Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jindal Law School signs MoU with US firm

US-based global law firm White & Case and Jindal Global Law School of O. P. Jindal Global University signed an agreement on Monday to develop executive and continuing legal education programs. The agreement calls for visiting faculty arrangements, adjunct professorships, joint conferences and seminars and internships for JGLS students.

White & Case is a leading firm with lawyers in 37 offices in 25 countries. White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier said: “Our collaboration with JGLS is part of the firm's long-term commitment to India. Our association with this pioneering global law school will help prepare a new generation of lawyers who can operate effectively in a globalised world.”

“With a very active cross-border India practice, White & Case recognises the huge role India plays in the global economy,” said Nandan Nelivigi, a partner with White & Case and Head of the Firm's India Practice. He said “teaming up with one of the best law schools in India will allow the firm, through its social responsibility initiative, to make contributions to the further strengthening of India's legal education system and profession.”

JDLS Vice-Chancellor Prof. C. Raj Kumar said, “The agreement with White & Case marks a historic opportunity underscoring the importance of globalisation of legal education and the legal profession in India. This collaboration will provide impetus to raising the quality of legal education in India that will transcend jurisdiction-based learning, but also more importantly, help India develop legal knowledge across different sectors.”

Source: The Hindu, May 24, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

MiM is a unique programme developed for India: Strathclyde Business School

Strathclyde Business School is one of the only 48 in the world to hold all three the major global accreditations. And it’s coming to India,” said Prof. Phil Taylor, Academic Director of Programmes, Strathclyde SKIL Business School, who was in India recently. In the interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Taylor shares, what he believes, is going to be a unique experience for the students:

Why did you partner with an infrastructure company for setting up a B-school in India?
We were approached by a man called Gaurav Mittal, who had graduated from Strathclyde, and who is associated with the SKIL Infrastructure Ltd. SKIL, at that time, was interested in expanding into the education sphere. (I would like to add that this was before the Foreign Education Providers Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha). At the same time, the University of Strathclyde, which runs as many as nine offshore centres in places such as the Middle East, Hong Kong and Europe, and already has the experience of delivering programmes internationally, was interested in entering a growing economy such as India. So, in this partnership, SKIL provides the physical infrastructure for the college and the University of Strathclyde provides its educational programmes. That’s how the Strathclyde SKIL Business School (SSBS) campus in Greater Noida was born. I must add that this is yet another first in our illustrious history—our first branch campus, and where better to establish this new campus than in one of the world’s most vibrant nations: India. The campus will be ready by September this year.

How different SSBS is going to be from your nine offshore centres you mentioned?
Well, some of the offshore centres we have essentially deliver the same programmes that we develop in the UK. But at SSBS we are coming up with something called a Masters in Management (MiM)—a programme that we don’t deliver anywhere else in the world and that we have developed for the Indian marketplace. In this programme, the case studies, placements, applied knowledge, etc, are going to be specific to the Indian conditions. And I must add that 50% of the faculty at SSBS is going to be from Strathclyde and the other 50% is going to be the locals. So, it is the coming together of the Indian expertise and knowledge and Strathclyde expertise and knowledge.

How different is MiM from the usual MBA?
MiM is actually a pre-experience masters in management. It is specifically designed to provide high-calibre recent graduates with a solid foundation in understanding what business is about while developing the skills and awareness needed to be a successful manager. The programme is targeted at candidates with non-business related undergraduate degrees, such as in humanities, science, arts or engineering, and at those with a background in business studies. The MiM enables one to expand one’s career options by combining the specialist knowledge of one’s undergraduate degree with a broad and general business and management postgraduate education. Also, the quality of the programme is such that we are able to offer our students the opportunity to convert their MiM into the internationally recognised Strathclyde MBA, after, of course, they have gained appropriate work experience and completed some further advanced study.

This two-year masters builds on Strathclyde’s long established excellence in research and teaching. Following a foundation first year in India, students will spend a semester taking specialist elective classes at our Glasgow campus, where they will become a member of our global community of post-graduate students studying in Glasgow. The company-based project will provide an invaluable opportunity of applying the knowledge gained from full-time studying to a concrete business setting.

For any B-school, accreditation offers a very objective way of measuring its credentials. Has your programme got any accreditations?
We are an internationally accredited business school, and here I would like to add that we hold not just one but three accreditations—from AMBA (the Association of MBAs), which originates in the UK; from AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), which is the US’s best known accreditation body; and from EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System), which is the European accreditation body. Strathclyde is one of the only 12 business schools in the UK and one of the only 48 in the world to hold all three of the accreditations. Before you ask me about India, the Strathclyde SKIL MiM programme holds full accreditation in its own right from AMBA. We sent them the details of the programme last December and they have given it formal accreditation status and so MiM has already been accredited by AMBA in advance.

So what are the requirements to get into SSBS?
As I mentioned earlier, students from any discipline can apply for the programme. We are looking for students who get 60-65% in their degree courses, although we are not fixated on this score because we know getting that sort of percentage may not be easy in some universities in India, say, Delhi University. Then we look for strong verbal reasoning and numerical abilities, competence in English (so the applicant may be asked to achieve a minimum of 6.5 across the board in IELTS or 95 (IBT) in TOEFL), etc. So these are some basic requirements but overall, as far as possible, we will try and judge the students holistically. And that’s where interviews and face-to-face interactions come in, which will be valued highly.

Lastly, what kind of career prospects SSBS students can have?
SSBS MiM will prepare the students for entry into the dynamic world of business. In addition to the new skills and knowledge our students will acquire during their studies, they will also have completed a formal company internship as part of their final MiM project. Also, three months of intensive training in the UK will give our students a global perspective. So, the world will always welcome them with open arms. In addition, we will be approaching the Scottish as well as UK companies that are running their businesses in India. Lastly, our students will always have the option of converting their MiM into the Strathclyde MBA after they put in three years of practical work experience in the field of business right after MiM.

Source: The Financial Express, May 23, 2011

No need for duplicating conventional education system: IGNOU Chief

Prof. V. N. Rajasekharan Pillai's depth of engagement with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), of which he has been the Vice-Chancellor since October 2006, is manifest in the focused manner and interest with which he details the growth of the university and his role in the context.

“IGNOU is a different university and there is no need for duplicating a conventional education system here. The need is to provide maximum flexibility in terms of educational opportunities. It is also the university's responsibility to discern the kind of knowledge and skills necessary for society and disseminate them,” he says.

Speaking at length about IGNOU's responsibilities as an open university, Prof. Pillai adds: “Majority of our learners are working, hence work-integrated learning is a major responsibility. Also, only five per cent of the workforce has some sort of certification. These are all working persons and they have minimum knowledge and skills in their area. However, they have no certification and this is affecting them. The workplace should have a mechanism to assess their work, provide additional skills and knowledge and help to provide certification. There is need to focus on the unorganised sector.”

“As an open varsity the system also has to be more flexible. A great deal of educational infrastructure and intellectual capabilities are available in industry, corporate houses, the social sector and the rural development sector outside the formal university framework. As an open varsity we need to network with these set-ups as well,” he adds.

Previous positions such as V-C of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, National Assessment and Accreditation Council Executive Director, University Grants Commission Vice-Chairman and Acting Chairman have endowed him with vast administrative experience. He has also been teaching since the past 40 years and has over 200 original research publications in refereed national and international journals to his credit.

Mulling over the administrative challenges encountered in the process of heading a university, Prof. Pillai says: “In the last four years, the university has expanded not only its reach but also achieved major consolidation. New Schools and Chairs have been established and we can now declare examination results in just 45 days. ”

“Another significant milestone has been the digitising of our learning material, which is available on the Internet. This comprises all our learning material which was in various forms. Called ‘eGyanKosh,' anyone can access this.” He says there were initial apprehensions about making this treasure trove of information available free of cost in the public domain. “However, post the launching of ‘eGyanKosh,' our enrolment has actually increased.”

Prof. Pillai also expressed satisfaction regarding the research and teaching assistantship scheme which the university has started. “Research was not happening in a big way. Moreover, we are in need of bright and fresh post-graduates who work as full time researchers and also teach. Our rules for granting Ph.D. degrees are fairly strict too.”

“We have also introduced, for the first time, a programme in sign language for the hearing impaired. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is considering IGNOU for establishing the first sign language institute in India.” The introduction of enterprise resource planning in the Administrative and Financial Departments of the varsity is also seen as a feather in IGNOU's cap.

Speaking earnestly on the issue of community college, he noted: “Community college is a very bold intervention. Several colleges have tied up with us for the community college initiative.” Community college, the V-C points out, can be attended by people from any age group at individual convenience.

The university keeps in touch with the pulse of the students through its annual ‘student satisfaction survey'. “For each of our courses and various initiatives, the student satisfaction survey provides a good measure of student opinion. Based on the survey responses, we adapt the courses accordingly.”

Prof. Pillai's tenure as IGNOU V-C will come to a close in October 2011. “I will consider other assignments which come my way,” he says. A voracious reader, Prof. Pillai reveals that he is fond of reading Malayalam poetry.

Source: The Hindu, May 23, 2011

Government may allow education bodies to float bonds

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is considering allowing educational institutions to float bond issues for fund generation. “At present, we are working on some of these ideas. We are also thinking of a National Education Finance Corporation, which can tap into a lot of such resources. We will try to put it all together and work it out as a strategy in the new scheme in the 12th Five-year Plan,” a senior MHRD official told Business Standard.

A widely-accepted concept in the West, a bond issue allows institutions to tap into the vast pool of not only their alumni network, but also people who wish to do their bit for the education sector. There will, however, be certain conditions education institutions will have to adhere to, which the MHRD is still working on.

Universities in the US and the UK, including Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Princeton, meet their financial needs and finance important projects cheaply via bond issues. These universities need ratings from a credit agency while going for the bond issue.

However, to allow Indian universities to raise money via bonds, some important changes will be required. Educational institutions in India can be set up only by trusts, societies or companies. For a long time, the Centre has been experimenting with ideas to plug the funding gap in higher education. Experts say the move may require modifications in the Companies Act, especially those relating to the formation of companies under Section 25, as well as state laws relating to the way charitable trusts are allowed to function. Internationally, donation of land and shares are accepted by universities to help create an endowment.

Sector experts say getting a rating from credit rating companies will compel educational institutions to be more careful about their investment plans, as well as cash flows. The latter will require educational institutions to increase their fees or trim their offerings as and when required, in order to remain financially attractive and get a good rating. A good rating, in turn, allows educational institutions to avail of loans at a cheaper rate.

Rating agencies, including CRISIL and CARE, have already begun rating B-schools in India. Going ahead, CARE may also rate engineering colleges in the country. The move may allow educational institutions to offer their assets, including their corpus, as collateral for meeting important investment outlays.

“Universities need money and this will be a good way for them to raise funds when the price of credit has risen sharply and is no longer readily available,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, Executive Director, Educational Services, KPMG. However, before any institution went for a bond issue, it needed to put in place a mechanism where it could be equipped to handle such bond issues, he added. “This brings fiscal responsibility for the management. So, the university needs to be well equipped to manage it. Many universities don’t even have a treasury department or finance officers to manage funds,” he added.

Many institutes, including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), are looking at generating endowment funds through these methods. While Indian institutes do not invest money in the financial markets, international universities park their money – locally and internationally – with public and private equity, stocks, real estate, commodities and bonds, among others. In India, international university endowment funds are registered as Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs). According to data from the Securities and Exchange Board of India, till last year the number of such funds investing in the Indian market went up over three-fold to around 20 in 2010, against six in 2008.

President and fellows of Harvard College, for instance, have doubled the target investment in emerging markets to 10 per cent for 2010, against five per cent in 2005. Harvard, the richest US school, has a $27.6-billion endowment, followed by Yale University’s $16.7 billion. Other registered endowment funds are the Duke Endowment; Cornell University; Emory University; The John Hopkins University; The Ohio State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Basic Retirement Plan.

Anand Sudarshan of Manipal University told Business Standard that while it will be a good idea for Indian institutions, the statutes of universities or educational institutions may have to undergo change to be allowed to generate funds via the debt market.

Source: Business Standard, May 23, 2011

Whistling Woods lines up expansion plans

Subhash Ghai-controlled Whistling Woods is set for expansion. The institute will begin construction on two new campuses in Haryana and Hyderabad by the end of the year, at an investment of approximately Rs. 200 crore (Rs. 2 billion). Both campuses will be spread over 20 acres each. Whistling Woods International (WWI) is a film school which trains students in a range of skill sets related to acting, production and distribution. It is a subsidiary of Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)-listed Mukta Arts — Subhash Ghai’s production company.

“We will look at ramping up capacity in WWI from the current 400 to 2,000 students within the next couple of years. The idea behind WWI remains training professionals geared at making a career in commercial cinema,” Ghai said. WWI is a joint venture between Mukta Arts and the Maharashtra government, with Mukta owning 85 per cent of the institute. At present, of the 400 students, 70 are foreigners.

Also, in an attempt to expand the school’s reach, establishing campuses in each of the country’s four regions, Ghai has written to the West Bengal government and asked for 20 acres on the outskirts of Kolkata. “We look forward to cooperation from the new government of West Bengal. I wrote to the Left Front government six months back, and while I understand allocation of land takes time, I am hoping our request will soon be met,” he said.

Construction will begin by the end of the year on both new campuses. With this expansion, WWI will become one of the leading players in cinema management and training space. It already offers seven courses, including a masters in business management (MBA), besides training courses in acting, production, film technology, distribution, media management and advertising.

Other major players in the film education space include the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) located in Pune, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and Xaviers’ College in Kolkata, along with the Prasad Film and Television Academy in Chennai. Unlike the WWI, the other institutes are recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

“I did not want the hassles associated with getting government recognition. Its absence or presence in no way adds or subtracts the institute’s credentials. Our USP remains excellent facilities, faculty, technology and exposure we afford our students,” Ghai explained.

WWI has also two overseas campuses in Spain and Bermuda. The institute is also the sole representative of Sony 3D media technology in the country and one of only three representatives across the world.

Source: Business Standard, May 23, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

IIT panel proposes to steer girls towards Engineering

Girls may receive higher ranks than boys with identical total marks in the Indian Institutes of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) if the government accepts a sensitive new proposal to improve the gender balance on IIT campuses. A Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) panel under former atomic energy commission chairman Anil Kakodkar has proposed changing the way students in the IIT-JEE are ranked, to increase the number of girls at the premier engineering schools.

Only 12% of all students selected into the IITs through the JEE in 2010 were girls. Only one in every hundred girls who takes the IIT-JEE clears the exam, as compared to three boys out of every hundred, the Kakodkar panel has concluded after scouring through years of data from the intensely competitive examination.

If the proposal is accepted, a girl student will on average jump at least 10 ranks. The MHRD is studying the recommendations - set up to pencil a blueprint for the future of the IITs - and the panel's report will also be examined by the IIT Council.

The IITs at present rank students with the same total marks in the JEE by seeing who has higher marks in the subject - out of physics, chemistry and math - where all students have overall performed worst. If a tie still persists, the IITs then look at scores in the subject with the second-lowest cut-off --- a reflection of overall student performance in that subject --- to try and break the deadlock. Students with identical total and individual subject marks are some years given the same rank, and other years separated by a random process like their date of birth. The procedure is specified in the prospectus.

The panel has suggested that girls from each clump of students with the same total score be automatically separated and ranked higher than boys in the group. The panel has also recommended the government to reimburse 50% fee for selected girls.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 20, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Indian research fellowship big hit in Africa

India's C.V. Raman International Research Fellowship for African researchers is turning out to be a big hit, with 86 candidates from 26 African nations availing it in the inaugural 2010 programme. African researchers have praised the fellowship as being mutually beneficial to both India and Africa, according to a report on the Indian embassy website herel. The fellowship covers travel expenses to India apart from providing monthly allowance up to Rs. 50,000.

Mohammed Beyan, a researcher from Ethiopia said: "The fellowship has made an immense contribution in bringing the scientific communities in India and Africa together to solve problems through research. Indian experience in research and education can be directly adopted and utilized by Africans."

Nigerian researcher Bukola Olanika Oyebanji said: "Thanks to the fellowship, I was exposed to modern technologies, especially in the areas of tissue culture. Also I was able to carry out experiments for which facilities were not
available in my country."

"The fellowship is mutually beneficial. Indian scientists acquire knowledge on how African scientists are tackling challenges faced by farmers in Africa," said Kenyan researcher Joseph Njuguna Kari.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) instituted the fellowship last year for providing opportunities for African researchers. The aim is to conduct collaborative research with universities and R&D institutions in various areas of science and technology.

C.V. Raman (1888-1970) was an Indian physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1930 for his contribution in physics. The deadline for this year's C.V. Raman fellowship programme is July 31.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Asia, e-learning clicks

On the island of Fuvahmulak in the Maldives, a cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean, Abdulla Rasheed Ahmed’s options for acquiring a doctoral degree were somewhat limited. The nearest university is an hour’s flight from his home. And in any case, it doesn’t offer a doctorate in education, the programme Abdulla, a school principal, wanted to pursue.

Having already taken time off to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Malaysia, Abdulla was reluctant to take more time away from his job or family, so he enrolled in Asia e University, an institution in Kuala Lumpur that offers online courses. “Studying online is very suitable for working people,” Abdulla said. “You can study anytime, anywhere, regardless of your location.”

Some universities have long specialised in such distance education, but now more homegrown Asian institutions are seeking to tap the demand for higher education in underserved areas. And as Internet connectivity spreads, more students like Abdulla are realising that their education options are no longer bound by geographical constraints—or even by the older model of distance learning, in which students received bundles of course materials in the mail. “It has really taken the ‘distance’ out of distance education,” said Wong Tat Meng, President of the Asian Association of Open Universities, who is Vice-Chancellor of Wawasan Open University in Malaysia.

Universities around the world have jumped on the e-learning bandwagon to varying degrees, from posting course materials online to making participation in online discussion forums an assessable course component. Yet some education experts say such programmes are not a panacea in removing barriers to a university education. Poor Internet service in many parts of Asia, particularly rural areas, remains a problem, leaving many students unreachable. In addition, online universities, they say, face many challenges, from competing with the more established campus-based universities to building a credible reputation in an environment saturated with schools of questionable qualifications.

Open universities, or institutions that specialise in distance education, have long been part of Asia’s higher education landscape, but the number has grown rapidly in recent years, especially in China and India, according to Wong. He said the Internet had led to a “quantum leap” for distance education providers, particularly in places with good broadband infrastructure like South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. South Korea, Wong said, was the most advanced Asian country in terms of e-learning, with a number of universities delivering courses entirely online. He said China, which is home to 68 online colleges, is rapidly becoming a major player.

Wong believes that demand for higher education in South Korea and China, coupled with the fact that these countries have high-speed broadband in major cities, was driving the increase in online providers. “Many working adults simply do not have the time to attend face-to-face lectures delivered in conventional universities,” he said. “Also, governments simply cannot build sufficient brick-and-mortar universities fast enough to meet the huge demand for knowledge workers needed to drive the knowledge economy.”

It is this demand for education that Asia e University is seeking to meet. The university was established in 2008 under the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, a grouping of 31 countries, with the aim of giving more students the opportunity to complete higher education. The Malaysian government finances the university’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, while public and private partners finance the operations in the various countries where its courses are offered.

“Our focus is to provide access,” said Ansary Ahmed, the university’s President and Chief Executive. “There are still many countries in Asia where the participation rates of the population going to university is still low.” The university expects the online-only path to become increasingly popular, but with students found in places as diverse as Indonesia, Cambodia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Ansary said the extent to which students completed their studies online was often determined by broadband access and their proficiency in English. One advantage of online courses, Ansary said, is that there are no restrictions on the number of students who can enroll.

One of the challenges facing universities that provide online courses is proving that their courses are credible. While institutions like Asia e University and Wawasan Open University are approved by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency, Ansary said it could be more difficult to convince people of the quality of online education in countries that lacked rigorous quality assurance mechanisms.

G. Dhanarajan, an education consultant with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Honorary Director of the Institute for Research and Innovation at Wawasan Open University, said acceptance of online learning was greater for professional development courses, like information technology or accounting, than for degree qualifications. Dhanarajan, a former chief executive of the Open University of Hong Kong, said there was still a preference for traditional “chalk and talk” arrangements because of scepticism about the quality of online courses.

He said governments were trying to find better ways to assess online programmes but the proliferation of “diploma mills” in the past decade had eroded confidence in online institutions. “These have become part and parcel of the problem regarding the acceptance, recognition and respect for online learning,” he said.

Dhanarajan said Asia was a “qualifications-mad continent,” making students vulnerable to bogus courses. “There are thousands of them on the Web, so how does a government agency keep track of all of these?” he said. “They can’t. All you can do is continue to try to educate your population. At some point there will be a level of sophistication that people will be able to discriminate for themselves.”

Source: Indian Express, May 17, 2011

IIM-Trichy to open on June 15, 2011

The hallowed portals of an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) will be more accessible to aspiring business students of Tiruchirapalli city when (IIM-T) opens on June 15 this year. All infrastructure is in place, 12 faculty members have been chosen after stringent selection parameters and admissions had commenced, with 27 students already being chosen, Dr. Prafulla Agnihotri, Director of IIM-T said.

The institute, to be inaugurated on June 15, would have a total of 60 students in the first batch, both boys and girls. Agnihotri said the faculty would be in the institute for start of the first batch of its PostGraduate programme on Finance and Accounting, Marketing, Strategic Management, Operation and Qualitative Analysis, HR and Organisational Behaviour, Management Information System. Though the board had sanctioned recruitment of 20 members, Agnihotri said he planned to have four or five more.

On the fee structure, he said it would cost Rs. 1 million for the two-year programme, which included tuition fee, course materials, basic books and case study books. "The fee is reasonable compared to other new IIMs in the country. But IIM-T will not break even in the first year. Besides the tuition fee, students may have to pay Rs. 25,000 for advance mess bill and caution deposit of Rs, 15,000," he said. The IIM will temporarily function from the National Institute of Technology campus in Tiruchirapalli (Trichy).

Agnihotri said he was committed to make IIM-T among the top 10 B-Schools in India in five years and hoped to introduce fellowship programmes in 2012-13. He said he had roped in more than 30 leading corporates, including MNCs, who would provide eight-week summer training programme to students at the end of the first academic year.

IIM-T has also initiated successful dialogue with leading B-Schools in Europe and USA and planned to hold talks with B-Schools in Singapore and Australia for student and faculty exchange programmes, he said. The institute was also getting ready to launch orientation programme and satellite-based programme class and online programme for working executives, he said.

Source: The Economic Times, May 17, 2011

Education Loans: Good grades to pay

If you are a meritorious student, getting an education loan will be easier and you can even bargain with the bank for a lower rate of interest. The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), after formulating a detailed model education loan scheme to provide financial support to deserving candidates, is now reviewing the current structure of education loans in the country. The association will give its report – which among other things recommends that banks be able to decide the cut-off marks for lending without any security – to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) shortly.

Currently, banks offer education loans to students with Indian nationality in the age group of 16 to 35 years. For availing loans below Rs. 400,000, an applicant does not have to give any security and a third-party guarantor or security amount. The guarantor of the loan could be the applicant’s parent, working sibling or even spouse, if he or she is working, and in-laws or other close relatives.

Unlike home, auto or personal loans, those availing education loans do not have to do immediate repayments and can start after completing their course and securing a source of income. The moratorium period of the loan is the course period plus one year or six months after getting a job, whichever is earlier. Banks usually keep a window of five to seven years for repaying the loan and can give an extension of another two years if the borrower has a good repaying history. The interest rate varies from 12% to 16.50% for loans up to Rs. 400,000 for a period of seven years and between 12% to 17.5% for loans above Rs. 400,000 for a period of seven years.

The Indian Banks’ Association is looking at the the rate structure of the banks and is likely to suggest a longer time period to repay the loan for students who have had a brilliant academic record. Getting a loan might get tougher for those who do have a good academic record and pay a hefty amount to get admission for higher education, especially in professional courses. Analysts say with higher default rates, banks are now taking stringent measures to approve students loans and are doing proper due diligence for those loans that are taken to fund studies in capitation fee-based courses and institutions.

All banks charge a processing fee, which can vary between 0.5 % and 2.5 % of the total loan amount the student is applying for. The maximum loan amount a student an avail for studies in India is Rs. 1 million and Rs. 2 million for studying abroad. Some banks offer discounts on the interest rate for female students. One can claim income-tax deductions for repayment of an education loan for higher education of up to Rs. 40,000 per year under Section 80DD of the Income Tax Act.

Documentation for an education loan is simple: The bank or the financial institutions will require proof of identity, age and address. The student will have to furnish the admission letter of the institution and the fee structure of the particular course for each semester or annual charges.If the student is going abroad for the course for which he is seeking the loan, then he will have to give the passport details, GMAT or GRE score, total expenses for the course and all other travel documents to the bank. Ideally, the borrower should tie up the loan after getting the visa approval, which is the last hurdle for going abroad. In case of a co-applicant, the same documents plus income proof have to be given to the bank.

The government provides full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium on loans taken by students belonging to economically weaker sections from scheduled banks, where the annual parental income does not exceed Rs. 450,000 per year. The scheme is applicable for students pursuing technical and professional courses in India. After the period of moratorium is over, the interest on the outstanding loan amount is paid by the student. The interest subsidy under the scheme is available to students only once, either for the first undergraduate degree course or the postgraduate degree and diploma course, and will not be available to those who either discontinue the course midway or those who have been expelled from the institution on disciplinary or academic grounds.

Source: The Financial Express, May 17, 2011

PE firms see future in informal education

Informal education has become a favourite investment destination for private equity (PE) players owing to the huge growth opportunities that the sector offers. They are targeting pre-schools and other institutes that help enhance the learning experience, or institutes that directly lead to employment opportunities.

Owing to the largely unregulated nature, this sector offers PE firms flexibility to do business on their own terms and utilise the profits of the business for their own. Education is one of the top three investment destinations for private equity players in India.

About 95 per cent of this sector is unorganised and presents greater investment opportunities for players through acquisitions. A KPMG report on education sector said that the market size for education sector would cross Rs. 2 lakh crore (Rs. 2 trillion) by 2012; formal education (K-12 and higher education) would constitute Rs. 1.8 lakh crore (Rs. 1.8 trillion) would constitute and the informal sector (pre-schools, coaching institutes and vocational courses) would constitute about Rs. 27,000 crore (Rs. 270 billion).

Private equity firms generally exit these investments through a strategic sale to another company or an IPO. The fastest growing verticals are vocational courses and coaching institutes. In 2009, around Rs. 556 crore (Rs. 5.56 billion) was invested in companies such as Tutorvista, Career Point and FIIT-JEE, among others. Career Point, the only listed company in this space, raised around Rs. 110 crore (Rs. 1.1 billion) through an IPO in 2010. Intel Capital, a technology venture capital firm has also invested in education through Vriti Infocomm, an e-learning platform that provides various online facilities such as online tests, course and also classroom support solutions for schools, colleges and other institutes.

Most PE firms prefer an asset light business model, which entails little investments on the asset-side of the balance sheet, and investee companies usually lease instead of buying assets. “The competition situation is likely to remain sharp in the country because of which the pressure on the students is going to be very high. As most of the places are leased, we can start several courses from the same centre, providing economies of scale,” said Mr. Andrey Purushottam, Executive Director, Helix Investments. Helix Investments invested close to Rs. 50 crore (Rs. 500 million) in Mahesh Tutorials in 2007.

The advantage of such investments is that they provide low-exit barriers to PEs as the sector is unregulated and investments smaller. “Though opportunities for going the whole hog exist, we ensure that our funding philosophy reflects adequate and optimal funding in the investee,” said Mr. Harinder Sawhney, Managing Director, JM Financial Investment Managers. J M Financial Investment Managers has invested about US$ 8 million in UEI Global, which is into providing training for management and hospitality courses.

Source: Business Line, May 17, 2011

New MCI panel faces acid test in revamping med edu

The new five-member governing body of the Medical Council of India (MCI) will meet for the first time on Wednesday. The earlier board's tenure ended on May 15. The biggest challenge for the new board, headed by noted cardiologist Dr. K.K. Talwar is to implement the Common Entrance Test (CET) for undergraduate students and the new medical curriculum. Some members of the former board fear that the move could get thwarted.

"We have submitted all the documents to the (health) ministry, including the revised undergraduate curriculum, CET, postgraduate regulations, codes on medical ethics, accreditation and the concept of Indian Medical Graduate. At least some of them should see the light of day," an ex-member said. The member added, "A lot of work went into developing India's new medical curriculum and syllabi. About 250 people worked on it, and we had as many as seven working groups."

TOI was the first to report that the ministry would change all the MCI members. Last Friday, the ministry named Dr. Talwar as the new Chairman of the all-powerful board of governors. Other members include Prof. K.S. Sharma from Tata Memorial Hospital, Prof. Harbhajan Singh Rassam from Max Hospital and Dr. Rajiv Chintaman Yeravdekar from Symbiosis International University. Dr. Talwar told TOI, "I need some time to decide about our main issues."

Sources said the ministry was upset with the Sarin-led governing board's pace of work. It had supposedly failed to increase the number of postgraduate medical seats to the "desired level" in this academic session. "We were surprised that not a single member from the previous board was retained," said an MCI official.

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was also upset with the earlier board for its unilateral announcement of introduction of the controversial CET. The MCI and the ministry were at odds over the notification, which was later deemed invalid. The notification had sought a single entrance test for MBBS and MD courses offered by all 271 medical colleges in the country, including those under private management. The move had put the ministry under pressure from several states. The 77-year-old MCI was dissolved after the CBI arrested former MCI president Dr. Ketan Desai on April 22, 2010, for accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 million in lieu of recognizing a Punjab medical college.

Source: The Times of India, May 17, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

IIM-A Professor Questions Autonomy Need, Reignites Issue

Just when the IIMs' relentless pleas for autonomy are finding favour in the power corridors, an insider view rekindles the decade-long debate. A senior professor at Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has questioned the need for autonomy, described as functional independence by academicians, in a book that argues government role is necessary for better accountability.

Finance professor T.T. Ram Mohan says IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) run the risk of turning into "teaching shops" without government funds and monitoring. "It is often asked why the government cannot exit the boards of IIMs and leave things entirely to eminent professionals as it happens in the corporate world.... Any government withdrawal would create a dangerous governance vacuum with adverse implications for the very character of the IIMs," Ram Mohan says in his soon to be published book "Brick by Red Brick".

The arguments against autonomy are restricted to one chapter and Ram Mohan says he had expressed his views earlier as well. The book largely delves on the colourful persona and the contributions of Ravi Mathai, the first full-time Director of IIM-A, and says there has been a devaluation in the Mathai model at the institute. The book is critical of the waning faculty governance at IIM-A, powerless boards and faculty councils.

The IIMs known for attracting country's top talent that aspires for millions-plus salaries on passing out have been lobbying hard for autonomy since a decade. The institutes argued autonomy would help them pay better salaries, attract foreign faculties and assist in setting up overseas campuses. The IIM-A was at loggerheads with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) headed by Murli Manohar Joshi in the early part of 2000 and its then Director Bakul Dholakia put up a sustained fight against what he claimed was government interference.

During his tenure, he had several run-ins with the ministry and said in one of his media interviews: "... for institutes of higher education to excel globally, withstand the pressures of global competition, they require ideological, financial and operational autonomy". Dholakia who now heads a private B-school did not comment on the book. The present IIM-A Director Samir Barua too has been insistent on autonomy and said in his convocation address that the institute must be free of all government controls to compete with foreign B-schools that have now been permitted entry into India.

There is a change in the ministry's approach over the years and human resources minister Kapil Sibal has favoured more autonomy to the IIMs. Ram Mohan counters these arguments in the book. "The contention that there is a government devil out there that has smothered autonomy and that, absent this devil, IIM-A would have become truly world class, lacks substance. Over the first four decades, starting from the days of Sarabhai (founder Vikram Sarabhai) and Matthai, no director at IIM-A had any serious complaint about lack of autonomy .... The clamour for autonomy in recent years must be seen for what it is: a thinly-disguised attempt to escape the checks and balances inherent in the government system and enter a lawless paradise made possible by a dysfunctional and ineffectual board," he adds.

Talks of autonomy within IIM-A began only eight years ago when the institute stopped accepting government grants. Ram Mohan believes to avoid government aid, IIM-A has been heavily relying on in-company training conducted by its faculty for the corporate world. This activity has been helping the institute generate a significant portion its annual revenue. It thus sees such revenues as crucial to its autonomy... Institutions that rely entirely on internally generated revenues end up as teaching shops," he says.

"Trying to cover costs mainly through revenue-generating programmes is the road to perdition," he says suggesting institutes should look at philanthropy and private funds to meet their requirements. The government has made "colossal investments" for more than four decades and merely not accepting funds from the government does not take the institute outside the purview of the government. An IIM-A alumni Chetan Bhagat says, "Not just the IIMs, the government in general should encourage autonomy in educational institutes...".

Source: The Economic Times, May 16, 2011

Soon, virtual varsity for tech education

Here is good news for the students wishing to take up distance learning but apprehensive of the lesser value attached to the technical degrees obtained from these courses as compared to those from regular streams. The Centre is planning to establish a virtual university that will impart training on diverse technical areas to the undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as the newly recruited teachers through flexible, credit-based correspondence courses.

The proposed Virtual Technical University (VTU) will offer programmes in the fields of science, technology, management, architecture, pharmacy and other areas of applied knowledge. It would come up as part of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT), an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

“There is no question on the feasibility of the virtual university because the world is moving in that direction. We only need to implement it and though the idea has not come before the board as yet, we expect the varsity to be there in the current Plan period (2007-12),” said M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman, Board of Governors, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

The Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) has a virtual university that enables off-campus students to avail of the facilities offered to a normal on-campus student registered under the same programme and get a degree from BITS. “The piecemeal approach to distance learning is leading to its misuse and a quality check is needed. The education system is large enough to accept another type of distance learning model besides IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University),” added Anandakrishnan.

The university will use video courses, web-based learning material and live lectures using satellite and internet-based technologies. The VTU will have a repository of video courses created by experts in the field, a website that will host learning material while live lectures will be delivered using satellite and Internet technologies. The virtual university may also have five different schools — one each on developing teaching methodology, engineering sciences, natural sciences, management sciences and human sciences.

The school of education will look at developing inner and outer strength of the individuals and their emotional intelligence while that of engineering would focus on different disciplines of engineering. The school of management sciences will look at industrial and management engineering. Human sciences like economics and humanities would be catered to by the school of human sciences. A high-powered panel set up by the ministry for faculty development in technical institutes had recommended that each school float a suitable number of courses in order to cater to the need of various disciplines associated with the school.

It was envisaged that VTU shall have at least 300 courses for the school of engineering sciences and engage a large pool of talented faculty from Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and other institutions and retired faculty.

Source: The Financial Express, May 16, 2011

IIT panel favours loan scheme for students

Proposing a steep hike in tuition fee for IIT courses, the Kakodkar Committee on the future of the premier institutes --- the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) --- has suggested a ‘special loan scheme’ to offset the burden, attracting no collateral and on personal guarantee of the student. “The quantum of the loan should be such that it meets at least 90% of the financial needs of students in way of payment of fees and personal and hostel expenses “in the range of Rs. 811,000 for a 4-year undergraduate programme and Rs. 580,000 for a postgraduate programme,” it has suggested.

The committee, which presented its report to HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday, has proposed a tuition fee of Rs. 200,000-250,000 per student annually, up from Rs. 50,000 at present. The IIT Council would, however, take a final call on the suggestion.

The committee, headed by Anil Kakodkar, has said that “as the increase in fees would increase funding requirements for students, a special loan programme for students is recommended, which should be easily available without collateral”. The committee said the loan needs to be granted on the personal guarantee of the student without reference to the parents and without any asset backing the loan.

“It is suggested that the loan be granted along with the admission documents of IIT so that it is seamless and hassle free,” the report states. The committee referred to its discussion with the State Bank of India (SBI) on this special loan scheme. It further suggested that payment of interest should be deferred till at least six months after completion of the course.

Keeping in mind the risk involved, it also suggested that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) create a fund called the ‘Student Loan Fund’ at the rate of 4% of the overall loan amount which will be kept in an escrow account with the bank so that the risk of default is reduced and the bank has recourse to this fund. This will also take care of any default due to students failing the course and being unable to repay the loan in the future, the report said.

The committee was set up to suggest a roadmap for the autonomy and future of the IITs as world-class institutions for research and higher learning. It has also suggested that the IITs start an aggressive drive to get endowments, scholarship grants and funds from their alumni and other donors to meet at least 10-15% of their needs on an annual basis over time and a dedicated office to collect the endowments.

Source: The Financial Express, May 16, 2011

B-schools prefer students with less work experience

If you have been working for five or more years and want to enrol for a regular MBA degree, chances are you will not get it. You stand a better chance with a part-time executive management course. Reason: B-schools prefer to take students with only 2-3 years of work experience.

This is in contrast to other countries. “Business schools in the US, the UK, Europe, Italy and other parts of the world prefer admitting students with more work experience,” says Mr. Ashish Sachde, Study Abroad Counsellor, Institute of Foreign Study, Mumbai. A major reason for Indian B-schools rejecting such candidates is the placement factor. “Recruiters do not prefer hiring students with more experience during their regular placement drives as it is difficult to mould such students,” says Mr. Sachde.

The Registrar of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), Mr. L.D. Mago, echoes this: “When the recruiters come for hiring, they look for students who are 26 years old. For MNCs, a person above 26 years of age does not fit into the scheme of things,” he says. Mr. Saral Mukherjee who heads the placement committee at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), says: “Every recruiter comes to the campus with a mandate and has the profiles of the people the company wants to hire in mind.” Those wanting to hire more experienced persons pick them up from the executive MBA programmes, he says. Classrooms in IIM-A are a mix of freshers and those with some experience. It is rare that people with more experience have been enrolled for the regular course, he adds.

The spokesperson of the Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon, says: “The average work experience of our students is 20 months. For students with more experience we have other courses such as National Management Programme, Part-Time PGPM and Fellow Programme in Management.” The batch in IIM-Lucknow has 75 per cent students with an average work experience of 2-3 years, but there are also few students with more than four years, according to the spokesperson.

Given the stiff resistance from Indian institutes to enrol candidates with more work experience, Mr. Sachde says most have no other option but to go abroad to get their MBA degree.

Source: Business Line, May 16, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Doctor, anyone?

Anshuman Verma, 36, belongs to a family of healers. His great grandfather and grandfather were reputed doctors in Rawalpindi. His parents are doctors. As many as 16 of his extended family is a medical doctor. Anshuman is not. He chose engineering and then an MBA. He works as a banker. Anshuman explains his choices very simply: "Medicine involves too much rigorous training. I saw my parents working hard but getting little gratitude in return." He may be 36, but Anshuman seems right on trend.

A.K. Agarwal, Dean of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) says the number of aspirants for medical courses has dropped 30% in recent years. "Everyone wants to make quick money. Medicine doesn't allow that," he laments. Agarwal pinpoints a trend away from medicine that schools pick up on in Class XI. They report a substantial drop in students opting for biology. Abha Sehgal, Principal of Delhi's Sanskriti School says "her students prefer physics and chemistry with either economics or computer science. Engineering and MBA are more attractive options as the incubation period is short. Only those dedicated to medicine take up biology now."

India is feeling the pinch. Its ratio is one doctor for every 1,700 people. That is way below the global average and way below whats required. Is the big turnoff simply the fact that a medical degree takes lots of time and trouble to acquire?

All those years: There was a time when an MBBS degree was enough to establish oneself as a doctor. Today, it takes years longer. There's MBBS, then MD, then DM... it seems to go on and on. Unsurprising then that Utkash Chaturvedi, 15, who studies at Mother's International School in Delhi, chose computer science rather than biology. "Biology involves mugging, whereas in physics and chemistry, the concepts are interesting. There's no sure shot route to success in medicine. How many can get into good private hospitals or set up their own practice?" Chaturvedi asks with a wisdom beyond his years.

But Anshuman's father, a consultant physician, seems to understand our changing times the best. R.N. Verma says "doctors were daredevils" back in the days when his Pathankot-based father, who had just an MBBS degree, would do major surgery and treat colds. "My father used to make IV fluids himself, sometimes using coconut water. Once a patient was brought to him with a broken spine. With few options, he got a galvanized metal sheet cut in the shape of his body, padded it with cotton and immobilized the patient in it. Primitive, but it worked," he says.

The pressure on doctors today is to become a superspecialist with all that this entails in years of study. But S.K.S. Marya, Chairman, Max Institute of Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement, says this may be useless "if a doctor doesn't have good diagnostic skills. The more you know, the less you know. Today, you have a knee specialist, a neck specialist,a hip specialist ... but is that what our country needs India should have 80% doctors as general practitioners as in the UK. That will take the load off senior consultants."

Delayed gratification: Anshuman agrees that long years of study mean that by the time a highly qualified doctor starts to earn a proper living, he's past 30. "As an engineer with an MBA, I started earning at 23. I have already changed four jobs," he says. Marya agrees that it now seems to take too long to get just a little and that may be too little for a consumer-centric age.

"Today, there are many material attractions designer clothes, watches, LCDs... So why wouldn't a bright young doctor earning Rs. 80,000 as a junior consultant feel cheated when his classmates in other professions start at Rs. 2.5 million a year?"

More Trouble: Doctors are often a harried lot and other professions mean more leisure, say medical students. Marya, who studied at the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), recalls slogging as a junior resident. "I would do 36 hours of duty at times."

Source: The Times of India, May 15, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hike IIT fees four times: Committee

Sticking to its earlier recommendation of increasing the tuition fees for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) four times from the current Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 200,000-­250,000 per year per student, thegovernment-appointed Anil Kakodkar committee has suggested the substantial rise in fee at the undergraduate level. This would be reasonable considering the high demand for IIT graduates and the salary that an IIT B.Tech. is expected to get and the capital investment per student is estimated at Rs.2 million, the panel says.

Currently, around 500,000 engineering graduates come out of engineering colleges. This number would cross one million in three to four years from now and only about 1 per cent of IIT B.Tech.s do Ph.D. at the IITs, the report says. The committee has therefore suggested that each IIT should progressively grow to have around 1,200 faculty (from around 500 today) and closer to 12,000 students with maximum growth coming from an enhanced number of Ph.D. students. Further, the committee has suggested setting up of five more IITs so that the number of IIT Ph.D. graduates scales up to 10,000 per year. At present, there are 16 IITs in the country.

In another important decision, the committee has suggested the retention of time-tested parameters like a certain faculty student ratio of 1:10 and PG:UG ratio of 1:1 or higher. The committee has suggested a minimum of 0.6 Ph.D.s per faculty annually, eventually reaching 1 Ph.D. per faculty.

On this basis, the committee is aiming at scaling the IIT system to 16,000 faculty and 160,000 total student strength (with 40,000 at the Ph.D. level, 40,000 at the Masters level and 80,000 UG students) by around the year 2020. Each year, then, the IIT system will admit 10,000 Ph.D.s.

The committee has also recommended an Executive M.Tech. programme for about 10,000 working professionals from industry through live video classes to enhance the knowledge base. Towards enhancing autonomy, the panel has proposed that each institute be fully governed by its board of governors including aspects like financial planning and expenditure rules, faculty remuneration, fees and number of faculty and staff. The board should have one representative each from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the state governments, alumni and faculty.

Significantly, the committee has suggested each institute to subject itself to a comprehensive institution review by an internationally eminent group once every five years. "Such reviews which will be overseen by the IIT Council, will have focus on quality, programmes, their direction and size, working of the institutions and suggestions for change, including new initiatives," the report adds.

Source: The Financial Express, May 14, 2011

New facility at MIT with US$ 1 million grant from Lord Paul

A new facility for students and faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, built with a one million-dollar grant from Labour peer Swraj Paul, was opened on Friday and will be the new home for its School of Management. The grant was made through the Ambika Paul Foundation, set up by Lord Paul in 1978 in memory of his daughter Ambika who died of leukaemia in 1968 at the age of four.

“I would like to thank the Ambika Paul Foundation for their generous support and contribution towards the construction of these fabulous facilities. The Ambika Paul Mezzanine and Study Room create an impressive space, which will be an invaluable asset to both our school and the MIT for many years to come,” said David Schmittlein, Head of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Akash Paul, son of Lord Paul, who attended the opening, said: “It gives me a great amount of pleasure to be able to present these facilities to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on behalf of Lord Swraj Paul and family and Ambika Paul Foundation. The family is delighted to be in a position to offer valuable support to an academic community of such excellence, and one which has also been attended by so many members of our family.”

In a statement, the Foundation said that its aim was to inspire young people worldwide through education, culture and health. In 2007, it was approached by MIT for financial support towards the construction of a “21st century home for its School of Management.”

“The Foundation's contribution will provide valuable meeting and study space in the modern E62 Building, for both students and faculty. The Ambika Paul Mezzanine, which takes a prominent part in it, is a modern light-filled area where students and lecturers can meet and talk while enjoying a perfect view over the dramatic Boston skyline. The Ambika Paul Study Room, on the other hand, is a quieter breakout area where students can study in groups and develop their ideas,” it said.

Source: The Hindu, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Revised Kakodkar panel report to be placed before IIT Joint Council

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on Thursday decided to place the “re-worked” version of the Kakodkar Committee report on autonomy for Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) before the IIT Joint Council for a final decision.

The revised report is not too different from the original report that had sought seeking a four-fold increase in fees for undergraduate courses at the prestigious IITs but was rejected by the Council saying that it would make IITs inaccessible for a large section of students. However, this time the Committee has suggested a graded subsidy system.

The Committee that presented its original report in February but was asked to rework on it, made a presentation before the Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal here on Thursday has stuck to its proposal to increase fee from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 200,000 a year, while suggesting a graded subsidy system that would mean that IITs would provide freeships and scholarships to 25 per cent of the students while levels of partial support would be provided to another set of students and then there would be those who would have access to education loans. Mr. Sibal is said to have suggested that the proposals should be put on the website for a feedback before a final call is taken by the IIT Joint Council.

The five-member Committee, set up to suggest a road map for IIT's autonomy and growth, had recommended the hike to make IITs more self-sufficient, reduce dependence on grants, and enable the institutes to create faculty and non-faculty posts on their own without having to seek government clearance. The Committee, which presented the report before the Council, also suggested that the 15 IITs should raise the money to run undergraduate courses entirely through tuition fees and not depend on grants.

The Committee was set up in October 2009. Its other members are: T.V. Mohandas Pai, former Director (Human Resource), Infosys; K. Mohandas, Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Health and Allied Sciences; Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, IIT Madras; and Hari Bhartia, Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). IIT-Guwahati Director Gautam Barua, IIT-Mandi Director T. Gonsalves and IIT-Kanpur Chairman M. Anandakrishnan were special invitees.

The Committee had a series of meetings with the IIT directors, faculty and industry representatives. Its members visited five universities in China last November to familiarise themselves with the best practices in science education and research.

Source: The Hindu, May 13, 2011

Fee hike in IITs? Sibal non-committal

Asked to rework its earlier report on road map for autonomy and future of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Anil Kakodkar panel has stood by its earlier recommendation that could result in a substantial fee hike at the undergraduate level. The committee made a presentation of its reworked report on Thursday. Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal remained non-committal, and said the final decision would be taken by the IIT Council later. The report would be put in the public domain on Friday.

Laying out the roadmap for research, the panel has said that Ph.D. students should be scaled up from the current 1,000 Ph.D. students per year to 10,000 by 2020-25. It has also said that bright undergraduate students should be enrolled for Ph.D. at the end of their third year. Even faculty strength should be ramped up to 16,000 in the next 10 years. The present strength is 4,000.

The Kakodkar committee has said that 50 central government-funded institutions — other than IITs — be nurtured with the help of IIT faculty. These institutions could be National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and other institutions.

The reworked report reiterates that IITs should “recover the full operational cost of education” through fee and not take any aid from government’s non-plan budget. Since this would result in a manifold rise in fee, the committee has suggested a “hassle-free” bank loan arrangement at the time of admission.

But for students belonging to reserved category and economically weaker sections, the panel has said the ministry should pay the “full operating cost of education”. It added that the ministry should also take care of the entire cost of education at Ph.D., M.S. and M.Tech. level.

The committee has proposed that government should make an annual outlay of Rs. 150,000 per student in established IITs. For the new ones, an endowment grant of Rs. 50 crore (Rs. 500 million) per IIT should be given over the next five years. To expand infrastructure, the panel has said government should give capital fund at the rate of Rs. 2 million per additional student.

Source: The Times of India, May 13, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A day out with CEOs: B-school students learn managerial skills from top leadership

Nikhil Uppal is elated. He is back after spending a day with Ajay Kaul, Chief Executive Officer, Jubilant Foodworks Limited and now he knows what it takes to be a leader. Uppal, along with his batchmate Ritu Agarawal — from the General Management Programme (GMP) at Xavier’s Labour Research Institute (XLRI) Jamshedpur — got lucky when a panel of faculty members from their institute selected them to train under Kaul for a day.

"In one word, it was exciting. Meeting him was different from any other meeting we have had with executives so far. We discussed Kaul's days from his B-school to an industry fresher; his early days in business and the success he has seen now. We found out about Kaul's journey in building the Dominos brand. About what it took him to reach where he is today," says Uppal. Jubilant Foodworks runs the Dominos brand pizza outlets.

However, XLRI students are not the only ones who are lucky. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research (SIMSR) are also toying with the idea of providing one-day mentoring opportunities to students with top executives in companies. "Spending a day with a CEO helps students know their business philosophy their mindset and ethical views. Students also get to build a mentor-mentee relationship with the executives that can last longer," says Shashank Rastogi, Director-Operations at Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) of IIM-A.

B-schools say such mentoring programmes allow students a deeper exposure into the corporate world and also help better their decision making abilities. For instance, Uppal and Agarawal, saw how successful leaders combine seemingly unrelated information to take critical decisions. Kaul spoke about the strategies he and his team formulated and implemented to catapult Dominos to its current position. "Interacting with top executives helps students as well as start-ups on what choices to make. This also helps students avoid making professional compromises in future," adds Rastogi.

However, B-schools say it is a tough exercise for them to provide such opportunities to all students. "We match profiles of students with top executives and managers. We have restricted this programme to our HR and operations batches where students are less. We hope to provide such opportunities to as many students as possible," says Suresh Ghai, Director, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research (SIMSR). The institute has been conducting such one-day mentoring programmes for sometime now.

At IIM-A, the programme will take off this year. "We will seek a statement of purpose from each applicant, either a student or a start-up, on why they want to meet a CEO or COO. We will launch the venture during 'Joy of Giving' week in October where we plan to auction the mentoring opportunity and use the proceeds generated, for charitable purposes," says Rastogi.

CIIE will match profiles of CEOs with that of candidates and utilise its huge alumni network to bring such top executives on board for the programme. Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business also conducts this programme yearly.

Source: Business Standard, May 12, 2011

Lure of bureaucracy: Engineers outnumber humanities list

In the present times of job uncertainties and layoffs, the lure of bureaucracy is clear. The trend of engineers and doctors joining Civil Services has gone up significantly in the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) results announced today. Those tracking the development said salary revision for government officials following the 6th Pay Commission recommendation has made Civil Services an enticing option once again for many, especially in the backdrop of the economic slowdown and job cuts. However, the biggest attraction is the prestige and status attached to the job of a bureaucrat, an IAS (Indian Administrative Services) officer pointed out, requesting anonymity.

Although the accurate number crunching of the Civil Services results would take time, estimates indicate that around 40 to 42 per cent of the candidates who have cleared the exam are engineers. Doctors make around 10 to 12 per cent of the total numbers. Humanities graduates or post-graduates, who used to be the main contenders for IAS and IFS several years ago, are just about 19 to 20 per cent of the 920 candidates.

In comparison, the Civil Services examination conducted in 2008-09, for which results were announced in 2009-10, only 25 per cent of those who cleared the exam were engineers and just a little over six per cent were doctors. The number of humanities grads and post-grads who cleared the exam in 2008-09 was quite high — at well over 40 per cent, according to the UPSC annual report published last year. According to Prof. Pulin Nayak of the Delhi School of Economics, Civil Services is definitely an attractive option. It’s a secure service for a long period, salary is good and perks (house, medical and conveyance) are attractive too, he said.

The number of vacancies for Civil Services, the top ranks going to IAS and IFS and the rest to IPS and central services, varies from year to year. Way back in 1999, the number was just 411, the following years clocked 427, 417, 310, 457, 453, 457, 533, 734 and 881 in 2008-09. Out of the 881, 791 were recommended for selection.

In the results announced today, there were five women in the top 25 list and 12 in the first 100. The topper is a woman — S. Divyadharshini, a student of Ambedkar Law University in Chennai who appeared for the Civil Services exams for the second time, said a statement issued by UPSC. Sweta Mohanty, a B.Tech. from Hyderabad, was ranked second and this was her third attempt. R.V. Varun Kumar was third and is a BDS from Ragas Dental College, Chennai. This was his third attempt.

Among the top 25, 15 are engineering grads, five were medical students and the remaining from the humanities, commerce and management.

Source: Business Standard, May 12, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

B-school students write off govt firms in good times

Public sector undertakings (PSUs), which helped business schools ensure good placements in the last two years, are getting a raw treatment this year. PSUs say with the economy back on track, the students are preferring private sector companies due to fatter pay packets. PSUs and nationalised banks, with their conservative salary structures, are losing out.

"The private sector increasingly made its presence felt this year, unlike the previous two years, when it was playing safe. PSUs and nationalised banks have been unable to compete on compensation," said Prakash Pathak, Chairperson (Placements), Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad. In 2010, around 20 public sector companies visited IMT. This year, the number is seven.

While PSU banks such as Central Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce are offering students Rs. 5-600,000 per annum, private banks like Citibank, Axis, ICICI and HDFC are paying over Rs. 1 million per annum.

The numbers are starker for Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B). In 2008-09, seven PSUs made 24 offers. This year, two PSUs have made two offers. Five PSUs offered 16 jobs last year. "Not only are PSUs and nationalised banks reducing recruitment, the students' preferences are also shifting towards the private sector," said Sapna Agrawal, Head - Career Development, IIM-B.

PSUs such as Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, GAIL, IOCL, NTPC, SBI Cap, SIDBI, SEBI, United Bank of India and Union Bank of India, which picked up the highest number of students from IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) in 2009, have recruited from other B-schools in good numbers this year. M.V. Nair, Chairman & Managing Director, Union Bank of India, said, "Now that the economy is picking up, we have not been able to pick up as many students from IIMs. They are preferring private sector companies."

In 2009, PSUs and banks made good the gap left by the private sector due to economic slowdown. B-schools saw a 20-50 per cent increase in government companies visiting campuses. They recruited 40 students from IIM-A this year, with Union Bank among the top recruiters.

At Mumbai’s Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), only the Reserve Bank of India and Union Bank of India took part in final placements this year. In 2009, the institute was visited by 18 PSUs. Bank of Baroda, GAIL, ONGC, HPCL, SEBI, NISM and Union Bank of India were among the major PSU recruiters. About 17 per cent of the batch preferred to work with PSUs. In 2010, only four PSU came, according to the institute's website. "We invited companies depending on student preferences. Many of them want to work with private sector companies," said a JBIMS placement committee member. B-schools said PSUs would do well to go the private sector way.

"While PSU compensation packages may not be higher than those in the private sector, they tend to fail in terms of presentation. Private companies, on their part, make their packages lucrative by presenting them well to students. Moreover, this year there has been an increased inclination among students towards the private sector," said a placement committee member at Xavier's Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar.

Source: Business Standard, May 11, 2011

Slowdown over? MBA job offers suggest so

When a global financial crisis struck markets across the world two years ago, with several countries finding their economies in recession, MBAs from the finest institutions found job offers shriveling up on campus. But a global management education survey conducted in 2011, shows that the market for B-school graduates seems rather robust, with over 50% of students surveyed receiving job offers before they graduate.

The survey involving 4,794 soon-to-be-graduates from 156 management institutions worldwide, conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which runs GMAT, a globally accepted entrance test, found that 54% of B-school students had job offers before they graduated. This is a significant rise from last year. Only 32% of the final year batch of B-school students in 2010 had job offers before graduation.

But the optimism this year needs to be tempered with the fact that the figures haven't yet touched the dizzying heights that they had reached in the year 2000, when 70% of all B-school graduates had job offers before graduation. But when compared with a slump in 2003, the upswing seems to be a lot quicker this time round. "I firmly believe that the current recovery is based on stronger fundamentals, as corporates are now more pragmatic after having learnt from the last few years," says Madhukar Kamat, CEO and MD of the Mudra Group. Kishore Biyani, CEO of Future Group, feels that a sharper fall this time has itself brought positive change.

According to V.K. Menon, Senior Director, careers and admissions at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, MBA hiring patterns lag behind business cycles, both during an upturn as well as a downturn. "When there's a downturn there's a great deal of cost-cutting in companies, with employees losing their jobs. When the business cycle turns, there is some optimism, but companies are wary of taking any quick decisions, or hiring in a hurry," says Menon.

Some, like Milind Sarwate, Group CFO and Chief HR officer at Marico believes that, both during an upturn as well as a downturn, there is an "over-reaction" when it comes to hiring patterns, with companies hiring more than they need on the one hand, and firing more than they need on the other. He too, feels that hiring patterns are a "lagging indicator of the economy."

The good news is that the Asia-Pacific region has contributed the most to the job offers that candidates have received this year (67 %). "It's but natural that Asia has fared well, as many Asian economies have recovered faster, and some never went through a stringent recessionary phase at all," says Kamat.

"Clearly there are two worlds; while on the one hand, you have the developed countries where job creation is still an issue,on the other hand, you have the emerging economies in the Asia and Pacific region, where there's still very strong economic growth," feels Nitish Jain, President of the S.P. Jain Centre for Management, Dubai, Singapore.

Source: The Times of India, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rajasthan to kick off free tutorials for rural engineering aspirants

The Rajasthan government is starting a free, online pre-engineering tutorial from May 15 for students in the state's remote rural areas who can't afford coaching institutes. The proposed 10-month programme is slated to be the country's largest, with over 7000 students from all over the state together preparing for entrance exams like IIT-JEE, AIEEE and PET through video conferencing.

Students will be required to attend centres in their respective panchayats and district councils. All the learning centres have been connected through satellite with the main hub --- Indira Gandhi Panchayatraj Sansthan in Jaipur --- where the faculty will deliver lectures in subjects like mathematics, chemistry and physics. The sessions will be spread across 120 classes, and students can clear their doubts online.

"Every year, thousands of students from Rajasthan clear engineering entrance tests. But there are very few from rural areas. This can be a game-changer for them," says R.K. Verma, Principal Secretary of state's Science & Technology Department, the nodal agency for this programme.

The government is spending Rs. 9 million in the first phase of this programme, said Verma, adding from next year, the sessions will begin from April 1. Students securing 50% marks in mathematics stream are eligible for this programme. The state government will conduct a feedback session every three months to improve the teaching methodology. "If things move in the right direction, more students from villages will be able to make it to engineering colleges," says R.P. Yadav, Vice-Chancellor, Rajasthan Technical University (RTU), which conducts engineering courses in the state.

The government-run coaching class, however, will not be a threat to the booming coaching business in Kota. While the government is targeting students from remote villages, Kota's coaching institutes attract aspirants from urban centres. Kota's coaching institutes together corner around 25% of the total IIT-JEE seats.

However, high fees and living costs deprive rural students of good coaching and guidance needed for cracking exams like the IIT-JEE. "It's a good initiative. If the state government approaches us for any support, we will be happy to offer it. Success, however, will depend on the quality of faculty and execution," says Career Point CMD and CEO Pramod Maheshwari.

Source: The Economic Times, May 10, 2011

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pearson India aims to step into the education void

Pearson Plc, one of the largest education services company globally and owners of Financial Times and the Penguin brand, views India as a laboratory in the education field. Post its acquisition of majority stake in Bangalore-based TutorVista, Pearson is planning an even bigger portfolio for itself. The President of Pearson India, Mr. Khozem Merchant, speaks to Business Line on the opportunities it sees ahead.

The Government has pumped around Rs 50,000 crore (Rs. 500 billion) into education in this year's Budget. You have said that this is a clear indication of a 'need gap' in the sector that can be filled by education institutions. What will Pearson's role be in bridging this gap?
I think first you have to step back a little bit and ask yourself why the Government is making such a colossal and welcome allocation. The reason for that is presumably that they believe, as everyone else believes, whether they are educationists, parents, administrators, that there is a big disparity between quality of learning and the demand for learning. That is a self-evident truth, but it is not one that has been necessarily publicly embraced for many years. But, it has been embraced now with great boldness and candidness by the Education Minister and his government, I guess for a couple of reasons. Over the past 15 years, accelerated economic growth has highlighted sharp disparities.

Unless these disparities are bridged, that level of growth will obviously not be sustainable… If India is to develop as a knowledge economy, services economy, then, it needs to have educated people as well as people with employable skills. Much of this is anecdotal evidence, but in the early period of economic growth, those gaps became evident as companies grew, recruited more people and discovered to their horror that people didn't have the skills despite the degree. … This is a general observation but one that crept upon India and the consequences of ignoring that is that the country would lose competitiveness vis-à-vis its principal trading partners and say China.

If it is ignored, it could lead to a big social problem considering the demographics of the country……if young people don't get jobs, it's a problem… So, that is coming to very sharp focus in the last 4 to 5 years… India needs to train its people in a way that it sets them apart from other sources of skilled labour…this is the broad macro perspective.

So, how does Pearson plan to leverage this gap?
Pearson has a big role…What we can do is manifold and India's needs are manifold and we think that as the world's largest education services company – by services, I mean the things that support the delivery of learning, its not just the content, its training the schools, managing the technology to provide learning tools, to provide remedial education – …we do feel that we can step in confidently into that gap in India. And the gap is a fantastic opportunity for India and I'm confident India will do it and it has done in the recent past, there is a precedent of similar gaps that have existed and India has done absolutely the right thing. For example, telecom and banking services where they made a great leap in telescoped time. It did in 3 or 4 years what mature economies take a lot longer to do… Indian reform can make these great exponential leaps for the whole generation in what is obsolete technology, obsolete learning, redundant techniques and redundant methodologies. So, the same can happen in education and it can happen through multiple suppliers. There are many very fine Indian companies and global companies developing the technologies but the point is steeping into that void…. we are excited because India presents to us a landscape of skills and capabilities, fantastic opportunities for providing services from K-12 to school management services to vocational training, and to professional education…. And there isn't in my knowledge a comparable organisation that has done breath or depth…we would step into that void with some responsibility and humility…

So, while we are talking about the government, there are some public-private participation (PPP) models that you've been looking at. There are reports that TutorVista is talking to states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra to get involved in PPP education ventures.
With the acquisition of TutorVista, we've acquired obviously a company with four sets of activities – one of them is K-12 into which this PPP activity could potentially fit. If they see PPP opportunities as a way to expand their footprint in K- 12, I'm sure they'll follow their nose on that. At another level of our strategic expansion here, we're looking at the private sector and I think in large measure that will remain our focus…

You have raised your stake in TutorVista to 76 per cent, through which you now manage 19 schools which are currently under the Manipal brand. There has been talk that you are looking at taking over more schools. Would those form a separate chain under the Pearson brand?
No. TutorVista is now a company that we control. We're very lucky to have a fantastic management and the founders with us, that's an important part of our thinking. As we move forward and as we think about opening up or purchasing managing control of schools, then certainly there will be a branding exercise few years down the line… the point is that in time it would be a brand and marketing of our choice rather than the one that we have inherited…in time the rebranding will take place.

You have a joint venture with Educom – India Can – for vocational training…. Where do you see this going?
We have a dynamic partner in Educom for vocational training, mostly for blue collar workers. Here, there is a fantastic opportunity. We are looking to spread to 120 centres, from the 80 right now. Here, we will spread education in a physical face-to-face format as well as online.

You and the Chairman have repeatedly spoken about India serving as a laboratory for the company. What has been your learning till now?
First, we have learnt a lot about price. This is a price-sensitive market and we realise that to build presence in the mass market, one of the things that we will need is our ability to maintain the quality of Pearson products, but those will at the same time have to be affordable. We now have a practitioner sense of the price sensitivity of the market here.

We have also learnt a lot about the art of distribution for this is not a homogenous market and it changes pretty rapidly any which way you turn. We have also grasped how this country offers tremendous opportunity for the application of technology for learning. And that is really exciting when the audience is large and dispersed.

We can also offer a lot of our products only online and need not have them in the physical form… they could be in digital form… it is more the distribution of learning and not the distribution of books as we consume learning now it in many different ways. Our children today consume it in many different ways and the skill there is to master the different distribution channels. A markets like this and others with the same socio-economic profile forces you to grasp that.

Source: Business Line, May 9, 2011

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