Saturday, July 30, 2011

IITs' PhD Jinx: BTechs command higher pay

Foreign universities that would come scouting for young teachers to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were conspicuously missing this recruitment season. But a range of private and deemed Indian universities from across the country did land up offering hardly attractive pay scales defined under the Sixth Pay Commission.

When they were pitted against the big guns - the consulting and finance offers - the IITs realized that the PhD jinx continues to haunt them. Every tech school recorded a higher average salary figure for their BTechs as compared to their PhD fellows, most of who joined research labs or signed up for teaching positions.

"It's a trend that continues. The average salary on campus is Rs. 700,000, but the average salary for PhD candidates is less than that of the BTechs," said an IIT-Bombay official. The scenario is same on every campus. The slump in the average salary for PhDs also aggravated as universities from West Asia that came shopping for faculty did not turn up this year.

In the last two years, Al-faisal University, Saudi Arabia (which offered an annual compensation to the tune of Rs. 1.9 million apart from housing and other facilities), Texas A&M University, Indian School of Business-Hyderabad, were among the education providers that visited IITs and paid salaries comparable to industry. This year, most IITs saw a desi (local) crowd as institutes like ICFAI, SRM University, Tamil Nadu; Saroj Education Group, Lovely Professional University, Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge, Vigyan University, K L University and Manipal University took a handful of students.

Every IIT saw a fall in students signing up for teaching posts. At IIT-Kanpur, 45 students joined educational institutes last year; this time around the number stood at 32, said Ramkumar Janakarajan, Placement Head. Annual compensation remained almost the same as last year. Most of the universities offered between Rs. 300,000 and Rs. 600,000 a year.

IIT-Kharagpur's Placement Head S K Srivastava said 67 master's students and 15 PhD candidates took up teaching jobs this year. "The number was higher last year when more educational institutes had visited the campus." But several research firms, Srivastava added, had offered better salaries to PhD students this year.

IIT-Delhi's Placement Head Kushal Sen said it probably wasn't correct to compare the salaries of BTechs, MTechs and PhDs as they all took up varied job profiles. "The salary that an MTech student gets from a core engineering firm cannot match the package that a consulting firm would offer a BTech."

Sure, but the placements again drove home the point that the BTechs at IITs managed to grab the best deals. In 2005-06, Rangan Banerjee and Vinayak Muley, in their report on Engineering Education in India had mentioned this irony that existsonly on Indian campuses.

"The average MTech and PhD salary is lower than the average BTech salary in India. But the ratio of average starting salary of graduates to masters and doctorates for MIT, USA and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, USA shows that the average masters' salary is 22-26% higher than the bachelors'; the doctorates' salary is 45-58% higher than the bachelors'."

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), July 30, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

12th Plan to look at faculty retention: MHRD

In an attempt to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 21% by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan period from the current 13.5%, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is formulating an action plan to achieve this target. It will discuss the matter in an internal meeting on Tuesday.

Raising the GER would entail an additional enrollment of over 26 million in higher education and almost 1 million school teachers by 2020. "Thus, a concerted strategy to retain best talents in universities for faculty positions and preparing secondary teachers needs to be formulated. It would also require changes in strategies relating to open learning and technology enabled learning," said a ministry note.

For faculty attraction and retention, the ministry is mulling Human Resource Planning and Management (HRPM) centres at the university level to assess teacher requirement and plan their professional growth research and faculty development programmes such as seminars, training, workshops, incentive and award schemes.

Besides faculty development, the meeting — which will happen at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati — will also discuss vocationalisation through short and medium-term training to achieve 50% enrolment in vocational education sector of higher education by 2020. This is so because even after achieving a GER of 30%, there would be 150 million or more youth who would require vocational education, the ministry says.

Encouragement to private investment is next on the agenda with substantial role of private sector at diploma and degree programmes. On the research and innovation front, the government may look at Sector Innovation Councils that would provide platforms for innovation right from school to higher education and would be developed alongwith at least 50 centres of innovation in different institutions of higher learning.

In fact, the note asks for appropriate amendments in the Copyright Law to foster creativity and to keep it in harmony with the features of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Also on the agenda of Tuesday's meeting is the much ignored local languages along with book promotion and reading habits.

Source: The Financial Express, July 26, 2011

How top Indian IT companies help higher ed institutions

Post the placement season, educational institutes are seeking help from information technology (IT) companies to automate their systems, as the number of students and applications increase every year. Companies such as IBM, TCS and HCL Infosystems are offering campus automation software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and education management solutions to educational institutes to automate their work flow.

From brochures, profiles, online lessons to placements to managing alumni database and making finance and accounting divisions paperless, they are helping institutes like Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai, get more efficient.

"We will be able to manage the increasing scale of work with the same number of employees. Also, it will make us more globally competitive. Imagine an executive pursuing a course who can log on to the system anytime, anywhere in the world while he travels, avoiding the hassle of visiting the campus to select courses, attend classes or even make payments. That's a great convenience," says Debashish Sanyal, Dean, School of Business Management, NMIMS.

At TISS, for instance, the number of applications went up to 20,000 for 680 seats this year from 3,000 applications for 120 seats in 2004, which necessitated a gradual shift towards handling the process online. "We have been getting outside help, besides our internal resources to speed up the process and stick to the deadline of processing applications. Online registrations will help lessen this pressure and make it more efficient," says S. Parasuraman, Director, TISS.

Here's how the automated system helps across levels: When students apply online for various courses, they get automatic acknowledgements and intimations at each stage of the admission procedure. But this is a transition phase, where offline applications are also accepted.

The cut-off for each department is fed into the system and the students are short-listed. Call letters are automatically generated and sent by email and also through post. Selected lists are uploaded automatically to the web. Fee payment is also automated with the challans printed. Bar code scanners are used to read the roll numbers from the challans and expedite the process. Identity cards are printed in-house and instantly handed over to students. Students can register for electives through the college websites like universities abroad, and staff can enter student attendance and grades on the intranet.

Question bank modules are used to store the questions set by the examiners. Seating plans are given by the system eliminating the time consuming manual process. Mark sheets with security features can be printed through the system. Students with arrears can register for the supplementary exams online. Overall, colleges and universities are managing organisations and processes better.

NMIMS has already invested Rs. 13 million on blackboard technology over a five-year period and is now working a large-scale SAP implementation with IBM's help. It will cover a wide array of activities from managing the entire student lifecycle to buying books online, archiving results and keeping track of management spends. It has spent Rs. 50 million on this project in a year's time.

At Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), Greater Noida, TCS is implementing a comprehensive campus management ERP system, for the past one year, which covers all activities from admission to placements. Besides, it is also in discussions with a specialist firm on archiving the guest lectures, seminars and workshops. This will have the added facility of converting phonetic matter to text. All the investment and the effort these institutes are putting in, leads to a substantial cost saving as well, they say.

"It will take another two years to complete the project and we expect 25-30% savings on the cost on processes that were earlier offline," says Rajan Saxena, VC, NMIMS. And in some cases, it can even save around 50% of the cost incurred otherwise, according to TISS' Parasuraman. "Efficient use of such systems can bring in huge gains, not only in terms of speed and accuracy but also in terms of cost," he says.

This also means a huge opportunity for companies in this space. "A recent research study by Springboard Research says India's education sector will step up its IT spending from an estimated $356 million in 2008 to $704 million in 2012, reflecting a CAGR of 19% during 2007-2012. That's good news for players in this domain," says Rothin Bhattacharya, EVP, HCL Infosystems.

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

Pilot project for digital academic repository complete

The government has moved step closer to creating a national academic depository that's expected to help curb forgery and make verifications of education credentials easier and quicker. Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal said on Monday a pilot to assess the feasibility of this depository has been completed.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which carried out the pilot, has digitized the education certificates of all the students who cleared its class XII examination in 2011. Certificates of aspiring teachers who have appeared for the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (C-TET) will also be available in digital format. The results will be declared on Tuesday.

"This will help in curbing forgery of education credentials. The menace of fake certificates can be controlled through this," Sibal said, giving a lowdown on the process of verifying digital certificates. The minister said the recent instances of fake certificates that plagued Delhi University can be tackled easily through this measure. In June, Delhi University authorities found that a number of students had submitted fake certificates while seeking admissions under a certain quota.

The Central Depository Services India Ltd. (CDSL) and the National Securities Depository Ltd. (NSDL) helped CBSE conduct the pilot. "It was done by both the depositories with no initial cost to the ministry. It will remain free for CBSE for next three months; but after that it has to pay certain fees," Sibal explained.

CBSE Chairperson Vineet Joshi said the depository will make it easier for employers and educational institutes to verify the credentials of prospective workers and students. It will also help do away with the fear of losing physical certificates. According to CRP HR Services, a background screening firm based in Mumbai, discrepancies are found in 15% of the education credentials submitted by aspiring job seekers.

"We are also moving a Bill on this (the depository) in the coming Parliament session (that begins on 1 August)," Sibal said. Once the Bill is passed, it will mandate digitizing all educational certificates of school boards, colleges and universities. "The depositories will be soon deploying their own agents. Anyone can approach them for digitizing, but these agencies will first verify whether their certificates are original or fake," Joshi said.

Source: Mint, July 26, 2011

IIMs revamp CAT examination format

The Indian Institutes of Mangement (IIMs) on Monday announced a new format of the common admission test (CAT), with fewer papers and questions and allowing more time to answer them. CAT 2011 will have two sections instead of three. The first will test quantitative ability and data interpretation, which was a separate paper earlier. The second paper will test verbal ability and logical reasoning.

IIMs have also reduced the number of questions to 60 from 75, with 30 questions in each paper, and increased the total time limit for completing the test to 140 minutes from 120 minutes. But both the papers will have to be attempted sequentially; once an aspirant completes the first paper, he/she will not be allowed to go back to it.

"These two sections will be implemented sequentially with separate time limits. The (duration of the) examination will be 140 minutes. Candidates will have 70 minutes to answer 30 questions within each section which will have an on-screen countdown timer," the IIMs and Prometric Inc., which will conduct the tests, said in a joint statement. "Once the time ends for the first section, they will move to the second and will no longer be able to go back. Although new in the computer-based version of CAT, this format was previously practised in some of the earlier paper-and-pencil years."

The number of test days has been retained at 20. CAT 2011 will begin on 22 October and 18 November to allow candidates the flexibility of choosing a test date. "We are confident that CAT 2011 is going to help us in identifying the appropriate candidates for our programmes, and that the examination will be fair and equitable," said Janakiraman Moorthy, CAT 2011 convenor and a professor at IIM-Kolkata. IIM-Raipur Director B.S. Sahay said fewer papers will help students as CAT cut-off marks are decided on the basis of cut-off marks for each section. "Now there will be two cut-offs to be considered instead of three," he said.

CAT 2011 will provide a 15-minute tutorial before the test begins. It will be conducted across 36 cities, including the newly added Jammu, Dehradun and Bhilai. Amit Agnihotri, head of, a management education tracking portal, said the new format is progressive as it will be easier on students. "Increasing exam duration is a huge plus," he said.

When CAT went online in 2009, thousands of IIM aspirants were hit by a lack of practice, little knowledge about the navigational keys and technical glitches. Around 17,000 students re-took the test, resulting in bad publicity for the premier management school and protests by students. This also delayed the declara- tion of results by three weeks.

In 2010, the IIMs and Prometric delivered a glitch-free exam across 33 cities. Last year, at least 204,000 candidates registered to take the CAT compared with 242,000 in 2009. Currently, there are 13 IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Kashipur, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Shillong, Ranchi, Rohtak, Shillong, Tiruchirappalli and Udaipur.

Source: Mint, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oracle CEO-backed company eyes IB school space in India

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison co-founded Knowledge Universe and UK's Knightsbridge are in the fray to float a joint venture with Mumbai-based Core Projects & Technologies to tap India's growing demand for premium international schools.

Core, which is a technology solutions provider in the education space, had mandated Ernst & Young to advise on setting up a chain of premium K12 schools, said sources familiar with the matter. Core had identified UK's leading school network Knightsbridge and Knowledge Universe, an education and training conglomerate backed by Oracle Corp founder Larry Ellison and Wall Street's former Junk Bond King Michael Milken, as potential partners.

When contacted, Core Projects declined to comment. A decision on the foreign partner in the proposed 50:50 joint venture could come as early as this week. The demand for international education has been growing in the world's second most populous and second fastest expanding economy.

India currently has 70-odd International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, with nearly 60% of them located in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad. These schools charge anywhere up to Rs. 250,000 as fee per annum. Then there are 245 schools that are affiliated to Cambridge International Examinations, which are again mostly present in the Western and Southern parts of the country.

Core Projects plans to show up with two premium benchmark schools, with emphasis on sports training, in Delhi and Mumbai initially. These could be subsequently extended into other tier-I and select tier-II cities. Dubai-based GEMS Education and Singapore's Global India International Schools have been expanding in the country.

Mumbai's Ecole Mondiale and Dhirubhai Ambani School are among the niche players in the super-premium segment of K12 education. Last year, DY Patil had appointed Kotak Mahindra to raise $100 million for setting up a network of affordable international schools. Real estate costs and scaling up remain the big hurdles in the way of expanding the school network in India.

Source: The Times of India, July 25, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

IIT-Kanpur starts facility for enhanced power research

Envisioned to bolster enhanced research in power, a Real Time Digital Simulation Facility at the Electrical Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) has started functioning. The facility inaugurated yesterday is expected to give students the opportunity for hi-tech research into practical power and control systems, project coordinator Prof. S.C. Shrivastava said.

Solar and wind power plants in remote areas are connected to a power grid with the help of a controller and an experiment on how much energy it receives cannot be conducted there, he said, adding that the simulator would help testing its performance in laboratory conditions which would then be applied in real-time.

The simulator, which been bought from a Canada-based technology firm, would also facilitate new planning initiatives with power utilities, he said. A five year long project, an amount of Rs. 7.6 crores (Rs. 76 million) has been provided by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India for it, he added.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

BlackBerry ties up with EdServ for mobile education

Eyeing leadership status in the mobile education space, Chennai-based education support services company EdServ has tied-up with BlackBerry to provide online education content on smartphones. EdServ's wide range of educational content on its flagship education portal, www.Lampsglow.Com, will now be available in an application, 'HumThum App', in the BlackBerry Apps Store of BlackBerry smartphones worldwide, said EdServ Chairman and CEO S. Giridharan.

"Through this tie-up with BlackBerry, we will provide the entire online education content that includes tuition, academics, skill development and test prep services on the BlackBerry smartphone," he told PTI here. EdServ is targeting a customer base of one crore and revenues of Rs. 200 crore (Rs. 2 billion) from mobile learning services within the next three years and is eyeing leadership status in the mobile education space, he said.

EdServ's 'HumThum app' has a PDF converter that will change the BlackBerry smartphone into a mobile scanner or a photocopier. HumThum app also has a 'Talking Dictionary' that will provide pronunciation and the meaning of any English word.

On the overall growth proje ctions for EdServ, he said the company expects to register a 50 per cent growth in revenues this year and is targeting to end the year with revenues of Rs. 180 crore (Rs. 1.8 billion), compared to Rs. 122 crore (Rs. 1.22 billion) last year. It expects to maintain profitability at 30 per cent of the topline and is targeting a profit after tax of Rs. 55 crore (Rs. 550 million) this year. EdServ expects 100 per cent growth in customer traffic on its portal, www.Lampsglow.Com, this year, he said. The customer base was also expected to more than double this year from the existing customer base of 150,000, he said.

Answering a query about investment plans, Giridharan said the company was finalising plans to raise capital for ongoing expansion and infrastructure development and the funds could be raised through Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds and GDRs to be rolled out by the middle of August this year.


IIM-Shillong plans to introduce Law courses

In a unique experiment, Indian Institute of Management-Shillong (IIM-S) is looking to introduce courses in law. The course modules are being discussed and aspects like a one-year diploma or a two-year masters course are being explored. IIM Shillong is in talk with a prominent law university for rolling out this courses and memorandum of understanding with the university will be inked soon.

IIM Shillong Director Ashoke K. Dutta said, "Such courses are there in Germany. We are also discussing with some law universities and exploring the possibilities of having such courses. This course will come handy for judicial officers and managers."

A senior official of IIM who did not want be quoted explained that this is a new concept. "We will have to recruit faculties for this course. There is scope and I feel there will be enough takers. Management institutes imparting one year diploma in law are doing well in foreign countries. We are yet to finalise the intake of the students for this course."

He pointed that as managers there are people who want to have working knowledge regarding the law of the land especially commercial and business law. On the other hand, there are many judicial officers working for corporates and want to understand the management principles, so this course will cater to both these groups.

Even graduates in law and business can take this course. Hirendra Kashyap, a practicing lawyer in Guwahati High Court opined that it will open enormous opportunities. "Managers and lawyers engaged in corporate sector stand to gain from this." Ananya Das, a final year student of graduation added it will be a great idea to study such a course under the IIM brand. "When we go to companies to work at least we must be aware of some laws affecting us as an employee."

Every year, hundreds of students from the region move to South India, Pune and New Delhi to study law. Migration from the Northeast to these cities has increased by 12 times, with over 415,000 people from the region leaving over the past six years.

In 2005, this figure stood at 34,000 but in the past six years, it is on an average increasing annually at 13.62%. According to a study of 66.35% of North Easterners migrate for higher studies, out of them, 78.15% for graduate studies, 11.48% for engineering and managerial degrees, 6.80% for research and PhD and 3.57 per cent for medical studies.

Shantikam Hazarika, educationist and former Director of Guwahati-based Assam Institute of Management felt it will be really nice if mangers well versed in law get into the administration of judicial system. "However, I doubt if this course will attract enough students."

Source: The Economic Times, July 22, 2011

B-schools revamp courses to make graduates industry-ready

Driven by the changes in the corporate needs, Indian business schools are considering change in its curriculum. Indian business schools will together attempt at changing the course curriculum, which was last tweaked by some of them in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial meltdown. This is the first time that B-schools will jointly brainstorm on curriculum.

A few institutes, including the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management), introduced subjects like ethics and social-cultural environment two years ago when MBA education was under fire for causing the sub-prime crisis and later failing to contain the global recession. Now more and more companies are picking up grads with on-field experience, sending institutes into a huddle for a long-term revamp plan.

Some 65 representatives from various 30 B-schools (including six IIMs) and some companies will meet at a conference on Friday to kick-off what is termed as a process to decide the road ahead for management education in India. "Roadmap that emerges from the conference will be shared with Indian B-Schools to help them reformulate their curricula," said IIM-A faculty Vijaya Sherry Chand who is a member of the conference's organising committee.

In February, Harvard Business School said it would move away from its case-study approach and focus more on ethics and team work. The changes are aimed at creating leaders of competence and character, rather than those with connections and credentials.

An IIM-C faculty said that the study is being finalised and there is a need to address issues like what type of skill sets do recruiters need. "We are also thinking of recruiters' perspective for fresh candidates and experienced candidates. We will discuss about the weightage given to on-field experience and classroom education. The discussions will initially lead to a re-look at the current curriculum and it will impact our future curriculum," he added.

Source: The Economic Times, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New UK visa plan for exceptionally talented Indian scholars

Britain has announced a new visa category to facilitate the immigration for exceptionally talented people from India and other non-EU countries in the fields of Science, Humanities, Engineering and the Arts. The new Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category will open on 9 August 2011, and will have 1000 places in the first year of operation, official sources here said. The new category will facilitate not only those who have already been recognised but also those with the potential to be recognised as leaders in their respective fields, the sources added.

There will be 500 places available between the 9 August and 30 November and a further 500 places available from the 1 December to 31 March 2012. The number of places will be reviewed at the end of March 2012. The immigration category will be overseen by four 'competent bodies', which will advise the UK Border Agency on these 'exceptionally talented' migrants to ensure that they are the brightest and best in their field.

The bodies are: the Royal Society, a fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists, will be able to nominate up to 300 places; the Arts Council England, the national development agency for the arts, will also be able to nominate up to 300 places; the Royal Academy of Engineering, Britain's national academy for engineering, will have up to 200 places to nominate; and the British Academy, the national academy for the humanities and social sciences will be able to nominate up to 200 places.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "The UK is a global leader in science, humanities and engineering and we are a cultural centre for the arts: we will continue to welcome those who have the most to offer and contribute to our society and economy". Migrants seeking entry to the UK under this category will not need to be sponsored by an employer, but will need to be recommended by one of the competent bodies. While the government has allotted a number of places to each body, it will be open to the bodies to transfer additional places to those with more demand if this becomes necessary, the sources added.

Those admitted under the category will initially be granted permission to stay for 3 years and 4 months. They will then be able to extend their stay for a further 2 years, and settlement may be available after 5 years' residence in the UK. Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: "We welcome the launch of this special visa scheme, which will enable the very best artists of international standing to live and work in the UK". It will be for each competent body to select those who will qualify for recommendation, and we have also published the criteria for their endorsement.

The President of the British Academy, Sir Adam Roberts, said: "The Humanities and Social Sciences are flourishing in the UK and attract many excellent scholars from overseas. The British Academy is ready to play its part in identifying those outstanding scholars for whom Tier 1 is the appropriate visa category."

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

New-look GRE braces innovation

Shed the crammers tag and move beyond mugging up text books to merely score big, instead understand the subject and come up with something innovative. Realising the significance of out-of-the box thinking, Educational Testing Service (ETS), the developer and administrator of the Graduation Record Examination (GRE), has decided to get rid of the ‘Chaturs’ – of the 3 Idiots fame – and have opened the doors for the Ranchos.

ETS believes the new test will be more user friendly and flexible providing the test takers the freedom to use more of their own test-taking style and strategies. “This is the most significant change the test is going through. Test takers will find new types of questions and more real-life scenarios that mirror the kind of thinking they will do with graduate-level work. It will be more focused on skills students will need for admission to graduate and business schools,” says Dawn S. Piacentino, Director - Communications & Services, GRE programme.

The new format of the computer-based GRE general test will allow students to move back and forth throughout an entire section to change or edit responses, even skip questions and attempt them later — a feature not available earlier. “The emphasis is on complex reasoning skills. We are removing antonyms and analogies from the test and adding more text-based material. We are also adding some new question types and some new computer-enabled tests.”

But, what made ETS change the format?
In 2006, Graduate Management Admission council (GMAC), the administrators of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), severed its decade-long partnership with ETS and joined hands with a new testing administrator, Pearson VUE.

Soon after, ETS entered the B-school market selling the product as an alternative to GMAT, as it no longer had to abide by a non-compete clause with its former partner. When ETS approached B-schools, the management institutions wanted GRE to be along the lines of an an MBA aptitude test. “The earlier format tested the memory of the student more than their capability of reasoning. That is when GRE must have thought of bringing about the changes,” says Ashish Sinha, Course Director, TIME, Hyderabad.

With MBA programmes across the world looking for a diverse and excellent pool of candidates, B-schools have begun accepting GRE scores too. GRE was traditionally required to pursue Master of Science degrees in the US, and graduate and fellowship programmes across the globe. “We believe using GRE scores allows us to tap into a market of students who already plan to take the GRE and may see the GMAT as a hindrance four or five years after graduating from college,” says Christine E. Sneva, Acting Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University.

So far 600 B-schools are accepting GRE scores, including five Indian B-schools. In 2010, the GRE General Test was taken by around 675,000 candidates from across 230 countries. There has been a 13 per cent increase in GRE General Test volume from 2009, with a very significant growth in number of test takers from India and China.

According to the revised format, the overall testing time is about three hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections in the revised test — one analytical writing section with two separately-timed writing tasks; two verbal reasoning sections; two quantitative reasoning sections and one unscored section. The analytical writing section will always appear first, while the other five sections may appear in a random order. Test takers will get a 10-minute break following the third section, and a one-minute break between the remaining sections.

A key change to the quantitative section is that an on-screen calculator will be available to help students with the quantitative reasoning test. “This will reduce the emphasis on computation and focus the test takers attention to quantitative reasoning skills,” adds Piacentino.

The analytical writing section has undergone the least amount of change. Here, the test takers will be asked to provide much more focussed responses against what was the case earlier. There is also a change in the scoring methodology. Both verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning scores will be reported on a new 130-170 score scale, in one-point increments (against the 200-800 in 10-point increments of the existing GRE General Test).

Source: Business Standard, July 21, 2011

How to price higher education and ensure access

Higher education costs have tended to soar in many parts of the world. In the elite private universities of the US, fees have reached staggering levels not only in the professional courses, such as law, medicine and management, but in undergraduate courses as well. The Economist noted recently that fees at American universities have risen five times as fast as inflation over the past 30 years.

In the UK, the government last year allowed universities to almost triple their fees with effect from September 2012. In India, there is anecdotal evidence of fees having risen sharply in professional courses. In non-professional courses, government institutions still charge only modest fees. However, in professional courses, where private colleges dominate, the total fees, including capitation charges, can be exorbitant. How to price higher education and how to ensure access are among the important policy challenges facing the country. But, first, we need to understand what is causing prices to rise so fast in the first place.

In higher education, we have three choices. One, we can have a government-dominated system where education is subsidised. Two, we can allow private universities and colleges to come up with the freedom to charge whatever the market can bear. Three, we can allow private institutions freer entry but regulate fees and make provisions for subsidising needy students.

In non-professional courses, we still have the first model. In professional education, we have attempted to move towards the third model but have ended up closer to the second one. There is regulation of fees in some areas but this only covers the official fee. The official fee is often only a small component of the overall fee, with a large component being collected under the table.

Several arguments are made for privatisation of higher education and market-driven fees. Investment in higher education has high payoffs and can, therefore, be financed by loans. Needy students can be taken care of through scholarships or interest subsidies. Subsidised education provided by the government imposes huge fiscal costs, which, in turn, come in the way of both creation of fresh capacity and quality. Competition in higher education will help moderate fee levels.

Every one of these propositions is questionable. In India, the student is not an independent entity. He is part of a family unit for which the student loan is one of several loan obligations. An education loan undoubtedly adds to the burden of the family. Funding of scholarships is woefully inadequate. Merely letting fees rise does not lead on to superior quality - quality is poor at most private professional colleges despite the huge fees charged. It is also not true that competition helps moderate fees.

The phenomenon of soaring costs in higher education has been studied. The main explanation, it turns out, is simple enough: institutions keep raising fees because they can get away with it. The demand for higher education keeps growing briskly even in the developed world. Institutions of higher education operate in a sellers' market, so they lack the incentive to cut costs, improve efficiency or introduce new technologies.

We must accept, therefore, that where higher education is left to the private sector, fees will escalate. That is why the US has a strong network of state universities (some of which are of very high quality) alongside its renowned private universities. In the US, universities are keen to sustain investment in infrastructure and faculty as there is a correlation between investment per student and the university ranking. At least some of the fee increase can thus be ascribed to the pursuit of quality.

That does not hold for India. Most institutions here are simply extracting rents from a scarce product. Higher fees in India merely reflect the commercialisation of education. B-schools are a case in point. The older IIMs [Indian Institutes of Management] have raised their fees substantially in recent years. This, in turn, has triggered large increases in fees at B-schools that do not provide comparable quality. The Anil Kakodkar Committee has proposed that the annual fee for the IITs' [Indian Institutes of Technology] undergraduate programme be increased from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 200,000-250,000. If this happens, it is bound to cause fees at lesser engineering colleges to rise.

We should not be surprised at the absence of any link between fee and quality in higher education in the country. The UK too is struggling to establish such a link. The government last year allowed fees to rise from £3,375 to a maximum of £9,000 with effect from September 2012. The idea was that universities would raise fees in keeping with their quality. To its dismay, the government finds that all universities, irrespective of their quality, have veered towards the maximum.

Germany is one country which has sought to buck the trend towards commercialisation of higher education. Many German states have recently opted for free university education. Germany is faulted for not being able to match the excellence of the US in higher education. And yet German education is good enough to produce high quality manufacturing and to power one of Europe's strongest economies.

The German model holds a lesson for India. For us, access to higher education should be the priority. We have enough experience by now as to the limits to using regulation to ensure access. So, we need to seriously rethink the issue of public provision of higher education.

This article is written by Prof. T.T. Ram Mohan of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fewer overseas students to get skilled migrant visas in Australia

Fewer overseas students, including from India, will be able to get skilled migrant visas on the basis of their Australia qualifications under tough new migration rules in the country, an education expert has said. Monash University researcher Bob Birrell said there could be just 4000 visas a year as compared to 19,352 visas for this group in 2006-07 and 17,552 in 2007-08, the time during which education was sold as a pathway to migration, 'The Australian' reported.

Birrell said the unpublished Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) estimate of 4000 visas was "an unmistakable signal that the industry needs to set its marketing around selling an education that is valuable back in the country of origin. The changes will favour overseas applicants from English-speaking countries who can meet the much tougher English language requirements of the new points test," Birrell and colleagues said in a report from the Monash Centre for Population and Urban Research.

The report gives new insight into the "stockpiling" of thousands of overseas students by DIAC. These include many students with cookery and hairdressing qualifications who would win visas under the old rules but whose cases have been put off and who are now on bridging visas.

In December last year, there were 29,211 former vocational education students on bridging visas, as well as another 26,309 former higher education students. About 16,000 of these former students had applied for skilled migration visas. In 2009-10, there were 28,126 applications for the graduate skilled bridging visa that is held by many former overseas students caught mid-stream by policy reforms.

The Birrell report predicts some of Bowen's hypothetical Harvard scientists will have to wait as his department works through this backlog of students with lower skill levels. "Unpublished statistics show tens of thousands of former overseas students will benefit from the transitional arrangements in place," the report said. Applications for permanent residence from these students will crowd out better qualified applicants for several years.

But a DIAC spokesman said applicants "who demonstrate the skills most needed by the Australian economy" always would be processed first. A series of reforms, including a new skilled migration points test from July 1, have weakened the policy link between education and migration.

Announcing changes last year, then Immigration Minister Chris Evans famously said under the old rules cooks and hairdressers would qualify but not a Harvard environmental scientist. The new regime will favour offshore rather than onshore applications and advanced rather than basic skills.

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

India-US higher education summit in October, 2011

Aiming at more collaborations in higher education, India and the US will host a summit in Washington this October. A statement issued after the talks between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the summit will be held on October 13 to "highlight and emphasize the many avenues through which the higher education communities in the US and India collaborate".

"The US and India plan to expand its higher education dialogue, to be co-chaired by the US Secretary of State and Indian Minister of Human Resource Development, to convene annually," the statement said. It said the summit would incorporate private and non-governmental sectors and higher education communities to aid government-to-government discussions.

The US said a special initiative named "Passport to India" has been created to encourage American students to study and intern in India. Over 100,000 Indian students are now studying or interning in America.

The US-India Science and Technology Endowment Board, established by Clinton and Krishna in 2009, plans to award nearly $3 million annually to entrepreneurial projects that commercialize technologies to improve health and empower citizens. "The two sides are strongly encouraged by the response to this initiative, which attracted over 380 joint US-India proposals. The Endowment plans to announce the first set of grantees by September 2011," the statement said.

The two countries will also focus on strengthening teaching, research and administration of both US and Indian institutions through university linkages and junior faculty development at higher education level.

The statement said the India-US Science and Technology Forum, now in its 10th year, has convened activities that have led to the interaction of nearly 10,000 Indian and US scientists and technologists. As a follow up to the successful US-India Innovation Roundtable held in September 2010 in New Delhi, the two sides agreed to hold another Innovation Roundtable in early 2012.

Source:, July 20, 2011

IITs have lost old sheen, says Narayana Murthy

Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are no longer the quality institutions they were in the 1960s and 70s, said chief mentor of Infosys N R Narayana Murthy while speaking at IIT-Gandhinagar. Murthy encouraged students to become strategic learners and restore the lost glory of the IITs.

Murthy said very few world-class researches came out of IITs and IIMs in the last decade. "In 2004, China produced 2,652 PhDs in computer science and in that year the figure was 24 in our country," he said. "This is truly worrisome. Focus on researches has diminished in the IITs and they have become just a teaching institution and we all know that it is not the way to go about it," he added.

"In the last 15 to 20 years, IITs have lost all the sheen that they had once upon a time. In 1967, at the electrical engineering department of IIT-Kanpur there were about 60 to 70 students registered for PhD. But today, at the same department if there are five PhD students joining in a year, that would be fantastic," said Murthy.

He said that even gold medalists from IITs were at a loss when they pursue researches in institutes like MIT and Harvard. "The primary difference that I have found between the system of education in India and other countries, particularly the US, is that they focus on problem solving and relating theories to reality around them. These two things are lacking in the education system in India," Murthy said.

According to Murthy, the decline of the quality of IITs is also the result of coaching classes for joint entrance examinations. "Today, students prepare hard for a year solving sample questions for IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Exam). One of these samples matches in the entrance examination and they crack the test," he said.

Inspiring the students to become a strategic learner, Murthy told them to inculcate the qualities of independent thinking, connecting what is learnt in the classrooms with what is happening in the outside world and finding appropriate solutions to problems around.

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

Government seeks more clarity on education loans

The Ministry of Finance wants state-owned banks to define the terms and conditions for sanctioning education loans in an effort to reduce arbitrary decisions by bank officials. In draft guidelines circulated to the banks last week, the government has suggested steps to make the process of sanctioning and disbursing education loans more transparent, customer friendly and standardized.

A finance ministry official who did not want to be identified said the current system is heavily dependant on the discretion of the branch manager of the bank. The ministry wants “approval conditions” defined so as to reduce this discretion, this person added. Bankers said the government also wants to ensure students understand the terms of the loan contract. “It is clearly in banks’ interests also if the student understands the terms and conditions well. It will help banks reduce the NPAs (non-performing assets) in this segment,” said Vivek Mhatre, General Manager in-charge of retail banking at Union Bank of India.

The education loan portfolio of public sector banks stood at Rs. 43,074 crore (Rs. 430.74 billion) on 31 March. Bankers say defaults in this segment are 2-5% of the portfolio. Defaults are higher in loans of less than Rs. 400,000, where banks cannot ask for collateral or personal guarantees.

The ministry has proposed that banks give loan applicants the name of a bank executive they can approach to track the status of their application. It has also asked banks to tell applicants how much money they can borrow to meet additional expenses besides the tuition fee.

Students generally take a student loan to pay tuition fees and meet additional expenses such as hostel fees, books, laptops and field visits. Banks transfer the tuition fees directly to the institutes but release the additional expenditure to the students.

“They (banks) can clearly state that the additional expenses ceiling will be a certain percentage of the tuition fees, say 50%,” the ministry official said. “At present, it is left to the discretion of every bank manager who may sometimes feel that the student is overstating the additional expenses. Each bank can decide its own limit.”

The ministry has suggested that bank branches compile the placement track record of institutes in their area and consider that as the basis for approving student loans.

“A bank branch can compile the placement data of colleges in that particular area to determine the loan paying capacity of the borrower. This will ensure that there is no discrimination between students from the same college—where one is given a loan and the other is not,” the ministry official said. “This is particularly so in loan applications below Rs.4 lakh, where the borrower does not need to give any collateral.”

The ministry has also asked banks to clearly state that a loan taken during the so-called moratorium period will be classified as a second education loan. Banks typically let students complete their course and take a year to get a job before they start repaying the loan—this is known as the moratorium period.

Currently, a second loan is defined as a loan taken immediately after the first loan, but the ministry official said the interpretation of “immediately” can vary depending on the discretion of a bank official.

The ministry’s move follows a report submitted by a committee constituted by Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) to suggest modifications in the model education loan scheme launched in 2001-02.

The committee, headed by Indian Bank chairman and managing director T.M. Bhasin, has recommended the creation of a credit guarantee fund financed by the banks and the government. Banks can use this fund to recover losses from bad education loans.

The ministry official quoted above said the government is open to the creation of a credit guarantee fund and has asked IBA for a detailed proposal.

Source: Mint, July 20, 2011

3 more IIMs set to get autonomy

After the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), three others have succeeded in getting autonomy for themselves. Their memoranda of association (MoAs) have been approved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and sent to the Law Ministry for opinion, after which they will be ratified and the institutes notified. Now only IIMs in Kolkata and Lucknow remain to get autonomy. “We are discussing it with our faculty and other members of the society,” said an official from IIM-Calcutta.

As per the new amendments in the MoA in case of the four IIMs — Ahmedabad, Indore, Bangalore and Kozhikode — these can set up overseas campuses as they are now allowed to buy and sell property. But in doing so, they can’t use public funds or the money they raise by selling membership of the societies, according to MHRD sources.

The MoA with the government with the amendments allowing them to select their own directors and allowing corporate houses to be part of the society membership for a sponsorship cost are nothing new. The autonomy to shortlist own director existed until 2001. When Murli Manohar Joshi took over the MHRD in 2002, he said the directors would be appointed by the government. Currently, a search-cum-selection committee set up by the government selects the directors. The amended MoA reduces the role of the government.

Now the board will select a panel of three names and send it to the ministry, which will then pick a name for the director’s position.Even the board will be limited to 12-14 people with only two members from the government. “We were interested in reducing the size of the board, bringing down the Centre’s representation, and having the director make nominations,” said a ministry official.

Among the various amendments allowing for greater autonomy, one says in case a legislation allows institutes to award degrees in the future, IIMs won’t have to ask for another amendment. The last time amendments were made to the MoAs was more than a decade ago.

Source: The Indian Express, July 20, 2011

Common medical entrance exam from next year

The Ministry of Health, Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have agreed to conduct a common all-India entrance test for admission to all medical colleges across the country from next year. The CBSE will conduct the proposed common medical entrance test for entry to all private and government medical colleges in India (close to 300 colleges of which about 180 are private) from 2012.

Almost 800,000 students take undergraduate medical entrance tests annually but at present they sit for different tests, including various state-level medical entrance tests and the All India PMT (Pre Medical Test) which the CBSE conducts. The decision now is that the CBSE will just hold one test for medical aspirants. It has the experience of conducting the largest entrance test in India - AIEEE for engineering entrance which close to 1.1 million students take every year.

A common test will ensure uniformity in undergraduate medical education across states where private colleges are in the practice of charging exorbitant sums for admitting students. It will also ensure quality students entering medical education because states would be obliged to fill seats in their respective jurisdictions with students who figure in the All-India merit list. They would be free to prefer students from their areas but they won't be able to compromise on merit.

MCI board member Dr. Purushottam Lal said that the MCI will prepare the course structure for the test and put it on the website for comments of people. He also added that the decision came in the wake of the Supreme Court orders to the MCI to go ahead with one test for undergraduate medical admissions to avoid stress to students.

Tamil Nadu had earlier opposed the move and secured a stay on it from the High Court. The Health Ministry subsequently asked the MCI to withdraw the common entrance test notification but the Supreme Court told the MCI to go ahead. At the latest meeting which Health Secretary attended, the view was that state governments would be roped in to build a consensus on the matter.

Source:, July 20, 2011

From 2012, medical CET in English, Hindi

The new board of Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Union Health Ministry have decided to start Common Entrance Test (CET) for undergraduates and postgraduate medical courses from next year in two languages — English and Hindi.

The proposal to start CET had sparked off a fight between the ministry and the previous MCI board after the latter issued a notification on National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) in December 2010. The ministry had declared invalid the notification issued without its approval.

Putting to rest this controversy, in a meeting chaired by Health Secretary K. Chandramouli on Monday, it was decided that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) would conduct the exam from next year. The meeting was attended by senior officials from the CBSE and the MCI.

“The states had been conducting entrance examinations in regional languages till now. But we have now decided to conduct the exam in two languages on the lines of engineering entrances,” said Dr. Purushottam Lal, a member of the MCI board. The MCI is working on the uniform curriculum that will be soon put on the website. “We are discussing all the implications. The CBSE conducts all exams, so we are taking their help,” Chandramouli told The Indian Express.

Source: The Indian Express, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Education sector to see $200 million PE, VC funding in 2011

Private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) investors are bullish on the education sector and have invested US $93 million in 10 companies so far in 2011. The total deal size or investment in this sector is expected to touch $200 million in 2011 as compared with $183 million in 2010, said a report done by Venture Intelligence, which provides data and analysis on PE/VC and M&A activity in India.

Of the $93 million investments into this sector so far, the $22 million investment in vocational training and placement firm Teamlease Services is considered to be a big one. PE investments in the education sector increased from $129 million in 2009 to $183 million in 2010.

Some of the large deals in the sector include Premji Invest's $43 million investment in Manipal Education and India Equity Partners' $37 million investment in IL&FS Education and Technology Services, DE Shaw's $31 million investments into e-learning company Excel-Soft Technologies and Navi's Capital's $24 million investments into ITM Group, said the report.

According to the report, the education sector is the largest services market in India with a market size of more than 450 million students and $57 billion per annum (as of 2009). The landscape is primarily dominated by central and state governments funded and managed institutions with 80% of all schools being government schools. The government currently spends about 4% of the GDP on education, which has been increased to 6% to Rs. 270,000 crore (Rs. 2700 billion) from Rs. 43,500 crore (Rs. 435 billion) a few years ago.

The education industry in India can be broadly classified into the regulated segment (K12 and higher education) and the unregulated segment (pre-school, multimedia, ICT, coaching cases, vocational training and books).

Source: The Financial Express, July 19, 2011

IIM-B upgrades taxation and postal officials' managerial skills

Leadership training may be new to officials working for the country's largest savings bank, India Post Office, or the income tax department, but the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) in association with top foreign universities, is all set to change that. Some of IIM-B's professors have taken upon themselves the task of aligning the aspirations and managerial skills of employees to roles that The India Post and the Central Board of Direct Tax have charted out for them.

"If a Wipro or an Infosys can have training on client delivery models then why can't public institutes like the India Post Office?" asks Vasanthi Srinivasan, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management, and faculty coordinator for the project in IIM-B. The training for India Post staffers began nearly six months ago, while that for income tax officials began on March 28. Through this programme, the Central Board of Direct Tax (CBDT) aims at improving employee efficiency and map the available talent.

Besides honing managerial skills, the training will also boost the department's forecasting methods. They will be able to identify which tax returns should be audited and which should be left out, according to Nagadevara, one of the directors for the I-T officers' programme and a former IIM-B dean. Being exposed to the best practices is also expected to help them come up with better public policies. Under a separate programme, which also began in March, 600 commissioners are being trained for three weeks at IIM-B and two weeks at the Maxwell School of Public Policy in New York State and other institutes abroad.

Nagadevara and his team along designed a survey of 270 questions, which would rate commissioners on their aspirations, experience, aptitude towards different policies, according to which they would be grouped into teams like investigation, transfer pricing, advocacy, taxpayer service and international mergers and acquisitions. Those who have been in one stream but are suited for a different role would accordingly be moved, says Nagadevara. "A better policy would mean more cash flows for the government, which is what the team will be trained to do," he says.

At India Post Office, at least seven professors are training top-level officers, including post master generals on strategy management and improve their customer delivery systems. Industry experts from insurance were brought in as guest faculty. The trainees were divided into groups and made to brainstorm on how they could achieve their goals. The 247-year-old post office is joining the e-brigade with its large business and insurance portfolio and is going deeper into rural markets, for which it needs ways of logistics tracking and re-skilling of its workforce. "A top-down method is used where the employees are taught timely delivery, and trained in parameters like retaining customers, performance management or marketing the right customer service," says Srinivasan.

A director of the postal services in the southern region, who was part of the training a few months ago, said the programme focused on succession planning and how to reach targets in the next 10 years. A direct result of the training is that changes made in the departments are being formed to track performance and other HR issues. Another change is that now examinations will be held for postal assistants who aspire to be post master generals and so on. "Earlier, it was about seniority and now it will be about aptitude," the director, who did not wish to be named, said.

Although the postal service has a results framework document, which states the different parameters of measurement and targets for each of them, IIM-B is helping them understand how to answer the 'what next' question. Indian Forest Service officials are next in queue for training.

Source: The Economic Times, July 19, 2011

Autonomy to IIM-A at variance with NCHER norms: Experts

HRD minister Kapil Sibal's latest attempt to empower the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) is at complete variance with the legislation for the formation of a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) that is currently pending clearance, say observers. Sibal has approved long-pending amendments to the institute’s memorandum of association (MOA) with the government, allowing IIM-A to choose its own director and raise resources.

Highly-placed sources in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) who spoke on condition of anonymity said the move flies in the face of the proposed NCHER. “One of the key functions of this proposed body, as and when it comes into existence, would be to prepare a national registry of people eligible for appointment to the position of directors/vice-chancellors of all major national institutions of higher learning. That being the case, what would the IIM-A board do with the autonomy provided to it by the MHRD to select its own director?” said a source.

Moreover, though the MHRD has been actively involved in the process of selecting directors for IIM-A over the past two rounds, first in the case of Bakul Dholakia and then in the case of current incumbent Sameer Barua, it is the IIM-A board that has been the nodal body for selection of a director ever since the inception of the institute. Interestingly, though the government had increasingly been taking an interest in the selection of directors for the institute, the original MOA had not been tinkered with. In the case of the selection of the present director, the MHRD had even advertised the post in leading national dailies, leading to consternation in some quarters over the “complete infringement of the institute’s autonomy”.

“As far as the selection procedure is concerned, the amendments to the MOA do not change anything on the ground materially,” said a senior IIM-A faculty member.” As usual, it was the chairman of the IIM-A board who was sending a list of three names in order of preference and the government was granting its approval in accordance with this.” With the latest amendment to the MOA, however, the informal scope the government had of influencing the choice of director is likely to go completely. “If this is done, then it will be in complete variance with the role envisaged of the NCHER, which is supposed to prepare a panel of names for future appointments to all premier institutes of higher education through a collegium of academicians of distinction,” the faculty member said.

Another move of the MHRD that is not going down well is its nod to the amendment for granting the IIM-A financial autonomy as well including the selling of seats on the IIM-A board to the highest bidding corporate donor too is not being viewed favourably by insiders at IIM-A. A faculty member observed that the move to auction seats would actually be tantamount to backdoor privatisation of the institute over a period of time. “That’s because the board is accountable to the IIM-A Society. Thus far, it was the government which was monitoring the institute’s finances while the Society had been comatose. If the board now becomes answerable only to the Society as envisaged in the amended MOA, it would, over a period, lead to an increase in control of corporates,” he said.

Source: The Financial Express, July 19, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

IIM-Ahmedabad wrests autonomy from Centre

The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has won a decade-long battle for autonomy, with HRD minister Kapil Sibal approving dramatic amendments to the institution’s memorandum of association (MOA) with the government. The amendments that end the government’s powers to handpick the director of the country’s top business school and give it unprecedented financial autonomy follow a decade-long battle between the institute and successive governments.

Directors are at present short-listed by a search-cum-selection committee set up by the government in coordination with the IIM’s board of governors. This gives the government the opportunity to influence the selection of the candidates. The amended MOA, which has now been sent to the Ministry of Law for vetting before a notification is released, completely eliminates the government's role in short-listing candidates for the director's post. From now on, the board will shortlist three candidates, while the government can only pick one from those names.

The amendment will also allow the IIM to purchase and sell assets without seeking the government's approval. This will cut through layers of red-tape that delay key acquisitions and investments planned by the IIM. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has also given its nod to a proposal to increase the revenue generated for the IIM through membership of its sponsoring society. The IIM can now charge hefty donations in exchange for membership of the society.

This proposal earlier raised concern that some people might enjoy influence over the board of governors simply by buying society membership. Sibal had advised the IIM to put the proposal on hold. But the IIM later convinced the government that only two nominees of the society are members of the board, and industrialists or individuals who join the society won’t be in a position to influence key decisions.

Source: Hindustan Times, July 17, 2011

With Rs 20 in pocket, IIM-B students live the life of have-nots

Just Rs. 20 in pocket. Surviving on single banana for breakfast, rice dish from roadside vendor for lunch, biscuits for tea time. Not a life that you would expect the future CEOs from the most prestigious B-school of the country to lead. But this is what some of the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) students experienced for a day early this week — just to know what it is to be poor.

As part of their elective programme 'Inclusive Business Models', 75 students were exposed to another world — that of people who live with just Rs. 20 per day (the below poverty line cut-off). The students, in groups of five, went to different slums in and around Bangalore, interacted with the slum-dwellers, trying to understand their lives and finally come up with suitable business solutions that can help them. Interestingly, some of them even went on to experiment what it is to live with only Rs. 20 to get a hands-on experience. "My strategy was to have two meals — Rs 10 each. But I wanted to make sure it was wholesome so I do not feel hungry. I could not get anything from campus for that much."

"So I ventured into the smaller lanes outside the campus. I could get three akki rotis and two bananas within Rs. 10. I know it's not possible for me to survive for a long time like this, but may be for a day or two. It was a life-time experience, it makes you realise the value of money," said Justin T. "Mine was an abject failure. I found it was impossible to live with Rs. 20. I did not touch my car, used the mobile only to receive calls, went out to Bilekahalli market to get bananas, ate from roadside vendors, got low quality vegetables, yet it did not fit in," said Varun Sharma.

While some gave up smoking for the day as cigarettes were expensive, there were others who gave up on luxuries like using a laptop. From understanding the aspirations of slum-dwellers to sending their children to English medium schools, students got a peek into the lives of the poor.

Source: The Times of India, July 17, 2011

Four medical colleges from Coal India soon

Government-owned Coal India Ltd. (CIL) has planned to establish four medical colleges and an engineering college in the mining areas of its subsidiary companies. This, coincidentally, comes at a time when the sector saw some controversy over the proposed government bill to compel mining companies to share at least a quarter of their annual profits with those affected by its operations.

“The colleges are in the pipeline. One is with Mahanadi Coalfields and the company has already formed a trust for a medical college at Talcher in Orissa. They are in the process of getting approval from the Medical Council of India (MCI). If approvals come soon, we will start work on the college — which would see an investment of Rs. 60-100 crore (Rs. 6 million-1 billion), within a year,” said R. Mohan Das, Director (Personnel and Industrial Relations) of CIL.

The other three medical colleges would be under Bharat Coking Coal (BCCL) at Dhanbad, Central Coalfields (CCL) at Ranchi (both in Jharkhand) and Eastern Coalfields (ECL) at Asansol in West Bengal. The proposed engineering college would also be under CCL, near Ranchi. The investment for these projects are also expected on the same lines.

“For us, the advantage is that no big investment would be needed, as our major hospitals in these areas have more than 250 beds. Money will go for building classrooms, administrative buildings, hostel facilities and in buying new medical equipment,” Das said. The company has 86 hospitals and 423 dispensaries in its mining areas, with 1,524 doctors, 5,835 beds, 640 ambulances and 31 equipped mobile vans.

One of its subsidiaries, South Eastern Coalfields (SECL), is already operating engineering college in partnership with the Chhattisgarh government near Raipur. The investment from the company was around Rs 10 crore, while the government operates the institution. When asked whether the proposed colleges would be in partnership with some other company or state governments, Das said, “These things would be worked out later by the trusts and subsidiaries.”

Along with other mining institutes under its belt, CIL is also running an Industrial Training Centre at Bolpur in West Bengal in a tie-up with Damodar Valley Corporation and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL), where the total investment is Rs. 23 crore (Rs. 230 million). The company funds 536 schools in four different categories — project schools (55), privately managed schools with grant packages under ECL, BCCL and CCL (284), private committee-managed educational institutes (72) and other schools where occasional grants are given (125).

Apart from this, the company says it funds 100 scholarships for students from below poverty line families who got admissions in major government medical and engineering colleges. “We sponsor tuition as well as hostel fees, plus a Rs. 10,000 package allowance per year. Moreover, these scholarships are available for 25 additional students from the families of land losers in mining areas,” Das added.

Source: Business Standard, July 17, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's time for stress management at premium B-schools

Last Sunday, students at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), took lessons from Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj in, guess what, stress management. It’s not just IIM-B. IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and IIM- Kozhikode (IIM-K) have also incorporated stress management in their curricula. Be it with faculty or students, premium business management schools are engaging newer initiatives for stress management.

“Birju Maharaj gave us a lot of examples from his life and also explained the role of music and dance in curbing stress in the corporate world. He explained to us the role of music and dance in the aspect of management and how it can help us keep track of our career goals in a highly competitive sphere without losing perspective. Some of our past speakers included V. Rajaraman, the father of Indian cloud computing, and S. Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Infosys. We are looking at calling some sports personalities and politicians to give us their insight,” says Ashish Dongre, media cell coordinator at IIM-B.

With B-schools witnessing high competition and stress levels on campuses, even stress among faculty is a recurring phenomenon. For example, Prathap Oburai, a professor at IIM-A, went missing on July 1 during a pilgrimage in north India. The reason assigned was that he had been suffering from depression.

That’s why, with yoga sessions, gyms and guest lectures, B-schools are trying newer ways to beat stress. “As a part of faculty initiatives, we have yoga sessions twice a week that can help in beating stress. We even have a separate meditation room for both students and faculties at the campus that is like a personal zone, where people can take some time in between their day,” says Keyoor Purani, professor of marketing and chairperson of the staff welfare committee at IIM-K.

IIM-B has an elective course, personal value growth and career opportunities, for second year students of the postgraduate programme in management and the postgraduate programme in software enterprise management. The course allows students to report any kind of stress to faculty members and interact with them for this. B-schools have also observed that stress occurs specifically during the beginning of academic session and placements. Students at IIM-A will get mentors on campus from this year onwards.

“Each mentor will get eight students who then follows up on any student-related issues, including their entry into the campus to academic submissions to placement issues. After their admission, they can directly contact the mentor on queries they might have about the institute and who will even give them a guided tour of the campus,” says Parampreet Singh, general secretary of the Students Affairs Council at IIM-A. Around 50 second year students from the post graduate programme in management (PGP) and PGP in agri-business management have started this mentorship programme for the benefit of freshers.

IIM-K has also roped in a non-governmental organisation, Mitr, whose team of counsellors and psychologists visits its campus every Wednesday to interact with students. “The team of counsellors from Mitr has also trained 15 students to act as mentors so they can help with stress management and provide support systems to other students,” says Mansi Baranwal, coordinator, student media cell.

Source: Business Standard, July 16, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Students' degrees could soon brand them defaulters

If you've defaulted on repaying an education loan, soon that fact could be stamped on the back of your degree or diploma certificate. The Indian Banks' Association (IBA) is said to be considering such a proposal to bring down non-performing assets (NPAs) in education loans.

Three-pronged strategy
“We have suggested a three-pronged strategy for the revised scheme. This includes tracking the student and creating a special credit guarantee fund for the education loan, besides stamping the certificate,” the chairman and managing director of a nationalised bank said. The scheme will need the nod of both the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of India before it can be introduced, added the chief executive of another bank.

Educational institutions are divided over this proposal. The Executive Director and Dean of Manav Rachna University, Col. (Retd) V. K. Gaur, says, “It is not a good idea. Procedures for taking education loan are already very lengthy. Banks take more and more precautions, now one more provision will make life difficult for the students.” He is apprehensive that stamping of certificates could be another way to exploit students.

On the other hand, Prof. C. P. Singh, Professor-in-Charge of University School of Mass Communication, Guru Govind Singh IP University, supports the new proposal. He says, “If the certificate carries a stamp, what is wrong in it, if your conscience is clear, you would like to pay on time.”

Finalisation of scheme
The revised scheme is likely to be finalised within the next two months. Sources told Business Line that the initial structure of the revised scheme was discussed at a review meeting of public sector banks held last Friday. Bankers are worried about the rising trend of NPA in education loans. Though they are not giving the exact percentage of standard assets turning into NPAs in the category, declining year-on-year growth in terms of accounts added and outstanding amount say a lot.

Bankers say that the new system would require active co-operation from educational institutions for which specific instructions from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will also be required. There is a strong possibility that a special credit guarantee fund will be created for education loans.

The size of the fund could be Rs. 5,000 crore (Rs. 50 billion). It was also suggested that the loan repayment tenure should be increased to 15 years from the existing seven years. Though it was felt that such an option would increase the rate of interest, providing this option has not been ruled out.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, July 14, 2011

Panel on education loan suggests creation of credit guarantee fund

Creation of a credit guarantee fund, extension of the tenor of repayment and moratorium period of educational loans are some of the key recommendations of the expert committee on education loan scheme constituted by the Indian Banks' Association (IBA).

The committee has submitted its recommendations to the Finance Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, and the draft paper on the education loan scheme is likely to be released in a month's time, according to Mr T. M. Bhasin, Chairman and Managing Director, Indian Bank. The expert committee was set up by IBA under Mr. Bhasin to modify the education loan scheme launched in 2001-02.

“We have recommended the creation of a credit guarantee fund. A portion of the funds in the corpus could come from the government and a portion from banks. A certain portion of the premium on loans could also be set aside in the corpus,” Mr. Bhasin told Business Line. Banks have been urging the Centre to set up a credit guarantee fund on the lines of the fund created for the MSE (micro and small enterprises) by the Government and SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India).

Concerned over the rise in defaults of educational loans, banks have been trying to rework some of the existing norms on such loans. The cumulative outstanding under education loans for all banks stands at about Rs. 45,000 crore (Rs. 450 billion) as on date and the defaults are in the range of three-to-five per cent, Mr. Bhasin pointed out. The defaults are higher on loans below Rs. 400,000, which are collateral free.

The committee has suggested extension in the repayment period of education loans from five-seven years now to10-15 years to facilitate repayment and reduce the probability of default. “The moratorium period on such loans is typically six months. We have suggested it to be extended to one year,” he said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, July 14, 2011

Games managers play in classrooms: Simulation tools getting popular with B-schools

The meeting is a long drawn one. Understandable, as the CEO of this medical motor manufacturer is busy finalizing the company’s go-to-market strategy. The meeting is also trying to figure out what the manufacturer needs to do to acquire and retain customers for sustainable revenues and profits.

But this is a meeting with a difference as the venue is a classroom in a B-school and the CEO and other top brass are students. Called marketing simulation, such “meetings” help students understand the link between marketing-strategy formulation and effective execution.

Similarly, in a classroom elsewhere, students are imitating the acquisition of Celanese AG, manufacturer of chemicals and intermediates, by the Blackstone Group. Students play the role of either Celanese or Blackstone and conduct due diligence, establish deal terms, respond to bids and counter-bids, and consider interests of other stakeholders. The simulation offers chat functionality so that students can negotiate online in addition to in person.

Business simulation games are the new teaching tool Indian B-schools are implementing in their classrooms. Prof. Satish Duryodhan at the Europe Asia Business School (EABS) says after he introduced the same, the attention span of his students has gone up from 20 to 80 per cent.

“Simulations provide you a very immersive experience. There are challenges involved which help you make a superior decision. It makes people think how to apply things in real life. It is both, part of our full time programmes and for Executive MBA programmes.” EABS, in fact, has been approached by other B-schools to help them integrate simulations as part of their curriculum.

Simulation is an imitation of some real thing or state of affairs and involves representation of key characteristics of a selected system or topic. While international B-schools have been using simulations for awhile, the trend has begun catching up with Indian B-schools recently.

According to Harvard Business Publishing (HBP), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harvard University, the number of Indian B-schools using simulations has doubled over the last one year to 25. While 12 B-schools were using simulations last year, only four had introduced the tool in 2009.

HBP, which creates and sells simulations to B-schools worldwide, says earlier constraints such as internet bandwidth, access to simulations and availability of local support, resulted in limited reach. But now, it is a mainstream learning tool for most MBA courses. For example, a typical simulation like Blackstone/Celanese, developed by HBP, is based on the acquisition of Celanese AG, manufacturer of chemicals and intermediates, by the Blackstone Group in 2003.

The simulation, allow students to play the role of either Celanese or Blackstone and conduct due diligence, establish deal terms, respond to bids and counter-bids, and consider interests of other stakeholders. The simulation offers chat functionality so that students can also negotiate online. Topics covered include: Valuation methods, including capital cash flow and equity cash flow methods, deal structuring, due diligence, mergers and acquisitions strategy, and negotiation.

“At present, over 25 Indian B-schools are using our simulations on topics ranging from leadership, supply chain management, strategy, marketing and finance, among others. Several other schools are evaluating internally before introducing simulations in their courses starting next month. I believe, in the next year or so, almost every quality business school in India will be able to include simulations in its courses. Simulations are fun, bring tremendous energy to the class, and results in experimentation, sharing and integrated learning.,” said Vinay Hebbar, Managing Director, HBP India.

Arun Pereira, professor at Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB), echoed Hebbar’s views. “Simulations allow you to see the cause and effect of a decision in real time. It mimicks real life with time compression. So more and more B-schools are using it.” ISB, for the first time, will be developing two simulations in-house: Simulation on information space and supply chain. The institute plans to sell the products to other B-schools. “We not only use simulation as ateaching tool but also for research and development of faculty members. Vendors are also a part of it who take care of the technical part of the games,” says Pereira.

Companies, including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Larsen & Toubro, PepsiCo, Asian Paints, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Dell and AlcatelLucent use simulations as part of their business training programmes. Other B-schools which use simulations include IIM-Ahmedabad and Bangalore, Xavier Labour Relations Institute, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, and Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

Source: Business Standard, July 14, 2011

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