. Recruitment records from the IIT-Kanpur show that between 1990 and 2010, the average age of freshly recruited teachers fell from mid-50s to early-30s. Now, for many the life span of a corporate job has shortened dramatically. And with teaching paying handsomely, its a path many are taking. Within a span of just three decades, the average age of the faculty body has halved.

At IIT-Delhi, said its Director Surendra Prasad, "There were 24 teachers below the age of 35 in 2005; in 2011, there are 43. In all, 123 faculty members on campus (a little more than 25%) are below 40 years. A typical teacher's definition has changed: he, too, is from the Tweeting and Facebooking age. At IIT-Guwahati, for one, the average age of faculty on campus is 38; its 32 at the IIT-Madras campus.

"There has been a change in the culture on campus, just like there has been in society in general. The younger faculty are a lot more demanding of their students," said M. S. Ananth, Director, IIT-Madras. Close to half the recently recruited teachers from the IIT system, many of whom went abroad to pursue a Ph.D. and came back to teach. Clearly faculty blocks are cleaved into to two blocks --- the old timers who are holding the institutes flag and the younger lot that is aggressively into publishing and setting their own new reference points.

As IIM-Ahmedabad's Dean (Faculty) Ajay Pandey noted, "Today you see a lot of youngsters in IIM campuses across the country. Their values are different but there isn't a clash. Of the 90 faculty members here, about 20% are below the age of 35."

Himanshu Rai joined IIM-Lucknow at 35. After graduating from IIM-Ahmedabad, he spent time at Tata Steel, but gave up the corporate profile to do something intelligent. "I don't want a fancy car, a safe vehicle is just fine. I couldn't devote much time to pursue my vision with a job like that; hence teaching. And I am happy here," he said.

Source: The Times of India, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Qualified faculty eludes engineering colleges

Engineering colleges in the country, especially those in the minor league, may be popping up like mushrooms and even churning out graduates by the thousands, but when it comes to faculty quality, most colleges are forced to make do with relative freshers who do not even hold a Ph.D. degree.

Consider this: Since 2008, the number of engineering colleges in the country has almost doubled from 1,668 to 3,241, and along with it the shortage of Ph.D.-holders has also gone up from 54,839 in 2008-09 to 72,524 in 2010-11, according to figures from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

This shortage is being felt acutely by these new colleges, which have difficulty attracting experienced staff. For instance, the Dehradun Institute of Technology (DIT) and Delhi Technological University (previously the Delhi College of Engineering) both have 200 faculty members, but while over 50% of DTU staff hold Ph.D.s, being among the top ten tech colleges in India, DIT has only 25% Ph.D.s.

DIT Director Krishna Kumar pleads helplessness. "It is difficult to attract experienced teachers given the numerous opportunities they have these days. So we are forced to opt for less experienced and qualified teachers. Currently we have just 20-30% senior teachers," he says. And when it comes to top colleges, they are not ready to compromise on qualifications. "We do not hire plain B.Tech. graduates and the minimum qualification required is M.Tech. or its equivalent," says a DTU official.

Interestingly, there is a shortfall of faculty holding M.Tech. degrees too. The number of M.Tech.s required in engineering colleges has significantly increased from 90,000 in 2008 to approximately 120,000 in 2010. Because of this, regulator AICTE allows B.Tech.s also to teach, but on the condition that they complete their M.Tech. within three years.

"The average age of teachers with a B.Tech. is around 22 years and with a Ph.D. is 27 years. Why would a Ph.D.-holder go to a smaller town to teach when he is in demand in a metro city?" reasons an AICTE official. Agrees Amit Bansal, CEO at PurpleLeap, an Educomp and Pearson joint venture, "There is a marked difference in the experience of faculty of top-rung colleges and the rest. While the average faculty experience in top colleges is between 10 and 15 years, the average faculty experience in other colleges is 0-5 years."

Source: The Financial Express, April 23, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

One exam, less government interference: PM Advisor

The Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SAC-PM) has suggested replacing multiple entrance examinations with a single national examination and minimising government intervention in educational institutes to improve the higher education scenario.

Listing what he called 'Essential Steps for Progress in Higher Education', Council chairman Prof. CNR Rao also suggested checking the uncontrolled increase in the number of government-supported institutes and a better deal to the teaching community.

Noting that a major quality upgrade was required, Rao pointed out that today, there was not a single educational institution in India that was equal to the best institutions in advanced countries. "It is important that in the next 10-15 years, several of our educational institutions are in the top 100 in the world." He said this could be done if at least 10 higher educational institutions were provided with all the support required to enable them compete with the best of institutions in advanced countries.

Criticising the 'menace' of multiple examinations, Rao said the government needed to re-look at the entire examination system, including final examinations, entrance examinations, qualifying examinations, selection examinations, etc. Calling for a single national examination that should be able to assess the eligibility of candidates, Rao cited the example of US institutions that take young people from India based on one GRE examination.

Calling for an overhaul of the administrative system in the education sector, the SAC-PM chairperson said unless direct government intervention was reduced, education quality would never improve. He said state governments should be persuaded to support higher education with greater care. He also said investment and administrative autonomy, dedicated budget for R&D and recruitment and promotion of faculty needed attention.

Rao warned against allowing too many institutes to sprout in the country, saying it could prove to be counter-productive. Focusing on the need to improve faculty quality, he called on the government to ensure good emolument and amenities to teachers to help draw young people into the profession and to provide high quality in service training to teachers to help upgrade their skills constantly.

Drawing attention to the need to provide opportunities to talented children in rural areas, Rao suggested that increasing the number of fully supported residential schools, up to the higher secondary level, in rural India will help.

Source: The Indian Express, April 22, 2011

Panel for single exam option for all engineering institutes

A panel recommendation for a single entrance examination for all engineering institutions has thrust upon human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal a key test — picking between his convictions and likely pressures from states and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). Science secretary T. Ramasami, head of a panel set up by Sibal to pencil a blueprint to replace India’s myriad engineering exams with a single test, on Thursday proposed three possible mechanisms to implement the plan, government sources confirmed.

But Ramasami’s proposals --- which are not final and will be worked on by the science secretary further --- have set the stage for Sibal to try and convince state governments and elite institutions like the IITs to give up their entrance examinations, sources said. "It will not be easy. In fact, this will be very, very difficult. But if he succeeds, it will be historic," a senior official said.

Unlike a proposal by an earlier panel set up by Sibal under IIT-Kharagpur Director Damodar Acharya, the new plan involves a single national aptitude test. The Acharya panel had suggested that institutions like the IITs be allowed to hold an add-on test with subject specific questions on Physics, Chemistry and Math. Seven IITs objected to the HRD minister’s proposal for a single test — with no exceptions — to reduce the burden on students who at present have to appear for multiple admission tests.

Even the Acharya panel’s report was rubbished by faculty forums at the IITs. The plan to dump the add-on test is likely to spur greater protests from within the IIT community, the sources said.

Source: Hindustan Times, April 22, 2011

Public opinion to count in IIT-JEE reforms

T. Ramasami Committee on reforms in Indian Institutes of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) has decided to have a single entrance examination for admission to engineering course, but is yet to firm up how specifically it would be done.

The panel has decided to seek public opinion before finalizing its recommendation. In the next few days, a dedicated website would be created to draw public opinion. It remains to be seen if IIT Council agrees to be a part of engineering entrance examination that would also be for admission to non-IIT engineering colleges. Even state governments would have to come on board.

Sources said, to begin with even if an all-India single entrance examination is not introduced; JEE would definitely be reformed. Reform in JEE is one of the pleas sought by Rajiv Kumar, Professor of IIT-Kharagpur, in his petition in the Supreme Court. On Thursday, Ramasami gave a short presentation of three ways in which single entrance test can be held. HRD minister Kapil Sibal, Directors of IIT-Kanpur, Delhi and Roorkee were present.

Since 2008, Ramasami Committee is the fourth attempt to reform JEE. The first was an internal committee under V. G. Idichandy of IIT-Madras. In October 2009, IIT Council suggested increasing eligibility cut-off from the existing 60% to 80% in Standard XII. This was followed by the Acharya Committee of four IIT directors to suggest JEE reforms.

Source: The Times of India, April 22, 2011

Government panel rejects IIIT state quotas

A Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) appointed committee has rejected a key demand from different states to have domicile based reservation in the 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) to be rolled out from next year.

T. V. Mohandas Pai, who heads the expert committee to recommend criteria for selection of industry partners as well as proposals from states to set up 20 IIITs in public-private partnership (PPP) mode, has not favoured the system of having state quota or giving preferential treatment to the state students in admissions to the top institutes.

During a workshop convened by the MHRD last month, Pai clarified that the system followed by National Institutes of Technology (NITs) — of setting aside 50% of seats for state students — would not be followed in the case of the new IIITs. Some states have made a vehement pitch for local quota, saying they were contributing more than half the amount to set up these institutes in the form of land. The minutes of the meeting — accessed by TOI — shows Pai clarifying that the scheme, in its present form, did not provide for such an arrangement (of having state quota).

Each of the new IIITs are being set up with capital cost contribution of Rs. 120 crore (Rs. 1.2 billion) in the ratio of 50:35:15 by the Centre, state and industry respectively. In addition, state governments should offer 50-100 acres of contiguous land for free, and identify industry partners.

The proposed IIITs, which will be set up in phases over a nine-year period starting 2011, will admit students through a national-level entrance test, like the All-India Engineering Entrance Exam. The existing IIITs, like the ones in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Bhubaneshwar, will mentor the new ones. IIITs, which will be declared institutes of national importance, will be specialising in application of IT skills in one or more domain areas relevant to the state where they will come up.

The draft outline of the Pai committee to select industry partners shows that the participating companies should be at least five-year-old and should make a minimum contribution of Rs. 2 crore (Rs. 20 million). The industry partners will allow employees to go on a sabbatical to teach at the institutes, and students from these institutes would also be allowed to intern or collaborate in research. The intellectual property will jointly be held by the company as well as the institute.

Source: The Times of India, April 22, 2011

PM’s council calls for exam system overhaul

The Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Council has advised the government to institute a single national examination to assess the eligibilty of candidates for all higher education institutions, replacing the current system of multiple competitive tests.

Entrance examinations have "become a menace", according to a report prepared by Prof. C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Council. "IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) entrance has the reputation of being difficult and purposeful, but it has also had a negative effect on young minds. Young people suffer so much to succeed... and in the process lose excitement in education."

Rao also advocated the need to work toward having at least 10 Indian institutes among the world’s top 100, and advised the government to stop appointing bureaucrats as administrators of colleges and universities. In his recommendations, which the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) made public on Thursday, Rao, a renowned educationist and scientist, criticized the government’s move to open a number of higher educational institutes without bothering about the faculty crunch the sector is facing. "It would seem counter-productive to allow uncontrolled increase in the number of government-supported colleges and universities without careful consideration of manpower requirements," he said.

In the last couple of years, the Union government has opened 16 new central universities, seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), more than 20 National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and a number of other research institutes in the field of science and technology. However, the institutes are facing problems in terms of physical infrastructure and human resources.

Most of the new central universities do not have even 50% of the required faculty. The new IIMs are being run by visiting faculty from the older schools. Moreover, Union government-run institutes including the IITs are already facing a faculty crunch of 33%, according to official figures. India currently has 40 central universities and 15 IITs.

Criticizing the government’s handling of the administration of colleges and universities, the scientist, who has been visiting faculty in leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge, said this requires an overhaul. "What is unfortunate is that educational and research institutions are administered by people with IAS (Indian Administrative Service) or similar administrative backgrounds, many without any real interest in education," he said. A senior HRD ministry official, who declined to be named, said the report is not being regarded negatively. "It’s a good checklist for government on what we should do."

Regretting that no Indian college is equal to the best institutions in the advanced countries, Rao has suggested that "it is important that in next 10-15 years, several of our educational institutions are in the top 100 in the world. As a step forward, around 10 higher educational institutions could be provided all the support required to enable them compete with the best of institutions in the advanced countries." If India wants to succeed it should give greater importance to the teaching profession and accord due respect to teachers, Rao said.

Source: Mint, April 22, 2011

Career Launcher plans to raise funds through stake sale

Career Launcher India Ltd., which prepares students for competitive examinations, is considering selling stake to an overseas company or sell shares to the public for the first time to raise funds to expand into new business segments. The company is in initial discussions with global education companies and hasn’t decided on how much stake it wants to sell, Managing Director Nikhil Mahajan said in a telephone interview. It has hired a foreign investment bank for advising it on the stake sale. Mahajan declined to disclose its name.

Raising money through an initial public offer (IPO) is also an option and the company could finalize the mode of funding in the next two quarters, Mahajan said. Career Launcher helps students prepare for entrance exams, including those for admissions to management, law and engineering schools. Career Launcher had sales of Rs. 150 crore (Rs. 1.5 billion) in the year ended 31 March. The company runs around 175 test preparation centres and some 40 centres for vocational training courses. It owns 25% of the vocational centres; the rest are franchisees.

It will use the money it proposes to raise to enter new test-prep segments. It would also deploy part of it to further develop existing centres and towards domestic acquisitions. "Career Launcher’s distribution network is a great attraction for international players. It has great vehicles to access other education segments given their student access," said Bharat Gulia, senior manager of business advisory services at Ernst & Young.
Gaja Capital Partners, Edelweiss Capital Ltd. and Granite Hill Capital Partners own 12% in Career Launcher while the owners hold about 83%, Mahajan said. Gaja Capital was the first to invest in the company in 2007. Earlier this year, Gaja, Edelweiss Capital and Granite Hill Capital Partners invested an additional Rs. 25 crore (Rs. 250 million) in the company. In January, HDFC Ltd. and Gaja had invested Rs. 50 crore (Rs. 500 million) in Indus World Schools, a unit of Career Launcher.

Private equity companies have invested a total of U$ 54 million (around Rs. 2.4 billion today) in local education services providers in 2010. With the education and publishing business shrinking in western economies, companies such as Pearson, Reed Elsevier, McGraw-Hill Co. might invest more in fast-growing emerging markets, wrote analysts Ankur Rudra and Subhashini Gurumurthy of Ambit Capital Pvt. Ltd. in an 18 January note. UK-based Pearson Plc increased its stake in online tutoring firm TutorVista to 76% earlier this year. Expect more niche acquisitions in this space, wrote the Ambit analysts.

Unlike schools that have to be run by trusts, the entrance exam coaching business has no restrictions. Investors are more comfortable when a company runs the business as they know the money will go into scaling up the business, said Narayanan Ramaswamy, head of education advisory at KPMG India. "Although gross margins are lower at around 10-15% in this segment, volumes can be high and it can leverage on fixed costs like infrastructure costs," he said. "Gross margins are in the range of 30-50% in the school segment," he said.

Source: Mint, April 22, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

'MBA in oil and gas will benefit Indian students'

International B-schools are making a beeline to enter the Indian market not only with general management programmes, but specialised MBA courses. The latest to join the fray was UK-based Robert Gordon University offering a programme in Oil and Gas management. University Director Andrew Turnbull tells Piyali Mandal that India is the second biggest market for them after Nigeria. Edited Excerpts:

Do you think specialised MBA courses will be popular with Indian students?
Yes. So far we have got remarkably good response from Indian students. I have already interviewed students in Delhi. We will then proceed to Mumbai. We are seeing a lot of interest from the Indian students for the oil and gas management programme.

Are you targeting a specific number of students in India?
There is no thumb rule here. At any given point in time we have at least 10-15 Indian students on our campus in Aberdeen pursuing full-time management programmes. After Nigeria, we get maximum interest from Indian students. We offer full-time courses, part-time courses and distant learning programmes. Overall, we have 200 students. In the full-time programme, we have two courses — the generic MBA and the Oil and gas management. The two full-time courses put together will have a capacity of sixty students and we don't want to increase the number. Oil and gas management is a specially designed course and we want to have only thirty students every year for it.

Isn't Rs. 13 lakh (Rs. 1.3 million) for your MBA course pretty expensive? And, what about placements?
Well, we offer scholarships too. The maximum we offer in scholarships is a waiver of half of the course fee and the minimum scholarship is £3,000. For the management programme in oil and gas our fee is Rs. 13 lakhs but for the standard management course it is Rs. 12 lakhs (Rs. 1.2 million). Students should have minimum three years of job experience in management-related fields. However, the average work experience of our students is six years. They study core management subjects and then they tailor the degree themselves by choosing electives in the second part of the first nine months. In the last three months they take up assignments with companies. They complete the project and submit a report by early September which is the final element of their degree. We have a 100 per cent placement record. Since, the MBA programme is for students with work experience, placement is not an issue with them.

What made you market this programme in India?
The MBA in oil and gas management is specifically tailored for the need of the oil and gas sector. With the energy market in India growing, companies like Cairn Energy and other international energy giants, are creating job opportunities for people. Here, a management degree in oil and gas will benefit the Indian students by not only exposing them to a world of opportunities but also give them a degree which will qualify them to work anywhere in the world. No one in the UK offers an MBA specifically for this sector. Aberdeen, UK, is the capital of oil and gas in Europe with an unending demand for skilled people. The programme is designed to provide experienced practitioners in the oil and gas sector with advanced business, management and leadership skills needed to function at a strategic level as a contemporary energy manager. There are hotspots for the industry in West Asia, Brazil, and Australia.

Do you plan to open an India centre?
No. We work in India through our agents. We go from city to city to select the right candidate. We recruit from any or all of them. At this stage we don’t intend to open an office. I am sure the Indian students also want to benefit from mixing with students from other nations.

Source: Business Standard, April 21, 2011

Menon committee seeks more autonomy for Central varsities

Central universities could soon allow a student to pursue two independent degree programmes simultaneously, if a key recommendation made by a committee suggesting a roadmap for increased autonomy at Central educational institutes (CEIs) is accepted by the government. Headed by Prof. N. R. Madhava Menon, an eminent legal educationist, the committee has recommended a series of measures towards increasing academic, financial and administrative autonomy at the Central universities and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).

The report, accessed by The Indian Express, calls for doing away with the office of the Visitor in Central universities and vesting these powers in the office of the Chancellor, freedom to recruit distinguished faculty from anywhere in the world, to take up consultancy assignments and at the same time open the institute to independent reviews. Advocating a thorough revisiting of the process of appointment of a V-C, a five-year tenure for the V-C and reappointment of a V-C if the Executive Council so recommends, this committee has also suggested more accountability at CEIs.
The recommendations say all faculty members must be subjected to a review once every five years by a committee appointed by the Executive Council and fast tracked promotions or advance increments may be given to performers while further increments may be withheld in case of non-performers. Each Central varsity will also have to undergo a comprehensive review by an External Peer Review Board every 10 years and a department-wise review by subject experts every five years.

Recommending that established colleges with a good track record be elevated to university status, the committee has called for phasing out the affiliation system, as it feels that this has led to a decline in academic standards. For IIMs, the committee has recommended that they be allowed to award degrees like Central varsities and that they undertake a peer-based review of each department every five years.

Source: The Indian Express, April 21, 2011

Super 30 founder is Europe journal's global personality

Mr. Anand Kumar, who founded Super 30, Bihar's free coaching centre which helps economically backward students crack the Joint Entrance Exam of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (commonly known as IIT-JEE), has been selected by Europe's magazine Focus as one of the global personalities who have the ability to shape exceptionally talented people. He is the only Indian named in the list.

"This gives me a feel that honest and sincere efforts get noticed, no matter where they are being made. I will carry on with my pursuit of educating poor children," Mr. Kumar said.

Focus is published by Italy's biggest publishing house Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. Apart from Mr. Kumar, the article also mentions Iwano Brugneti (athlete). Earlier, Time magazine had described Super 30 as the ‘best of Asia.' Discovery channel made an hour-long documentary on Mr. Kumar, while a film made by a British producer won the "Viewers' Choice Award" in the Los Angeles Film Fest.

Mr. Kumar, who could not go to the Cambridge University for higher studies because of extreme financial constraint after the death of his father, started the Ramanujam School of Mathematics in 1992 and founded the Super 30 in 2002.

Super 30 provides free food, stay and rigorous coaching for nearly a year to 30 poor and talented students selected through a two-tier examination process. Most of the successful candidates have come from the most underprivileged sections of society.

In the past eight years, the initiative has helped 212 students clear the IIT entrance test. In the last three years, all the 30 students of the institute made it to the IITs each year, drawing worldwide attention. The students have to pass a competitive test to get into Super 30 and then commit themselves to a year of 16-hour study each day, Mr. Kumar said.

Japanese channel NHK and Al Jazeera also made documentaries on Super 30. In 2007, industrialist Mukesh Ambani honoured Mr. Kumar with the 'Real Hero Award.' During his visit last year, US President Barack Obama's envoy Rashad Hussain described Super 30 as the "best in India".

Source: Business Line, April 21, 2011

New IIMs may have common admission rule

The country's seven new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) may adopt common admission criteria from next year, saving thousands of IIM aspirants from having to evaluate complex selection eligibility separately for each of the B-schools. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and directors of the new IIMs will on Thursday discuss the dramatic new proposal and a slew of other joint initiatives the government wants the B-schools to undertake, top government sources have told HT.

Four of the new IIMs this year jointly held personal interviews (PIs) and group discussions (GDs) — the second stage of the admission process. But the Thursday's meeting may for the first time lead to IIMs collaborating on setting joint selection criteria, sources said. The plan for common admission criteria apart from common PIs and GDs, listed on the agenda for the meeting, is aimed at simplifying the admission process for students.

Common admission criteria — if agreed to by the new IIMs — could include the Institutes sharing cut-off determination formulae and the weightage they decide to give to applicants' class X, class XII and undergraduate marks.

The proposed admission reform for the new IIMs comes close on the heels of a controversial 2011 admission policy adopted by the B-schools, which denied several toppers in the Common Admission Test (CAT) even interview calls. These students — screened out because of criteria that would have eliminated them independent of how well they scored in the CAT, but which were hidden till the CAT results were declared --- have challenged the IIMs in the Delhi high court. They are arguing they would not have wasted their time and resources if the IIMs had declared pre-CAT criteria upfront.

The directors and the MHRD will also discuss plans for faculty exchanges among them and using information technology to meet teacher shortage problems, and put in place a mechanism for regular interaction between the IIM heads.

Source: Hindustan Times, April 21, 2011

Government yields a bit on new technical college norms

Caving in to pressure, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has partially rolled back the changes in the guidelines governing setting up of new technical institutes. Earlier the MHRD had revised the guidelines and made it mandatory for new institutes to pay Rs. 90 lakh (Rs. 9 million) as security money for a period of 10 years. Now, it has rolled this back to the original level of Rs. 30 lakh (Rs. 3 million), but inserted a condition wherein this sum would have to be paid in cash to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex regulator of technical education in the country. In turn, AICTE would invest the money in a fixed deposit and retain the interest earnings in a special account.

Private colleges and institutes were, however, disappointed with the changes and wanted the government to restore the original guidelines. They believe the move is a dampener to setting up new institutes at a time when the cash-strapped government is unable to make similar investments. Earlier, institutes were required to only furnish a bank deposit receipt for eight years and were allowed to retain the interest earnings.

AICTE member secretary M.K. Hada confirmed the development. According to a senior MHRD official, who requested not to be named, increasing the security money to nearly a crore rupees "sounds little unfair" as it will hinder new institutes coming up. "When the focus is on increasing access to education and making gross enrollment ratio (GER)in higher education to 30% from the current 13%, you should not discourage education entrepreneurs. But, we have to closely monitor the quality," the ministry official said.

Currently around two million students are pursuing technical education such as engineering, management, pharmacy, architecture among others. And overall, less than 15 million Indians are pursuing higher education, which is just 13% of those who are eligible or in the age group. HRD minister Kapil Sibal has reiterated on occasions that India would like to add 30 million more students in the higher education space and the country needs over 20,000 more colleges in a decade's time.

Last year, the government approved at least 600 new institutes and if all of them submit a security money of Rs. 30 lakh (Rs. 3 million) each in cash, then AICTE will have a corpus of Rs. 180 crore (Rs. 1.8 billion) on which it will earn an interest. Moreover, the council will keep the cash in a bank fixed deposit for 10 years, according to the new rules.

H. Chaturvedi, Director of Birla Institute of Technology at Greater Noida and Alternate President of the Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI), an industry lobby, said, "At an interest rate of 9-10%, AICTE is expected to earn above Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion) from this process in a few years. They are a government body and should not become a fund accumulator."

AICTE's Hada said the regulator is not making money rather it will help students in case of an institute shuts down. He said AICTE has encountered few instances when colleges furnish some fake receipt or withdraw the money before the expiry of the stipulated period. This will guard against any such attempts.

Private sector owns over 70% of the over 10,000 technical colleges in the country and Chaturvedi argued "government should not make private education unviable that too when government cannot fulfil the demand for such colleges." Chaturvedi indicated that this was part of a trend as earlier AICTE had imposed a charge Rs. 5,000 for each of the 10,364 technical colleges following the introduction of e-governance, earning it Rs. 5.18 crore (Rs. 51.8 million).

Source: Mint, April 21, 2011

Auto-driver's techie son heads for IIM-Calcutta

Braving all odds, the son of a poor auto-rickshaw driver from Patna has made it to the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, (IIM-C). Anupam Kumar, a resident of Bhadra Ghat locality in Patna, scored a 97.09 percentile in the Common Admission Test (CAT) to qualify for the prestigious institution.

Anupam says he owes his success to his family. "Whatever I have achieved today is because of my parents," he said, adding, "God should give everybody parents like mine." He said his family had often found it difficult to make both ends meet while he was pursuing his goal. Anupam's father Srikrishna Jaiswal has been an auto-rickshaw driver for more than two-and-a-half decades in Patna.

"Our family income was quite low but my father never lost hope. He has been working hard for many years for the family," Anupam said. This was not the maiden success of Anupam, though. In 2005, he had cracked the joint entrance examination (JEE) for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) as a student of Super 30, a free coaching institute for underprivileged children run by a young mathematician Anand Kumar.

He subsequently completed his first year of the M Sc. integrated course in Physics at IIT-Kharagpur but left it to join Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad. He has since been pursuing a five-year dual course there in mining engineering with MBA. Anupam's father Jaiswal has been toiling hard for years to fulfill the dreams of his children. He leaves every day at 9 a.m. and returns home as late as 11 p.m., so that he could earn sufficient money to help his three children pursue their dreams.

Hardly surprising then, his eldest son Anupam's success has brought cheers to his family. "God has answered our prayers," Anupam's mother Sudha Devi, a housewife, said, adding "When my son called up to say he has been selected for IIM-C, our joy knew no bounds."

After doing his matriculation from a private school and intermediate from the Hindi medium Guru Gobind Singh College at Patna Sahib in first division, Anupam focused on making it to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). But the road to success was not easy because of resource crunch. Anupam said he started giving tuitions to children to supplement the income of his family. "I used to earn Rs. 1,000-1,200 by giving tuition to the students of classes VI and VII. At times, I had doubts whether I would be able to fulfill my dreams. I also thought of becoming a teacher at a coaching institute at one point of time," the IIT protege said. Anupam had disappointment in store when he failed to qualify in his first attempt at IIT-JEE in 2004. But he got admission in Super 30 as one of the 30 students and went on to crack the IIT-JEE the next year.

Recalling his student, Anand said he was pleased to know that he had made it to the IIM-C. "He was a very talented and hard working boy," the founder of Super 30 said. "I am sure he will go far in his career." Anupam's success has also inspired his younger brother Abhishek and sister Anamika to pursue careers in engineering.

Notwithstanding Anupam's success, his father Jaiswal does not intend to stop driving his autorickshaw on the roads of Patna. When Anupam informed his father about his latest success, Jaiswal told him to keep focus on his studies. He would keep running the auto-rickshaw for another two years before thinking of retirement, his father said.

Source: Mail Today, April 21, 2011

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