Tuesday, December 31, 2013

UGC: New technical education norms not for diploma courses

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Times of India, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Indian Government to ease norms for African students

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Times of India, December 22, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Amity university gets HRD nod to set up campus in UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Times of India, December 20, 2013

Private universities match IT giants in hiring at IITs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Economic Times, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bengal government introduces new policy for technical education

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

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

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

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

Manipal University breaks into top 100 universities in BRICS countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 IITs in top 20 BRICS universities list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Times of India, December 17, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Times of India, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Times of India, December 14, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

New IITs face a rough placement ride this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Economic Times, December 13, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Government sets up two funds to underwrite education loans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mint, December 11, 2013

Monday, December 09, 2013

UK unveils Rs. 100 million worth scholarship program for India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 06, 2013

UGC issues new draft guidelines to regulate technical colleges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mint, December 6, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

10 Indian universities in list of top 100 in BRICS countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Economic Times, December 5, 2013

Sunday, December 01, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Economic Times, December 1, 2013

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