Friday, May 31, 2013

PSU executives queue up for MBAs

An MBA is no longer a cherished degree for only professionals from the private sector. An increasing number of employees from state-owned undertakings are enrolling for the degree to hone their managerial acumen, gain global exposure and fast track their career, which would have taken much longer in the public sector. In fact for most, it is a passport to move out of public sector undertakings (PSUs) to private corporations or consulting firms.

Top business schools like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), Indian School of Business (ISB), SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS University), and IIT Bombay's Shailesh J Mehta School of Management (SJMSOM), have been witnessing significant enrolment from students with work experience in PSUs or the government sector in MBA programmes in recent times.

Public sector professionals, with two to five years of work experience, usually have exposure to large-sized projects and an MBA degree opens up for them a wider array of options in the private sector or allied industries in consulting. IIM Bangalore's flagship post-graduate programme has 38 professionals from the government sector in the class of 2012-14 with a batch size of 377, up from 28 in the class of 2011-13, with a batch size of 382.

"Predominantly, these professionals are coming here to come out of the sector," says professor Sankarshan Basu, chairperson, career development services at the institute. The professionals usually join the government sector from engineering campuses, but in just a few years, get frustrated at the lack of growth opportunities, he explains. "They feel an MBA degree can fetch them more glamorous roles in the corporate world, and a better remuneration," adds Basu.

ISB's Class of 2014 has 33 students from PSUs or government organisations, compared with 20 in Class of 2013 and seven in the Class of 2012. At SPJMIR, the PGP class of 2012-14 has 14 students from PSU sector, compared with 11 in the class of 2011-13. On an average, 7% to 8% of the PGP class over the past three years has comprised professionals from the public sector. At NMIMS, the MBA class of 2012-14 has five students from the PSU sector, compared with four in 2011-13 and two in the previous batch. Prior to this, it was hardly a trend.

"A management degree changes their entire career path. It fast-tracks their career and in the long term, they can contribute much better. It gives them crossfunctional and global exposure and trains them for long-term leadership," says Atish Chattopadhyay, professor of marketing and deputy director of the two-year PGDM programme at SPJIMR.

At IIM Lucknow, the class of 2012-14 has 45 professionals from the government sector in a batch size of 450, up from 40 in the class of 2011-13 with a batch size of 420. Most students attribute the reasons for opting for an MBA to the slow growth opportunities in PSUs, where reaching a manager level could take them more than five to six years. Kranthi Kumar Nukathoti, former assistant design engineer at MECON, is one of them.

Nukathoti cites the lack of growth and low remuneration as factors for pursuing an MBA. He hopes to get into supply chain operations at any of the big private manufacturing majors after completing his MBA. One of the key reasons for professionals from PSUs joining SPJIMR is because of its focused specialisation in operations management, according to Chattopadhyay.

A chunk of the students from PSUs want global exposure, which the institute makes possible through its tie-up with Michigan State University in supply chain management and Purdue University in manufacturing and operations. Institutes like SJMSOM have a significant number of engineering professionals from the core sector and heavy industry PSUs coming for an MBA.

According to VK Menon, senior director, career and admissions at ISB: "An MBA degree gives them agreater choice of options and quick learning. Professionals from PSUs or government who join our MBA course get an opportunity to utilise the skills they have learnt and explore new fields."

It's a win-win situation as these people bring in diversity to the class and a perspective of the government sector to the rest of the students. "The exposure these people get in PSU units is large-scale," says Menon. Adds Varsha Parab, director administration and in-charge registrar at NMIMS: "These students bring in governmental perspective to other students, which is required when they go into the corporate sector."

Moreover, when these professionals join the private sector or consulting firms, they bring with them the skill sets and depth of understanding gained from working on big projects - a gain from the company perspective as well.

Source: The Economic Times, May 31, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Traditional engineering courses rule the roost in an evolving world

Early this month, when counselling at the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in Tamil Nadu began, merely four students opted for the institute's civil engineering course. This was at a time when the institute had about 200 seats on offer. Computer science engineering was the preferred choice, followed by mechanical and electronics & communication engineering courses.

"This is only a case in particular. While in the initial one or two days, a course may not be opted for by students, all seats in civil engineering would be filled by the end of the counselling session," said the admissions director of a Chennai-based university, on condition of anonymity.

Traditionally, civil and mechanical engineering courses have been the building blocks of engineering in India. While institutes have introduced new areas such as aeronautics, biomedical and automotive engineering, traditional courses continue to attract students. "With a slowdown in the general information technology/information technology-enabled services sectors and an economic slowdown, it is time for consolidation and back to basics," says Shankar S Mantha, Chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the country's technical education regulator. He added today, the trend was to return to core engineering branches such as the civil, electrical and mechanical streams.

AICTE data say, as of 2012, there were 210 engineering streams. These could be grouped into 15 major groups such as mechanical and allied, electrical and allied, computers and allied, chemical and allied, etc.

Mantha said the demand for traditional courses was due to the versatility of these courses and the inherent capability most of these courses had to provide employment and create entrepreneurial avenues.

Devang Khakhar, Director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, agreed. "Due to the fact that job prospects in these traditional areas are now stronger, courses such as mechanical and civil engineering have again become popular in the engineering segment," he says.

In 2012-13, there were 1.7 million engineering seats at the entry level across 3,820 colleges and 126 engineering institutes. In the last five years, the number of engineering and management seats has nearly doubled.

Human resource (HR) experts say while Indian institutes have tried to offer specialised engineering courses in areas such as automation and information technology, demand for traditional courses would never fade. "Mechanical and civil engineering are the bread and butter of engineering. While demand for niche courses may come and go, that for traditional engineering subjects wouldn't disappear. Some students may take up new courses, considering the pay packages. But this doesn't mean traditional subjects have less demand," says a Mumbai-based HR consultant.

Narayanan Ramaswamy, national head (education) at KPMG, says now, the trend is to offer blended courses, with stronger fundamentals. "The courses are the same, but they are run in a different way. For example, now, a student prefers to do a course in mechanical engineering and join fields such as 'mechatronics', rather than specialising in this niche field," he says.

With headhunters still positive on the segment and the process of counselling set to continue for the next two months, VIT and its likes can be hopeful. 

Source: Business Standard, May 30, 2013

CSO working on Index of Education Services to track its growth

As part of an initiative to create a services production database in the country, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) is working on the Index of Education Services to track its growth. The segment contributes about 4% to the gross domestic product (GDP).

The index will throw some light on enrolments at different levels of education: primary, secondary and tertiary, vocational courses and separately for government, public and private institutes. Weights will be assigned according to enrolments in the base year in each of the segments.

As part of the Index of Services Production, CSO has fragmented different services as separate indexes, such as railways, air transport, postal, banking & telecommunication and has already released an experimental air transport and railways index.

For the education services index, the committee is examining various ways to measure productivity, in terms of enrolment and expenditure. Though enrolments are still collected using the net enrollment ratio for the millennium development goals, the index will go further. "The index will be able to track the impact of frequent changes in the education system, such as scrapping of board exams or increasing number of year to four for undergraduate courses," said a CSO official.

The index will also track changes taking place on a short-term basis in different parts of the country. The index is expected to be finalised in the next six months. It will be released on an annual basis, unlike indexes for railways, banking and postal, which will see a quarterly release. Since enrollments occur once in an academic year, it wouldn't make sense to release it monthly or quarterly, said a CSO official. Different sectors have different periodicities.

Given the gaps in services-related data, CSO will use data collected from major institutes only for the time being, including IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) etc. Affiliation bodies like University Grants Commission (UGC) will also be asked for data. "Data from bigger institutes will be sufficient to track short-term movements," the official added.

Services sector contributes about 60% to India's overall GDP, but does not have a comprehensive database on production. Government is also working on an annual survey of services along the lines of annual survey of industries, which aims to provide turnovers and employment numbers.

As of today, only the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for services gives an indication of the services sector on a monthly basis while the GDP covers some sectors on a quarterly basis. Data collection in the vast services sector is a major concern since most of it is informal.

Source: The Economic Times, May 30, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Government plans single agency for social science research

India may soon replace the multiple agencies that have headed its social science research for four decades with a single overarching body in a desperate government bid to halt a slippery slide in the quality of the country’s humanities research.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is preparing a blueprint to create a new social science research agency that will end the existence of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) and the Indian Council for Philosophical Research (ICPR).

The single new agency will subsume the three existing bodies that are mandated to head the nation’s social science research, but that were slammed as failures in a first-of-its kind review of their performance by government appointed expert panels, top government sources have told HT.

The ICHR, ICSSR and the ICPR - set up between 1969 and 1977 - are tasked with the responsibility of identifying key areas of humanities research, pinpointing the best researchers in these areas, and then funding research projects. But the panels – appointed by former HRD minister Kapil Sibal - that reviewed the ICHR, ICSSR and the ICPR concluded that the research agencies were severely underfunded, opaque in their selection of research to fund, and wrapped in layers of bureaucracy that make independent scholarly work difficult.

The ICPR review, carried out by widely respected philosophers Mrinal Miri and Rajeev Bhargava, also “strongly” recommended a single research agency for the humanities – instead of multiple bodies that often overlap in their work, and lack an inter-disciplinary approach, as is the case at present.

The government may therefore consider setting up a Council for the Promotion of Research in Humanities which will include philosophy, history, literature and literary studies, linguistics, political thought and anthropology,” Miri and Bhargava wrote in their review. “We are aware that such a step will require much deeper thought than we have been able to afford. But we do recommend very strongly that the government take initiative towards such a step.”

In two years of deliberations of the recommendations of the review panels, the HRD ministry mulled ways to strengthen the current research agencies but eventually picked an overarching social science research body as the answer.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 28, 2013

Government plans global entrance exam for foreign students

India plans to establish an entrance exam for foreign students seeking admission to educational institutions in the country, even as it lobbies international rating agencies to improve the rankings of its universities. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will allow institutions offering engineering and similar courses and other universities, including private ones, to participate in the project, said two government officials with knowledge of the development.

The ministry will “start an international entrance exam for aspiring students from foreign lands,” said S.S. Mantha, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the technical education regulator in the country and the body that will conduct the test. “Initially, Africa and geographies where Indian diaspora population has a good presence could be the target,” he said.

“Internationalisation is one of the priorities and the ministry has (had) few rounds of discussion with stakeholders,” said one of the government officials mentioned above, declining to be identified. “Lobbying or engaging with international agencies is one thing but that does not mean we will not reflect on areas where we are not doing well.”

Institutions will be allowed to admit 15% more students than their permitted number of seats, as well as fill up seats that fall vacant by admitting more foreign students. “We will allow institutions to charge foreign students double...what Indian students pay as fee,” said Mantha.

While institutes will be allowed admission relaxation and fee benefit from the coming academic session that begins in a couple of months, the first such entrance exam is expected be conducted by the end of this year.

Students from West, South and Southeast Asia are attracted by the lower fees in India compared with Europe or the US. Mantha said the proposed entrance will be similar to the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) of the US. AICTE will conduct the test.

While preparing rankings, foreign agencies look at areas such as research and heterogeneity of classrooms, Mantha said. “We need to promote our own education system well. Unlike the perception, several Indian institutions are top class and students from less educational facility regions can benefit from our move,” he said.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings of 2012-13 published in the UK, only three Indian institutes were in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, which was at 226-250 slot. The other two were IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, only the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, figured in the top 500.

The best ranked Indian institute in the THE rankings, IIT-Kharagpur, fared poorly in international outlook. On a scale of 100, it scored 16.1, whereas the fifth-placed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has a score of 81.6 in that metric.

While more than 100,000 Indian students go abroad to pursue higher education every year, less than 10% of this number come from abroad to pursue higher education in India. Of the total foreign students in India, technical institutes such as engineering and management schools have around 2,500 students, according to official statistics.

India is already in talks with international rating agencies about improving the ranking of its schools, Mint reported 22 May. Fundamental issues need to be addressed to improve India’s standing, experts said.

“Only lobbying or engaging with ranking agencies may not be the solution to India’s poor standing in university ranking. We have to address the fundamental issues like research and international students in Indian campuses. Before we engage with anybody, we must understand the rules of the game,” said Enayet Kabir, associate vice-president and education practice head at consulting firm Technopak Advisors.

Source: Mint, May 28, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

JNU mulls school for undergraduate studies

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), one of India's highly prestigious and reputed varsities, may soon open a school of undergraduate studies. The university has sent a proposal to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to start undergraduate courses under the innovation universities scheme started by the commission to "identify institutions and support them to develop specialized courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in emerging areas and accommodate original ideas and innovative proposals to influence teaching, research, academic excellence and societal development of relevance."

According to SK Sopory, Vice-Chancellor of JNU, the proposal has been sent to the UGC and they are currently waiting for a response from them. "We are yet to decide on the exact courses that will be offered. If we get a positive response, we will start working on the courses and their structures. This will take some time," he said.

However, what is certain is that the courses will have a component of research and innovation, as this is what the brief for innovative universities demands. "The proposal is for starting a school of undergraduate studies that will have courses in sciences and humanities. These will be feeders for the postgraduate courses that we are running already," Sopory added.

If the proposal is accepted, the UGC will fund it completely for five years, after which the university will have to support it on its own. The grant will range between Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) to Rs. 300 crore (Rs. 3 billion).

The invitation letter that was sent to various universities stated that they can send entries for new types of degrees and courses, innovation in curricula including evaluation, pedagogic innovation, interdisciplinary and cross border research or creation of research facility that may be shared by a number of universities and research institutions.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 23,2013

Private B-schools up the ante against AICTE's regulations

Business schools' cup of complaints against the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is full. Unhappy with the council's alleged non-cooperation towards private B-schools, about 40 deans and directors of such institutes will approach Minister for Human Resource Development M M Pallam Raju to appraise him of their hardships.

The delegation, to be led by the Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI), would suggest various steps to Raju to create an environment conducive for management education in India. "We would request the ministry to ask AICTE to change its policies, and not be prejudiced against PGDM (post-graduate diploma in management) institutions. AICTE is also not facilitating private institutions financially; nor is it helping them with research. Also, in many schemes, AICTE does not consider private management institutions, despite the fact that in most rankings, 90 per cent of the spots are accounted for by the private sector," EPSI said in a statement to Business Standard.

B-schools say institutions that have accreditation with international bodies, no governance woes and have been functioning well for years could be exempted from yearly regulatory filings. These institutions could be asked for regulatory filings every five years.

"Private B-schools are not questioning AICTE's relevance. But the way AICTE is functioning has led to a lot of problems. For instance, what is the need for good B-schools to have annual compliances? Why do established B-schools have to go through annual inspection? Why do we need to file voluminous reports year after year, giving basic infrastructure details? Can't AICTE classify the good and bad institutions?" asked Pritam Singh, Director, International Management Institute, New Delhi.

B-schools say AICTE spends more time in regulating these institutions than facilitating their growth. "AICTE can do more for faculty development and funding of institutions. More than 90 per cent of the AICTE staff is busy with a regulatory role, rather than facilitating B-schools do better," says Singh. B-schools are also unhappy with AICTE conducting a management entrance test. Last year, AICTE commissioned the Common Management Admission Test (CMAT), an online computer-based test.

H Chaturvedi, Director of Birla Institute of Management and Technology and Alternative President of EPSI, said PGDM institutions could quickly innovate and improve the quality of their programmes due to the autonomy enjoyed by them.

B-schools say AICTE's portal is creating hassles and customer service and responses from AICTE, too, aren't prompt. In 2010, then minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal had launched the portal to introduce transparency, accountability and efficiency in the decision-making process for B-schools.

Also, the term of the All India Board of Management Studies, formed by AICTE to look into B-school matters, has ended and a new board is yet to be announced. "The board was formed in November 2009 and its term ended in November 2012. There is no representation of private B-schools on the board. There are only two management professors; the rest are industry people or AICTE officials," said the dean of a B-school.

B-schools said they were not demanding de-regulation of management education, as that might encourage non-serious players to enter the sector. They said they wanted autonomy in deciding the curriculum and the fees. They added admissions should be based on merit and qualified faculty should be recruited. "PGDM institutions have been working smoothly for more than three decades. Some PGDM institutions existed even before the AICTE came into existence as a statutory body in 1989," said Chaturvedi.

AICTE Chairman Shankar S Mantha refuted all these claims. "I do not think any of the points raised by B-schools are true. AICTE is doing its best to improve the system. The basic mandate of AICTE is to look at the norms and standards being implemented by colleges, and that process would be done by AICTE. B-schools cannot dictate terms to AICTE on how it should function," he said.

Source: Business Standard, May 23, 2013

New B-schools take slow and steady steps towards growth

More than 185 business schools have closed down in 2012, and another 150 schools are struggling for survival. While these figures may lead to the perception that the future of management education is not bright in India, an equal number of new schools are being added every year. These new business schools, which have opened in the last two to three years, are aiming to bridge the quality gap in MBA programmes in India, through their strategies.

MYRA School of Business, Universal Business School, Fazlani Altius Business School and Vanguard Business School are some of the new players that have entered the space in the last two years. With initiatives for entrepreneurs, first line managers and by having international faculty, they are trying to attract students on board.

Take MYRA School of Business for example. It will have its first batch in the campus in mid-2013. With an initial student strength of 40-60, this school is looking at attracting prospective entrepreneurs. Shalini Urs, Founder and Chairperson said, "Mediocre schools will close down. But there is a demand for quality education and that is where we come in. Our international faculty is our strength."

The institute will offer a two-year post graduate diploma in management course, approved by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). William Verdini, Associate Dean and Director External Relations, said the institute will enable students to work on live projects in companies. "Since these students would be working with companies from the first year itself, the whole process of relationship building is facilitated that can help students later during placements," he said.

Fazlani Altius Business School (FABS) which commenced operations in 2012 from three campuses, also plans to expand in 20 other Tier-II and Tier-III cities in 2013. FABS is founded by individuals from the business community and aims to be an engine of growth for business communities. While it commenced its academic year with two specialised post-graduate programmes - masters in applied human resource management and the masters in sales & marketing management - it is now expanding to courses like investment banking and securities operations among others. At the time of its launch, FABS had said their Masters in Applied Human Resource Management programme will be offered in collaboration with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and offers specialisation in contemporary electives such as HR Analytics. Their masters in sales & marketing management offers simultaneous selection where students receive a Letter of Intent from companies along with their programme admission letter.

From 2004 to 2007, business schools mushroomed. With a booming economy and high demand for managers, MBA was 'the' course for young graduates. However, with the slowdown that followed, hiring activity also remained subdued, and hence demand for these courses fell. With seats lying vacant and high infrastructure costs, many B-schools decided to shut shop.

However, a new wave was seen in 2011-12, where the economy showed signs of recovery. This prompted the mushrooming of new management institutes, many of them founded by corporates. Vanguard Business School, which was one of these new schools that came up in 2011, has seen a good placement season this year. Arks Srinivas, director, said they recorded 100 per cent placements. This school, according to Arks, is committed to build managerial skills among the first level managers in companies.

"Any company requires lot of people at the front-end in the Rs. 300,000-500,000 pay category. This is the segment that we are catering to," he said. Apart from keeping the fee at Rs. 400,000-500,000, which Arks said was among the lowest in the industry, the institute is looking to launch courses in areas like retail, analytics and finance. They are also looking at having corporate partnerships and is aiming to break-even in the next two years.

International partnerships is also an area which the institutes are banking on. Universal Business School in Mumbai, already has a partnership with Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK, which allows them to grant International MBA degrees in India. This is approved by AICTE. Tarun Anand, co-founder and executive director at the business school said they would look to get international accreditation. The institute also has partnerships with several universities in the UK, Germany, France, Portugal, Greece, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia.

Anand said they had 60 CEOs who had endorsed the school. "We want our students to become environmentally and socially responsible ethical managers, with a focus on hand's-on learning, so that they become valuable assets for the industry. We have a global trading room on campus, which allows one to trade global cross asset markets in real time. Our faculty is made up of CEOs who have led multi-billion dollar companies in over 100 countries," he added. The school has seen an increase in the number of applicants, and Anand said they had four times the number of applicants from last year. They are also in discussion with Ivey league schools for various partnerships on executive programmes.

While new business schools come up, industry experts said the quality issue was crucial for them to survive. "You may be offered excellent facilities at a low cost on campus. But the institute is not worth it, if a candidate is not able to clear a job interview at the end of the course," pointed a Mumbai-based education consultant.

A paper by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) released this year said barring the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs,) other B-schools are losing the shine of attracting corporate India for campus recruitment and are increasingly facing the problem of survival; only 10% of the graduates are actually employable despite the robust demand for MBAs.

"In the last five years, the number of B-schools in India has tripled to about 4,500 amounting to as many as 3,60,000 MBA seats, collectively. The demand has begun to deflate now, as the economic growth rate hits its slowest in the last nine years, and the quality of education provided by B-schools came under the radar," the paper noted.

Source: Business Standard, May 23, 2013

India to lobby foreign agencies for improving university rankings

India is set to lobby international ranking agencies and seek their expertise on improving the poor showing of the country’s higher educational institutes in the global league tables. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the Planning Commission consider the absence of the country’s best institutions from the top 200 an embarrassment, especially for a country that’s supposed to be a knowledge economy.

As a first step, the MHRD and the plan panel will lobby London-based Times Higher Education (THE), which publishes the World University Rankings every year. “You can call it a lobby or dialogue or engagement, but we want to engage with THE and other ranking agencies to improve our standing,” said a MHRD official, who did not want to be named.

In the THE World University Rankings of 2012-13, there were only three Indian institutes in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, which was at 226-250. The other two were IIT-Bombay and IIT-Roorkee. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, only the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, figured in the top 500.

President Pranab Mukherjee lamented this state of affairs on 21 March. “This position is not at all acceptable,” he said. “This calls for serious introspection.”

“There is no point being dismissive about ranking. Instead we must understand why we are not there. While learning from them, we shall also present our case,” another government official said, also requesting anonymity. “So, their view about our institutions must be based on complete information.”

The dialogue with THE is not confined to MHRD controlled institutions alone, said Pawan Agarwal, Higher Education Advisor to the plan panel. “We are taking along other departments from the ministry of health and agriculture,” he said.

The MHRD says better ranking is essential to woo more research, faculty members and foreign students to Indian universities. Around 10,000 foreign students are pursuing higher education in India, including several hundreds who have come through various scholarship schemes, ministry data show. India is already engaged in seeking more students from Africa to pursue their doctoral research at institutions in the country. “The number can be multiplied, if we can showcase our universities through a credible ranking agency,” said the second official.

Phil Baty, editor of the THE World University Rankings said that its engagement with India is three fold—increasing awareness about ranking, evaluations and global benchmarking; improving relationships with Indian universities; and helping institutes recognize their weaknesses besides assisting them in developing a strategy to overcome this. “We are not coming here for a quick buck but for a long-term relationship,” Baty said. “Over a period of time (we can move) to value relationship. As a knowledge economy, India is important for us.”

Around a dozen institutes participate in the THE rankings, a number that Baty wants to raise to 30 in the next few years. He said that the research and the visibility of such work done by Indian institutes were “patchy”. According to official data, India’s research output accounted for a 2.78% share of global publications in 2006-10. In the same period, China’s share was 12.75% while that of the US was 20.7%.

Ranking organizations see India as a potential market, more so as the country’s education sector is opening up and a number of leading business houses are entering the space, said the first government official cited above. More than 100 institutes, including IITs, have been invited to participate in the policy dialogue on Thursday.

“We have some interaction with Shanghai Jiao Tong University and we could explore more. Besides, we can engage with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings authorities too,” said the official. QS is a UK-based ranking agency.

Source: Mint, May 23, 2013

India plans to boost Africa ties through education, technology

In a bid to influence research methods in Africa and open new markets for technology developed in India, the department of science and technology (DST) has planned a series of road shows to several African countries over the year.

Additionally, it has sanctioned the largest number of fellowships, 135, in a single year for researchers and students from African countries to pursue their doctoral research at Indian institutions. Officials associated with the exercise said that the technology investment was part of India’s attempts to wield “soft influence” over the continent.

In 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led a delegation to the India-Africa summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa that saw 15 African nations chosen by the African Union (AU) to represent the continent. Singh pledged a $700 million contribution to education and skill development in the continent, of which $35 million would come specifically from India’s science and technology department, said Arabinda Mitra, who heads international relations at DST.

According to a research note by Standard Chartered Bank, India is Africa’s fourth-largest trading partner behind the European Union, China and the US, and a significant investor across the continent. India accounts for 5.8% of Africa’ trade. While still small compared with Africa’s traditional partners—Europe’s trade with it exceeded $300 billion in 2011—the pace of growth in Africa-India trade and investment over the past decade is rivalled only by China-Africa trade

Teams from the ministry have visited Rwanda, Senegal and another delegation is expected to visit Mozambique later this month, said Mitra, to showcase “proven and low-cost” Indian technologies. “We have a basket of technologies that span agriculture implements, agri-processes, internet and communication technologies and mobile-based health applications,” said Mitra. “Nothing high-end but well tested and scalable in India.” He added that several grassroots innovations promoted by the Ahmedabad-based National Innovation Foundation, which scours villages for indigenously developed applications, would be a key part of the repertoire showcased to Africa.

The inter-ministerial engagement led by DST will be followed by visits by Indian industries to sign technology transfer deals. “The DST is only a facilitator,” said Mitra. “Ultimately, it will be organizations such as FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), with whom we are partnering for this initiative, that will play a key role.”

DST is also working on getting more African students to come to India for research. The CV Raman International Fellowship, now in it’s fourth year, funds African students to pursue part of their doctoral research at Indian institutions. These are specific to mathematics and statistics, engineering sciences and medical sciences. “There are ongoing programmes but this one’s unique for the sciences.” said Mitra. “Through this we can expose them to our research experience in agriculture, water management, waste disposal etc.”

Key initiatives include getting African nations to engage with Indian academia, said Ravi Bangar, Joint Secretary, East and South Africa, Ministry of External Affairs. “Such engagement has been on for many years, but science and technology development are emerging as a key thrust area,” Bangar said. “It would be great if more countries like Lesotho or Seychelles availed of such scholarships.”

Separately, India’s foreign ministry on Wednesday announced that Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari will be representing India at the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity which has now been renamed African Union in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 25 May. Ansari will address the gathering along with the leaders of Brazil, China, France, European Union, Russia and the United Nations, said Bangar.

The decision to invite India has been taken by the African Union “I am sure they see some uniqueness in this (India-Africa) partnership. India’s engagement with Africa is not predicated with Africa’s relations with any other country,” Bangar said.

Starting out as a staunch supporter of the anti-colonial struggle in many African countries soon after India’s independence, India however found its influence on the continent waning in the 1990s as New Delhi turned its attention to re-scripting its ties with the US and other countries after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Of late, the Indian government has made ties with Africa, described as the world’s newest growth pole, a priority with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosting two India-Africa summits—in 2008 and 2011.

Bilateral trade between India and Africa is currently $70 billion up from less than $1 billion in 1991. India’s investments in Africa since 2005 total $50 billion and lines of credit to African countries total $8 billion.

Source: Mint, May 23, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Super regulator plan for higher education may be scrapped

After putting on ice the much-hyped, low-cost tablet called Aakash, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is set to junk another plan to establish an autonomous “super regulator” for higher education, championed by Kapil Sibal when he was HRD minister.

There’s little enthusiasm in the present dispensation to pursue the plan for the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), said two government officials with knowledge of the situation. M.M. Pallam Raju took over as HRD minister in October last year after a cabinet reshuffle.

Sibal, who is minister for Communications and Information Technology, as well as Law, had pushed the plan for the creation of NCHER, meant to be an overarching body overseeing higher education that would subsume existing regulators such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE).

“The ministry is unwilling to pursue the NCHER plan,” said one of the two officials cited above. “There is no point scrapping functioning institutions like UGC, AICTE or NCTE.” Instead, there is a “need to strengthen them”, said this official. Neither of the two officials wanted to be named.

Lack of political support has held up several education Bills in Parliament in the last three years. Some of the pending Bills include the Education Tribunal Bill, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010.

The first official said the Higher Education Research Bill, which provides for setting up NCHER, is back in the MHRD after a parliamentary committee suggested that existing regulators not be scrapped. The Bill had sought to repeal the UGC Act, 1956; the AICTE Act, 1987; and the NCTE Act, 1993.

On 3 May, the standing committee said in a report that it strongly favours “continuance of the existence of these vital bodies for effective regulation of higher and technical education”. An official said, “we have to be practical about what can be achieved and what is tough.”

The ministry believes that since nearly a dozen Bills are pending in Parliament, there is no point in pursuing those which may not come through in the next two sessions of Parliament. “In the current situation of key Bills pending in the Parliament, the ministry intends to pursue the reform through executive decisions,” the second official added.

The decision to shelve NCHER marks the second reversal for the plans pushed by Sibal when he was HRD minister during 2009-2012. Aakash, the $35 tablet that was pitched as India’s solution to bridge the divide between digital haves and have-nots, has been put in cold storage, with Pallam Raju telling reporters in March: “Let’s not get obsessed with hardware... The overall (issue) is how we enable students. Let the students decide which device is useful.” The MHRD put up a cabinet note on procuring five million more tablets in 2013, but the note has been returned to the ministry. The plan to float a fresh tender and have the device manufactured by some public sector companies has effectively been stalled, Mint reported on 23 March.

“The ministry seems to have realized that Bills and educational policies prepared in haste are not going to achieve success,” said H. Chaturvedi, Alternate President of Education Promotion Society of India, a lobby group of education institutes. “The former minister relied more on (a) few bureaucrats without having enough consultations and that’s why the Bills are facing criticism from academicians and lawmakers,” said Chaturvedi, who is also the director of Birla Institute of Management Technology in Greater Noida.

The existing regulatory system seems set to stay with some changes. On MHRD’s direction, UGC has already issued a notice for mandatory accreditation of all institutions that have either completed six years of existence or have had two batches graduate from it. Previously accreditation was voluntary and less than 20% of the 33,000 colleges are accredited currently. Unless an institution opts for accreditation, it won’t get UGC grants, as per the new guideline.

Similarly, AICTE too will put in place a mechanism for mandatory accreditation of technical institutions. This has happened even as a Bill on mandatory accreditation of educational institutes was pending in Parliament. The MHRD, too, is looking to issue an executive order to curb malpractices in educational institutions even as legislation on the subject is awaiting parliamentary approval.

Outside the ministry, there does exist support for status quo. “There is a bad system in our country that when an old institution is not doing great, the solution is (to) create a new (one),” said Pritam Singh, a former director of the Indian Institute of Management-Lucknow. “I believe AICTE and UGC are good institutions; what is required is to make them enablers of quality education than just regulators.”

Source: Mint, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stanford GSB takes Silicon Valley programme to France and India

Silicon Valley know-how will soon be available to entrepreneurs in India and France as Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) launches its Ignite executive course later this year in Bangalore and Paris.

Stanford Ignite has been taught in California since 2006, where it can be studied on a part-time or full-time basis. In France and India, the course will be taught on a part-time programme over nine weeks, at a cost of around £9,000.

Economics professor Yossi Feinberg, faculty director for Stanford Ignite, says the programme takes people with little or no managerial experience, but who are very good at what they do. “It’s remarkable how much innovation there is and how much is lost through the lack of business skills.”

Stanford Ignite targets scientists, engineers and graduate students who are interested in innovation in a start-up or inside their company. “The idea is to create something that is really useful....It gives them [participants] all the tools they need to create a successful venture.”

Although the programme will reflect the curriculum of a traditional MBA programme, the topics will be focused on those elements useful to entrepreneurs, says Prof. Feinberg. “It’s accounting for entrepreneurs, it’s finance for entrepreneurs – they will not go to Wall Street.”

The Indian programme, which will begin in August, will be taught in a classroom on the Infosys campus in Bangalore. In France, Stanford will work with Ecole Polytechnique, France’s premier science university. Professors will be flown out from Stanford for part of the two programmes, but much of the teaching will be done remotely.

The success of the programme will be judged by the number of successful ventures, says Prof. Feinberg, a measure which is already used to assess the California programme. “I don’t have the data but I think the number (of participants) who create successful ventures is very high.”

The third international leg of the programme will be taught in Beijing in 2014 and Stanford is investigating whether to teach the programme in countries such as Chile, Brazil and Turkey.

Source: The Financial Express, May 21, 2013

President wants more centres of excellence

Emphasising the need for more centres of excellence and wider vocational training, President Pranab Mukherjee urged the country's universities to take upon themselves the task of encouraging research in key areas to ensure that the country's population could become an asset and not a liability.

Mr. Mukherjee was delivering his convocational address at a privately-run Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Phagwara, near Jalandhar, where the Afghanistan President, Hamid Karzai was conferred an honorary doctorate degree. As many as 7801 regular and distance education students received their degrees.

Despite a legacy of Takshashila and Nalanda, none of the Indian universities figured in the top 200 across the world, Mr. Mukherjee said expressing concern, “Outstanding personalities who won Nobel prizes were Indians but working in Universities outside India.”

When every year the country was adding 12 million work force, Mr. Mukherjee advised education institutions to take advantage of technology and utilise "out of the box thinking" for innovative measures to introduce more vocational courses. He said it was unfortunate that less than seven percent of the total workforce had received vocational training.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Karazi, expressed concern that years of strife had led to a situation where his country suffered due to lack of higher education. He said that living up to the expectations of a friend, India has given 2000 scholarships to Afghan students. He said that India had also gone beyond its means to provide a two billion dollars aid for rebuilding Afghanistan.

In his message to students, Mr. Karzai said, “You are the citizens of India and citizens of the world and you represent a country that is fast rising in economical, industrial and social growth. Your presence is felt all around. Keep progressing and at the same time, remember your culture and use your energy for the country’s welfare”.

Punjab Governor Shivraj V Patil, presided while Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was the guest of honour for LPU's third convocation.

Source: The Hindu, May 22, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Education loan to get costlier

Banks, stung by bad loans from lending to the education sector, are buying insurance to cover default risk that will eventually increase the cost of borrowing for students. Under the cover, the bank will receive the entire loan amount from the insurer if the borrower dies. The cost of insurance cover with education loan is 2-3% of the loan size. The policy is of the value of the loan and assigned in favour of the bank. Banks offer this product when they disburse loans but like a home loan, it is not made compulsory with the loan. Generally, education loans are repaid in four to five years.

The total education loan size is Rs. 5,510 crore (Rs. 55.1 billion), according to the latest data provided by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). While the ratio of bad loans was 4.5% in 2011-12, banking analysts expect another 100 basis points rise in bad loans during last year. Sensing an opportunity, Canara HSBC OBC is planning to launch life insurance term plan education loans. "We see opportunity in the education loan segment, and a student suffers if something goes wrong with the parent," said an executive of the company.

"Education under personal insurance is one of the products we are offering and it gives security to a bank," said M Narendra, Chairman and Managing Director, Indian Overseas Bank. "We are not aggressively pushing it, but may look at it," he added.

Looking at the job market scenario and poor campus placement, banks have been cautiously bringing down the share of education loans over the past couple of years. It grew by 10% in 2012-13 while the overall credit grew 14%.

"The commerciality of the education loan has come down significantly with the growing NPA," said an analyst with a broking firm requesting anonymity. "It will be difficult to give out education loans without any kind of guarantee but insurance cover will add to the cost."

IDBI Federal Life Insurance provides term cover with education loan borrowers of IDBI and Federal Bank. "Penetration of insurance cover with education loan is very low with only 25-30% while home loan has higher cover of 70-75%," said G V Nageswara Rao MD and CEO IDBI Federal Life Insurance. "The success of the product will depend on the ability of the borrower to pay for the insurance."

Source: The Economic Times, May 20, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

UGC dilutes norms for foreign educational institutions

Modification in the minutes of the UGC (University Grants Commission) meeting could result in qualitative change in collaboration between Indian and foreign educational institutions, whereby even B grade domestic institutions could have foreign partners.

On March 11, 2013, UGC in its 492nd full commission meeting while considering the UGC (Promotion and Maintenance of Standards of Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012, resolved that foreign educational institutions with highest grade in their homeland would be allowed to collaborate with Indian institutions which are also accredited with the highest grade by national accreditation agencies. In India, accreditation is done by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

However, the minutes were qualitatively changed in the UGC's 493rd full commission meeting on May 10, despite protest by a member. Now, the modified minute says that foreign institutions with highest grade should be allowed to collaborate with Indian institutions not less than B grade in respect of institutional, threshold and programme accreditation. Many departments of Indian institutions enter into programme-based collaboration with foreign institutions. The UGC member who protested that modification of minutes would lead to dilution of quality was asked to submit a note of dissent even as the Commission approved the modification of minutes.

Sources in the Commission said, "There is a general view that since top-rung foreign universities are not interested in collaboration with Indian educational institutions the ambit should be widened. Foreign collaboration with B grade Indian institutions would only enhance the quality and credibility of domestic institutions." UGC sources said there has been a flurry of requests from both A and B grade Indian educational institutions with collaboration proposals.

While UGC chairperson Ved Prakash is indisposed, Commission secretary Akhilesh Gupta refused to comment citing that he isn't authorized to speak to media.

Source: The Times of India, May 18, 2013

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