Thursday, October 31, 2013

Indian students to benefit from Australia's new visa regime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

University of Chicago to open India Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mint, October 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pre-placement offers roll in steadily at IITs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Economic Times, October 8, 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013

India tries to lure foreign colleges to cash in demographic dividend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mint, October 3, 2013

Panjab University steals a march over IITs in global rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Business Standard, October 3, 2013

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