Tuesday, December 31, 2013

UGC: New technical education norms not for diploma courses

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and University Grants Commission (UGC) on Monday said the new regulations being drafted for technical educations institutions will affect only affiliated colleges and those offering graduate degrees. A senior official said, "Draft regulations will leave out institutions offering all diploma courses."

Clarification has come in the wake of reports that a large number of management institutions are planning to go to the Supreme Court (SC) against the proposed UGC regulations. Their plea is that regulation by UGC will delay the admission process that is already in motion.

The UGC had come into the picture after the Supreme Court (SC) earlier this year said approval of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is not required for obtaining permission and running MBA course by private institutions since it does not fall under the definition of technical education. The SC had also said AICTE's role vis-a-vis universities is "only advisory, recommendatory and one of providing guidance and has no authority empowering it to issue or enforce any sanctions by itself." Instead, the apex court had said regulatory function is with the UGC or the university.

Ministry sources said, "Management institutions have not understood the Supreme Court judgement. It does not impact diploma courses by non-affiliated institutions. Regulations have not been finalized yet. It will take some more time." MHRD's effort to amend the AICTE Act to circumvent the SC order has not happened so far and is unlikely to take place in the remaining few months of UPA-II government. 

Meanwhile, in order to implement SC judgment, UGC got into the act. Earlier, it wrote to universities with affiliating colleges that no new courses should be approved by them. The Commission had said it would also not approve any new course. A senior UGC official said, "Regulations have to be in place before the 2014-15 admission session begins. AICTE had already finished the process for 2013-14 by the time SC order came." But AICTE officials are still hopeful that regulatory function will be restored either through amendment or ordinance.

Source: The Times of India, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Indian Government to ease norms for African students

India's foreign policy focus on Africa is soon going to reflect in its educational policy also. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) while reworking its initiative for foreign students has decided that students from Africa should get special attention in Indian educational institutions, both in government and private.

MHRD sources said India has become an attractive educational destination not only for African students who come on government scholarship but even those who can pay for their study. "We want them to attend good institutions," a source said. 

MHRD has also decided to put in place a new mechanism that will ensure that after students are allotted a university they should go to good colleges. On the lines of many US universities, the ministry also wants Indian universities to conduct remedial courses for African students. Earlier this month, a senior ministry official received a lot of complaints from African students about the lack of infrastructural facilities as also about their problems in various colleges of Pune that offer courses in Marathi language. These students — mostly on scholarship offered by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Indian Technical Education Cooperation — said they are facing problems from Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).

As part of its comprehensive programme to attract foreign students and make their stay in India comfortable, MHRD Secretary Ashok Thakur has mooted a new scheme to make international hostel and foreign student office in 15-20 universities. "Foreign Student Office should be one stop institution that should take care of all the needs of foreign students so that they do not have to run around for various clearances," ministry official said.

The ministry has convened a meeting of University Grants Commission (UGC), ICCR, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to look into the issues relating to welfare of foreign students. A seminar has been organized in Pune that has a large number of foreign students and vice-chancellors and deans of universities having sizeable foreign students to emphasize upon them the need for welfare of foreign students studying in India.

Source: The Times of India, December 22, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Amity university gets HRD nod to set up campus in UK

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has given permission to the Amity University to set up an off-shore campus in London. Amity University is collaborating with the Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom.

While granting permission, the ministry has said any degree to be awarded through the "said off-shore campus in United Kingdom shall distinctly and prominently distinguish itself from the degree certificate awarded by Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, for all its programmes conducted/offered in India."

It has added that "degree certificates to be awarded in respect of the academic programme of the off-shore campus in UK shall clearly bear the name of the off-shore campus."

While this would raise some questions about the Amity off-shore campus degree, Amity's Chancellor Atul Chauhan said, "Being an off-shore campus of an Indian university, the degrees will be very much Indian. There is no other possibility. What the ministry has written is that for the sake of employment in certain professions in India the students will be deemed as if they obtained a foreign degree. For example, the medical council and bar council have certain guidelines for students who have studied outside India to do certain exams before they can practice."

Iain Adlington, Senior Policy Advisor, Department for Business Innovation & Skills had told Amity in December 2012 that "the degree courses offered by your institution are not UK degree courses, apart from those validated by Anglia Rukin University or are validated by any other UK institution that has degree awarding powers."

"On this basis, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills would have no objection to use the word university in the proposed trading name Amity University," Adlington had said. However, he had reiterated, "I confirm that there is no specific permission required by this department and that institutions based outside the UK can set up a campus here and teach courses that would lead to the award of a non-UK degree."

On this, Chauhan said, "It is absolutely correct that as a foreign university in UK we have to mention is all our communications that the degree is not a UK degree. Only universities established by the UK government can offer UK degrees. We are an off-shore campus of an Indian university offering Indian degrees in UK. However, this in no way means that degrees of Amity will not be valid in UK. They will be valid as any other degree of an Indian university is valid in UK."

Chauhan added, "It is a very big step in the private university sector to get permission to have off-shore campuses and we feel pride to have a university flying the Indian flag on foreign shores."

MHRD has also said there shall be no financial or any other liability on Indian government. Also, the off-shore campus will not be allowed to divert faculty or any academic infrastructure from its Noida campus.

Source: The Times of India, December 20, 2013

Private universities match IT giants in hiring at IITs

Beyond corporates and start-ups, a unique bunch of recruiters is fast snapping up students at IITs' (Indian Institutes of Technology) placements this year. Driven by a need for young professors and research assistants, the likes of Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), Lovely Professional University (LPU), Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT), Sharda University, SRM University, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) and Vignan University are making a beeline to hire IIT's BTechs, M-Techs and PhD students.

In some IITs, these universities are offering salaries comparable to Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant and are also matching Wipro in number of hires. Jalandhar-based Lovely Professional University (LPU) plans to hire 100-130 MTech and PhD students across IITs. At IIT Roorkee, RGUKT is the second-largest recruiter after picking up 25 students, just four students short of Wipro's hire.

At Lovely Professional University, which has been hiring 100-plus students annually for the past few years, around 400-500 of the 2,000-odd teaching staff are from IITs. "It's a misconception that we don't attract the best students on remuneration grounds. Many of the brightest students are not very keen on a corporate job and have a teaching bent of mind," says Ashok Mittal, Chancellor, Lovely Professional University. LPU pays Rs. 540,000-1.8 million which is pretty much at par with many popular companies on campus. TCS, for example, pays Rs. 600,000 and Cognizant around Rs. 750,000-800,000.

For the established IITs, each of which have about 1,000-plus students to place, this coterie of recruiters becomes crucial once the first few days of placements are over. This is especially true in the current economy when many recruiters have cut down on number of hires. "Given the crunch for good faculty everywhere, there is a rise in the number of private universities coming in for recruitments at IIT Bombay," says Avijit Chatterjee, Professor in-Charge, Placements. VIT, Vignan University, SRM, Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies, Lovely Professional University are some which have already recruited or are expected to visit the campus in January during second round of placements at IIT.

A salary of Rs. 500,000-1 million, a chance to work as assistant professors and researchers are good motivation for these students. Those with PhDs along with previous teaching experience are also hired as professors. Universities also benefit by having these young professors on board. "Young professors with good research papers help us in getting more national and international accreditations. More publications also help us in getting more funding from UGC," says Sharad Y Mhaiskar, Dean, Engineering School for SVKM's NMIMS. The institute has short-listed eight students from IIT-Bombay, 11 from IIT-Madras and six from IIT-Delhi.

Guntur (Andhra Pradesh)-based Vignan University, for example, links compensation structure to publications. It has recruited at least 20 students from IITs this year and will head for more next month. It offers salaries of Rs. 540,000 to Rs. 900,000 per annum and those hired are also paid Rs. 120,000 per annum more after they get sponsored projects from government agencies, sources from the university's placement department said.

At IIT-Madras, Parul Group of Institutes, Piramal Foundation of Education Leadership, SVKM's NMIMS, Shirpur campus are some of the first-timers. IIT-Guwahati's placement team said that these universities are very popular with students and will come January onwards.

Source: The Economic Times, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bengal government introduces new policy for technical education

The West Bengal state cabinet has come out with a new policy decision for the Technical Education Department to have an integrated skill development programme with an aim to create more job opportunities. Also, the medium scale industry have been brought under the department of micro and small scale industry and textiles to provide more opportunities for industries having machinery cost up to Rs. 1 million.

West Bengal Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said that so far, there were no specific policy for the Technical Education Department. "The decision has been taken to make the traditional technical education to be more useful and effective to get more skilled labour and to create more job opportunities for those who will not be able to get higher education," Mukherjee said after the cabinet meeting.

It has also been planned that the Technical Education Department will be renamed as "Technical Education Training and Skill Development Department". There will be an integrated skill development programme to create skilled labourers in the field. The existing technical education and training will be restructured in a way so that technical education gets upgraded with time. "Industrialists will also be benefited by this new policy," the minister added.

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), December 17, 2013

Manipal University breaks into top 100 universities in BRICS countries

Manipal University has broken into the international rankings finding itself among the top 100 universities in BRICS countries. This was announced by UK-based QS Quacquarelli Symonds in Russia on Tuesday and is called the "QS University Rankings: BRICS".

Reacting to the ranking, Chancellor, Dr. Ramdas M Pai said: While I have reason to be happy, this will be an impetus to strive for even better performance in the future. Vice Chancellor, Dr. K Ramnarayan said: Our endeavor to be a world class university through education and research has begun to show result. The core functions of our university are better reflected in this BRICS QS Ranking. Now that we have a foothold, we will do our best to move up the ladder.

This is the first ranking for the BRICS countries and Manipal University is the only private university in the country to find a place in the new rankings.

The methodology used for the ranking has eight indicators. Academic Reputation is one. Based on the QS annual global reputation survey, it accounts for 30 per cent of a university's score. Employer reputation, also drawn from the QS global employer survey accounts for 20 per cent. Faculty-student ratio and citations per paper, both account for 10 per cent of the score. Five per cent is awarded for proportions of international faculty and international students.

Papers per faculty are worth 10 per cent of the total score and staff with PhD is given another 10 per cent. "The proposal is to use a methodology that is comparable with some of the existing exercises, probably closest in nature to what we are doing in our Latin America Ranking with some additional data particularly PhD-qualified faculty,'' said Ben Sowter, Head of the QS Intelligence Unit.

Country Director QS Asia, Dr. Karthick Sridhar said: At a glance, according to our data, Manipal University outperforms many Indian institutions in terms of Faculty Student Ratio and International students whilst maintaining a strong employer reputation. While improvements are needed in areas of Academic Reputation and Research measures, the management appreciates that rankings are being increasingly acknowledged as a tool to measure and determine one's choice of a university across the world, and hence have initiated several steps to engage closely with ranking agencies and provide the most updated data so as to reflect their true picture.

Zoya Zaitseva, Project Director for QS University Rankings: BRICS, said that BRICS countries were investing heavily in higher education and research. "The new ranking will increase their visibility and allow these universities to become more recognized on a global level".

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), December 17, 2013

5 IITs in top 20 BRICS universities list

Five Institutes of Technology (IITs) are in the top 20 in the world's first dedicated ranking of universities in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of countries. China's universities dominated the table with 40 universities featured in the top 100, 22 in the top 50 and 4 in the top 5 with Tsinghua University being ranked the best university.

According to the "QS University Rankings: BRICS", Russia has 19 of its universities in the top 100, Brazil 17, India 16 and South Africa 8 in the list.

IIT-Delhi takes the top ranking (13) among Indian universities followed by IIT-Mumbai (15), IIT-Madras (16), IIT-Kanpur (17) and IIT-Kharagpur (18). There is then a huge gap on that merit list when it comes to Indian entries. The next rank for an Indian university is once again IIT-Rourkee (34) and IIT-Guwahati (51).

University of Calcutta is ranked 52nd best in BRICS followed by University of Delhi at 53. University of Mumbai is ranked 62, University of Hyderabad 64, University of Madras 70, Benaras Hindu University 85, IIT-Allahabad 92, University of Pune 94 with Manipal University taking the 100th spot.

Zoya Zaitseva, Project Director for QS University Rankings said, "It is not surprising that China leads, given the size of its economy and population and the massive resources it has been putting into higher education. As with the QS World University Rankings, this BRICS ranking points to a sharp contrast between Indian and Chinese achievement in higher education. Despite being only marginally smaller in population, India has only 16 institutions listed here, less than half China's. While India has world-class institutions in science and technology, its comprehensive universities are not as strong in an international context."

The QS World University Rankings published recently also featured 11 Indian institutions in the top 800 with the highest ranking going to IIT-Delhi which was placed 222 in the list. Two other institutions made it to the top 300 — IIT-Bombay (233) and IIT-Kanpur (295). IIT-Madras was ranked 313 while IIT-Kharagpur stood at 346.

India scored just 2.4 when it came to International faculty in its colleges while the average global count was 38.1 in 2013. When it came to international students, India's points were miserably low - at 3.1 as against an average global score of 37.9. As far as faculty student ratio was concerned, India got 29.4 points as against the global average of nearly 45.

The BRICS ranking is the first of its kind to apply a dedicated methodology especially designed to place the featured nations on a more equal footing. The results are made up of respondents from over 9,800 academics from the nations.

Zoya Zaitseva added, "BRICS countries are focusing on developing world-class universities as a strategic priority to sustain the growth of their economies by producing innovation, cutting- edge research and highly qualified and employable graduates. This first ranking reflects the relative strengths of each of these ambitious nations while also highlighting the potential for growth."

QS' recent world's 200 top list had shown that not a single Indian university figured in the world's top 200 list.

Source: The Times of India, December 17, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Opportunity to create 200,000 R&D jobs in India by 2018

India, which has a presence of 228 of the top 500 firms globally, has the opportunity of creating 200,000 jobs in the research and development (R&D) space in the next five years, global advisory and management consulting firm Zinnov said in a report.

According to the report, Crossing the Value Chasm, China is the leading destination for R&D investments with a total of 385 G500 companies having a presence there as compared to 228 global 500 companies in India and 220 firms in the Bay Area in the US.

"In keeping with the historic trend that companies with a higher R&D spend find India more attractive for investments, there is a clear opportunity to create additional 200,000 R&D jobs in India by global 500 companies in the next 5 years," the report added.

The top 500 R&D spenders contributed over $577 billion, with the top 100 R&D spenders alone contributing 66 per cent to the global R&D spend, it said. Of the total global R&D spend, 40 per cent of the overall is from organizations headquartered in North America, followed by 34 per cent from Europe, 18 per cent from Japan and 7 per cent from Asia-Pacific, Zinnov said in the report.

"In 2012, 26 firms increased their global R&D spend by at least 20 per cent and contributed over $19 billion. Fourteen of these companies have a presence in India and have increased their global R&D spend by $14 billion, of this only $129 million was invested in India," the report said.

At present, close to 50 per cent of the global 500 firms present have over 10 per cent of the global R&D head count in India. While software/Internet companies tend to achieve the milestone of locating 10-20 per cent of their R&D headcount in India faster than others, fee companies seem to have reached a ceiling at a minimal 1-4 per cent of the global head count.

"A factor is that many of the India centres lack strong leadership and global stakeholder buy-in. Currently, only 11 per cent of the companies with centres in India have global roles in engineering, product management and support functions," it said. Only 15 per cent of the India leaders are proactive, influential and have a global impact, indicating a need to grow strong a leadership pipeline, the report added.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 16, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

By 2024, 1 in 3 foreign students will be from China or India

By 2024, one in every three outbound higher education student across the globe will be from India and China. By 2024, it is expected that there will be 3.85 million outbound mobile higher education students globally, up from 3.04 million in 2011.

India and China will contribute 35% of global growth during this period. While nearly 850,000 Chinese students will travel abroad for higher education in 2024, Indian students will be the second highest with 376,000 of them travelling to enrol in foreign universities.

Germany is forecast to become the third largest sender of higher education students by 2024, with a predicted 139,000 outbound students, overtaking South Korea. Germany is also forecast to be hosting 180,000 international students by 2024.

The Future of the World's Mobile Students to 2024 report brought out by the British Council's Education Intelligence service says UK will be one of the world's fastest growing destinations for international students by 2024 attracting an extra 126,000 international students. Elizabeth Shepherd, author of the report, said: "Mobile higher education students are set to remain an attractive market for host countries across the world, with continued strong growth forecast over the next decade."

"Against a backdrop of fragile economic conditions and recoveries, slowing international trade, squeezed household incomes and a global decline in the number of people aged 18-22, this growth is impressive," Shepherd added.

Between 2009 and 2011, India and China dominated global growth in higher education enrolments, accounting for 5.3 million (45%) of the overall increase of 11.8 million. In percentage terms, globally 32 million additional higher education enrolments will take place by 2024, up to 196 million in 2024 from 164 million in 2011.

"India, by some distance, is forecast to be the fastest growing market, with an additional 12.7 million enrolments by 2024; other emerging economies with significant forecast growth in higher education enrolments between 2011 and 2024 include: Indonesia (5 million), Brazil (2.6 million), Nigeria (2.3 million), China (1.9 million), Ethiopia (1.6 million), Pakistan (1.3 million), Mexico (1.0 million), Philippines (0.9 million), Colombia (0.9 million)," the report said.

Source: The Times of India, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

MHRD panel's move will make 39 central universities lose autonomy

In a move that will take away the autonomy of 39 Central universities, a high-level committee set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has recommended that they be brought under a legislation of Parliament. If recommendation of the panel is implemented, universities will lose the autonomy of appointing teachers, managing their finances and diversity of courses to be offered.

At present 39 central universities --- including the old ones like the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and others --- are managed by 24 Acts of Parliament. In 2009, 16 new central universities were created under a single Act of Parliament. The committee, headed by A M Pathan, former Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Karnataka, has recommended that the existing Acts should be repealed. "Government should reject the recommendation forthwith. If implemented, it will take away the diversity of Indian higher education. Intervention like four-year undergraduate programme will be expanded to other universities," one VC of Delhi-based central university said.

Though Pathan committee has said visions of luminaries like Madan Mohan Malaviya (BHU), Rabindranath Tagore (Shantiniketan), Jawaharlal Nehru (JNU), Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (AMU) and B R Ambedkar (Ambedkar University) will be retained, the recommendations are going to cause furore in some of these old institutions.

Pathan Committee has said the office of chancellor should be abolished and a Council of Vice-Chancellors (CVCs), a new body, be put in place. CVCs will be headed by the MHRD minister as ex-officio chairperson and consist of University Grants Commission (UGC) chairperson, all VCs of central universities, four members nominated by the central government representing Ministries of MHRD, Finance, Youth Affairs and Science and Technology, not less than three but not more than five members to be nominated by the Visitor (President of India) and three Members of Parliament. CVCs will co-ordinate the activities of all the central universities, advise on matters of policy relating to academic matters, synchronize academic calendars and other functions.

VCs will be appointed by a search-cum-selection committee consisting of nine members. Of the nine members of the panel, three will be nominated by the Visitor, six by the CVC out of which one will be from the scheduled caste, one from socially and educationally backward classes, one woman and one from a minority community.

In a bid to curtail VCs independence and make him subservient to UGC, immediately after appointment s/he is expected to give a report to the UGC about varsity's infrastructure, number of posts of teachers, employees, details of research, courses, collaboration with other institutions and perspective plan in respect of academics, administration and development.

If this is not enough, the committee has recommended establishment of the Central Universities (teachers, registrar and finance officer) Recruitment Board that will make centralized appointment of assistant professors. Candidates will give preference for allotment of central university but the decision will rest with the recruitment board. Performance of teachers will be done through external peer review. Universities will have the option of either admitting students through a common test or evolve its own procedure.

Source: The Times of India, December 14, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

New IITs face a rough placement ride this year

Placements at the new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are headed for a bumpy ride. Behind the excitement of the big companies and bigger offers on campus lurk serious concerns: companies staying away, students in certain streams facing a struggle to get placed and the challenge of placing bigger batches at a time when recruiters are hiring in lower numbers.

Most of these IITs are apprehensive about how placements will pan out given that a number of recruiters - particularly among public sector undertakings (PSUs) - are staying away. IOC, BPCL, HPCL, ONGC, Power Grid Corporation of India are among those that have hired in good numbers in the past, but have not sent out feelers this time round. New IITs are hoping they will reach out in January, but some placement sources admit it may not happen.

In February 2012, an interim order passed by the Madras High Court had restrained PSUs from recruiting in leading colleges including the IITs. The stay was later vacated by the court in September 2012 but the final order is pending. In such a situation, according to an IIT placement official, PSUs can come to campuses under the condition that the decision on whoever is hired will be subject to the High Court's final directive. A negative decision thus, could leave students hired but jobless.

"We haven't invited any PSUs and they haven't contacted us either. As of now, none of them are coming," says IIT-Ropar's Training and Placement Officer Prabh Sharan Singh. Last year, PSUs had hired 24 to 25 students of IIT Ropar's 106 students. It's a similar situation at IIT Jodhpur and IIT Mandi as well. "IOC, BPCL and HPCL, which came last year, are not coming this year," says Arti Kashyap, Faculty Advisor at IIT-Mandi. If PSUs in most cases are a no-show, some of the big names which came last year have either not come to certain campuses this time or in certain cases, are not recruiting.

At IIT-Hyderabad, Works Applications, which hired students for Rs. 3.5 million for international placements last year, did not recruit any this time round. At IIT-Ropar, Microsoft which offered four pre-placement offers last year has offered only one, and not made it to the final on-campus placements. Google too could not come to IIT-Ropar because of date issues. "Companies like Microsoft, HPCL and Flipkart, which came last year will not come this year, stating changes in hiring policy," says Gaurav Harit, Acting Placement Chairperson, IIT-Jodhpur.

In 2013, the institute placed only 73% of its B.Tech. and 60% of its M.Tech. batch. This year, 38 students have been recruited so far from among the 90 sitting for placements.The highest offer so far has been Rs. 1.3 million from Morgan Stanley compared with Microsoft's Rs 1.6 million last year.

"Conditions are moderate and we expect placements to be similar to 2013 but not surpassing it," says an IIT-Hyderabad placement team member. Last year, 40 companies came to hire 150 students. This year, while the number of students has risen to 200, the number of companies are expected to remain the same. With bigger batches to place this time, the new IITs are reaching out to a larger number of companies so that placements are not hit. But hurdles remain. At IIT-Jodhpur, authorities are worried because the manufacturing sector has been hit by the downturn.

Even IIT-Mandi --- among the few new IITs to achieve 100% placements last year --- which got a headstart this year by opening a placement window in October, is concerned. "Companies which hire mechanical and electrical engineering students are likely to be cutting down on numbers because of the downturn," says Prabh Sharan Singh of IIT-Ropar. 

Amidst all this, there is good news. IIT-Rohtak has seen three top offers of $105,000 from US healthcare software company Epic Systems, compared with two last year. The average salary so far is Rs 1.13 million, up 21% from last year's Rs. 917,000, and 18 students have bagged Rs. 1.5 million-plus salaries. At IIT-Mandi, Amazon has hired six students for Rs. 2 million, compared with top offers of around Rs. 1.7-Rs. 1.8 million from Microsoft and Amazon last year.

At IIT-Gandhinagar, average salary has grown by 8% to Rs. 781,000 while IIT-Patna has seen the top salary soaring from Rs. 1.6 million-plus last year to over Rs. 1.8 million. At IIT-Varanasi, Microsoft is making an international offer --- the first this placement season --- likely to be at around Rs. 6 million.

Source: The Economic Times, December 13, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Government sets up two funds to underwrite education loans

The government has finally set up a pair of credit guarantee funds that will underwrite up to 75% of the value of loans extended to students—a move it expects will make banks shed their reluctance to offer educational loans. The education credit guarantee fund has a corpus of Rs. 35 billion and the skill education credit guarantee fund has been endowed with Rs. 10 billion, three government officials said on condition of anonymity. They will start offering guarantees for student loans starting in January 2014.

There is also a stipulation that the interest rate charged by banks for education loan cannot be more than 2% over the existing base rate of the bank. A plan to set up such funds was announced by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his 2012-13 budget speech to improve the comfort level of banks in extending student loans that are perceived as risky and potentially contributing to non-performing assets (NPAs).

The Department of Financial Services of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) have been discussing the proposal for almost two years. “With a guarantee in place, banks will now be more forthcoming to lend to students. The initial corpus will be Rs. 35 billion,” said a government official, one of the three cited above.

The size of the twin funds has been pared from an originally planned Rs. 50 billion. The MHRD will soon set up a panel to chalk out details of implementing the plan, the official said. For underwriting a loan, the credit guarantee fund can charge the banks a fee up to a maximum of 1% of the loan amount, said a second government official. While all higher education loans of up to Rs. 750,000 will be eligible for the guarantee, skill education loans up to Rs. 150,000 will be underwritten.

“The Cabinet approved both the funds two weeks back but it has not been announced yet, as it was election time,” said the first official, referring to just concluded elections in five states. “We have been getting several complaints from needy students about banks’ lukewarm response towards education loans but we believe from now on this will change.”

Although education loans have grown significantly over the years, slowing economic growth and a poor jobs scenario since 2008-09 have fuelled concerns among bankers about the repayment capability of fresh graduates. Over 5% of student loans outstanding had turned bad by March-end, up from 2% in 2008, according to government data.

“Any student taking a loan for higher studies does not plan to default by choice. It’s the circumstance or job scenario that forces some to delay the repayment, but banks always hesitate to lend to students,” said Ashok Sarangi, a student in Delhi preparing for an MBA course. “I don’t know much about the credit guarantee fund but what many students like me wish is cooperation from banks. The cost of education has gone up and loan has become almost a necessity for many,” he said.

Educational loans grew by 8.5% in the last one year, half the pace at which the overall priority sector loans grew. The priority sector comprises of several segments including education, housing, agriculture, and micro and small scale industries. As of March 2013, banks had 2.51 million education loan accounts, with a total outstanding of Rs. 535.20 billion.

The funds will be set up under a national credit-guarantee trustee company, an umbrella vehicle that will be responsible for the operations of both. However, both funds will have their own managing committees to decide on their policies. While the managing committee for education loans will be headed by the MHRD with representatives from the ministry of finance, banks and a sector expert, the committee at the skill development fund will be headed by the Ministry of Finance with representatives from the Ministry of Labour, the second official said.

Of the Rs. 35 billion approved for the educational loans guaranteed fund, the government will spend Rs. 5 billion in the remaining months of this fiscal and the remaining Rs. 30 billion will be progressively used over next few years. Similarly, the skill education fund will use Rs. 5 billion in this fiscal year and the rest in the next.

Source: Mint, December 11, 2013

Monday, December 09, 2013

UK unveils Rs. 100 million worth scholarship program for India

To attract more Indian students to the United Kingdom, the GREAT Britain Campaign (GREAT), today announced its "largest ever" scholarship programme for India worth almost one million Pounds (about Rs. 100 million) for the coming academic year.

Announcing the scheme, Andrew Soper, Counsellor (Prosperity), British High Commission, Delhi, told reporters in Coimbatore that there would be 370 scholarships for 260 Undergraduate and Post Graduate Course in England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.

The courses offered ranged from Engineering, Law and Business to Art and Design, Biosciences and IT and the scholarship will be tenable for September 2014 and January 2015 intakes, Soper said.

Stating that there was good market and demand for higher education in India, which was growing, he said that foreign students studied in England got significantly higher salary than in any part of the globe.

Moreover, the students can continue to stay in England and can get visa to work for three years with a minimum salary of GBP 20,000 a year, which can be extended for another three years, he said.

When asked how the local students looked upon the challenge from foreign students, particularly India, Soper said that the Government has taken stringent steps to protect them, who can feel their place of study and the Nation as 'home away home'. However, there could be some isolated incidents here and there, which were common in every part of the World, he maintained.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 9, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

UGC issues new draft guidelines to regulate technical colleges

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has come up with new draft guidelines to regulate thousands of technical colleges including engineering and management schools in the country, further eroding the authority of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The move has come nearly seven months after the Supreme Court questioned AICTE, a once-powerful regulatory body that used to control every aspect of India’s technical education for the last three decades, about its power to regulate these institutions. The apex court had ruled on 25 April that colleges affiliated to universities don’t fall under the purview of AICTE. 

Though the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had suggested promulgating an ordinance to restore the powers of AICTE, the Union cabinet has not decided on it. “It has become imperative for the universities and UGC to evolve a suitable methodology to ensure that existing technical/engineering colleges affiliated to universities do not dilute standards of technical education imparted by them,” the UGC notification said. Mint has reviewed a copy of the notification. “They (regulations) shall apply to all colleges offering technical education and seeking approval and/or already approved/affiliated to the Universities in India established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act,” said the draft regulation.

Though UGC may put in place guidelines to regulate more than 11,000 engineering, management, architecture and pharmacy schools in India that are operating this year under a regulatory vacuum, the regulator and the universities’ capacity to do the job is suspect, some experts and academics said. At least one million students graduate from professional colleges in India every year.

Since UGC will not regulate the institutions directly, the new guidelines will be implemented through the more than 600 universities it controls. It means there will be no uniformity in regulations and a greater chance of deterioration of quality, said experts.

“The draft regulation gives minimum guidelines, but it will depend on individual universities’ interpretations of the rules. It will have negative impact on quality of education imparted,” said Raju Davis Parepadan, Chairman of the Kerala-based Holygrace Academy. “We want a national body for regulation rather than individual universities regulating technical colleges affiliated to them. There will always be a chance of corruption and it will hurt the education sector in general and good players.”

In the absence of a national body, AICTE authorities said educational reforms will take a back seat. “You may see colleges flouting norms more often. The e-governance structure is in place with us, which may not be the case with many universities. This will create problems for stakeholders,” said a senior official with the regulator, requesting anonymity. AICTE Chairman S.S. Mantha had told Mint in an interview on 12 November that the body is better suited than UGC or any other education body to oversee technical education in India.

According to the new draft guidelines, all technical colleges will need approval on an yearly basis by applying to the university they are affiliated to. Every university shall maintain a list of unapproved colleges offering programme(s) in technical education based on the information received and verified by the university and shall also inform UGC and the general public about the same from time to time. New applicants can not open a college without proper infrastructure and a number of colleges can join hands to open a technical campus.

Any college found flouting rules may face cancellation of approval or even criminal proceedings. Once disapproved, the college cannot apply for fresh approval for the next two years. Every new applicant needs to deposit Rs. 5 million with the affiliating university for each stream or school it wants to open. The bank deposit will not earn any interest for the college but for the affiliating university for 10 years. 

Besides, a new college promoter needs to have an operating fund of at least Rs. 10 million for an engineering college and Rs. 5 million for a management school. A college not having a director or a principal for 18 months may lose its approval, and all schools have to return the admission fee if a student opts out of admission from a technical college. The college promoter needs to operate as a trust, a society or a Section 25 company: in all three cases not-for-profit.

It is unclear whether autonomous business schools offering postgraduate diplomas is management can continue offering the courses or need to convert them to MBA degrees. The country has more than 3,000 such colleges. UGC has asked all stakeholders to give their view by 9 December, following which it will notify the final rules.

Source: Mint, December 6, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

10 Indian universities in list of top 100 in BRICS countries

India has claimed 10 of the top 100 places in Times Higher Education's BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2014 — the world's first ranking of universities in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, as well as 17 other emerging economies.

In this much smaller, more level-playing field, with only 22 countries surveyed, India has predictably fared much better, with its highest-ranked institution Panjab University coming in at joint 13th place.

In sharp contrast, India had absolutely no representation in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education 2013-14 World University Rankings. Only five universities made it to the top 400, with Panjab University only making it to the group of universities ranked between 226th and 250th place.

In Times Higher Education's BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2014, Indian institutions make up 10% of the list, including nine in the top 50 places. Panjab University, the alma mater of prime minister Manmohan Singh, leads the way, followed by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Kharagpur (30th), Kanpur (34th), Delhi (37th), Roorkee (37th), Guwahati (46th) and Madras (47th). Jadavpur University, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University are in the 47th, 50th and 57th spots, respectively.

China's Peking University and Tsinghua University take the top two spots in the overall rankings. University of Cape Town, South Africa, comes in at third place, followed by Taiwan's National Taiwan University and Turkey's Booazici University in fourth and fifth places, respectively.

China emerges as the frontrunner in the rankings with 23 institutions in the table. Taiwan comes next in terms of maximum representatives on the list (21), followed by India with 10.

"This is a strong showing for India: only China and Taiwan have more universities in the top 100. This highlights the nation's real strengths in competition with countries that offer fair comparisons," said Phil Baty, Editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, in a statement. He added, however, that a country of India's enormous size, growing wealth and rich intellectual history should aspire to more.

In a written response to ET, Baty said that the first step towards moving up in the rankings is to encourage a much better culture of data collection and sharing among India's universities. "At this stage we have been working very much at the national, government level, to raise awareness of our data collection system... and we have seen a dramatic improvement in our engagement with individual institutions, which are now much more willing and ready to share data."

He added that from the data they already have, it is clear that Indian institutions across the board need to improve their research output — research quality needs to improve. "There are encouraging moves afoot to address this, especially increased funding and more strategically-focused funding," he said.

Source: The Economic Times, December 5, 2013

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Beyond MBAs: Niche and interdisciplinary master’s courses finding more takers

Amith Kaushik Tanneru was not really surprised with his friends' and family's reaction when he told them he wanted to quit his job as a software engineer at Infosys, and study public policy. "You know how people look at social sciences in India. They said my future was uncertain," says the 25-year-old who enrolled at the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, near New Delhi, last year.

Tanneru is among a new breed of students who are doing their postgraduate studies in areas which a decade ago would have invited puzzled looks from most people in India. Public policy, for instance, as a stream has been a fixture in Western universities for over 50 years, with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs among the top schools worldwide.

In India, however, it is finding takers only now. Sudarshan Ramaswamy, Dean of the Jindal School, says the reason for that is equating governance with the government. "Public policy is no longer related to just what the government does," he notes.

When Government is Not All
Talking of the multi-disciplinary nature of public policy, Ramaswamy adds: "It's good to have journalists who understand, for instance, the Land Acquisition Bill and its implications, and a public policy programme helps in that." Ishita Trivedi, a first-year student at the school, says the course structure is moulded according to the composition of the batch and what is pertinent then.

"Your idea of what you want to specialize in keeps evolving because you are constantly exposed to different things. I joined the programme wanting to work in the area of food security or maternal health," says the economics graduate from Delhi's Miranda House College. The Jindal School, part of OP Jindal Global University, set up by Navin Jindal, has 25 students in its first batch, and 18 in its second. Ramaswamy says the employment options for his students include, besides the government and think tanks, the CSR arms of companies engaged in development-related initiatives.

Tanneru wants to work in e-governance, particularly cash transfers through mobile banking. Besides the Jindal School, Mumbai's Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore offer public policy programmes. The Indian School of Business (ISB) is also thinking of introducing a postgraduate programme in public policy at its Bharti Institute of Public Policy, according to the latter's Executive Director Rajesh Chakrabarti.

The Bharti Institute is located on the B-school's Mohali campus and teaches public policy to its management students. Similar to the misconception that public policy is only for government servants is the view that public health is only for doctors. "Doctors take care of sick people while public health professionals ensure people don't fall sick," says Dileep Mavalankar, director, Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar. There are three other IIPH campuses in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhubhaneshwar.

Global Appeal
Ziaul Haque, a student of the one-year PG diploma in public health management at IIPH, Delhi, says although he did apply to colleges overseas he is happy that IIPH's syllabus is not very different from the foreign institutes he was considering. "Moroever, I'm paying just Rs. 250,000 a year, including hostel fees, which is much lower than for colleges abroad," says Haq, who wants to work on HIV and mother and child health, and who is one of the few non-doctors in his class.

While the institute started with more government officers in its postgraduate diploma in public health management, Mavalankar says now it is equally divided between them and private candidates. "In the government, our students could end up working for the National Rural Health Mission or district public health programmes. In the private sector, companies could hire them for health initiatives as part of their CSR," he adds.

Other employers include international agencies like the UNDP, WHO and Unicef. The starting salary for a public health professional could be between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000. Besides postgraduate diplomas, IIPH has just started offering a master's in public health through Hyderabad University.

It is awaiting the passage of the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012, in parliament, before it can offer master's degrees on its own. One of the objectives of the Bill is "each university would focus on one area or problem of significance to India and build an ecosystem of research and teaching around different related disciplines and fields of study." Other universities offering a master's in public health include Manipal University and Lucknow University.

If civil services, medicine or engineering was what every other parent wanted their kid to study till the 1990s, the degree of honour has since been a Master of Business Administration, helped in no small measure by the storied success of IIM alumni. But the MBA is fast losing its lustre, with 160 of 4,500 management schools expected to shut down this year and 10-12% of graduates considered employable, according to a January report by Assocham.

These graduates spend Rs. 300,000-500,000 on their MBAs and earn only Rs. 10,000-15,000 a month, the report adds. While the likes of IIMs, ISB and XLRI, Jamshedpur, have retained their cachet, interest in low-ranked B-schools is clearly waning.

Urban Planning 2.0
Educationists have been calling for courses to be made interdisciplinary so students have a better understanding of their specialization and are better equipped for the job market. Urban planning is one such course. Though the School of Planning and Architecture in the capital and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad have had urban planning for a while, it is only recently that academics seem to be waking up to the need to have students from multiple disciplines in urban planning.

The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bangalore, which also comes under the Innovation Bill, hopes to have students from different streams in its master's course. It has had IT professionals and social workers take part in its certificate course on urban planning. "We train 400 planners every year now and most of them go on to work in the real estate sector," says Aromar Revi, Director, IIHS.

Ajit Kumar, director of infrastructure consultancy Frischmann Prabhu, says till a decade ago urban planners were synonymous with architects. "But now, only 50% of planners are architects. While architects visualize the structure of a building, planners visualize how a city will look and grow and what its needs will be in the future." He adds that given projects like the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, which has multiple townships, there will be a huge demand for planners. They command a 25% premium over architects and could start with Rs. 35,000-80,000," says Kumar.

Adapting to Changing Climate
Interdisciplinary approach has also been key to courses offered by TISS, which has in recent years started offering master's degrees in areas like climate change and disaster management. "Problem solution here involves inputs from different fields," says T Jayaraman, who heads the School of Habitat Studies at TISS. The institute received 900 applications for an intake of 35 in disaster management and about 300 applications for an intake of 15 in climate change this year, according to Jayaraman.

While such new offerings are certainly a welcome move, the biggest hurdle to the growth of these courses is limited opportunities for some of their practitioners. "The market for public policy graduates is not so clearly defined as for MBAs. A government job is not very lucrative," says ISB's Chakrabarti. For public health graduates, the absence of an equivalent to the US Public Health Service means their options to work for the government are limited, according to Mavalankar of IIPH.

Jayaraman says money is not necessarily an overriding concern for those who study climate change and disaster management at Mumbai's TISS. Money apart, there are some strong indicators that multidisciplinary courses will soon move away from the fringes of college education if not become the order of the day.

Source: The Economic Times, December 1, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hero Group to set up university in Gurgaon

Hero Group, the Munjal family owned conglomerate that has business interests ranging from automobiles to financial services, said it will open a university in Gurgaon to create “balanced leaders”.

“For us it (education) is not a business,” said Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman of Hero Corporate Services and joint Managing Director of Hero MotoCorp Ltd. The investment would be philanthropic, he said.

Named after the Hero Group co-founder and chairman Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the university aspires to nurture ethical leaders who are skilled, knowledgeable and have the life skills required for leading their organizations to success, the group said in its statement following a press conference in Delhi.

Munjal said that the focus of the university would be to offer “practical-oriented education and to foster employability”. Though he declined to give details of the investment, people close to the project said, on condition of anonymity, that the initial investment would be around Rs. 400 crore (Rs. 4 billion) excluding the cost of land. This initiative by the Munjal family would be led by Akshay Munjal, Executive Director, BML Educorp Services.

Enayet Kabir, education practice leader at consulting company Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd., said many corporate houses are entering the education sector as they believe this is a sector that can grow for years. Besides, it has social benefits.

The Munjal family has already roped in Imperial College London for mentoring the new university that will start functioning from the 2014 academic session. Imperial College, one of the top ranked institutes in the world, had played a key role in establishing IIT-Delhi during its formative years. To start with, the new university will offer three programmes: Bachelor in Technology, bachelor in business administration (BBA) and masters in business administration (MBA).

The Imperial College will co-design the curriculum, facilitate student and faculty exchange programmes, conduct joint research activities and establish digital learning platforms. There will also be opportunities for students to join innovation camps and credit-based courses in London. In addition to this, some B.Tech. students will have the opportunity to undertake a one-year MSc programme at the Imperial College Business School.

Sunil Kant Munjal said Hero MotoCorp will source human resources from its new university. “Not drawing manpower will not be a smart thing.” He, however, said though they are now entering the higher education space, Hero MotoCorp’s investment in ISB Mohali campus will not be affected. “ISB (Indian school of Business) is a fantastic school and our association will continue,” he said. Akshay Munjal, said that they would keep the student fee at Rs. 200,000 per year for the B.Tech. course and Rs. 300,000 per year for MBA. “This fee is inclusive of hostel and other facilities,” he said.

Source: Mint, November 28, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Government may relax salary norm for foreign faculty visa

India may consider relaxing the minimum salary threshold for issuing work visas to foreigners willing to work in Union government-funded higher education institutes, according to two government officials aware of the plan. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) expects this will help its institutions get foreign professors at lower salaries and has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) urging the visa relaxation.

It has begun discussions on this matter, with the next round of deliberations with the MHA scheduled for Friday, the officials said, both of them declining to be identified. “It’s a requirement for the growth of our top central government-funded technical institutes (CFTIs),” one of the officials said.

“The MHA listened favourably to the MHRD’s point during the previous meeting. And in the Friday meeting, we believe it will make further progress,” the second official said. According to the home ministry’s guidelines, foreigners seeking work visas need to be drawing a minimum salary of US$ 25,000 a year (Rs. 1.57 million at the current exchange rate).

The MHRD is hoping to get foreign teachers to fill up vacancies in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and other elite schools. These institutions have been facing a 20-40% shortage of teachers for years. India has 16 IITs, 13 IIMs, five IIITs and 30 National Institutes of Technology (NITs).

“As central-funded institutions, it won’t be possible for the MHRD to pay more than what is prescribed for all, hence this revision request (to lower the minimum salary threshold),” the first government official mentioned earlier said. “For example, an assistant professor in an IIT gets around Rs. 1 million per annum and that’s what we are looking at. If we give more than Rs. 1 million to a new assistant professor from a foreign country, it will create problems in campuses.” The official said while the higher education department understands the logic behind the minimum salary requirement of the MHA for issuing visas, the MHRD’s request has merit.

“The home ministry does not want lot of inward migrants to come and work in India and take jobs of Indians—importantly, only high-skilled people should be allowed. Our case fits well here, we don’t have enough quality faculty members available and those who will come will be high-skilled,” he said.

“The MHRD has explained that they are not asking for a blanket reduction in minimum salary requirement for all foreigners, but for those coming to teach as faculty members in CFTIs. The old regulation can continue to remain for others and even for private education providers, who can afford more salary,” the official added.

Getting foreign teachers will also help Indian institutes get better rankings in global listings of top universities as internationalization of a campus is key to good rankings, the official said. No Indian institution features among the top 200 universities in global rankings, a prickly issue with the MHRD.

The ministry also believes it is no longer difficult to get foreign teachers at salaries on a par with their Indian peers and that the US$ 25,000 threshold is a hindrance. “Our top institutes can draw a good number of foreign teachers on an Indian salary, as the cost of living here is cheaper. Allied benefits like housing facility in campuses and possibility to bag sponsored research work is good,” said the second official.

The move could change the way top campuses in India function, said Enayet Kabir, Associate Vice-President (Education Practice) at consulting firm Technopak Advisors. “It’s a misconception that we cannot get foreign faculty on Indian salaries. We can get lot of teachers from European countries if not many from the US, and relaxing the salary threshold will do good to our education sector,” he said. “The slowdown in Europe and digital interventions like massive online open courses are a problem for teachers there, and India can cash in here.”

“It will also create competition among teachers to improve research and not live with complacency once in a job. The teaching space could be market-driven in the future,” Kabir added.

Source: Mint, November 22, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Indian students to benefit from Australia's new visa regime

The new Australian government is set to announce a series of steps to make its student visa regime simpler to attract more foreign students, including those from India, and revive the billion dollar higher eduction industry.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Education minister Christopher Pyne jointly announced that the new coalition Government were keen to revive the industry by undoing the damage done by the former Labor government, according to an official media statement.

The two ministers announced that steps would simplify student visas through a streamlined assessment-level framework (ALF) and by extending streamlined visa processing arrangements to low-risk non-university degree providers.

"The changes will assist all providers, but particularly the vocational education and training sector, making access to Australia's education system more attractive for overseas students," Morrison said.

"Assessment levels under the ALF would be reduced from five levels to three, while financial evidence for AL3 students would reduce from 18 months to 12 months, provided funds were from a close relative of the student applicant.

This would mean students from a number of key markets would be able to apply for a student visa with up to 40,000 Australian dollars less in the bank.

Streamlining of the visa application process that Morrison announced last week would benefit up to 22 low-risk non-university providers for students enrolled in Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degree courses or an eligible exchange programme.

Pyne said the measures would attract more overseas students to Australia, benefit our education system, create Australian jobs and stimulate our economy. "The non-university sector is an important contributor to our overall education exports," Pyne said.

"These changes would allow the vocational training sector to contribute more freely to our plan to restore Australia's tertiary education system to its former peak of almost 19 billion dollars in export income for the nation.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

University of Chicago to open India Centre

After Beijing and Paris, the University of Chicago will open an India centre to boost research and teaching collaborations but not a campus, at least in the near future.

The academic centre will be a “home for research and education for University of Chicago faculty, graduate students and undergraduates working in India and throughout South Asia, as well as Indian researchers and students representing a wide array of institutions and scholars from around the world”, the University said in a statement after the media briefing in New Delhi on Monday.

The centre will be ready by the end of March, president Robert J. Zimmer told reporters. “The centre in Delhi reflects the importance the university places on global engagement and our commitment in India and South Asia particularly,” said Zimmer.

The centre will promote scholarship and teaching under three broad umbrellas: business, economics, law and policy; science, energy, medicine and public health; and culture, society, religion and the arts. It will represent all parts of the university, including professional divisions.

The centre will not, however, grant degrees. “We are not for giving degrees through this,” Zimmer said. The opening of the centre has merely coincided with India’s willingness to open up its higher education sector, he said.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on 10 September said that the government has got a go-ahead from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Department of Economic Affairs to allow overseas universities to operate independently in India as non-profit ventures. The plan will be notified after being vetted by the Ministry of Law.

The Chicago Booth School of Business was not exploring an opportunity to open a centre in India, Zimmer said, adding that it has already established degree-granting centres in London and Singapore.

Gary Tubb, faculty director of the India centre, said it is exploring research collaborations with Indian institutes and the University’s study abroad programme will benefit from the India centre. The University is spending $3.45 million (around Rs. 210 million today) on physical infrastructure. A MHRD official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said top global universities opening centres in India and focusing on research collaborations can be viewed as a “good first step” towards them opening campuses in the country sometime in the future.

Source: Mint, October 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pre-placement offers roll in steadily at IITs

Pre-placement offers (PPOs), including plum international postings, are rolling in steadily at the country's premier technological institutes, indicating a good placement season in December. Among the companies who have lined up international offers are Google, which has offered salaries of $120,000 (Rs. 7.5 million) compared with Rs. 7.3 million last year to one student at its US headquarters to students at IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Guwahati. Facebook, too, has offered overseas jobs at IIT-Madras and IIT-Roorkee while Microsoft has made oofers at IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Roorkee. Both the companies are expected to revise last year's offer upwards— Facebook's Rs. 6.5 million and Microsoft's Rs. 6 million.

Himanshu Srivastava (22) of IIT-Kharagpur, who has received the offer from Google, is looking forward to his stint with Google. "I have done two internships for the company and I know their work culture. They mix work and fun well and give ample scope to grow," he says.

Several other top recruiters have made lucrative offers at IIT campuses, but are yet to disclose the details. Among these are Barclays, LinkedIn, Goldman Sachs Technology, Daikin, Qualcomm, Deutsche Bank, Shell, GE, Directi, Reliance and ITC. PPOs, which typically start coming in from August, are jobs offered to students who have done internships in these companies.

In terms of the number of hires too, the picture looks good so far. With 75 PPOs till date, IIT-Bombay is inching closer to last year's number of 77. IIT-Kharagpur too looks set to close at last year's level of 130, with 104 PPOs received till date. IIT-Madras, on the other hand, has crossed last year's count of 33 PPOs with 54 PPOs till date this year.

IIT-Guwahati has received 40 PPOs almost touching last year's total of 42. IIT-Kanpur, too expects to end the season with 20% more offers compared with last year, with 62 PPOs already in. Last year's total count was 80. IIT-Roorkee has received 37 offers till date, topping last year's 35. "The huge inflow of PPOs suggests a change in the recruitment pattern. Companies want to take the internship route to reach their decision on final placements," says Avijit Chatterjee, Professor-In-charge, Placement, IIT-B. He says recruiters are now doing more to hire the right candidate, as during internships, they can get to know the student better.

The total number of internships at his institute went up by 40% this year to 900, compared with last year. Another reason for the steady inflow of PPOs could be that the process of placing interns has been formalised. At IIT-B, for instance, the placement office is taking care of internships along with placements.

"The pay package has seen an increase for almost all the companies as compared to last year," says Natesan Srinivasan, Faculty-In-Charge, Placement, IIT-Guwahati.

Source: The Economic Times, October 8, 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013

India tries to lure foreign colleges to cash in demographic dividend

When 19-year old Pavitra Singh, one of 20 million students at India's universities and colleges, gets her degree in two years' time, she fears it will not be enough to secure a job. Indian employers tend to agree. Many say graduates from homegrown universities are often unemployable because job seekers do not have the skills they want, one reason why New Delhi is trying to fast-track legislation to allow foreign colleges, until now largely shut out of the country, to open their own campuses in the country.

On the cusp of a boom in its working-age population, country is racing against time to raise the quality of its education to prevent a demographic dividend turning into a demographic curse. "It is absolutely urgent," said Tobias Linden, the World Bank's lead education specialist in India. "The people who will make up the youth bulge have already been born. This is not a hypothetical situation. They might just be one, or two, or three years old now, but taking action to help them when they become 18 - those moves have to start now."

Over the next two decades, Asia's third-largest economy will add up to 300 million people - the equivalent of almost the entire population of the United States - to its workforce. That prospect offers hope that India, struggling now with its weakest economic growth in a decade, can finally follow in the footsteps of the likes of China and the Asian Tigers.

A generation ago these countries made good use of their growing workforces, training young people and putting them to work in export-orientated manufacturing, to generate economic growth that was the envy of the world.

Best Chance
India's working-age population will not peak until 2035, in contrast to China, where the working-age population topped out this year, brokerage Espirito Santo Securities says. Labour forces in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore will peak in the next five years. Such demographic factors offer India "the most compelling conditions for economic growth the country will, we argue, ever have", the brokerage said in a report. "Yet demographics are not destiny."

Attracting foreign colleges to open campuses in the country is one solution for a university system that the planning commission says is "plagued by a shortage of well trained faculty, poor infrastructure and outdated and irrelevant curricula." Despite a surplus of workers, employers across sectors say local universities do a poor job of preparing graduates for working life. None of India's universities feature in the world's top 200, the 2013/14 rankings by the London-based education group Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) show, versus seven from China.

Many homegrown universities rely on rote-learning and fail to teach the "soft skills" that are increasingly important in the country, where the services sector has driven the economic growth of the last two decades, recruiters and students say. "We don't learn here - we are just taught to mug up, so it's hard for us when we go out to find jobs," said Singh, an undergraduate at one of the country's largest private colleges, Amity University, referring to the teaching style across the country. "I'm worried that when I get to my first internship, I won't know how to do anything."

Foreign universities have been largely shut out of India, allowed only to open research centres, teach non-academic courses or offer degree courses with a local partner. Now, the government wants to offer them the more lucrative option of opening their own campuses.

Catch Up
The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) is trying to issue what is in effect an executive order, which would leapfrog a bill stuck in parliament since 2010, one casualty of a legislative logjam that has paralysed Indian policy making over the last two years. Despite scepticism from many institutions that India will be able to change its game with elections looming by next May, some foreign universities are keen to push ahead with campuses.

"A campus in India has always been our vision and that is our plan," said Guru Ghosh, the Vice-President for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech. It is due to launch a research centre near Chennai in spring 2014 and hopes to set up a campus within 3-5 years if the rules change, Ghosh said.

Under the proposed rules, non-profit foreign universities in the top 400 worldwide would be able to open campuses. The rules need a final sign-off from the law ministry, which will take up to three months, according to RP Sisodia, Joint Secretary for Higher Education at the MHRD.

While India has dithered, other Asian countries have moved ahead, with foreign universities in Malaysia and Singapore attracting Indian students. Spokespeople for Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Duke University and the UK's University of Northampton told Reuters they had no plans for a campus in India, even though they all have or plan to have research centres or offer courses on a local campus.

"The environment has not been a welcoming one thus far and people have looked elsewhere," said Vincenzo Raimo, Director of the International Office at Britain's University of Nottingham, which has campuses in China and Malaysia. "Anyone who's going to open there (India) needs to be brave." Foreign colleges would only meet a tiny portion of country's demand for places, but their presence would put pressure on domestic counterparts to improve, higher education experts say.

To be sure, the planning commission has set a target of creating 10 million more university places in the next few years and boosting funds for the top domestic universities to try to elevate them to the ranks of the world's top 200 by 2017.

If India fails to harness its population boom over the next two decades, its demographics could be "a disaster - not a dividend", Espirito Santo said. "A major shortage of jobs in the economy, or a skills mismatch, would create a young, angry and frustrated population," its report said.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 3, 2013

Five Indian universities in top 400 world’s best universities - IIT-Kanpur disputes findings

Five Indian institutions found a place in the top 400 of the world’s best universities in 2013, improving their tally from the previous year, according to the UK-based Times Higher Education World University Rankings report published on Wednesday.

India added three institutions to the top 400 list, according to the report. Panjab University emerged as the top-ranked Indian institution and was placed between 226 and 250 in the global rankings. The report didn’t give a specific ranking. The other four Indian institutions in the list are the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi; IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Roorkee, ranked in the 351-400 bracket.

“These results should be encouraging for India: while no Indian institution makes the top 200, one player new to the rankings, Panjab University, is close in the 226-250 group. Moreover, India now has five representatives in the top 400—a sign of growing commitment to the global rankings,” said Phil Baty, Editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Last year two Indian institutions—IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Roorkee—were in the top 400 ranks.

IIT-Kanpur Director Indranil Manna disputed the findings, claiming that the technology institute had not participated in the rankings. “Where are these agencies getting data from. They did not come to our campus, we have not participated. So the ranking is based on unofficial and unverified data,” said Manna.

Traditionally, the IITs have never been part of any rankings, Manna said. “There are some dozen agencies doing rankings. They have their own business interest and I have no problem with that but you need official data. Who is giving them data to rank us?” The IITs have a national mandate and do not have varied disciplines like many foreign universities, Manna said.

Besides, funding to the IITs can’t be compared with institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the IITs don't have enough foreign students and teachers, he said. “So these are not apple-to-apple comparisons.”

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has, however, set up a panel to suggest ways to improve the rankings of top Indian institutes. Manna is a member of the committee.

Overall, California Institute of Technology retained its number one position in the rankings for the third consecutive year, Harvard University rose to second place from fourth, sharing the position with the UK’s University of Oxford. Stanford University slipped from joint second to fourth. MIT was ranked fifth in the survey, Princeton University sixth, University of Cambridge seventh, University of California, Berkeley eighth, University of Chicago ninth and Imperial College, London tenth

The US led the comparison among 26 countries, with 77 of its institutes in the top 200 rankings. Europe fared badly this year, the ranking agency said in a statement. Germany’s University of Munich dropped out of the top 50. Institutions from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Austria also performed poorly, it said.

The UK remains Europe’s strongest representative, with 31 universities in the top 200. The Netherlands has 12 in the top 200 rankings, followed by Germany with 10, France with eight, Switzerland with seven and Belgium with five.

Europe’s difficulties contrast with progress for most leading East Asian universities, the study said. Japan’s University of Tokyo maintained its status as Asia’s number one institution, moving up four places to 23rd in the list.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) held on to the second position in the region with an overall 26th ranking, overtaking Australia’s University of Melbourne.

Source: Mint, October 3, 2013

Panjab University steals a march over IITs in global rankings

Which is the topmost institution of higher education in the country? Before you mention one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), here's a surprise. The answer is Panjab University, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

While Panjab University, a new entrant, is placed at 226 among 400 institutions worldwide, IIT-Kharagpur has slipped from 226 to 250 and IIT-Roorkee is placed in the 351-400 band. The two other new entrants are IIT-Delhi and IIT-Kanpur, both in the 351-400 group.

"India increases its representation in the world rankings with five world top 400 universities. No Indian university makes the top 200, but one new entrant is close to the elite group," says a press statement issued by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

The improvement in rankings for Indian universities has come about as they "co-operated with Thomson Reuters, providing their data for analysis". Thomson Reuters collects, analyses and verifies data, independently of Times Higher Education, which publishes the results. Participation in the rankings is voluntary and free of charge. Phil Baty, Editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, says the results should be encouraging for India which now has five representatives in the top 400 - a sign of growing commitment to the global rankings, a step towards improved quality.
Overall, California Institute of Technology holds on to the world number one spot for the third consecutive year, while Harvard University tied with Oxford regains second place, pushing Stanford University to fourth. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (fifth), Princeton University (sixth), the University of Cambridge (seventh), University of California, Berkeley (up one place to eighth), the University of Chicago (up one place to ninth) and Imperial College London (down two places to 10th) complete the top 10.

Top universities in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, the Republic of Ireland and Austria have all fallen while the top institutions in China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan have made gains. The US remains dominant with seven institutions in the world top 10 and 77 in the top 200 (one more than last year). London boasts four top-40 universities (up from three), more than any other city.

The increased representation for India in the rankings follows a two-day National Policy Dialogue in May on international rankings, when representatives of Times Higher Education were invited to meet senior university leaders by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) and the Planning Commission. At the meeting in New Delhi, Ashok Thakur, secretary of the ministry's department of higher education, said Indian institutions must no longer hide behind the "excuse" that the global ranking metrics and indicators were not suited to them. "We must play the same game that the rest of the world is playing," he said. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings use 13 separate performance indicators to examine a university's strengths against all its core missions: Teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Europe has generally fared badly this year. While the UK's number one, Oxford, holds on to the second place in the rankings, across the board the continent's top institutions have lost ground. ETH Z├╝rich, the world number one outside the US and the UK, slipped two places to 14th; Germany's University of Munich fell out of the top 50; and it is a similar tale of woe for Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and Austria.

In another set of rankings published last month by QS World University, IIT-Delhi figured at 222, dropping from 212 in 2012. As part of comprehensive global reviews, the 800-strong annual ranking included 11 Indian institutions in all, with the IITs leading the charge -- IIT-Bombay at 233, IIT-Kanpur at 295, IIT-Madras at 313 and IIT-Kharagpur at 346.

In the list of the top 50 universties in Asia, IIT-Bombay led the fall, dropping five notches to 39th position from 34th last year. While IIT-Delhi fell two places to the 38th position against 36th last year, IIT-Madras fell four positions to rank at 49 against 45 last year.

Source: Business Standard, October 3, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

IIM-Ahmedabad petitions government on increasing faculty pay

The country's premier management institutes, led by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), have petitioned the government for higher compensation for faculty members across IIMs. "It's important to create an international brand through quality faculty and students," said AM Naik, Chairman, Board of Governors (BoGs), IIM-A, at a press meet in Ahmedabad on Saturday.

"You cannot pay them (teachers/faculty) less than the students," added Naik. The issue, he said, would be taken up by a team of 30-40 members for discussion to create a benchmark and constitute a structure that will allow better compensation for the faculties, once a green signal is given in the new parliamentary bill.

Six years ago, the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) came up with Institutes of Management Bill for the country's premier B-schools. The bill, which will bring the IIMs under the purview of Parliament, is expected to be modeled on the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961.

"The quality of faculty has gone down in the past few years and has to be improved" says Naik. "So for improvement we first needed a captain and now as we have Nanda, we hope he would bring in such an improvement" added Naik. Professor Ashish Nanda, an IIM-A 1983 batch alumnus and professor at Harvard Law School, is the newly- appointed Director of IIM-Ahmedabad. He assumed office in the first week of September.

Prof. Nanda's appointed came after an intense hunt for a new director for nearly 10 months after the former director Samir Barura's tenure ended in November 2012. For the first time in its history, IIM-A advertised the post in an international publication seeking a candidate with global exposure.

Supporting Mr Naik's point of view, Prof. Nanda, said top-class faculty was needed for a world-class institute in the country. "If you want good professors, you have to give better packages (salary/compensation)" he said, adding that even after the government has geographically spread IIMs across India bringing the number to 13, things cannot improve unless best quality faculty are brought in. IIM-A intended to bring in the best brains with vast experience from India and abroad, he said.

Mr Naik gives said that on an average, the package received by an IIM-A graduate is about Rs. 1.9 million per annum, while for the top 10 students it ranges between Rs. 6 million and Rs. 10 million per annum. On the other hand, a professor earns Rs. 600,000 to 700,000 per annum. Such a disparity of income, where a teacher enables a student to earn more than his/her own compensation at a fresher stage, discourages the best brains from joining the educational stream, Naik said.

Asked how the IIMs, especially IIM-A would be able to support the higher compensation for their faculty in case the recommendation for higher compensation is accepted, Mr Nanda said the institute would adopt a multi-pronged strategy to raise funds, via student fees, including new programmes, through alumni and donor funds.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), September 28, 2013

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