Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Graduation and enrollment rates of different schools and US college retention rates

Sink or Swim: A Guide to College Graduation Rates
(This interesting analysis is shared by Allison Morris who was part of the team which prepared this featured article).

College graduation usually conjures up images of black hats getting thrown into the air and refrains of pomp and circumstance. What you don’t see, however, is the swell who started at the same time as the robe-clad flock but aren’t graduating — a number that would triple the size of grads (and make the ceremony even longer). In fact, at four-year colleges only 31.3% of students actually graduate from the school. The other 68.7% might be sitting at home, working a job that doesn’t require a degree, or maybe they’re still chipping away at the books after switching majors or signing up for a lengthy program.

The latter is evident: The number swells to 56% who graduate within six years of starting. On the surface, it might seem like today’s student is lazy or lacks follow-through, but a closer examination reveals steep costs of schooling and family responsibilities a bigger decision-maker for college dropouts. Of course, the numbers vary widely across colleges, with some earning gold stars for graduating their students and others earning the nickname “dropout factories.” We take a closer look at the best and worst of 2-year and 4-year schools to help degree-seekers navigate to a college that will help them stay afloat.

For full story, please click the following link:


Women outnumber men in IIM-Kozhikode's post-graduate batch for 2013-15

Underlining its aim of ensuring gender diversity in the institute, the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode, has admitted close to 200 women, making up a little more than half its intake for the post-graduate programme in 2013-15.

IIM-K’s 17th PGP batch of 361 students comprises 165 men and 196 women; the latter making up 54.29 per cent of the total, an IIM-K press release said.

The women admitted to the programme present a diverse talent profile. Priya Chandak has represented India in the World Skating Championships, Prakriti Sharma is a national level swimmer and basketball player and V. Lekshmi is the all-India CBSE topper of 2007.

Eighty-five per cent of the students in the batch have a Bachelors degree in engineering and technology, 11 per cent have a commerce and economics background and four per cent are from the fields of medicine, pharmacy, science and agriculture.

Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM-K, said the aim was to create a unique academic space that would challenge convention. “This year we have not only led in ensuring gender diversity but also admitted national talent from the fields of sports, music, martial arts and the social sector,” he said.

He said, “Our goal is to churn out not just a competent manager but a well-rounded, compassionate human being. In this endeavour, the current batch of students will be our pathfinders.” IIM-K’s intake of women started in 2010 with 100 students of a batch of 371, rising to 121 women in a batch of 341 in 2011.

Students in the current PGP batch have up to 24 months of work experience and are drawn from across the country — about 27 per cent from South India, 26 per cent from the West, 19 per cent from North India and 12 per cent from Eastern India.

Priya Nair of IIM-K said: “IIM-K is leading the way by creating classrooms with equal representation of young women and men, thereby enriching their learning through multiple and diverse points of view that will help them shape a balanced society. Organisations that thrive on diversity of thought will certainly see value in our offering.”

IIM-K in 2011 slashed tuition fee by Rs. 30,000 for its PGP — among the older IIMs, IIM-K charges the lowest fees of Rs. 970,000 for two years PGP.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 26, 2013

India, US sign four pacts on education - Move to set up Community Colleges in India

Minister for Human Resource Development M.M. Pallam Raju said that given the size of the student community in the country there was a scope for establishing at least 20,000 community colleges. On Tuesday, four Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed in the educational space during the ongoing India-US Higher Education Dialogue 2013.

He said that there was substantial progress and clarity on how to progress on community colleges. The Ministry is working with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), to develop a framework for community colleges in the country.

An MoU was signed between the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the AACC for setting up community colleges in India.

Further, Raju also said that with the transformation that Massively Open Online Courses (MooCs) are bringing in the educational sphere, the Government is planning to focus on this area. An MoU for this has been signed between IIT Bombay and edX, a non-profit entity created by Harvard and MIT that develops higher education content for open online courses.

Besides this there is an effort to enhance teacher capacity development in collaboration with institutes in the US. Raju said that through these initiatives the Government was trying to adopt best practices of teaching and not trying to mirror models in the West.

When asked if the recent move to introduce four-year courses in University of Delhi could be seen as replicating a Western model and whether it would work in India, Raju said the Government was keeping a close watch on the concerns and any lacunae in the course would be sorted out. While addressing concerns that the talks and MoUs signed on Tuesday could be a way of giving foreign institutions a back-door entry, given that the Foreign Education Providers (Regulation) Bill is yet to come to pass, Raju said these are straightforward agreements to encourage both American and Indian students to go to each others’ countries for studies. He said the Bill, which is pending in Parliament, would be tabled in the upcoming session.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 26, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gender parity rules in top B-schools

The top three IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) have announced that they are increasing the intake of women students this year, but gender diversity is something other top-rung B-schools can boast of having had since much earlier.

Business schools such as the Indian School of Business (ISB), and Chennai’s Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM) are not in the high league of the IIMs, but from their initial years these institutes have taken in a higher proportion of women students. Delhi University’s Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) and XLRI, Jamshedpur have also experienced this diversity for a few years now.

Over the years, these B-schools have contributed powerful women business leaders to the world including Leena Nair, Global Senior Vice-President for leadership and organisation development at Unilever. 43-year-old Nair is an XLRI alumna, from the 1992 batch. FMS also boasts of popular alumnae. Neelam Dhawan, Managing Director of HP India, is one of them.

At ISB, women account for 25 per cent of the current batch. In 2013 it was 28 per cent. ISB has maintained the percentage of women students at 26-29 per cent for the past few years. “We encourage more women to apply to our full-time management programme during the admissions information sessions,” says V. K. Menon, Senior Director of Careers, Admissions and Financial Aid at ISB. He adds that the institute doesn’t have any special criteria for women and that there is a stringent and bias-free admissions process.

GLIM says gender diversity is important and the institute constantly strives to take more female students every year by making slight changes in the weightage. Though it refuses to divulge details, it says all factors being equal, girls are to be given preference. The percentage of women in GLIM’s PGPM batch has dropped from 33 per cent last year to 25 per cent this year.

At FMS, the number of women in the 2013 batch was 53 out of 215. The number fell to 41 out of 219 students in 2014. The 2015 batch, however, can see an increase in the number of girls once again. The records show that the number of women admitted to business schools other than IIMs is not low the past few years. According to Madhu Vij, a senior faculty at FMS Delhi, the majority of CAT-top-percentile holders are male students and this could be the reason for fewer girls entering the IIMs.

Family pressures
Ravneet Bawa, an ISB student, who has almost 12 years of experience in the IT industry, and who stays on the school’s Mohali campus with her one-year-old child, has a different take on the issue. “Women, after a while, tend to divert attention from their careers owing to family commitments,” says Bawa, who also heads ISB’s Women in Business initiative. “With the help of our alumni, we at ISB are trying to create a support system that allows women to get through the difficult times when they can keep that great job and climb up the leadership ladder,” she adds.

The alumnae of the new Gurgaon-based School of Inspired Leadership endorse this view. “Soon after a career of three-and-a-half years, I realised my core strength was management and decided to write the GMAT,” says Suchita, who is now working as consultant with TCS, Chennai. “In most cases a woman’s career goes for a toss after she gets involved in her married life and kids, and I wanted to complete my post-graduation well before getting married.”

About 38 per cent of the current batch in this school comprises women. Last year they made up 30 per cent. The much-older XLRI Jamshedpur has maintained a better percentage of women over the years. The 2014 batch of XLRI’s PGDBM batch has around 16 per cent of women students but for the HR course it’s higher at 39 per cent

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 25, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

B-school student body not diverse enough

While diversity is the buzzword at premier management institutes worldwide, there seems to be little change in the student profile of Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) this year, with engineering graduates still dominating the composition of new batches.

Of the candidates joining IIM-Calcutta this year, 90.4 per cent are from an engineering background. At IIM-Bangalore, this percentage is as high as 91.09 in the 2013-15 batch — up from 88.84 per cent in the previous batch.

Other streams, such as commerce, science, management and the arts have seen only 21, 8, 4 and 2 students respectively in the total batch-size of 404 students at IIM-Bangalore.

While premier management institutes in India have always had a skewed representation of engineers, internationally acclaimed business schools have made a conscious effort to include diverse candidates from various backgrounds.

For instance, Harvard Business School’s 2015 class comprises 43 per cent economics and business undergraduate majors, 39 per cent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics students and 18 per cent students studying humanities and social sciences.

In the 2014 batch of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, 46 per cent of students are from the humanities and social sciences background, 37 per cent from engineering, mathematics and natural sciences and 17 per cent from business, while 18 per cent are advanced degree holders.

Prof M. Jayadev, Chairperson, Admissions and International Aid, IIM-Bangalore, says: “The number of engineers appearing for the CAT (Common Admission Test) entrance is much higher than the non-engineering stream candidates. This, Jayadev said, tends to ensure a higher proportion of engineering students get into the IIMs. Traditionally, IIMs have given higher weightage to CAT, which places greater emphasis on quantitative skills, and not on other sciences. This puts prospective students with a social science background at a disadvantage.

Some years ago, the admission weightages given by IIMs were an internal matter known only to the relevant institutes. But things started changing after the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into force. “Before the RTI Act came into existence, most IIMs used to modify the admission process a bit to add diversity to the student profile. At that time, the strength of engineering students was only around 60-65 per cent in the batches. However, with too many questions being asked about the admission process, IIMs do not have the liberty to tweak the admission process,” said the CEO of a leading financial institution and an IIM-A graduate.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 24, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

IIMs might lower GMAT bar for foreign students

To improve their global quotient and attract more foreign students, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are planning to lower the graduate management admission test (GMAT)’s cut-off score for the flagship two-year management programme (PGP) and the one-year full-time MBA. IIM directors said the GMAT cut-off used by IIMs, at over 700, was too high for candidates to even qualify for interviews.

“As the institute builds its global reputation, it will have to take steps to internationalise the students admitted to its academic programmes,” said Samir Barua, former Director, IIM-Ahmedabad. “This may require the institute to lower its cut-off in GMAT for admission, particularly for the PGP. Since potential applicants with such high GMAT scores easily get admission to the best schools in the world, practically no candidates apply to the PGP of the institute.”

IIM-A uses a cut-off of 760 or so, which Barua said was high. The GMAT scores of the selected candidates of the past batches have been 695 to 728. GMAT is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a US-based organisation.

IIMs said lowering the cut-off significantly enhance chances of getting more foreign students. “Citizenship diversity is a major component for world ranking of management education institutes. Currently, we are marked almost zero for it,” said an IIM-A faculty member on condition of anonymity. “By bringing down the GMAT cut-off, we could attract more foreign students and enhance citizenship diversity. Out of a batch of 400-odd students, a good 20-25 foreign students would make such a difference and also increase our chances of getting ranked higher as a global B-school.”

IIM-A is the only management school in India ranked among the top-100 schools globally by The Economist. The institute is also the only management school in India that has all the three post-graduate programmes ranking high globally. Its two-year post-graduate programme in management is ranked seventh and the post-graduate programme for executives (PGPX) is ranked 11th among comparable programmes globally by the Financial Times.

Devi Singh, Director of IIM-Lucknow, too, said the GMAT cut-offs at IIMs were too high. “Every IIM is thinking of bringing down the cut-off for GMAT scores. In addition to this, IIMs need to create an eco-system to attract more foreign students at our campuses. More foreign students increase chances of higher ranking among global B-schools.”

There is no cut-off score for GMAT at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, which introduced the one-year management programmes in India. 

Source: Business Standard, June 23, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In a first, girls among IIT entrance test toppers

If Sibbala Leena Madhuri is aware of having made history, she's not showing it. The 16 year-old, originally from Thirupathi and now based in Hyderbad, is one of the first two girls ever to feature in the top 10 ranks of the entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Her rank is eighth; the other girl, Aditi Laddha from Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh (Delhi zone),is sixth.

"I thought I would get below rank 20, wasn't expecting my score to be in the top 10," says Leena. With a score of 97.9% -- Andhra Pradesh board - she assumes she's in the top 20 percentile. "I think I'll go to Mumbai or Delhi IIT and will opt for either electronics or computer science." When she's not studying, she plays chess and listens to music. Only about 11% of the total number qualifying are women.

Pallerla Sai Sandeep Reddy, 17, Harry Potter-fan and JEE Advanced topper, wants computer science at Mumbai IIT too. But that's for a start. "Finally I'll take up robotics," he says on his way to "college" (high school in Hyderabad) to celebrate. "I didn't think I'd top before the exam but after, yes," he says laughing. His exam went that well. Son of a government school teacher of social studies, Sandeep has spent many years away from home in a village near Podili town, Prakasham district, AP. He was staying in hostel in Hyderabad and had completed the entire high-school syllabus by the middle of Class 11. "That way I could devote the next year to preparation. I studied 12 hours," he says.

The IITs surprised everyone by declaring the results two days before the scheduled June 23. "The reason we are doing this early is because there are many applicants from very remote parts of the country who don't have internet access and, therefore, don't get to know their results in time for counseling," says IIT-Delhi Director, R.K. Shevgaonkar. The IITs will be sending hardcopies of results to the candidates so that those without internet access are not left out. Counseling will start from June 24 and continue till June 30. The physical verification of certificates for the first round of counseling will be done between July 4 and 8.

Of the 152,351 candidates who cleared JEE Mains and were eligible for JEE Advanced, 126,704 registered and even less actually appeared. "One of the reasons for this," says IIT Delhi's organizing chairman, H C Gupta, "Is that several states, for instance Gujarat, didn't conduct state exams and admitted on the basis of JEE Main (held in April) result. Many students who didn't register or write exam would've got into state engineering colleges. Next year, many states have opted for JEE Main including West Bengal, Maharashtra and Haryana." He further adds that many of the applicants who didn't write the exam even after registering would be girls - registration for them was free, they registered then didn't show.

The IITs are calling for counseling 276 SC/ST candidates who will be placed in the one-year "preparatory" course - reintroduced this year - and placed in first year from the next session. This is the first time the entrance exam into the IITs has been conducted in two parts. "For the first time we have to do the pre-preparation for the number of centres for the tests all on the basis of assumptions," says Gupta. The number of seats has increased at the IITs from 9,647 to 9,885 but the maximum increase has happened at the newer IITs where new courses have been launched.

Source: The Times of India, June 22, 2013

Foreign universities will have to be non-profit making entities

After long deliberation, University Grants Commission (UGC) and Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) have formalized the rules for establishment of campuses of foreign universities/educational institutions in India.

The rules, to be notified in July, state that the Indian campus of a foreign educational provider would be a non-profit making legal entity. Hence, foreign education providers would have to first form a company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. Companies under Section 25 are non-profit entities.

Foreign education providers, before being notified, would have to maintain a corpus of at least Rs. 250 million for each campus they propose to establish. Each provider would be allowed a maximum of four campuses. Out of the income received from the corpus fund, the foreign education provider would not be allowed to utilize more than 75% income for the purpose of development. The remaining income would be deposited into the corpus fund. The education providers would also not be allowed to invest surplus revenue for any purpose other than for the growth and development of the institutions.

They would not be allowed to offer any course that adversely affects the sovereignty and integrity of India or its friendly relations with other countries. Only those education providers placed in the top 400 institutions as per the world university rankings by Times Higher Education or World University Rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) or Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University would be allowed. Education providers who have been in the field of education for more than 20 years in the parent country and are accredited there would be allowed to set up campus in India.

Applications would have to be endorsed by the Embassy or High Commission of the institution's home country in India. The education providers would have to mandatorily publish prospectus with details of courses, fee and other charges as well as money to be refunded.

The UGC rules also provide for penalty if an institution is not a foreign education provider, has not been recognized or whose recognition has been withdrawn offers admission in violation of the provisions or publishes or releases misleading advertisement. Minimum penalty would be Rs. 5 million extendable to Rs. 10 million.

Source: The Times of India, June 22, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Docs now take a shot at Consulting, Go for MBAs

Dr Ashvini Jakhar plunged into civil life from the services last year, with dreams of navigating the world of entrepreneurship. The surgeon lieutenant commander in the Indian Navy enrolled for an MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB), and will join McKinsey and Company in a consulting role next month. Dr Jakhar represents a growing number of clinical doctors who are heading to business schools to bag lucrative opportunities in streams like healthcare consulting, hoping to turn entrepreneurs some day. The number of doctors in ISB's flagship one-year MBA programme has gone up to 11 this year from six last year. The alternative career path is precipitated by the absence of an organised placement process at medical institutes, poor starting salaries and a booming healthcare sector.

The opportunities for medical professionals are huge: the Indian healthcare sector is estimated to reach $100 billion by 2015, growing in double digits year on year, according to ratings agency Fitch. Private equity and venture capital investments have been increasing in the sector too, and all this means more work for consultants.

Having medical professionals on board is a win-win situation for consulting firms too. "Well-trained doctors have rich professional and life experience as medical professionals, as well as sharp analytical abilities," says Nikhil Prasad Ojha, head of the India strategy practice who also looks after human resources for Bain & Company.

At IIM-Calcutta, two to three doctors have been consistently clearing the interview stage to pursue their MBA over the past three years. This trend is expected to sustain or increase, an institute spokesperson said in an email. IIM-Lucknow has also witnessed a steady stream of doctors at the two-year, post-graduate MBA programme. The recently-graduated batch of 2013 had eight doctors out of a batch size of around 420. The batch of 2014 too has nine doctors out of a batch of nearly 450 students.
Dr Rohan Desai, who completed his MBBS in 2008 was very clear about his career path. In January this year, he co-founded management consulting firm Arete Advisors with a focus on healthcare, three years after completing his MBA from the premier IIM-Ahmedabad. In the interim, Desai worked in a consulting role with Gurgaon-based Feedback Infra. "A career in consulting helps you understand the business of healthcare besides sharpening your analytical skills and domain knowledge acquired through clinical practice," he says. In an operations role, he adds, growth does not come easy.

Dr Tushar Gupta, a second-year student at IIM-Calcutta, too interned with a consulting firm this year and hopes to bag a consulting role with the same or another marquee consulting firm next year. Gupta completed his MBBS in 2010. "I was always interested in the business aspect of healthcare, and as a consultant, I can address the various lacunae that exist in businesses," he says. He hopes to turn an entrepreneur with his own chain of hospitals some day. Consulting firms like Bain and KPMG attest to recruiting more doctors for their healthcare practice.

"We are looking for talented doctors to reinforce our consulting expertise — just like the strong base we have in MBAs and engineers," says Bain & Company's Ojha. Ojha says highly skilled doctors support their expanding healthcare practice, which spans delivery, pharmaceuticals and bio-technology, and also provide support for other sectors. "Doctors work well across teams, which is a crucial skill we look for in our consultants," he adds.

The number of doctors in the pharma and life sciences practice at KPMG has grown by 12% over last year. "Some of our medical professionals have held very senior positions in hospitals and health systems across the world. Doctors with a management degree bring a combination of domain, clinical and functional skills to the table," says Utkarsh Palnitkar, national head of the life sciences practice .

Institutes and doctors also point to low salaries, and absence of placements at medical institutes as reasons for doctors looking at B-schools and a career in consulting. "Unless medical schools do something about this, graduates will choose more lucrative opportunities offered by management education," says professor Rajiv Misra, chairperson, placements at XLRI Jamshedpur. Misra feels doctors are hard working and the ability to diagnose ailments and diseases sharpens their analytical abilities, which can be put to good use in streams like consulting. XLRI's executive MBA programme has four doctors this year, up from two last year.

Though his summer internship was with Marico this month, consulting figures high in the list of prized streams for Dhaval Shah, a second-year student at XLRI, who decided to pursue an MBA after doing his MBBS from Rajiv Gandhi Medical College in Thane. Shah dreamt of being a cardiologist, but decided to give it a pass as he realised it meant working in hospitals for seven years before he could think of starting his practice. "The healthcare sector is booming in India, and that explains why doctors like me are opting for an MBA to cash in," he says.

Source: The Economic Times, June 21, 2013

Slowdown scares executives away from IIMs

A two-year mid-career IIM MBA, once keenly desired for its ability to catapult careers, is now turning into a scary option as executives worry the persistent economic slowdown will ruin the job market. Only 219 executives with at least three years work experience have quit their jobs to sign up for such an MBA at six IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) that ET spoke to for this story. Last year, 351 students had signed on for similar MBAs — that's a decline of 37% this year.

In percentage terms, 15% of all students enrolling into these six IIMs last year had at least three years of work experience. This has now declined to just 9%, data collated from IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Indore, Lucknow and Kozhikode show.

"There is a risk associated with leaving a job (to pursue an MBA) in today's economic environment," says Prof. Ashutosh Sinha, Chairman of Admissions at IIM-Lucknow. Adds MJ Xavier, Director, IIM-Ranchi: "People don't want to leave their jobs because of the current economic scenario. The demand for two-year programmes will go down."

Industry sources say companies have shown a preference to hire freshers as they are less expensive and can be moulded the way the companies want. "People are becoming more discerning," says K Ramkumar, Executive Director, ICICI Bank, "When a company hires a person with 3-4-5 years experience there could be an expectation mismatch if the quality of experience is not relevant. There could be fitment or salary issues if the person's experience is not relevant. But freshers, or those with 2-3 years experience, could be easily moulded by an organisation."

This is the first year that the top three IIMs — A, B and C — are witnessing such a decline. This number has been sliding at IIM-Lucknow, Indore, and Kozhikode over the past two years with the proportion of experienced executives signing up for MBAs dropping down to low single digits. The percentage at IIM-Indore, for example, was 44% in 2012 but is down to 5% for the batch starting in 2014. "Professionals are weighing the pros and cons of leaving a job before opting for an MBA.

There are several factors they consider like the chances of getting a better job profile and higher pay which in the current market situation could be risky," says a placement cell member from one of the IIMs. Also, corporate requirements have evolved. "Earlier, they used to hire more people at senior and executive levels from IIMs and hence preferred people with higher work experience," says Sinha from IIM-Lucknow.

"Needs have now changed with more people are required at relatively junior levels in most organisations. Companies obviously find fresh talent more suitable for such roles." Institutes are now also offering one-year 'Executive MBA' programmes. This is also contributing to the decline. "Executive MBAs is another dimension. Executives can save one year," says Prof. SSS Kumar from IIM-Kozhikode.

Source: The Economic Times, June 21, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

UGC to stop funding management departments of universities

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has said it will immediately stop funding the management departments of universities plan to start or upgrade their facilities. In a notice this month, posted on its website, the regulator has asked varsities to settle their grant accounts and dues incurred up to 31 May in this regard.

The UGC had started a scheme of development assistance to management departments in 2007, when there were 1,150 of them in the country, official data show, a number that has swelled to 3,700 in 2012. The move might crimp the supply of management graduates in the job market but is expected to have little impact as India’s growth has slowed to 5% in the year ended March from 9.3% in 2007-08.

The tough economic environment has hit B-schools hard in the past few years. Many top institutions, including the premier Indian Institutes of Management, have struggled to find jobs for all graduates this year because many firms have shrunk hiring plans, Mint reported on 15 March.

The university regulator took the decision because of three reasons — not to allow more management schools to mushroom, stop the trend of new colleges and institutes with management departments taking affiliation from universities after the Supreme Court said in April that B-schools with university affiliation need not take any other approval, and to better manage its finances, according to two government officials aware of the development. Both declined to be named.

The UGC used to give between Rs. 5 million and Rs. 7 million each to the management departments of at least 300 universities every year as recurring cost other than a one-time grant of nearly Rs. 5 million. “The purpose for which this plan was floated seems to have been achieved. In 2013, management education is on a different platform than what it was in 2007,” said one of the government officials.

“Instead of looking at all B-schools with suspicion, higher education regulators need to take action against those that are violating norms. There is clearly a case of a huge number of management institutes growing up in the last few years and it’s important to control it. We should not create a situation where the supply overtakes demand,” said H. Chaturvedi, alternate president of Education Promotion Society of India, and Director, Birla Institute of Management and Technology.

Source: Mint, June 18, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

IIMs get a fair deal with higher intake of women in 2013-15 batch

Women power just got its biggest shot in the arm across campuses of IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) this year with the institutes' efforts to increase their intake of female students yielding significant dividends. Data from the five IIMs at Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow and Indore shows that the institutes are set to welcome a record number of women in the 2013-15 batch. With the exception of IIM-Ahmedabad, which has acceptances from 80 women, the other four will all have more than a hundred women each on their rolls.

Says Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon: "The intake of more women in IIMs will certainly have a positive impact on gender diversity and on building women in leadership roles in corporate India. I do believe that business schools should ensure a minimum percentage of women enrolments and in that context affirmative enrolments are desirable."

The top three IIMs --- Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta --- alone have received a total of 294 acceptances or confirmations from women students so far, as compared to 215 for the 2012-14 batch. The total batch size across these three IIMs, based on acceptances till now, has risen from 1,220 to 1,247 this year, which means that women students comprise around 23.6% of the batch across the top three IIMs this year, compared to 17.6% in the 2012-14 batch.

The acceptance of offers to the IIMs' flagship PGP programme is still ongoing and there may be additions and/or withdrawals till June 17, 2013, at the top three and end-June-early-July for the rest. But all data points to the fact that the final tally of women will easily surpass that of last year.

IIM-Calcutta, which trailed behind the other IIMs till last year on the women students' count, has got its act together this time. By awarding three points out of 100 to female candidates at the shortlisting stage, it has seen women students surge ahead, doubling from 11% (51) of the 462-strong batch last year to 23% (107) this time around. For 2011-13, it was a mere 31.

"Companies are increasingly looking for more women professionals. That apart, women students tend to bring a greater balance and diversity to the classroom in terms of approach and ideas. Giving extra weightage to them was part of the affirmative action IIM Calcutta decided to take," said Prof Sanjeet Singh, Chairperson-Admissions, IIM-C.

Top MBA programmes are usually among the most critical pipelines for future business leaders. Debjani Ghosh, MD - Sales and Marketing, Intel South Asia, see the positives in such initiatives. "Unleashing the power of women in India in corporations, politics and government is a must do. If this great country of ours wants to be seen for whatever it's really worth. And yes, higher education institutes like IIMs need to do their bit to prepare women for the corporate world," she says. She adds: "They must increase their own intake of women and also focus on building the needed level of confidence in the women students. Everybody needs to do their bit to ensure we build a strong workforce for India. Our success depends on it."

The IIMs are certainly doing their share. At IIM-Indore, the number of acceptances from women so far has gone up from 74 out of 453 last year to 126 out of 445 acceptances till now. Six acceptances are still pending but so far the percentage of women stands at 28.3% as opposed to 16.3% of the 453-strong batch of 2013-14.

"It's a welcome development. What's more, it has happened without awarding any special marks to women," said Rohit Kapoor, Admissions Chairperson at IIM-Indore. Ashutosh Sinha, his counterpart at IIM-Lucknow, says that out of 397 confirmations that the institute has received so far, 154 are women. Last year's tally was 162 women out of 450. "But with 53 acceptances yet to come, we are expecting the final tally of women to rise anywhere between 160-170," says Sinha.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 17, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

IITians seek pre-school admission

While higher education is a billion-dollar business, pre-school education (kindergarten) is well on its way to getting there. The rise in nuclear families and increase in disposable incomes have led to greater demand for quality pre-schools even in small towns and non-metros. Indore alone requires over 2,000 such centres, according to industry estimates.

Six months ago, Yograj Patel and Akshay Gupta, two young IITians, decided to tap the potential of this segment and set up a chain of pre-schools in Central India. “Schools are supposed to be non-profit organisations by law and we couldn’t find any investor. That’s when the idea of starting a pre-school came as it requires far less investment and is a lucrative business opportunity,” says Patel. As part of their due diligence, he and Gupta visited schools in Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Indore and Bhopal. ‘Countryside’, the first pre-school in their chain, is set to open in Indore this month.

According to industry estimates, the pre-school market in India is pegged at $770 million (about Rs. 4,460 crore). It is expected to be worth Rs. 13,300 (Rs. 133 billion) crore by 2015-16, according to a Crisil research report. Moreover, this segment currently comprises just 2.5 per cent of India’s urban school-going population, says a report by Religare Institutional Research.

With a seed capital of Rs. 60 million raised through the private equity route, Patel and Gupta plan to open five pre-schools in the next academic session, focusing on Central India, where they hail from. The annual fee at ‘Countryside’ is Rs. 15,000 (playgroup and nursery) and Rs. 18,000 (KG1 and KG2). “Admissions happen mostly in July, so we hope to break-even this year,” says Patel.

The fee may seem steep, but industry experts say parents are ready to spend even up to Rs. 50,000 a year on the education of their two- or three-year-olds. Not surprisingly, some pre-schools have margins as high as 30 per cent.

The pre-school venture has many challenges to overcome, including a limited reach and competition from bigger players such as Eurokids, Treehouse and Kidzee. “We are developing a clearly articulated curriculum and programme to prepare kids for school,” says Patel.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, June 14, 2013

Older central universities yet to warm up to common test

The efforts of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to introduce a common admission test for all 42 central universities in the country has not made much headway, particularly because the older and more well-known of these institutes have not taken to the idea. “There have been a few rounds of meetings, but we have failed to reach any consensus,” said Somnath Dasgupta, Vice-Chancellor of Assam University, in a telephone interview.

Although 10 of the new central universities are agreeable to the move, others including the older central universities have demurred, according to two ministry officials, because they that say in the absence of a concrete mechanism, changing to a new system will dilute their legacy and standards. Both officials declined to be named.

This may have put paid to the ministry’s plan of introducing the new entrance examination in the current academic season, they said. “It may look simple, but it’s really complex. The number of students is huge and there is no clear guideline on how to conduct it,” said Dasgupta. “I have discussed it with my colleagues in our campus, but they too are not very enthusiastic.”

The ministry says this common test will benefit students, who now have to apply separately to all central universities. Also, universities located outside major cities will get students from across India instead of from a particular region, said one of the ministry officials.

Dasgupta was not too sure about this. “As an older university in North-East India, we have to cater to the local population. One of the questions is, can we do that in the proposed system?” he asked. “I think the first point is to develop a mechanism — who will conduct it, who will evaluate, and who will prepare question papers. Before that, we can say it’s a project in the pipeline without any consensus.”

Unlike the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), which admit students based on common admission tests, the common examination for universities is more complex because of the number and variety of programmes on offer and the issue of integrating them in a test consisting of one or two papers, said the head of another central university, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his institution be named.

M.M. Salunkhe, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Rajasthan, which is coordinating the common entrance for the 10 new central universities this year, agreed with this view. Institutions such as Banaras Hindus University, Allahabad University or the University of Delhi have a huge number of programmes, and to streamline them will take time, Salunkhe said.

Surabhi Banerjee, Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Orissa, said the new universities are expecting to get a better pool of students from the common test as awareness of the new universities are not high. Salunkhe said more than 40,000 students will write the common entrance examination in 2013 for entry into the 10 new central universities. The test will take place this weekend. Last year, seven new universities had conducted their selection together.

Source: Mint, June 14, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

UGC Bars Affiliation to Technical Colleges

India’s higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC), has asked all 566 universities not to affiliate any technical or management colleges till guidelines and regulations for technical courses are put in place.

The UGC’s missive comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s April 25 judgment, which put management, or MBA programmes, outside the pale of “technical” education. The top court was of the view that approval from the technical education regulator, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), was not required for MBA programmes offered by private institutions.

The Supreme Court had said that AICTE's role vis-a-vis universities was “only advisory, recommendatory and one of providing guidance, and has no authority empowering it to issue or enforce any sanctions by itself ”. Citing its order in the Bharathidasan University and Parshvanath Charitable Trust case, the court said that AICTE norms could be applied through the UGC. As a result, the AICTE cannot directly “control” or “supervise” these affiliated colleges.

UGC will evolve a suitable methodology to ensure that the standards and quality in technical and engineering colleges affiliated to universities is not diluted. In his letter to vice-chancellors, UGC secretary Akhilesh Gupta wrote, “It is of utmost importance that universities having power of affiliation exercise take due care and diligence while granting permanent affiliation or affiliation to new technical colleges. Any dilution of standards of technical education at this juncture would also belie the trust reposed by the Supreme Court in the sanctity of the autonomy of the universities.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been considering an ordinance to address the legal lacunae highlighted by the court, which made it possible to put management programmes outside the purview of the AICTE. The Supreme Court had pointed out that MBA and MCA courses were brought under AICTE and included in its function through an amendment of its regulations without placing them in Parliament, which was mandatory under Section 24 of the AICTE Act.

HRD minister Pallam Raju had also said that the ministry was considering moving a review petition of the SC order.

Source: The Economic Times, June 13, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ranking of nine top Indian institutes dips: QS Study

Asian universities have gained significant ground at the expense of their Western counterparts, but Indian varsities are not part of the success saga. Data from the latest edition of the "Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)university rankings: Asia" reveal that there are 17% more Asian universities in the top 200 of the world university ranking but nine of the top 10 Indian institutions have slipped in their rankings since last year.

So the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has dropped from 36th rank in 2012 to 38 this year; IIT Bombay has come down to 34 to 39, IIT Madras ranks 49 - down four places from 45, and IIT Kanpur is at 51 from 47. IIT Kharagpur has dropped by two places to 58, and IIT Rourkee by one notch to 66, respectively.

"The reasons for the declining performance of Indian institutions are a decrease in academic reputation, alongside longstanding issues such as high student/faculty ratios and lack of international engagement," QS head of research Ben Sowter said. "While several of the IITs now produce a lot of research, low citation rates suggest it is having a limited impact in global academia," Sowter added.

QS world university rankings is one of the respected annual league table for the top 700 universities in the world with the merit list based on research, teaching, employability and internationalization. The QS World University Rankings is widely referenced by prospective and current students, university professionals and governments worldwide. However, these rankings have been disputed by the Indian government.

In comparison to a total of 11 Indian universities that have made it to the top 300 of the world university rankings, there are 71 from Japan, China (68) and Korea (53).

Nunzio Quacquarelli, Managing Director of QS, said, "There are already 17% more Asian universities in the top 200 of the world university rankings since the recession, and the next two decades could see leading US and European universities objectively overtaken.''

"Asian higher education is undergoing a rapid transformation, and Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Korea are at the forefront of the assault on the global academic elite," said Sowter. "As Western governments struggle to maintain funding levels, Asian institutions have rapidly increased their ability to attract the world's best faculty and students," he added. "As the cost of studying rises in North America and the UK, Asia is reversing the brain drain by investing in scholarships to attract top students from the West," Sowter explained.

The rankings provide less encouraging news for Japan, which sees its top institution, University of Tokyo slip to ninth, its lowest ever position. Of the leading 10 Japanese universities, only one ranks higher than last year, while six rank lower.

Source: The Times of India, June 11, 2013

Fees go up, study abroad 30% dearer

A student going abroad to study this year will be paying a good 30% more than what he would have paid three years ago. Factoring in the increase in tuition fee and the falling value of rupee, a foreign degree, both undergraduate and postgraduate, is getting increasingly expensive. Yet, students, education consultants and even private financing agencies say the rising costs are a nuisance but do not influence the decision to go abroad.

Neeraj Saxena, business head at Avanse Education Loans, says the bulk of students going to the US go for 'MS' (postgraduate engineering) or MBA courses. "An MS or MBA will cost Rs. 2.5 million at least and may cost as much as Rs. 7 million at the better universities in the US," says Saxena. An undergraduate course comes with a tag of about Rs. 14 million. "Over the last three years, there would have been a 20-25 % increase in tuition fees alone and also an increase in conversion rates." His estimates cover the tuition fee and basic living expenses .

"The increasing price structure and devaluation of the rupee is making foreign education nearly unaffordable ," says Lata Vaidyanathan, "Going abroad is always Plan B. But if even with 90% students can't get in a good college and have a range of other qualifications , they go abroad."

Rajiv Gupta, CEO, EGE Global Education, makes the same point — a good score not ensuring a seat in a popular college due to rising cutoffs is pushing a lot of students to opt out of the Indian system. "If you have scored more than 90 and dreamt of going to a top college , you wouldn't want to settle for a C-grade institution especially if you have the resources for an education abroad," he says.

There are roughly three categories of students going abroad — those who have substantial scholarships (70% or more), those with about 20%- 30% scholarships and the self-financing group. It's the second group, with partial scholarships, which is likely to be most affected. However, as Gupta says, if you are paying Rs. 9 million any way, you will find another Rs. 500,000-600,000.

"If I can pay Rs.100, I can pay Rs. 102," says Prabhmeher Singh Nanda who completed Class XII from Modern School, Barakhamba Road and is going to study business at King's College, London. He has worked his finances out; he'll need £ 26,000-27 ,000 to cover the essentials — tuition and living costs. "The way I see it, it's an investment and 2-3 % difference shouldn't affect if or where you are going. If the rupee can depreciate, it can also appreciate," he says. "And over three years," he says, "The rates will even out."

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 11, 2013

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Private universities set to be future of quality education in India

"Ruined result, ruined career, ruined life" — Facebook status of Aman, a Delhi student after the CBSE class 12 results a fortnight ago. Aman (name changed on request) scored 90%. That evidently isn't enough for the 17-year-old to dream of a career. And a life. The cut-off at Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), University of Delhi's (DU) bellwether for higher studies in commerce and economics, was 96.5% to 98.5% in 2012. At other perceived top colleges of India, it's nothing less than 95%. If Aman thinks his life is ruined, it's clearly because 90% isn't going to get him admission to SRCC or any other of the country's Tier I colleges.

While he will later learn in life that marks are not necessarily the most accurate barometer of success, unfortunately at the moment Aman may be right. And he's not alone. There are tens of thousands of Indian students all over the country who aren't assured of quality education not because they didn't score top marks but simply because the Indian education system cannot accommodate so many overachievers.

The bottom line: if you are not right up there at the top of the heap, you will miss out on quality education. The other option is for parents to fork out a small fortune and send their children to universities abroad. It's an option only for the elite.

If it's not about cut-offs at universities it's about those cut up with them. Ishita Batra, 18, is among the 7,231 students in India who have crossed the 95% threshold in their class XII results for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) this year. Batra, a student of Delhi Public School (DPS), RK Puram, scored a neat 95.6% in the science stream.

Lure of Foreign Lands
But it won't be an Indian institute for her from hereon. After getting admission into half a dozen universities abroad, Batra has chosen to head to University of Pennsylvania to do a major in biology in a couple of months. Given an option, she would have stayed back in India for her undergrad education. But Batra didn't see any option.
"Indian education is inflexible. And I don't have much faith in how the four-year undergrad programme will be implemented by DU," she says with a shrug. DU's executive council has approved a shift from a three-year to a four-year undergraduate programme. At the time of writing, DU had begun the admission processes and sold over 90,000 forms, including all categories, in the first three days.

This shift in the cornerstone of undergraduate education is just one of the changes playing out on the landscape of Indian education. The DU move has polarised the country's capital (more of that later), but less controversial — and arguably more promising — is a slow yet decisive shift that centres on the advent of quality education through private universities at the undergrad level. The shift is not without challenges, but if it comes through it promises to transform the education ecosystem in India.

Says TV Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education: "Students are now beginning to choose quality over lower fees, are looking for assured employability, have more choices than before and have more financial power to pay fees than before. We see the beginnings of a flight to quality. In engineering and management, many mediocre institutions are closing down and that is very good news."

"Let's face it," adds Dhiraj Mathur, Executive Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a consultancy, "Apart from the big universities like DU, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, etc, the standard of education in most government colleges is at best spotty. Private universities can play an important role in bridging the gap between demand and supply of quality education." He adds that because of greater autonomy, the private brigade has more flexibility in designing innovative programmes, "including the semester system".

For now, semesters are largely the privilege of the well-heeled, who can afford to step overseas for further learning. The cost of a year's education at an Ivy League university is prohibitive at around $60,000, or upwards of Rs. 3 million. Batra was among the few lucky ones to get 60% financial aid at Penn. Still, with or without aid, more and more youngsters who are unable to get into the domestic top league are taking flight to the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and to some universities in Europe.

Sample these numbers from Princeton University, one of the Ivy League universities. The number of undergraduate students enrolled from India in the 2006-07 academic year was 14; that has gone up to 59 in 2012-13. At Yale University, too, there has been an increase in the number of undergraduates from India. "Our enrollment of undergraduate students from India has more than doubled from a decade ago," says a university spokesperson.

Private Universities, Ahoy For those who can't afford milllion of rupees, private universities are a sliver of hope. They won't come cheap, either, compared to current fees in domestic universities of just Rs. 10,000 per year for some DU courses; but, at between Rs. 300,000 and Rs. 500,000 annually, they won't be as exorbitant as the foreign ones, either.
"Private universities will play a significant role in meeting the demand and supply gap. Those who enrol students in thousands will make a big impact," says Nikhil Sinha, Vice-Chancellor of Shiv Nadar University (SNU), which is in the third year of its maiden four-year undergrad degree programme. But it's not just about soaking in more students; as Sinha points out, the new age universities are better placed to provide "broad-based education, a combination of liberal arts and professional education".

Agrees PwC's Mathur: "There is a growing awareness about the merits of a broad-based liberal arts programme. High-quality institutions like SNU are taking the lead in adopting this important innovation." "Private universities will lead the change over the next 10 years. They are more focused; being fee-based, they know they have to attract students and deliver value; [but] they need to have a good management to survive and grow," adds Pai.

Ashoka University, which has not yet come into existence, has more than 100,000 likes on its Facebook page. The university will be a full-fledged liberal arts institute and begins session in June 2014. "At Ashoka University, we are talking about liberal education, which is the notion of combining specialisation and general education," says Pramath Sinha, one of the founders.

Sweet Spot
Perhaps there is a certain inevitability about private universities in higher education simply because of the sheer scale of investment required and the challenges that abound. As RK Pandey, President of NIIT University, puts it: "India's higher education system faces challenges on three fronts: expansion, equity and excellence." He adds there are other challenges, ranging from a low gross enrolment ratio (GER, or total enrolment at specific levels of education as a percentage of the population), inequitable access to education, and lack of quality research.

The government has set a target of 30% GER in higher education by 2020. Pandey says achieving that target — the GER currently is 18.8% — calls for an estimated investment of $190 billion. "Given the size of the investment required, the private sector needs to play a much larger role," adds the NIIT University President. Sinha of Ashoka University has a clear idea of his potential market — not those who want to study medicine, engineering, and commerce.

"Some will go to Xavier's and Stephen's, they won't come to us. But after this level, quality [of institutions] goes downhill. That's the sweet spot we have," adds Sinha, a former partner at McKinsey and founding dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB).

Four-year vs Three
The four-year undergraduate system is one of the decisive shifts being witnessed in the Indian higher education system. Although the intent and objective is to address some lacunae in the existing system, its success and failure will purely depend on its implementation. One reason DPS' Batra has chosen to look overseas for further education is that she feels she and her mates have become the guinea pig batch of the CBSE — the new system of CCE (continuous and comprehensive evaluation) started with them, class X boards were scrapped; and, now as the batch is entering college, DU is replacing the three-year system with a four-year undergrad programme.

"In principle, the four-year programme is nice, but then we know that the first batch of every new system faces chaos. I don't want that instability," says Batra. "It would have been ideal if considerable public debate had happened before implementing the system to avoid the present controversy," says KR Sekar, Partner at consultants Deloitte Haskins & Sells.

Amity University, Noida, a private university that admits 7,000 undergrads annually, is averse to the change. "The three-year degree is more than sufficient. One year of a student's life is very valuable. Plus, there are additional costs: residential, and opportunity cost of not working among others, says Atul Chauhan, Chancellor of Amity University.
The newer universities seem more open to accepting the four-year system. Ashoka University, for instance, is looking at a four-year undergrad degree, with two years of general education and the other two for specialised education — just like the way it is in the US. "To be able to provide breadth through general education, you need time. In three years you cannot do what you want to do," says Pramath Sinha.

SNU, too, feels four years is the right timeframe for a degree. It gives students adequate time to build a basic foundation in a range of subjects, and even have the opportunity to change their minds about subjects. "The four-year programme was not pre-conceived; it was the outcome of wanting to meet these objectives," says SNU's Nikhil Sinha.

Building a Base
DU vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh avers that "education needs a totally different approach", and hence the four-year degree. "Indian universities and institutes of higher education are not in tune with Indian society," he had said a few weeks ago. The four-year degree has its advantages. "It will enhance quality of education and create better graduates. A four-year course gives students enough time to learn and grow. As there is a choice of opting out in two or three or four years, students can change course and ensure that they study what interests them too. Over time this will make a qualitative difference to graduates," reckons Pai.

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman of staffing firm TeamLease Services and founder of one of India's first vocational education universities, also sees good coming out of this change. "DU is a lighthouse for Indian education and these changes should spark changes nationally. And frankly the fourth year is an option that I don't anticipate most students will take. Few realise that half of US college enrolment is in two-year associate degree programmes. Only 30% of these students go onto their four-year degrees," he says.

Massification of higher education requires diversity; multiple on and off ramps will create flexibility that makes the current one size fits all redundant, Sabharwal adds. However, the four-year degree is hardly the panacea for all ills of the education system. "There is nothing that prescribes that the US or the UK model is the best for India," says George Joseph, Assistant Secretary at Yale University. The issues Indian education faces have to be sorted out in a unique and indigenous manner because the systems of governance, regulation and education are different in India, adds Joseph.

The New World
Last year in August, Indranjan Banerjee, 19, a BA English student at Shiv Nadar University, did what 54,000 students will attempt to do this year at DU — be a part of the four-year undergrad degree. A student of ICSE board from Kolkata, Banerjee chose the university primarily because it offers a four-year degree. "A four-year degree gives a lot of opportunity to research. In every course you do research and present papers. I would get to do an undergraduate thesis. No other university gives you that opportunity," he says.

Nipun Thakurele, 20, a batch senior to Banerjee and doing his second year of BS, mathematics with a minor in economics, had got an 88.6% in class XII. A recipient of tuition-fee and hostel-fee waiver, he says: "The research work from day one has done wonders to my learning."

In most undergraduate programmes in India, students do not do research. "However, private institutes can be progressive and more innovative because they are not burdened with having to follow the same set of regulations," says Joseph, who is keenly watching the shift in the Indian education system. He hopes to see experimentation, competing models, three-year and four-year programmes along with non-rigid or set curriculum.

Money Matters
If fees for the new age universities run into lakhs, that's because running high-quality institutes require resources. It's not inexpensive to maintain world-class labs and hire world-class faculty. "We cannot apologise for the fact that highquality institutes require resources," avers Joseph. Yale does not derive the majority of operating income from students. It has an endowment of $20-billion plus. A new university in India does not have that option, he says.

Anurag Behar, Vice-Chancellor of Azim Premji University (APU), a Bangalore-based private university, acknowledges that education is an enterprise that is hard to sustain financially. But trying to recoup operating costs from fees is not feasible, he says. "One has to recognise that the enterprise of education cannot be sustained from those who benefit from it. Over a period of time, you have to have a fund-raising engine. The new age universities are smart enough to do that," explains Behar. He adds that one has to have a "degree of patience and you need around 10 years to see shoots of success".

Established by the Azim Premji Foundation, APU is one of the few new institutes that is not in it for the money. "We should distinguish between two types of universities: one is philanthropic and the other has commercial intent," says Behar. "The fact is nowhere in the world is a robust education sustainable with for-profit capital," he claims.

For the moment, though, the new age private universities have other things to worry about. Pai lists out the three biggest challenges: autonomy, freedom from bad regulation and government control, and freedom to decide their own destiny. "All regulators seem bent on ensuring low-quality similar education all over India. They intend to cater to mediocre institutions that toe the line. Even the accreditation is inputbased not output-based," says Pai.

Global Network
To understand the damage caused by bad regulations and centralised control he cites an example. At the time of Independence in 1947, Madras University, Bombay University, Calcutta University, Mysore University would have been among the top 200 universities of the world. Today after 50 years of the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and government control through the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), none of them figure in the top 200 and have only gone down, some into oblivion. "This is what centralised control and lack of autonomy have done to our universities," laments Pai.

SNU's Nikhil Sinha says the paucity of faculty has the potential to derail the best-laid plans of universities, new and old. "Like most institutes, we have fewer faculties than we want. We will not fill positions unless we have quality faculty," he says. His wish list for dealing with this scarcity is rather ambitious. He cites the example of China that has a programme for sending students abroad to do PhDs and come back and teach. They also send faculty abroad. "We need our government to think on those lines," says Sinha.

Partnerships too can help. "Institutes like Yale can work in India. Research collaborations are important as are faculty-exchange programmes," adds the SNU Vice-Chancellor. Ashish Dhawan, one of the co-founders of Ashoka University and founder and CEO of Central Square Foundation, an education-focused philanthropy fund, says building credibility by recruiting high-quality faculty and attracting talented students is the way to go.

"We have access to world-class faculty and strong partnerships with globally renowned schools. For Ashoka, we will recruit from all over the world." At last count, Ashoka University had sent out two offers to "very renowned faculty in the US for English literature".

Faculty, however, can be a differentiator up to a point. After all, as Sabharwal says, just like war is too important to be left to generals, education is too important to be left only to teachers. The onus is on the new age universities to create a comprehensive experience that will convince students that — to paraphrase Einstein — their education is no longer interfering with their learning.

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

Friday, June 07, 2013

Training 500 million People by ’22 Unrealistic: Government Think-Tank

The Manmohan Singh government’s target of skilling 500 million people by 2022 is grossly inflated and is based on a speech by late management guru CK Prahalad instead of any demographic analysis. The country would actually need only about half that number of trained manpower by then, the government’s own think-tank, the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), has said in a research paper.

The IAMR, housed under the Planning Commission, has pegged the number of people who need to be trained by 2022 at 249 million to 290 million people in three different scenarios. “The 500 million number is a serious over-estimate,” Santosh Mehrotra, Director General of the institute, told ET. This target was first enunciated by Manmohan Singh in 2007 and was enshrined as the key objective of the National Skill Development Policy (NSDP) ratified by the cabinet in 2009.

In 2010, the prime minister acknowledged that the magic figure came from Prahalad’s vision for India after 75 years of independence, outlined at a speech in New York. The Michigan university professor said India has the potential to become the world’s “largest pool of technically trained manpower”. “(Prof Prahalad) was the moving spirit behind what motivated and what propelled the idea of skill development in the last four or five years,” Singh said.

The government has so far brushed aside the IAMR’s views as any dilution in the skill development target would constitute an embarrassment. Nearly two dozen ministries and agencies have been assigned targets to train millions to achieve the ambitious task of making half a billion employable in a decade.

Mehrotra said a sound method must be used to estimate the skills gaps. “The correct way to arrive at our skilling target would need a ground-up approach with a combination of census and sample survey undertaken systematically across the country,” he said. “India’s current labour force is 470 million and there’s an assumption it will grow phenomenally just because of the surge in population.”

The window of opportunity called the “Demographic Dividend” is available to India only till 2040, said an IAMR research paper that has flagged a number of concerns about the 500 million target. “Before devising the skill development strategy, a task of greater importance is to estimate the magnitude of the challenge and to assess the skill gap,” said the paper reviewed by ET.

The current goal, for instance, doesn’t define skills, doesn’t account for the millions in general academic education, and expects a massive exodus of workers from agriculture. The IAMR has estimated that at the most, 290 million people need to be trained, including 100 million who must acquire at least 10 years of schooling, new labour force entrants who need vocational training and those already in the workforce that need more formal training. As of now, just 45% of India’s non-agricultural workforce has 10 years of schooling.

The IAMR had first raised its doubts about the skill development targets during the formulation of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan last year, but the target was left untouched. Yet, for the plan, a modest target of training 50 million has been adopted. This leaves the government with the almost impossible task of training 450 million people in the Thirteenth Plan period that culminates in 2022. To put that in context, India’s official training capacity as of now is around four million a year, though it is not fully utilised.

Industry officials working with the government on skill development admit there’s a problem. “We have our doubts about the 500 million training target, but it’s for the government to introspect and reorient its policy response, for which they first need to acknowledge that the number is probably incorrect,” said a senior industry official on conditions of anonymity, adding that the specific targets for every ministry and agency to attain the 500 million mark seem to have been assigned randomly.

Source: The Economic Times, June 7, 2013

Central universities add satellite campuses in remote areas

Central universities are opening satellite campuses in remote locations in a move ostensibly driven by the desire to provide quality education to people in those areas, but the move, one academic points out, may be driven by a desire to score points with the electorate ahead of general election scheduled for 2014.

Indeed, the Union government, under whose Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) central universities fall, is already taking credit for opening more Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in smaller towns in a high-decibel ad campaign that many see as part of the government and the Congress Party’s extended run-up to the election.

On Friday, HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju will lay the foundation of Hyderabad-based English and Foreign Languages University’s (EFLU) campus in Shillong. Last week, Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University announced its Srinagar campus, and Aligarh-based Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), after opening satellite campuses in Kerala and West Bengal, is setting up a campus in Bihar, expected to be operational in two months.

“Less than 20% of the Indians eligible for pursuing higher education are in the university system and there is a need to increase this base. And central universities’ willingness to fill this gap is good move,” an MHRD official said, adding that the Union government is willing to extend financial help to such initiatives. The official asked not to be identified.

The academic mentioned in the first instance, who did not want to be identified, highlighted that both Shillong and Srinagar are dominated by so-called minority communities (Christians and Muslims, respectively) and offered this as evidence of the political motivation behind the expansion.

Rahat Abrar, a spokesman for AMU, said that as a “historical institution”, the university believes it can take education to so-called disadvantaged locations, a view the HRD minister expressed during a meeting with university vice-chancellors in February. Abrar said that in the satellite campuses in Jangipura in West Bengal and Malappuram in Kerala, AMU has started career-oriented courses such as a Bachelor’s in Law and Master’s in Business Administration. It will also launch a Bachelor’s in education course on both campuses, he said.

“In Bihar, too, we will do the same from the coming academic session,” Abrar said. “The demand is for professional courses and we are offering it.” Each of AMU’s satellite campuses has around 300 acres of land. “All the states have given us land for free,” Abrar said.

As for EFLU’s campus in Shillong, the HRD ministry official quoted above said students in North-East India will benefit as the region does not have enough institutes to train people in professional courses. “The youngsters in the North-East have a good command over English, but need training to get employable. If we can create teachers and language experts, it will benefit the education system as well as countries who seek teachers from India,” added this person. Several countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, African nations and Sri Lanka seek English teachers from India.

“There is a clear need for higher education in less-developed states. And when credible private players don't enter those markets, it’s essential that existing credible government players expand,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, Partner and Head, Education Practice, at consulting firm KPMG Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd. Such new campuses must also focus on contemporary curricula, industry interaction and offer skill-based courses catering to local job markets, Ramaswamy added.

Maulana Azad National Urdu University’s Srinagar campus will offer skill-based courses in areas ranging from trade to business management in both regular and distant education models, said the MHRD official mentioned earlier. “The government has made attempts earlier to bring Kashmiris to mainstream India, and this national university opening a campus in Srinagar is another step. While for the university it is a brand extension, for people it will better their job and livelihood prospect thorough education,” said the official.

Source: Mint, June 7, 2013

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

What is holding back India's $80 billion education industry

There are schools, colleges and coaching centres to be run, course content to be created, online learning to be offered and educational aids to be sold. "Private venture totals no more than $750 million of this," says Srikanth Iyer, CEO of Pearson Education India, a global education services provider. "They have not even scratched the surface."

Worse, in the mere act of trying to scratch the surface, every segment of the vast landscape that makes up the education business is being tested, on different fronts. In the past three months, CARE Ratings, a credit rating agency, has lowered the credit worthiness of three early success stories: Educomp and Core Education (from low risk to moderate risk) and Everonn Education (from below investment to default). The market value of the largest private education services provider, the 19-year-old Educomp SolutionsBSE -4.90 % that went public in 2006, has tumbled below Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion), from Rs. 7,000 crore (Rs. 70 billion) in 2009.

Venture capital and private equity funds prefer a ringside view to backing education start-ups. According to VC fund Canaan Partners, of the $800 million invested by VCs in India in 2012, less than 5% went to education ventures. Another VC Helion Venture Partners has just two education start-ups in its list of 45 investments.

"Education is not a top priority for the venture industry as bellwethers shape sentiment and they are struggling. I can't see secular growth in the education business," says Sanjeev Aggarwal, Managing Director of Helion. Private initiatives have barely written their prologue on the education opportunity, and are being tested on four broad fronts.

Test 1: Regulation
The biggest part of this $80 billion opportunity is schools: running them or supplying educational aids to them. There are 1.3 million schools in India, of which 1.1 million are government. According to the Planning Commission, India's gross enrolment ratio (GER) — percentage of eligible population with access to education — is just 14 percent, compared to 70 percent in developed countries and 23 percent in Asian countries.

In order to keep costs under check, government rules disincentivise private players from running schools and colleges by disallowing profits to be taken out of the entity running these institutions. "A business group can't set up a for-profit degree college or a CBSE school," says Dhiraj Mathur, Leader - Learning Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) an audit and consultancy firm. "They have to do it via a trust."

This route is messy, operating on the edges of regulation. The trust pays other group companies for services provided to the school, and thus profits are transferred. "Funds like to invest in sectors where regulation is well-defined and profit taking is not looked down upon. In education, you have to work within the constraints of regulation," says Rahul Khanna, managing director of Canann Partners, a venture fund. "This makes education different from a regular business," adds Gaurav Kachru, Founder 5Ideas, a $10 million venture fund that is keen on the education sector.

Test 2: Payment & Governance
As a result, according to Shantanu Prakash, CMD of Educomp, about 70% of the industry's revenues from schools come from being a vendor: setting up computer labs, or supplying computer-based learning kits and content. Imagine a teacher making a photosynthesis lesson come alive via videos. Private players have sold such kits to about 30,000 schools: Educomp sells them under the brand SmartClass and HCL DigiClass.

The government is their largest customer, and getting paid on time is proving to be a challenge. Everonn Education's receivables shot up 87% to Rs. 390 crore (Rs. 3.9 billion) in 2011-12, even as the average time taken to realise these payments rose from 180 days in 2010-11 to 348 days in 2011-12. The fear also is that companies may not recover some of this money. "Receivables is a challenge," says Prakash of Educomp, which is facing similar stress. "There is a two to six months delay, but you do get paid."

HCL Infosystems, which entered this space about two-anda-half years and has built a Rs. 150 crore (Rs. 1.5 billion) business, has circumvented the payments challenge by looking beyond government work. It means giving a miss to 95% of the market, but it's easier on payments. "You have to find schools that are willing to pay for content," says Rothin Bhattacharya, Executive Vice President - Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions and marketing, HCL. "Our NPAs are less than 2% compared to those with government school exposure of 40%-plus."

All the three big listed companies in this business — Educomp, Everonn and Core Education — have seen unusual movements in their share prices, raising corporate governance concerns. For instance, Core Education, 80% of whose business comes from setting up computer labs in government schools, saw its stock sink 80% in just three days in February, a movement that is currently being probed by capital market regulator. "Quite a few education ventures are run by people who have nothing to do with education," says P Phani Sekhar, fund manager, portfolio management services, Angel Broking. "They are more into stock price manipulation. At a level, it is as bad as the real estate business, where transactions are not clear."

Meena Ganesh, co-founder of online coaching venture TutorVista, points out that the pursuit of quarterly profits is also to blame for the governance notoriety associated with the sector. "Education needs capital that is patient and willing to wait. It takes at least five to seven years to make money," she says. "A focus on quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) performance won't lead to best business behaviour. This leads to governance challenges."

TutorVista was founded in 2006, broke-even in three years and was sold to Pearson. "It was an attractive offer," says Ganesh. She credits the quick growth to an asset-light model - by comparison, hardware involved locking in capital - and students paying upfront for the coaching. This model has been followed by others, including InfoEdge-funded Meritnation, which began in 2009 and charges Rs. 3,000-Rs. 4,000 per student per year for its online school content.

Test 3: Innovation

Even as the industry blames external factors for its struggles, it faces issues within, chiefly an inability to innovate. "There are enough copy cats and no new models," says Enayet Kabir, Associate Vice-President & Head - Education, Technopak Advisors. "People have a perception that you can easily make money in education. Most companies have some version of a computer-based teaching, which Educomp started, or an NIIT type teaching institute."

Alternatively, they find comfort in the unregulated space, in the tried-and-tested business of running pre-schools and coaching institutes. These, too, have barriers. "You need scale to make money," says Aggarwal of Helion. "In the coaching part, it is very single city centric, like IIT coaching in Kota. The advantage is it's a negative working capital business (all money is collected upfront from students). The disadvantage is lack of ability to scale as educationists run it rather than businessmen."

Kabir points to innovations like MOOCS (massively open online courses) in the US. These are essentially online courses that also enable student-teacher interaction over the Internet. Coursera is the largest MOOCS company. He also points to lack of innovation in using YouTube or social media in education in India, like Edmodo in the US, which is kind of a Facebook for schools, bringing together parents, teachers and students online. Prakash of Educomp says such critique belies local realities. "Broadband penetration in India is limited and it's too early to use social media for education," he says.

Companies are taking small initiatives. Educomp, for example, is bundling tablets with course content in partnership with Intel. Another company AISECT, which is into education, training and skill development, recently started offering school learning on a pen drive, retailing between Rs. 1,000 (single language and single-class content) and Rs. 20,000 (all classes from I to XII). "The penetration of multimedia in schools is less than 2%," says Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, Director, Sales & Marketing, AISECT. "Besides, India easily needs more than 20,000 new schools in the next few years. There's plenty of headroom for growth."

Elsewhere, Pearson is diversifying from publishing books to technology-based business lines. For example, its consultants, backed by a software, help streamline a school's timetable and build its brand. Pearson is doing this currently for 30 schools and plans to increase it to 100 by this year. The company will soon launch tablet-based learning courses, on Micromax and Samsung tablets.

Cracking the Code
Despite the challenges, companies believe this is a business for the future. "If you stay away from a valuation game, it is the best business to be in," says Bhattacharya. "Today, the education business is largely content for classrooms. It will follow the child from school to home -- content, test preparation, assessments, remedial path."

According to Jyotsana Gadgil, Joint General Manager - Corporate Ratings, CARE, some firms adopted aggressive growth strategies and are over-leveraged. "But the overall outlook for the education business remains positive," she adds, pointing to programmes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (education for all) and the Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, for which the government has earmarked Rs. 31,000 crore (Rs. 310 billion).

The general consensus seems to be to avoid capital-intensive businesses for now. "Companies that focus on asset-light models — like supplying technology or training to schools — and steer clear of ambiguous areas will see a lot of opportunity," says Aggarwal of Helion.

Sekhar of Angel Broking, who feels the early success of Educomp created a lot of hype, says it's tougher for listed companies. "You need to show cash flows," he adds. "But the faster you grow, the more debt you accumulate. And slowing down will hammer your stock. It's a double whammy. And lack of innovation adds to the woes." His advise to education businesses is to avoid government contracts and not go for scale straight away. "In this business small is beautiful, as margins are good."

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 4, 2013

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Government sets up agency to streamline entrance exams

After successfully completing the first common engineering entrance exam for all central government-funded technical colleges, the government on Friday announced the setting up of a National Testing Agency (NTA) to streamline all such high-profile competitions. These include the Common Management Aptitude Test (CMAT) and the National Eligibility Test (NET).

The new agency will handle such tests instead of regulators such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

“The rationale for setting up the NTA lies in ensuring that multiplicity of entrance examination leading to stress on the students is addressed in a comprehensive manner by formulating a uniform entrance examination for admissions in different branches of higher learning,” the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said in a statement.

The ministry also set up a seven-member task force led by Sanjay Dhande, the former director of IIT-Kanpur that will have representatives from CBSE, UGC, AICTE, the National Council of Education, Research and Training (NCERT) and the MHRD.

“Among the three wings of education—teaching, learning and evaluation—the third one is the worse off. The effort is to professionalize that and build expertise in this domain,” said Dhande. “The new agency will be a body like ETS (Educational Testing Service) of the US,” Dhande said.

ETS conducts examinations such as Graduation Record Examination (GRE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Evaluation is about building expertise in areas such as psychometry, statistics and domain knowledge and NTA will engage with that, he said.

NTA will be a professional body that will use external test delivery agencies to conduct competitions, according to an MHRD official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), NET, the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) and similar other entrance exams can be conducted by private entities under the supervision of the NTA.

While CMAT is an entrance exam for graduate courses run by B-schools under the AICTE, GATE is an entrance test for postgraduate courses and doctoral programmes in the IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. GATE is also used by some public sector undertakings (PSUs) to select entry-level candidates.

NET is conducted for determining the eligibility of candidates for junior research fellowships and lectureships at various Indian universities and colleges. Currently GATE is conducted by the IITs, NET by UGC, CMAT by AICTE and CTET by CBSE. More than five million students sit for these tests every year.

The MHRD said that the task force will prepare a blueprint for “creating a special purpose vehicle” to take the NTA forward. The ministry expects NTA to start conducting tests in 2014. The ministry said the plan was discussed with state education ministers in the first week of April.

Besides education regulators and institutes, the ministry has already interacted with a few private testing agencies that can be roped in as test delivery partners. “We have attended at least two rounds of dialogue and they are open to the idea of partnering private players,” said the head of a testing firm requesting anonymity.

Source: Mint, June 1, 2013

Ahead of 2014 polls, government plans universities for minorities

The Centre is mulling setting up five universities with 50% seats reserved for religious minorities, a "Muslim outreach" by Congress ahead of the 2014 elections. The universities will come up in the hubs of Muslim and Christian population in five states.

"These universities will have 50% reservation for minorities with socio-economic backwardness as key determinant. Minorities are not just religious groups but also social groups as mentioned in Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution (for affirmative action)," minority affairs minister K. Rahman Khan told TOI.

While a university in Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, the constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, is being considered, one in Srirangapatna in Karnataka seems a certainty. Bihar and Bengal will also get one each while one in Buddhist centre of Nagpur is still to be decided.

The Sukhdeo Thorat Committee has given the opinion that central universities for religious minorities can be set up through an act of Parliament, dispelling concerns about legal challenges in the wake of court battles over religious quota.

To further bolster the backward factor in promoting minorities, the Centre may introduce "creamy layer" to sieve out the well-off among minorities for admission to these institutes, as is prevalent for OBCs in employment and education.

Sources argued that universities with focused clientele were legally viable, citing examples of Ambedkar University in Lucknow that has 50% quota for SCs (Scheduled Castes) and Amarkantak Tribal University in Madhya Pradesh.

Given the controversy over the "minority character" of AMU and Jamia Millia, now facing legal challenge, minister Rahman Khan argued he was not interested in the nomenclature so long as it was focused on promoting education among minorities. "Even in AMU and Jamia, which have minority character, half of the seats have to go to non-minorities," he said.

While the move will elicit a strong reaction from the BJP, the ruling Congress is keen to bolster its "Muslim outreach" by rolling out the decision in the run-up to elections. The targeting of generic minority group barely hides the fact that Muslims comprise 72% of the total population of minorities that include Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis. The Centre plans to subdivide the 50% minority quota among all five in proportion to their population.

Crucially, Khan said these universities will fall under the minority affairs ministry, keeping their salience in focus. Otherwise, higher educational institutes are the mandate of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), even minority institutes like AMU and Jamia.

Source: The Times of India, June 1, 2013

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