Wednesday, December 19, 2012

For second year, fewer Indian students went to US colleges

The US appears to be losing its draw as the destination of choice for Indian students looking to study abroad. In the 2011-2012 academic year, the total number of students from India attending US colleges and universities dipped for the second year in a row. Students from India make up approximately 13.1 per cent of the total foreign student population in the country.

The number of Indian students dipped 3.5 per cent from 103,895 in 2010-11 to 100,270 in 2011-12. A total of 104,897 students from India attended institutions of higher learning in the US in the 2009-2010 academic year, according to an annual report by the Washington DC-based Institute of International Education.

Majority of the Indian students study at the graduate (Master’s) level. Data culled from the report show that in 2011-12, 13 per cent of the students were undergraduates, 58.9 per cent were graduate students. Some 26.7 per cent students opted for Optional Practical Training.

India lost the top slot as the leading country of origin to China after the 2008-09 academic year.

In 2000-01, Indian enrolments surged 30 per cent, followed by two more years of strong growth (at 12 per cent in 2002-03 and 7 per cent in 2003-04). The increases tapered off in 2004-05 and then decreased slightly in 2005-06, before resuming much larger increases in 2006-07 and for the next two years. In 2009-10, the growth flattened, and China topped the list. It continues to retain the position.

This year, international exchanges (foreign students) contributed $22.7 billion to the US economy, despite the fact that international students constitute less than 4 per cent of total US higher education enrolment.

The report highlighted the fact that more than 70 per cent of all international students receive the majority of their funds from sources outside of the US, including personal and family sources as well as assistance from their home country governments.

Among the top 10 destinations, Pennsylvania, Florida and Indiana had the largest percentage increases, with the international student population in each state growing by close to 10 per cent. At the institutional level, the University of Southern California had the largest number of international students, followed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, New York University, Purdue University and Columbia University. The report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Govt to set up nine institutes to train allied health workers

India’s health ministry has approved the setting up of nine institutes dedicated to training allied health workers as part of a shift towards a team-based system rather than a doctor-centric one. The institutes will generate 10,765 allied health professionals annually, setting the stage for rolling out universal health care under the 12th Five-Year Plan.

The decision is part of a policy change to reach under-served, semi-urban and rural areas of the country, where doctors have traditionally refused to relocate. The health ministry has allocated a budget of Rs. 1,100 crore (Rs. 11 billion) for the project.

There is a total national shortage of 6.4 million allied health personnel in India, according to the Health Ministry’s National Institute of Allied Health Sciences (NIAHS) report, which will be released on 21 December by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The biggest gaps are in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

Allied health professionals or AHPs are technicians and therapists, such as radiological technicians, medical laboratory technicians, occupational therapy assistants, etc., who acquire procedural skills. Investment in their training are usually considerably less than that for a physician. Training of AHPs takes around two years, making them a cost-effective and a reliable alternative in areas where physicians are not available.

“Allied health personnel-led services significantly reduce the costs of similar services structured around a consultant-physician model,” said Kavita Narayan, study coordinator, NIAHS, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). “This is an attempt to deliver seamless services to patients, creating a model of social solidarity. AHPs also provide rapid responses to patient needs in areas where services of general physicians are not available. They complement skills sets of doctors and nurses in therapeutic, diagnostic and curative realms of medicine.”

The national and regional institutes of allied health sciences will offer 26 different courses. The councils for each of these specialities, along the lines of the Medical Council of India (MCI), will also be set up to monitor and govern each subject, enforce norms, standardize course durations and training methodologies. Currently, there is no regulatory body to govern allied health sciences in India.

“Human resources are a critical factor which will have considerable impact on policies in the health sector. Investing in human resources and retaining skilled workers will be key to success of health reforms under the 12th Plan,” said Vishwas Mehta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health. “The nine institutions are a part of targeted intervention the health ministry is making to develop a skilled health workforce. Besides meeting demand-supply gaps in health workforce, the problem of availability of health services in under-served areas can be effectively addressed by task shifting and a team-based approach to health care delivery,” he said. The health ministry will set up expert panels to standardize course curricula for all 26 subjects, which will be reviewed periodically.

Source: Mint, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tatas eye big foray into edutainment

India's oldest industrial house, the Tata Group, is sketching big plans for children's edutainment market, a move signalling the tea-to-telecom conglomerate's interest to tap business opportunities around the country's 330 million population aged below 15 years.

Bangalore-based Titan Industries, a Tata Group company, is expected to finalize business plan for edutainment vertical, positioned as 'after school education through gadgets and technology', within a month, people familiar with the development said. This will be among the biggest growth drivers for watch and jewellery maker, which is the fifth largest Tata firm by market valuation.

The company's new business division wants to develop a network of about 160 edutainment stores, expected to rake in more than $1 billion revenue by the end of the current decade. Titan scanned several business models targeted at the children's market, including toy retailing, before narrowing its focus to edutainment stores.

Titan's edutainment business strategy will combine content with 3D and simulation technology with themes like 'journey across time', which sits well with the company's watch business too. The company has prepared an extensive case study, with inputs from design architects, to be presented to the board of directors later this month. The edutainment business will be deemed to be formal only after the board approves it. A questionnaire to Titan IndustriesBSE -0.96 % spokesperson remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

Titan reported Rs. 8,840 crore ($1.63 billion) revenue last fiscal powered by the watches and jewellery divisions. The company has explored plans to boost its top line revenue to $10 billion by 2020. The company, in which the Tatas hold more than 25% stake, closed the Friday trading on BSE almost flat at Rs. 307.

Tata Group companies with surplus cash on their books have been asked to draw up plans of how they would utilize their cash surpluses in adding value to shareholders. Titan had surplus cash of nearly Rs. 800 crore (Rs. 8 billion) at the end of last fiscal. The flagship edutainment stores will be more than 80,000 sq ft, located in the suburbs of the big metros, attracting investments of Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) each. The stores in smaller cities will vary between 8,000 to 10,000 sq ft. Titan will start work on rolling out the initial stores in two southern metros, once the board approves the business plan.

The $100-billion Tata Group's interest in edutainment tracks the growing investments in this space. Last month, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan acquired 26% stake in the India franchise of Mexican edutainment brand KidZania, scheduled to open first store in a Mumbai suburb March next year.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development at Oxford University approved

As a tribute to the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the government on Friday gave an ‘in-principle’ approval for setting up of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College, University of Oxford. Mrs. Gandhi was a student of Somerville College. An inter-ministerial committee is already in place to discuss the proposal.

This was announced after Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister M. M. Pallam Raju, met Alice Prochaska, Principal of Somerville College at New Delhi. The proposal to establish the centre has come from the college.

The centre will honour the late Prime Minister’s legacy by addressing key issues of sustainable development and will result in building up India’s intellectual capital and expertise in the area. It will enhance scholarship opportunities at Oxford for bright and talented students from India in the field of sustainable development, invest in intellectual capital and build a platform for strengthening partnerships with Indian scholars and leading institutions, thereby creating a community of alumni engaged in lifelong learning.

The centre is aimed at having a transformational impact on the lives of future leaders, who will help to direct a new paradigm of sustainable development in India and beyond. There will be three core activities, including supporting talent and leadership development by making graduate/Ph.D. scholarships available specifically to Indian students at Oxford, with a cohort of Indian graduate students participating directly in research of relevance to India.

The centre will strengthen interdisciplinary and pioneering research into food security, environmental sustainability and international governance by establishing post-doctoral positions and fellowships. The building will be designed to house an innovative “incubator” environment, helping foster new thinking and robust solutions to the challenges facing India and South Asian communities. Within each Impact Theme, the centre will develop its activities around three core activities: research, talent and collaboration.

The Somerville College has proposed to India to contribute £3.0 million for the project, while the university and college will provide an additional £5.5 million to support the centre. A dedicated building will be built for creating a landmark facility for the centre at a cost of approximately £10.0 million to be raised by Oxford University through philanthropic donations.

Almost 10 acres of land has also been earmarked for the building in the premises of the college. The building will be prominently located in the University of Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter next to Somerville and opposite the new Blavatnik School of Government.

Source: The Hindu, December 8, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

Divine inspiration for business

A motley bunch of IT and financial sector executives, businessmen, couple of police officers, a few officers from the Indian Air Force, executives from public sector companies, are all listening intently to Debashis Chatterjee as he speaks, flitting between anecdote, stories, humour and discourse. Chatterjee, Director, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kozhikode, Kerala, is addressing a management development programme, based on his book ‘Timeless Leadership, 18 Leadership Sutras from The Bhagavad Gita’ and his class of senior executives is keen to learn what for them is evidently new ground.

The sylvan surroundings of IIM-K, built as it is on two hillocks with a breathtaking view of a carpet of coconut trees as far as the eye can see, is an ideal retreat for these executives to get away from the hurly-burly of corporate life and step back and take stock. Chatterjee seamlessly pulls in examples from everyday life to illustrate his point and draw parallels from the discourse Krishna, the charioteer, gives to the warrior Arjuna, who’s paralysed into inaction on the battlefield. At the end of a day’s session, Chatterjee talked to Business Line about on his book and what the corporate world can draw from what the Gita has to offer. His office, more windows than wall, offers a spectacular view of the valley below.

The corporate world is rocked by a crisis in ethics and values. In this context, does a study of the Gita’s tenets offer some relevant lessons? The Gita is a text for the foundational values of life. It’s not just a book of skills. The corporate world has a preponderant emphasis on skills without the discretion that must go behind these skill sets. If I am an investment banker then I am really honoured for my craft in creating financial models. But, the emphasis is largely on skills. That emphasis has been so disproportionate that we have not paid enough emphasis on values that run these skills, which need to serve the larger good. In business you collect money, you have investors and shareholders; all of them constitute the larger component of a business and the society in which you do business. If you look at only the craft as your business capability then you are missing the whole point of what business stands for. Businesses need to understand what is the larger good; leaders need to have a sense of what corporate dharma is, which is to generate more wealth with less resources for a larger number of people. That’s the dharmic tenet of a corporation.

So, what learnings can corporate executives draw from the Gita?
Businesses of today will have to look at the multiple impact of their business. They have to be conscious of the larger or the whole picture. In the Gita, Krishna is telling Arjuna, ‘Don’t be worried so much about your role as a part. As long as you connect to the whole, the part is taken care of.” The earlier Chairman of Hindustan Lever, Vindi Banga, used to say that whatever is good for Hindustan is good for Hindustan Lever. He didn’t say it the other way round. Narayana Murthy says ‘whatever is good for India is good for Infosys’. Why are they saying this? Because they are saying the same thing that the Gita is: what is good for the large is good for the small.

Krishna is painting the picture of the large and telling Arjuna, “See your little part in connection with the whole…once you do that your ability to act for the larger group will enhance progressively. Then you will not engage in unethical actions.” If Rajat Gupta was sensitive to the world, that he was actually depriving a genuine investor from his legitimate wealth by insider trading, he would not have done it. It’s a lack of sensitivity.

When were you fired by the principles of the Gita to draw parallels for the corporate world?
I have been hearing Gita since I was a child. But my real serious interest in studying it developed when my father started scribbling notes on this before he passed away in 2009. And the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company asked me to do a series on the Gita for 18 days. I did that diligently, one chapter each day, without knowing why I was doing it. But the result was so phenomenal. All of a sudden you saw into the heart of things with so much more clarity. Later, when I was in Singapore, an editor of Wiley walked up to my office one day. I was contemplating a comparative work of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and the Gita. But, he wanted me to write a book based on the Gita. For that I needed to understand what it meant for corporations. This work is two years for writing. But the preparation for it was nine years. I read 200 editions of it. Everybody that you can think of has done some thing on the Gita: Tilak, Mahatama Gandhi, you name them…even CEOs are writing on it.

I even went to Rishikesh and met people who have made Gita their way of life, to understand what they had to say.
The book evolved as a result of this series of conversations. My earnest aspiration is to rescue the Gita from the vocabulary of an exclusive religious cult. I have nothing against religion but I have absolutely a problem when this is seen as a touch-me-not. The Gita’s message had to be transcreated for a new generation of learners who would not buy its esoteric notions. They would not see Krishna as an otherworldly being. So, I took examples form mundane existence (to draw parallels).

So, shorn of all the religiosity, the principles of the Gita you say are universal?
First of all it’s not meant to be a religious text but a way of living. It’s one of the works of psychology, depending on how you look at it. It has been interpreted by multiple people, so it lends itself to so many nuances, it’s a primary work, and my work is to interpret it for the corporate sector, transcreating the work in my own way.

Do you see India’s corporate leaders using these principles of the Gita?
If you see the top 100 wealth creators in India, 80 will swear by it, that their basic manual will be the Gita. The Gita is like a case study. The Upanishads are like a text book; Gita tells you how to apply the principles of Upanishads and Vedanta in real life. If that case study does not appeal to businesses which one will? I found that it is very compelling to speak to corporates with the evidence that the Gita not only has the power to create an Indian knowledge system, it can explain how the Indian business system runs the way it does, why Indian businesses can cope with the imponderables and uncertainty much better. Foreigners are amazed at the chaos here, but there is order in chaos. But, apparently, there is no chaos, there is a cosmos out there which lies just below the threshold of chaos and that order lends itself to depth of intelligence. So, instead of going out there and borrowing from shallow Western manuals we can go deep into our own knowledge systems.

With all the turmoil and scams in the corporate world, can B-schools inculcate values and ethics in B-school to your students?
The first point of ethics and values is that they are very subtle in nature. They don’t lend themselves to just teaching and talking like you teach time management or operations research. It is a different category, it’s very layered. So, ethics and values are caught rather than taught. They have to be built into the DNA of the organisation.

What are the attributes, according to you, that a CEO needs in today’s world?
A CEO needs wilderness skills; how do you deal with wide variations in data, in market fluctuations, you need a mental capability that has to seek out coherent patterns from a swarm of data, the ability to connect the dots and take decisive action, you need a certain equipoise, an equilibrium, a certain calmness of mind. That is missing in many CEOs. You need to know how to process your emotions.

CEOs also need an ecological sensitivity, which was not needed before. There are so many environmental factors buffeting businesses, that you cannot become ecologically vulnerable. Today, if you look at McDonald’s, they advertise their supply chain rather than their products. Sustainability is a function of being ecologically sensitive. GE has changed 180 degrees from the time of Jack Welch; in India, ITC is talking about responsible luxury. All this is pointing towards a change in mindset about the context of business. It is no longer about shareholders, it is the large societal factors impacting businesses. We need a bigger vision for business today.

Today you can’t bribe a Government servant and get away with it, there is the civil society which you have to contend with, there is the judiciary, there are environmental hawks who are scanning your carbon footprint. It’s difficult to be a business leader today, it’s much more challenging.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, December 7, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prometric goes solo, drops CAT partners

US-headquartered test-conducting firm Prometric Inc. has gone solo by dropping its Indian partners to conduct the computer-based common admission test (CAT) for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) this year. After two years of association, it has cut its ties with Everonn Education Ltd and MeritTrac Services Pvt. Ltd. This is not the first time that Prometric has dropped partners. In 2010, it went ahead with the test without NIIT Ltd, which helped it deliver the first computer-based CAT exam in 2009.

CAT 2012 is being conducted between 11 October and 6 November. A total of 214,068 candidates have registered for the test, seeking a berth in one of the 13 IIMs.

The first edition of the online CAT was mired by controversy due to technical glitches hindering thousands of students from writing the exam. A nationwide protest forced authorities to allow the aggrieved students to sit for the test a few months after the window closed. In 2010, Prometric roped in Everonn and Manipal education group-promoted MeritTrac to deliver the test.

“Yes, we are delivering the test by ourselves this time. Mutually, we have separated from Everonn and MetriTrac for CAT 2012,” said Soumitra Roy, Managing Director of Prometric India. An Everonn official said it was “not facilitating” IIM-CAT. “This is a strategic decision on the part of the company,” the official said, requesting anonymity. The IIMs confirmed the development.

S.S.S. Kumar, convenor of CAT-2012, said there are two partners — Axis Bank Ltd for the sale of vouchers, and Prometric, for delivering the tests. “They (Prometric) have gone ahead without their partners. Few days (of the test window) has gone and we have no problem in conducting the tests. We expect them to deliver a glitch-free exam,” Kumar said.

The US company may have begun preparations to go solo in September 2011 with the launch of its own hi-tech testing labs in Gurgaon and Hyderabad at the time. Mint had reported on 30 September a CAT convenor and a professor of IIM-Kolkata saying that Prometric may go solo in the near future.

Prometric’s move was an indication of its potential and ambitions for India, said Bharat Gulia, senior manager (education practice) at auditing and consulting firm Ernst & Young. “There is a good traction towards computer-based testing and its natural progression on the part of Prometric to expand. It’s seems a long-term plan,” Gulia said. He said India’s education sector is growing and “international companies are now looking at the country for opportunities ”.

The move may help Prometric in its bid to gain a bigger share of the growing Indian education market at a time when Pearson Education has managed to expand its footprint. Pearson acquired local firm TutorVista last year, besides setting up a joint venture with Educomp Solutions Ltd for skill education called IndiaCan.

Fiona Collins, Managing Director, Pearson VUE India, the test-conducting arm of Pearson, said: “Computer-based test is becoming increasingly popular across India, with some of the country’s leading examination bodies having transitioned from pencil and paper to computer-based delivery... Pearson VUE sees a bright future”. She said the market is growing because the process is tamper-proof and convenient both for institutes and candidates.

Roy of Prometric said that its augmenting capability and will continue to grow in India, reflecting why it went solo for CAT 2012. Reacting to the development, Nagendran S., Executive Vice-President, MeritTrac, said it’s not partnering Prometric because of “different business priorities”. In the next four to five years, at least 100 million computer-based tests will be conducted in India, he said. Last year, MetritTrac delivered at least 2 million such tests.

Conducting examinations “is a specialist function. World over, only specialist organizations have succeeded in this business. The most important knowledge to have is the knowledge of the examination processes, which are sacrosanct”, Nagendran said.

Source: Mint, October 17, 2012

Petroleum technology institute in Rae Bareli awaits land allocation

Five years after the government established the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology “to develop India as a global manpower hub” for the energy sector, the institute still awaits land allocation. Of the 125 acres required for the institute at Jais in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli district, only 47 acres have been allotted.

Around 200 Indian and foreign students are enrolled at the institute, which currently functions out of an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) building. Rae Bareli is the parliamentary constituency of Congress party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress leads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.

“The delay in land allocation has resulted in the suffering of our strategic intent. There has been an inordinate amount of delay,” said a government official, requesting anonymity.

The institute is expected to play a key role in India’s efforts towards energy security by training students from hydrocarbon-rich countries and was a part of India’s economic diplomacy policy aimed at enhancing relationships with such nations. The land allocation process was allegedly disrupted by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government that was in power till March 2012, according to a former petroleum ministry functionary, who requested anonymity. He said the delays were due to political reasons. The state is now ruled by the Samajwadi Party (SP), which supports the UPA government.

“The issue was also raised at Uttar Pradesh’s annual plan discussions. The state government keeps on saying that they are expediting it,” said the first government official quoted above. Abhishek Mishra, minister of state in the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s office, didn’t immediately respond to queries sent to his cellphone.

The institute — promoted by state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC), Oil India Ltd (OIL), GAIL (India) Ltd, Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) along with the oil industry development board — currently offers a master’s programme in business administration and two technical programmes.

“Though initially there was a requirement for 125 acres, due to delays in land allotment, the master plan was made for 47 acres only as we only had 47 acres in our possession,” said an official at one of the promoter entities. “The construction is on for 19 buildings, which is expected to be completed by March 2013. No further expansion is possible on the present land area.”

While questions emailed to the registrar of the institute late Monday remained unanswered, a petroleum ministry official requesting anonymity said, “There has been a delay over land acquisition which may affect the strategic intent behind the institute. However, I am hopeful that the present state government expedites the remaining land allocation.”

The government sees energy security as a key to economic growth, with India’s search for hydrocarbon equity abroad focusing on countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Angola, Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Indian energy firms such as ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of ONGC, and OIL are trying to acquire energy assets overseas. Production from overseas energy assets contributes around 10.5% of India’s production of 90 million tonnes of oil and gas. Countries such as India that are dependent on imports to meet their oil needs are particularly vulnerable to supply shocks.

India, the world’s fourth largest energy-consuming nation, imports 80% of its crude oil and 25% of its natural gas requirements. It trails the US, China and Russia, accounting for 4.4% of global energy consumption. India’s energy demand is expected to more than double by 2035, from less than 700 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) today to around 1,500 mtoe, according to the oil ministry’s estimates.

The Rajiv Gandhi institute, according to its website (, “has been accorded the eminence of being an ‘institute of national importance’ along the lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)”.

Source: Mint, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

IIM Aspirants: Engineer rush in CAT forces rethink on test

This year 67.6% of the CAT aspirants are from engineering background, an increase of over five percentage points from the 2011 edition. And with a further dip in applicants from disciplines like arts, humanities and medical sciences, the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) are now taking a relook at the Common Admission Test (CAT) to offer a level playing field to candidates from other disciplines. Of the over 214,000 candidates, more than 144,000 candidates are engineers, whereas candidates from humanities are just 3,404.

"To an extent it's true engineers are at an advantage, but only partly as 50% of the test also has verbal ability. But yes, going by the data and with fewer candidates coming from arts and humanities, efforts are on to take a re-look at CAT," said CAT 2012 convenor SSS Kumar. He refused to give further details. But with the present edition of CAT underway and deliberations is mid-way Kumar refused to give out the details.

This year, of the 214,068 candidates who have registered for the test, 144,760 are engineers, whereas 3,404 are from humanities. Last year, 62.2% candidates were engineers.

Stating that there will be changes in the CAT 2013, the specifics of which will be released later after the decisions are finalized, Director of IIM-Kozhikode, Debashis Chatterjee said efforts are on to get talents from across disciplines. "It's a pity that we are missing out on some of the best talents present among those in humanities. At present, we are answering to the geo-political reality of India, but we are deliberating as to how the test will have to change," said Chatterjee. IIM-Kozhikode is conducting the CAT this year on behalf of the 13 IIMs.

Otherwise, CAT 2012 is much more inclusive with increase in female candidates, SC/ ST and non-creamy OBC and aspirants from agriculture, CA, architecture, pharmacology registering for the test. Another trend this year is a significant increase (43%) of aspirants with two to three years of work experience.

While the general category has registered an increase of 2.2%, the combined increase in the number of registration for non-creamy OBC, SC and ST as against 2011 is 4.7%. "The positive thing about CAT 2012 is that it has become more inclusive with increased participation from the reserved category, female candidates and from other disciplines like agriculture, CA, architecture and pharmacology. The significant 4.2% increase in registration is a positive sentiment despite the gloom. This growth is not a small thing if we put this in context to the 62% decline in interest in MBA programmes in the US," said Chatterjee.

Source: The Times of India, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Employability of MBA graduates at dismal low: Report

Employability of MBA graduates across specialisations is at a dismal low, says the National Employability Report MBA Graduates, Annual Report 2012 by Aspiring Minds. While employability is below 10% for functional role in the field of HR, marketing or finance, in business consulting roles, it is as low as 2.5%. The study also revealed that a higher percentage of females are employable in HR roles and that 40% of employable talent lies beyond the top 1000 MBA colleges.

The report on the graduate class of 2011 covering data of 32,000 students from 220-plus MBA schools has been done using AMCAT, an employability test conducted by Aspiring Minds. Employability of MBAs was lowest in business consulting, followed by analyst and functional roles.

"The low employability figures show that management students and colleges need personalised employability feedback and guidance to take the right corrective steps. This shall not only lead to more students getting jobs, but also addressing the large talent needs of our growing industry," said Varun Aggarwal, COO and CTO, Aspiring Minds in a release.

Management education has witnessed a mushrooming growth in India from just about 200 MBA colleges in the early nineties to around 3300 MBA colleges today. However, employability for management students ranges between 10 20% for roles involving sales and client servicing.

Employability of MBA graduates is exceptionally low (2.52%) in business consulting whereas it is just 7.98% for the analyst function. Great English and cognitive skills are required for these roles. The report found that employability in corporate (B2B) sales (10.56%) is almost half of that in consumer (B2C) sales (21.72%). The employability for customer service roles is 16.01%. In these roles, behavioral and personality aspects of the candidates play an indispensible role.

While marketing records the lowest employability at around 6.99%, BFSI (7.69%) and HR jobs (9.63%) follow closely. Only 7.69% MBA-finance students are employable in the BFSI sector, which has created a very large number of jobs in the last decade. The employability in the area of Operations is 15.04%, which is nearly half of that in the ITeS/BPO sector.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 15, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Business schools such as ISB, IIM-A, TISS, Symbiosis line up courses in healthcare management

An increasing demand for doctors with business acumen is prompting business schools and top-ranking educational institutions to offer courses focused on healthcare and management, as more physicians opt for management degrees, post-MBBS.

ISB has recently partnered with Wharton School of Management to start a research centre on healthcare. A significant chunk of the students in this course are doctors aspiring for managerial roles. The course offers electives in healthcare along with a specialised management discipline such as strategy, marketing, finance and product management.

Premier business school - the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) - offers electives in health management and public health policy in its doctoral programme. "There was hardly any interest among students in healthcare management elective at PhD level until a few years ago. But in recent years, about 20 students from each batch of about 350 have been opting for the healthcare elective," says Prof. Dileep Mavalankar, Director of Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar and former professor of Health Management at IIM-A.

Among other top institutes that provide specialised courses in healthcare and management are Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai; Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences, Pune; and Indian Institute of Health Management and Research. Interestingly, ISB has, from this year on, focused 50% of its total scholarships - thus far fully merit-based - on the diversity aspect, wherein people from sectors like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, among others, will be given preference.

"The demand for doctors trained in management far outstrips the supply," says VK Menon, Senior Director - Careers, Admissions and Financial Aid at ISB. The requirement has grown manifold over the past four to five years, with industries such as pharmaceutical, biotech, medical equipment and healthcare growing rapidly. Domain knowledge in medicine as well as expertise in product management, brand safety, marketing and finance, besides knowledge of people skills, labour laws and strategies is providing an alternate career avenue for medical practitioners who want to branch out into other sectors.

"Companies in pharma, biotech and medical equipment now prefer to have doctors with business expertise. There is also a spurt in demand for this category of people with the rapid expansion of healthcare industry and setting up of hospital chains that are becoming more complex to run," says Menon. "Today as an industry, we need a unique value proposition. An MBA degree gives a wider perspective and makes a doctor manager aware of the best practices across sectors that can be applied to healthcare apart from enhancing people skills," says Vishal Beri, Chief Operating Officer, Hinduja Healthcare.

The healthcare sector in India is likely to grow to $100 billion by 2015 from $65 billion now, according to an estimate by rating agency Fitch. "The sector is at an inflection point and is poised for rapid growth in the medium term," says a KPMG report.

As opportunities open up in the sector, doctors who are not able to do their masters after their MBBS due to limited seats or high capitation fees are seen branching out to managerial roles. The playing field is huge: Family-owned hospitals are becoming more complex, competitive and professionally-run, while pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are expanding at a fast clip. "Many of the IIM alumni have venture capital funds that are buying into hospitals. And with doctors realising that they need to delegate more management to professionals, there is an obvious spurt in demand for managers," says Mavalankar.

Many doctors do not feel motivated enough to remain confined in medical courses and want to branch out into a different sector. "Some of them see parents struggling to manage their hospitals and hence realise the need for specialised managers who have knowledge of labour laws and people management expertise," adds Mavalankar. There is also the view that management is an additional field doctors can explore. "An MBA gives a physician wider choice. A rapid-fire, one-year MBA helps them understand the nuances of management," says Dr. Ramesh Padavala, Director - Brand Safety, Novartis.

Traditionally, most CEOs and top managers in the healthcare industry were either from the armed forces or the hospitality industry. However, with more corporates entering healthcare, there is need for a larger number of professionally-qualified managers who are familiar with the industry. Hinduja Healthcare has several doctor managers with management degree from ISB, TISS, Symbiosis - Pune and IIHMR, says Beri, an orthopedic surgeon, who graduated from ISB in 2008. "When I entered a medical school, I had not thought of doing an MBA, but now with increasing demand for medical professionals in managerial roles, there is more awareness among doctors, several of whom are going in for management specialisation after their MBBS," he says.

Some like Dr Padavala say, "There is a wide gap between management people and doctors. Most times one does not understand the other side." Only time will tell if a formal training in management will be able to bridge the gap.

Source: The Economic Times, October 12, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Foreign universities keep India entry plans in the freezer

When the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulations of Entry and Operations) Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2010, no less than 50 foreign universities evinced interest in setting up operations in India. Two years down the line, their interest seems to have dwindled, and the reason is not hard to fathom — the Bill is still gathering dust. “Delay in passing the Bill has affected sentiments. People no longer come to us showing interest to be part of the Indian higher education system,” said an official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

“Earlier, we would receive about 10 enquiries from foreign players a month; nowadays, we hardly get any. There is a limit to which people can wait. And people who mean business will certainly not hold on for ever,” added another ministry official. MHRD officials said following the [Parliamentary] Standing Committee’s recommendations on the Bill, the ministry had finalised its view. However, it is holding on till some of the other Bills get through. “We do not know if the plans of foreign players still stand. It is the overall atmosphere that matters. Besides, right now we are not worried about the interest of foreign players. The priority is passing the Bill,” the officials said.

Several international education institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Virginia Tech, Columbia University, University of Southern California and University of Alabama, had earlier expressed interest to have an India presence. Meanwhile, the MHRD has reviewed certain clauses in the Foreign Education Providers (Regulation) Bill to attract more overseas institutions looking to set up shop in India.

The recommendation by the Standing Committee has led to a revision in the minimum corpus of Rs. 500 million for a foreign institution to set up campus in India. However, the corpus will not be Rs. 500 million for every institution as envisaged earlier. Instead, the corpus will be based on certain classifications. For instance, for engineering, vocational and other programmes, it could be less than Rs. 500 million whereas for medical programmes, the corpus could be more than that, which the health ministry will decide.

The norms have been tweaked after education institutions, including community colleges, vocational training institutions, professional colleges, general education institutions and medical institutions had expressed interest in setting up operations. The MHRD will also review the pre-condition that stipulates that a foreign education institution can’t utilise more than 75 per cent of the corpus fund towards development of the institution in India. The ministry might allow these institutes to invest the surplus in growth of the institution after a certain lock-in period.

“A clause in the Bill said you create a corpus, which will see an accretion. But at no point will the institutes be able to utilise more than 75 per cent for development of the institution. Besides, no part of your revenues can be repatriated. You can, however, use 100 per cent of the same for further investment on the institute,” explained an official.

Several important Bills, such as the Educational Tribunals Bill, Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, and National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), 2011, among others, are still pending before Parliament. MHRD is hopeful that some Bills will be passed in the forthcoming winter session.

Source: Business Standard, October 11, 2012

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

US colleges cut fees in drive towards $10k degree

That American degree you so coveted and was unattainable because of high costs may not be so out of reach after all. Some US colleges have taken the first tentative steps to beat down soaring tuition fees by proposing a $10,000 (about Rs. 530,000) degree that also takes aim at the nearly trillion dollar college debt that the country has racked up.

The drive towards the $10,000 college degree will gee up students from India, more than 100,000 of who are enrolled in US colleges any given year. Although most Indian students come to the US for graduate studies, more and more are enrolling for four-year undergraduate degree, which some 10 Texas colleges are proposing to offer for as little as $10,000. Typical cost for a four-year undergraduate degree in a modest college for in-state US residents is around $30,000 (Rs. 1.6 million).

But Indian parents, the wealthier among who are sending their children to four-year undergrad colleges after their Class 12, can rack up more than $100,000 enrolling in elite US institutions. Higher education such as law degrees or two-year MBA degrees from top-ranked schools cost anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000.

While elite institutions and higher degrees may not feel the immediate effect, the first shot across soaring tuition fees in America has been fired by 10 modest Texas schools, following a challenge from the state governor Rick Perry to bring down costs. The 10 schools account for nearly 50,000 students, roughly 10% of undergrads at public universities in the state, according to the Wall Street Journal, among several outlets that described last month’s developments in this area.

First off the block is Angelo State University, a 7,000-student school in San Angelo in West Texas, which announced last week that it will offer a $10,000 degree starting next fall. Various schools of Texas Tech, Texas A&M University, and University of Texas have said they will follow suit. "A $10,000 degree provides an opportunity for students to earn a low-cost, high-quality degree that will get them where they want to go in their careers and their lives," Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for President, said in a statement.

Not everyone is chuffed about the development. Some have argued that the quality of education will suffer. Others have spoken of fudged numbers, with suggestions that the $10,000 target does not include variables such as campus housing and text books. Fee lowering has been attained in some cases by proposing expansion in the size of class rooms, shifting some courses online, and use of adjunct faculty who will be paid on a per-class basis.

Nevertheless, the drive to lower costs points to growing recognition in the US that education is going beyond the reach of poor and middle-class families, and students often enter the job market with a massive debt burden -- a model India is also adopting with growing privatization of education. Both Republicans and Democrats have made this a talking point. Recent reports have shown that Americans owe nearly $1 trillion in student loans, substantially more than the $700 billion they owe in credit card debts.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 9, 2012

Monday, October 08, 2012

225 B-schools, 52 engineering colleges close in 2 years

When the sun of the new millennium came up, shining on the aspirations of a young India, it marked the golden age for professional education. In the early part of the last decade, hundreds of new institutes came up and thousands of aspirants queued up to join them. That was a time when the country added up to 100,000 seats to its professional colleges every year.

A decade later, the picture is one of stark contrast in technical professional colleges: Since 2011, 225 B-schools and over 50 engineering colleges across India have downed shutters. Many more colleges have trimmed programmes, branches of engineering or streams in the management course. On the academic floor, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme was once supreme. Arrogantly and unambiguously, it became the final sign-off to schooling, attracting not only those interested in business but also those who wanted to master the tools of management.

Now, for the first time, overall growth of MBA education is negative in the books of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). In 2011-12, 146 new B-schools came up and 124 that were already running closed down. This year so far, 101 management colleges have closed down, only 82 have started. Similar is the story with the Master of Computer Application (MCA) course — 84 colleges stopped offering the programme this year; only 27 started MCA courses.

For students who choose not to apply to an MCA college, the decision is a no-brainer: with many more engineering seats available now, an undergraduate would rather earn a BTech degree followed by a two-year master's than enrol for a bachelor's in computer application and back it up with a three-year MCA that would also eat up six years.

Alive to the problem, the AICTE has decided to allow colleges to offer a five-year dual degree programme and also permit graduates of science, BSc (Computer Science) and BSc (Information Technology) to jump to the second year of the MCA course. Yet, the small positive growth in the sector is from the engineering colleges where new institutes are coming up faster than closures taking place, largely in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.

AICTE Chairman S S Mantha said: "This is a turning phase for the professional education sector. Colleges in remote India and institutes of poor quality are not getting students. And for colleges, there is just one key to attracting students: institutes need to be top-of-the-line colleges. There is no payoff in running a bad college."

Joining a professional college was once the pinnacle of an Indian student's career for the seats were far outnumbered by aspirants. So students often happily chose anonymous professional colleges. But over time, they were put off by any of three reasons: poor quality of teaching, lack of adequate faculty or no job offer at the end. "A young graduate would rather take up a job or prepare harder for another shot at an entrance exam which is the gateway to a better college," said a Director of one of the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).

The problem is also linked to the slowdown, said Samir Barua, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). The job market has been tight for a couple of years. Earlier, many would give up a job to get an MBA and then re-enter the job market after pumping up their CV. "They are hesitant to take such a risk now. The pressure is being felt and applications for MBA are falling. But undergraduate programmes like engineering would not feel the same tension as everyone still at least wants their first college degree," explained Barua.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 8, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

AICTE allows firms with Rs. 1 billion turnover to start their own colleges

Aiming to bridge the gap between technical educational institutes and the expectations of those who employ their graduates, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has decided to allow industries and businesses with Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) turnover to set up technical institutions of their own.

Such institutions will be allowed to admit double the number of students allowed at regular institutions, and would be able to start a single branch or theme institute of their choice, according to the AICTE’s notification inviting applications to start new institutes for the 2013-14 academic year.

“We often hear that students graduating from technical institutes are not industry-ready or employable. Hence, we want to bring in the best practices of industry and want them to participate in the higher and technical education sector,” AICTE Chairman S S Mantha told The Indian Express. “Accordingly, a private limited or public limited company or industry, with a turnover of Rs. 100 crore in the last three years, will now be eligible to apply to start a new institute.”

Such institutions can teach any technical discipline, including engineering, pharmacy, architecture and town planning, applied arts and crafts, and hotel management and catering technology. They can offer undergraduate or postgraduate or diploma courses.

“This is a paradigm shift in the higher and technical education sector in India where a regulatory body is reaching out actively to industry,” said a former UGC chairman, who did not want to be identified. “Until now, industries did not apply to AICTE to start an educational institute, probably because norms were not spelled out or because academia was lethargic in its attitude to reach out to them.”

Separately, AICTE has also eased norms to help students wanting to pursue a masters degree in computer applications (MCA). “Students who have completed their undergraduate education in any discipline can apply for MCA. But we have introduced a new rule in which students who have done their bachelors in any computer related subject like B.Sc IT/BCA/computer science, will get lateral or direct entry to second year of MCA,” said Mantha.

AICTE is also introducing a dual degree programme in MCA in which students will complete BCA and MCA in five years instead of six.

Source: The Indian Express, October 4, 2012

Safety net for Indian students if Australian institutions shut shop

Indian students affected by the foreshadowed closure of three colleges in Australia would be covered by a legislated safety net, Australia’s High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese said. If these education providers shut shop and do not meet their obligations to students, international students will be able to access the Australian government’s Tuition Protection Scheme (TPS). This scheme will seek to place affected students in an alternative course or refund any unspent pre-paid tuition fees to the students.

The move comes after Australia’s vocational education regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), decided to shut down two non-compliant vocational education and training colleges in Victoria and one in New South Wales.

“The Australian government has in place a comprehensive suite of protection mechanisms to safeguard the interests of overseas students under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (the ESOS Act),” said Varghese.

Depending on the outcome of any appeals, the decisions will take effect from October 30 and apply to all courses offered by the Ashmark Group and G Plus G Global Trading. Both colleges have campuses in Melbourne and Victoria. ASQA has also served a notice on the Ivy Group in New South Wales last month.

The decisions follow comprehensive compliance assessments, including multiple site visits by ASQA officials. The ASQA audits concluded that the colleges concerned were non-compliant with the standards that educational providers in Australia are required to meet in the delivery of training to domestic and international students.

“The decision to reject a training organisation’s registration is not one we take lightly, but the interests of students and the integrity of training standards across the VET sector have to be upheld,” said ASQA Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson. Further details of ASQA’s decision can be found on their website.

There are more than 400 Indian students enrolled at the Ashmark Group’s college, over 100 Indian students are enrolled at G Plus G Global and 30 Indian students enrolled at the Ivy Group. “The institutions have the right to have ASQA’s decision reviewed — which may delay or change the decision,” added Robinson.

Source: Business Standard, October 4, 2012

GMAT Council plans to attract more aspirants

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), wants to increase its base of test takers in India by attracting undergraduate students to appear for the examination. Traditionally, GMAT, a standardised test to help business schools select qualified applicants, has been popular with candidates with more than four years of work experience, and undergraduates have largely kept away from taking GMAT.

“Undergraduates typically do not write the GMAT in large numbers. If they write the exam, they do so for banking the score—which is valid for five years. We are trying to inform them they can go for a masters programme right after graduation. We are trying to broaden the perspective of the audience, and thus working with undergraduates,” said Ashish Bhardwaj, Regional Director, South Asia, GMAC.

Bhardwaj says over the last decade, most of the top business schools internationally have launched masters programme in various streams, including management, accounting, financial accounting, telecom management, health care, hospitality, etc. This one year masters programme prepares one for a functional job.

“This particular set up of offering enjoys a very limited awareness in India. Therefore, we think we can make more information flow to candidates and inform their choices by telling them that they can straight away go for a masters programme after graduation,” says Bhardwaj.

GMAC has so far worked with around 16 undergraduate colleges, and the council says the response has been good. Another focus area for the council, says Bhardwaj, is to get more women candidates to take GMAT. In India, only 26 per cent GMAT takers are women, whereas in China, it is 58 per cent. GMAC wishes to take the number of Indian woman test takers to around 40 per cent in the next five years.

“We think women are very important. We are struggling to find out how to get more women in India to take GMAT. We are looking at ways on how to reach out to women. One way is to go to women only undergraduate college,” says Bhardwaj.

With nearly 80 per cent of Indians preferring an MBA education, an important test taker group for GMAC are candidates from the non-traditional undergraduate background, like lawyers, doctors, ex-defence officers, etc. The council says it is looking at ways to create more diversity in a class. “Not just business schools, but recruiters too want more diversity,” says Bhardwaj.

After the US and China, India is the third biggest market for GMAT. The council says it sees the most dramatic growth for itself in the Asian region. “Asia is clearly going to be a growth area for us in the near future. Given the demographic dividend in the region and the growth of management education, we see the growth continuing for us,” added Bhardwaj.

GMAT exam volume for the 2012 testing year (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012), was up 11 per cent from the previous year. This was also eight per cent higher than the previous record of 265,613 in 2009.

Chinese test takers, the second-largest citizenship group after the US, represented 20 per cent of global testing. In 2012, the number of exams taken by Chinese citizens increased 45 per cent to 58,196 exams. Indian citizens, the third-largest citizenship group, took 30,213 GMAT exams, a figure that increased 19 per cent in 2012.

GMAC’s India office looks at the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) market. Within this area, India alone is 96 per cent of the market. “So, it’s needless to say our time will go in developing the India market,” says Bhardwaj. Around 175 programmes in India accept GMAT. The Council is focusing only on top 200 business schools in India.

With an investment of over $4 million in the India market so far, the Council is also looking at opening a few more new test centres in the country.

Source: Business Standard, October 4, 2012

Manipal Global to return 72%+ for early investors

Manipal Global, the Rs. 1,000-crore (Rs. 10 billion) higher education services provider from the Manipal group, is closing in on a deal to provide healthy exits to its private equity investors IDFC Private Equity and Capital International.

In 2006, the two investors pumped in $70 million in Manipal Global for a 12 per cent stake, and it is understood the two private equity players might get $120-130 million from the exit, valuing the company at about $900 million.

Two investment bankers privy to the transaction indicate US-based $2-billion DeVry Inc, which runs a clutch of educational institutions, may consider investing in Manipal Global. Earlier, Manipal Global had tried to tap the public markets with an enterprise valuation of $1 billion, but the plan did not materialise, as the markets were not conducive.

Ranjan Pai, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Manipal Global, said the company was preparing to provide an exit to IDFC PE and Capital International. However, he denied any interest from DeVry Inc. “A lot of global players in the education space come and talk to us. It may not necessarily be for an investment in Manipal Global. They may want to understand the market and, as part of the process, they discuss with us,” he said.

DeVry is an NYSE-listed organisation and a provider of educational services. It is the parent organisation of Advanced Academics, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Becker Professional Education, Carrington College, Carrington College California, Chamberlain College of Nursing, DeVry Brasil, DeVry University, and Ross University Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. These institutions offer an array of programmes in business, healthcare and technology.

Pai, from the Manipal Group’s promoter family (which runs the not-for-profit Manipal University in Karnataka), added the company would raise resources on its own strength and buyback the stake held by two PE investors. It is understood Ernst & Young is advising Manipal Global on this transaction and the deal is expected to be completed by the end of December. Investment bankers said for the transaction, Manipal Global had held talks with Pearson, as well as Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group, but could not make much headway. Pai, however, said the company wasn’t scouting for a strategic investor. DeVry Inc did not respond to queries.

Manipal Global had also raised Rs. 2 billion each from Premji Invests and Catamaran Ventures, owned by Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy.

Manipal Global’s operating margin stands at about 30 per cent, while its debt is Rs. 5 billion. It has campuses in Antigua, Dubai, Malaysia and Nepal, besides the Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) in India and a slew of 30 institutions that focus on executive and vocational development. It is understood Manipal Global may consider the private equity route for its planned expansion in Sri Lanka and Africa.

Manipal Global Education Services has made strategic investments in emerging companies, including MeritTrac, a pan-India skills assessment and testing company, and U21 Global, a global online graduate school. Manipal Education has also joined hands with City & Guilds to offer a skills training programme called IndiaSkills. On its investment in TutorVista, Manipal Global recorded a blockbuster exit, when Pearson acquired the majority stake in two steps, paying about Rs. 6.5 billion for a stake of 76 per cent in the company.

Source: Business Standard, October 4, 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Only 22% funds utilised for upgrading ITIs through PPPs

With higher allocations in store for skill upgradation in the 12th Five Year Plan, a Ministry of Labour document shows that only 22.43 per cent of the funds released for modernising Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been utilised.

States used only Rs. 5.318 billion of the Rs. 30.675 billion released for the upgradation of 1,396 ITIs through PPPs, says the document, adding that the performance is not uniform. The funds were released from 2007-08 to 2011-12. So far, only 1,227 institutes have been covered, it said.

Among the larger States, Madhya Pradesh recorded the poorest utilisation at 5.54 per cent of the total Rs. 1.85 billion released till September 9, this year. The performance of Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan was ‘below average’. Bihar used only 10.89 per cent of the Rs. 325 million released for upgradation of 13 institutes. The scheme, with a total outlay of Rs. 35.5 billion, came to an end in March 2012.

Centres of Excellence
In another World-Bank aided scheme to turn 400 ITIs into ‘centres of excellence’, only Rs. 10.81 billion of the total outlay of Rs. 15.81 billion project was utilised. The scheme will close in December 2012.

The World Bank contributed Rs. 12.31 billion for the Vocational Training Improvement Project, which began in November 2007, of which Rs. 12.51 billion (including Rs. 350 million States’ share) had been released by the Centre till August 2012.

Expressing concern over the tardy utilisation of funds, the Labour Ministry has put the ball in the States’ court. “There are large number vacancies of prinicipals and instructors in ITIs. Some States have created posts, but filling them up is taking time,” says the document, released at the State Labour Ministers’ recent meet.

Even in case where States have appointed contract faculty pending regular appointments, the salaries are very low, the document noted. Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge appealed to States for co-operation to meet target of imparting skills to 100 million people in the next 10 years.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, October 2, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spurt in demand for PG engineering courses

Contrary to popular perception, the engineering education segment seems to be doing well. In the past year, the number of seats in postgraduate (PG) engineering institutes has swelled 160 per cent and there is a 100 per cent year-on-year growth in the number of new PG engineering institutes.

According to data by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the country’s technical education regulator, as many as 888 seats were added in 2012-13, compared to 342 in the previous year.
Ten postgraduate institutes were opened in 2012-13, against five last year. The new institutes were opened in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which got two new PG engineering institutes each, and Kerala, where one institute was opened.

Industry observers say the sudden expansion in PG engineering seats is to meet the spurt in the number of students applying for such courses as numerous faculty vacancies exist across engineering colleges in these states.

In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, as many as 71,045 students applied for the PG Engineering Common Entrance Examination (PGECET) this year against 36,000 students a year ago. Besides, according to a new AICTE directive, faculty at engineering should have the minimum qualification of a postgraduate degree. Until last year, these teaching posts were largely filled with B Tech graduates.

According to industry experts, the number of students opting for postgraduate studies had come down by nearly 50 per cent over the past two decades, resulting in an acute faculty shortage in a number of education institutions. In the next academic year, in Andhra Pradesh alone, more than 700 engineering colleges will have about 70,000 posts to fill.

The new-found interest in PG engineering education is also due to the fact that from next year, even private engineering colleges will offer the sixth pay commission salaries for teaching positions. This means a basic salary of Rs. 36,000 at the entry level.

On the other hand, five PG engineering colleges shut down in 2012-13, against seven in 2011-12. The seat loss due to this stood at 342 in 2012-13, compare to 576 in 2011-12.

The Flip Side
It is a different picture for management education and under-graduate engineering. In 2012-13, the number of management institutes opened were 82, compared to 146 last year — adding 7,740 seats to the pool against 14,340 seats last year.

The number of management institutes closed this year stood at 101 against 124 last year. The number of seats lost this, however, were 6,090 against 5,602 last year.

“Opening and closing of institutes has become a game. Approval of institutes has become a racket in the country and AICTE needs to go beyond its fascination for approving management and engineering institutions left, right and centre,” says the director of a Delhi-based B-school ranked among top 10 B-schools in the country.

“AICTE’s role is a holistic one. But they are, instead, playing the role of a regulator. AICTE has forgotten its job of making technical education qualitative. AICTE keeps adding seats even when the market does not need more seats. Thus, professional education in the country is suffering,” the B-school director adds.

In the under-graduate engineering segment, about 95 engineering institutes were opened this year, against 178 last year. While the number of institutes shut down this year stood at 12 against 28 last year, the number of seats lost was 2,710 this year against 9,835 last year. The number of seats added in under-graduate engineering stood at 27,060 seats against 51,900 seats in 2011-12.

Source: Business Standard, September 27, 2012

Dale Carnegie Training to expand India presence

Dale Carnegie Training is set to expand its presence in India. The company, noted for corporate training and skill training for students and faculty of institutes, is looking to offer more programmes to its users and forge additional partnerships in the country.

Dale Carnegie is already operating in India. It has been running a finishing school in the country since 2007. The company has also worked with educational institutions for student training and faculty training. “Since 2006, we have trained nearly 27,000 faculty and about 30,000 students,” says Peter Handal, Chairman & CEO, Dale Carnegie Training.

Handal says the company is looking at expanding its corporate world programmes in India. The thrust will be on digital training. He adds that the firm will concentrate on live online training and interactive programmes. The online programmes cover areas such as information technology (IT), IT-enabled services, BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) and telecom, says Pallavi Jha, Managing Director of Dale Carnegie Training India.

Dale Carnegie has a tie-up with the Sullivan University in the US to offer joint certificate programmes. The individual courses are tailored to meet specific needs of learners. The courses include IT training, sales training, small business management, and conflict management, among others. The course process occurs within two components. The first comprises two Dale Carnegie courses being offered locally in a physical classroom environment. The second component has three courses, which are delivered online through Sullivan University’s Global e-Learning initiative.

The company claims the online courses will have the same quality as the regular courses and the curriculum is also the same. For online students, assignments, tests and discussions are accessed through an e-Learning portal. Due dates are still assigned to keep students on track, but students still have more flexibility, when it comes to completing course-work and discussions.

According to Jha, Dale Carnegie will bring all its modules to India. Dale Carnegie has partnerships with a few institutes in India which run Dale Carnegie finishing schools in their campus. Professors from these institutes are given prior training and they have to appear an examination to qualify to be a trainer in these in-house finishing schools. Existing ties include partnership with Meghe Group of Institutions in Nagpur. Jha says that Dale Carnegie will be forging many more such alliances with institutes in tie-2 cities in India this year.

On the corporate training side, Handal says that that employee-engagement programmes have been the focus for companies. Programmes on communication skills and presentation are also in demand. “The demand for corporate training is very high in developing nations like India than the western countries. This is because firms here are expanding rapidly and need training to support their workforce,” he says.

Handal divulges that the company is also working with small and medium businesses (SMBs) to provide sales and other training to deal with domestic and international clients. However, the traction here is slower in terms of SMB training, compared to regions such as the US, Europe and South America.

Dale Carnegie is looking to have a 30-35 per cent growth in their finishing school business this year. In addition, it is aiming for a 20 to 25 per cent growth in its overall revenues. About 75-80 per cent of the company’s business comes from corporate training. The rest comes from finishing schools.

Source: Business Standard, September 27, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New qualifying criteria dashes hopes of many NET aspirants

The high hopes with which a majority of candidates appeared for the UGC’s National Eligibility Test (NET) in June after a change in the question paper pattern have come crashing after the publication of results earlier this week. For the first time, NET was conducted in objective mode for all three papers in two sessions. Till then, the third paper in descriptive format was not favoured by many. However, the relief over replacement of the descriptive format with multiple-choice questions has turned out to be short-lived.

The adoption of new qualifying criteria by the UGC (University Grants Commission) has denied thousands of candidates an opportunity for lectureship in universities and colleges. The candidates blame the UGC for coming out with a last minute specification that an aggregate of 65 per cent in three papers was necessary for qualification for general category candidates. The qualifying minimum was fixed at 60 and 55 per cent for OBC and SC/ST/visually challenged/physically challenged categories.

While the NET notification stated that the scores of only those candidates who score the minimum specified marks would be considered for the preparation of result, the UGC’s new criteria for qualification required candidates in general, OBC, and SC/ST/VC/PC categories to post minimum scores (out of 350 — 100 marks each for first and second paper, and 150 marks for third paper) of 227.5, 210, and 192.5 respectively.

So far, corresponding scores of 155, 138 and 130 were accepted as passing minimum for the three categories of candidates. The NET notification stated: “Only such candidates who obtain the minimum required marks in each paper separately, as mentioned above, will be considered for final preparation of result. However, the final qualifying criteria for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) and Eligibility for Lectureship shall be decided by UGC before declaration of result.”

The candidates are shocked. “The result has caused depression. My efforts have gone in vain,” lamented Gajendran, an Assistant Professor, who felt confident about clearing NET this year, after many attempts over a decade. His overall score of 188 did not measure up to UGC’s new criteria. Had the UGC struck to the pattern of passing minimum it had been following so far, the pass percentage would have increased manifold, said Vijayalakshmi, a professor in a private college.

While NET/SET is the minimum eligibility for recruitment and appointment of assistant professors in universities/ colleges/ institutions, candidates with Ph.D. in accordance with UGC Regulations 2009, are exempted from clearing this examination.

But, with Ph.D. turning out to be costly and time-consuming, candidates usually devote their attention to clearing NET first before pursuing Ph.D. Hence, their disappointment is only natural, according to S. Iyyampillai, Professor of Economics in Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi, who has vast experience in training candidates for NET/SET

Candidates across the country who have not passed the NET due to the “last minute” changes in the eligibility norms have planned to get their acts together for legal recourse, Ms. Vijayalakshmi said.

Source: The Hindu, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Medical Council of India approves 3-and-a-half-year medical course

The Medical Council of India (MCI) has finally cleared introduction of the three-and-a-half-year long medical course. Calling it BSc in Community Health, it will be open to anybody after class 12. Speaking to TOI, MCI board chairman Dr K K Talwar said this special cadre of health workers will be trained mainly in district hospitals, be placed in sub-centres or primary health centres and will be taught "some module of clinical work".

This means this cadre can actually diagnose and treat basic medical cases, get involved in immunization programmes and administer extended first aid. "We intend to introduce the course from April next year. This cadre will also refer patients according to their condition to other centres. We have also prepared the syllabus of the course. The ministry will now take the final call," Dr Talwar said.

Health secretary P K Pradhan has called a high level meeting on Tuesday to finalize the proposal. The Planning Commission's high level expert group has strongly backed the all new health cadre and said that as a career progression incentive, they should be promoted to the level of public health officers after 10 years of service.

The health ministry has been strongly pushing for the introduction of this cadre, in order to tackle the menace of doctors unwilling to serve in rural areas. Only 26% of doctors in India reside in rural areas, serving 72% of India's population. The urban density of doctors is nearly four times that of rural areas, and that of nurses is three times higher.

Things have taken a turn for the worse in the past few decades with the disappearance of certain cadres — village health guides and traditional birth attendants, first instituted in 1986. Experts said the selection of students would be based on merit in the Class 12 examination with physics, chemistry and biology as subjects.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had earlier said that he wanted an MCI stamp on the degree so that it was universally recognized. "The syllabus of the course is also ready and is need-based. If MCI endorses it, students will get the confidence that the degree has a standing," he had said.

The panel, however, was clear that the course was not a mini-MBBS but rather a unique training programme aimed at the basic health care needs of its target population.

Source: The Times of India, September 24, 2012

Industries may soon get a role in higher education

India is preparing to involve industries in higher education in an effort to boost both research and employability. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) expects this will, in addition to employability, solve issues related to land availability and finance. In return, the government will give industries independence and fast-track regulatory clearances for opening institutes that will focus on research specific to industry requirements.

The ministry, in association with lobby group Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), has invited 17 government departments and ministries and nearly 60 companies to a two-day conference in Delhi that will begin on Monday, according to a ministry concept note that Mint has reviewed.

“If we reach an agreement, then we don’t have to go to Parliament and it will be more of a ministry-level decision to engage industry in higher education,” said S.S. Mantha, Chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulator in the higher education sector for technical institutes and a part of the HRD ministry. “Through the conference we want to understand what the industry requires on regulatory front. We will try to accommodate that.”

Shalini Sharma, head of the education wing at CII, said companies are open to the idea and want to know “what the government is offering”. The exercise will fast-track industry involvement and is a positive for higher education, Sharma said, particularly as research needs to pick up in the country and should happen in sync with industry demand. “The government cannot do everything by its own. Once the industry participates, issues like land and finance will be taken care of easily,” said Mantha.

Mantha said involving the industry will promote theme-based research and innovation during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17). This will “stimulate discussion between industry players and ministries” on setting up institutes that will focus on specific research and enter into twinning and collaborative programmes with other universities and research organizations, he said.

Such institutes should admit trained people across disciplines to do research, leading to the award of doctoral degrees in sectors ranging from water to chemicals, urban development to manufacturing, and energy and mines, the concept note underlined.

The MHRD will function as the nodal agency for setting up such institutes, it said. Higher education reform has been left cold the past couple of years, but the government has given education a priority sector tag for the 12th Five-Year Plan period that began on 1 April 2012.

Several proposed legislations related to higher education, including the foreign university Bill, education tribunal Bill, education malpractice Bill and accreditation Bill are pending in Parliament.

Source: Mint, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Alumni open purse to help IIT-Delhi build research schools

The highly successful alumni of Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D) have pumped in millions of dollars to the alma mater since it was established in 1961, helping the institute look beyond government funding for several ambitious research projects.

Currently, two complexes are being built in IIT-Delhi with 100 per cent alumni funding and the foundation for another one was laid recently to boost the institute’s research prospects. The first is Amarnath and Shashi Khosla School of Information Technology, named after parents of IIT-Delhi alumnus and US-based venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Khosla, a BTech in Electrical Engineering from IIT-Delhi, co-founded Sun Microsystems along with his Stanford classmates in 1982. Dean of Alumni Affairs Ambuj Sagar said Khosla has provided $5 million for construction of the building and for research work to be taken up there. “The complex will be ready in the next six months,” Dean of Infrastructure Ashok Gupta said. It will be for inter-disciplinary, goal-oriented research, and also serve as an innovation centre for post-graduate education in information technology.

Kusuma School of Biological Sciences, funded by alumnus Anurag Dikshit through the UK-based Kusuma Trust, named after his mother, is another project coming up on the campus. The trust has said to have contributed more than £5 million to build the school. Dean of Infrastructure Gupta said Rs. 100 million has already been released for the building, while the rest would be utilised for setting up research laboratories within the facility. The project mission is to promote research by “interfacing modern biology with applied engineering sciences to address problems affecting human health and welfare, and training scholars to be the next generation scientists”.

Patanjali Keswani, Managing Director of Lemon Tree Hotels and an IIT-Delhi alumnus, recently announced Rs. 200 million for GH Keswani Research Centre at the institute. Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal laid the foundation of the project, which will be built in an area of approximately 130,000 square feet. It will reserved for research facilities for students.

IIT-Delhi has so far produced over 30,000 engineers, technologists, scientists, managers and entrepreneurs. Over the years, this rich roll-call has helped the institute financially and logistically take up several alumni-funded projects.

Source: The Indian Express, September 23, 2012

IIT Bombay-incubated firm gets Rs. 25 million from VCs

Covacsis, a three-year-old start-up, has secured venture capital funding of Rs. 2.5 crore (Rs. 25 million) from Blume Ventures, India Venture Partners (IVP) and a European fund. Incubated in the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), it helps manufacturing companies measure floor economics in real time. Tarun Mishra, founder and promoter, said, "The bridge financing will give wings to our international plans." With manufacturing changing and companies looking at new ways of managing it, Covacsis' technology helps companies convert operational data into real-time financial numbers, he added.

Blume Ventures provides seed funding to the range of $50K-$250K to early-stage tech-focused/tech-enabled ventures. “We fundamentally believe input cost efficiencies, whether it translates into energy or productivity, is the key for the next 10 years in the global markets. Covacsis has got everything to become a leader in the space of transforming microeconomics of production floor," said Karthik Reddy, founder, Blume.

According to IVP Chief Navneet Gosal, through its initial set of customers, Covacsis has generated traction via a proven use of its technology. "Covacsis has developed unique and interesting technology in the shop floor intelligence space. We believe the capital investment in Covacsis can help the business scale across manufacturing and production industries in India.”

Covacsis, which serves Sun Pharma, Ipca Labs, Cipla, Godrej Industries, Tata Chemicals, Welspun, Raymond and Ruby Mills in pharma, chemical and textile, plans to expand its bouquet of services to companies in the automobile, steel, oil and gas and FMCG segment too. “Covacsis' solution makes the operator and chief executive talk in the financial language,” said Pranay Godha, executive director, Ipca Labs.

Mishra, 38, started Covacsis with a seed capital of Rs. 2 million in 2003. He gave up his job as the business head of financial product of a Canadian company, after working for four years, to give shape to his entrepreneurial dreams.

Covacsis built a solution called ‘real time production measurement & diagnostics (RTPM), which helps organisations avoid inevitable changes on the production floor. While shop-floor managers may miss the intermittent breakdowns and millions of reprocessing and utilities cost fluctuations, etc, which affects the product quality and plant efficiency on the floor, Covacsis’ RTPD helps the management understand the impact of each and every incident on the top-line and bottom-line and respond to such incidents in the shortest possible time.

Mishra’s company has been incubating at IIT-B’s Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the past three years. IIT-B takes a minority stake of four-five per cent in each of the firm that incubates on its campus. Once the company gets funding, IIT-B would liquidate part of its holding. Mishra now plans to buyback IIT-B's stake.

With a team of 33 executives, Covacsis aspires to become a Rs. 1-billion company in valuation in less than 36 months. Covacsis has aggressive non-linear growth strategy said Tarun. The company plans to go in for second round of funding next year to the tune of $5.5-6 million.

Source: Business Standard, September 23, 2012

UK to help students hit by LMU licence revocation

The United Kingdom (UK) has set up a task force to help international students affected by the revocation of London Metropolitan University (LMU)’s licence. A £2-million fund has also been set up to help legitimate foreign students at LMU bear the extra costs in securing admission to other institutions. Recently, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had revoked LMU’s sponsor licence, owing to “systematic failures”. The move affected about 2,000 students from several countries, including India.

“A task force has been set up in the UK to assist genuine students affected by the decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s sponsor licence. The task force comprises the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the UK Border Agency and the National Union of Students. This is working with London Metropolitan University to support genuine students to find another education provider, with whom to continue their studies,” a UKBA spokesperson stated, replying to an emailed query.

“A fund of £2 million has also been established to help legitimate foreign students at London Met who face extra costs as a result of transferring to another institution. Genuine students currently studying at London Met (London Metropolitan University) do not need to take any immediate action. The UK Border Agency would write to them after October 1. They would then have 60 days to make a new student application to study at another education institution, or to arrange to leave the UK. The 60 days would start from the date the UK Border Agency contacts the student,” the spokesperson added.

A sponsor’s licence may be revoked due to various reasons, including concern an education provider is not fulfiling its sponsorship responsibilities related to admitting international students. Since 2010, the UK Border Agency has revoked the licences of over 500 Tier-IV education sponsors. Of these only one was for a university—LMU.

“The problems and this decision affect only one university, London Metropolitan University, not the whole sector. As on date, no other university has had the licence to bring international (non-EU) students suspended or revoked. Britain welcomes all legitimate international students wishing to benefit from the high quality education provided in the UK. There is no cap on their numbers,” the UKBA stated.

UK has four of the world’s top 10 universities, with about 430,000 students from non-EU counties (about 30,000 Indian students), accounting for about 14 per cent of students in the UK.

Source: Business Standard, September 23, 2012

To tap into college talent, plans afoot for varsity sports leagues

Hoping to tap into sporting talent among college students like the US, the government is set to announce national-level university cricket and hockey leagues. Sponsorship has already been lined up for the 20/20 format cricket league and the International Hockey Federation-aligned hockey league that may be launched as early as February 2013, sources said.

At the recent Olympics, 450 members of the American contingent were university students. Hoping to make a similar impact, the Human Resource Development Ministry is planning a respectable prize money and public exposure for the leagues.

The Association of Indian Universities (AIU) that already holds the annual inter-university Rohinton Baria cricket tournament will partner with NDTV for the leagues. A three-day event, the Rohinton Baria tournament has thrown up a fair share of well-known cricketers such as Dilip Sardesai, Chetan Chauhan and Sandeep Patil.

Attempts are also on at the BCCI level to revive the Vizzy Trophy, the annual inter-zonal university tournament, that produced cricketers such as Kapil Dev. While the BCCI is said to have been consulted by the AIU, the plan is to organise the cricket league outside its fold.

The 2012 Olympics triggered deliberations on need to encourage varsity-level contribution to national and international sports. NDTV then came to the HRD Ministry with an offer to sponsor an inter-university cricket event, which was later expanded to hockey.

“We are planning the new university sporting leagues as big events that will not only generate interest in sports across Indian universities but also give a platform to talented youngsters,” HRD Minister Kapil Sibal told The Sunday Express.

The planned format includes north, south, east and west zones contesting against each other in cricket as well as hockey. The top two from each of the zones will play in the national leagues.

AIU traces its history back to 1925 when then Viceroy of India, Lord Reading, took the initiative to bring all universities on a common platform. It covers traditional universities, open universities, professional universities, institutes of national importance and deemed-to-be universities.

Source: The Indian Express, September 23, 2012

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