Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Courses from 3 IITs, IISc are in global top 50

Four Indian universities, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Delhi and Mumbai, are among the global top 50 in at least one of the 30 disciplines covered under the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

IIT-Delhi achieved the country's highest position, ranking 42nd in electrical engineering. IIT-Bombay was 49th in electrical engineering and 50th in civil engineering, IIT-Madras 49th in civil engineering and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore 46th in materials science.

No course from Indian universities figure in areas such as arts, humanities and social sciences. IIT-Bombay is the only one in the top 200 in any of the five arts and humanities disciplines, ranking in the 151-200 grouping for linguistics.

The five life sciences disciplines feature only two Indian institutions, while India draws a blank in six of the eight social sciences disciplines. The exceptions are statistics, in which five Indian institutions— IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Kanpur, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) and IIT-Bombay — feature, and politics, in which Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) appears in the 101-150 grouping.

All round, IIT-B emerges as the top institution with four of its courses making it to the rankings. "The IITs continue to perform well in their specialist areas and the inclusion of three of them in the global top 50 in the engineering disciplines shows that they are starting to achieve genuine international renown," said QS head of research Ben Sowter. On the other hand, the lack of world-renowned Indian programmes in arts, humanities and social sciences continues to be a concern, Sowter said. "The absence of Indian universities from the top 200 in subjects such as medicine, law, economics, accounting and finance underlines the difficulty India faces in reversing the tide of talented students leaving the country to study these disciplines abroad," he added.

"The latest QS rankings highlight the excellence of the specialist Indian institutions in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) area and also identifies the need to improve the global competitiveness of our universities, in particular the large and comprehensive institutions," said Mohandas Pai, Chairman, ICAA — Indian Centre for Assessment & Accreditation.

The encouraging performance of the IITs in engineering and technology fits into a pattern of strong performances by Asian institutions in the STEM disciplines. Asia accounts for 10 of the top 30 institutes in chemical, civil and electrical engineering, and eight in mechanical engineering, showing that several institutions in the region can now be considered serious global players.

National University of Singapore (NUS) makes the global top 10 in all five engineering and technology disciplines, while Hong Kong accounts for three of the top 20 institutions for computer science: the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (11th), the University of Hong Kong (14th), and Chinese University of Hong Kong (18th).

"The STEM disciplines have been the primary focus of global competition over the past decade as institutions in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Korea have emerged as genuine competitors to the traditional research powerhouses in the US and UK," said Sowter.

Globally, Harvard remains the best all-round institution, ranking first in 11 of the 30 disciplines, two more than its local rival MIT.

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), February 26, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What IISc plans to do with Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan's Rs. 2.2 billion

The sylvan campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore offers some of the best physical and intellectual surroundings to conduct research. But being a government institution, it has always to function within rules that often slow down work, let alone research. Many top government institutions in the country like IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) have been looking to break free from these restrictions, by setting up entities that would enjoy the best of both worlds: government funding as well as flexibility of operations.

IISc had done it once, and was looking for more opportunities to do so. IISc is one of the premier fundamental research organisations in India. Its scientists focus on basic research, but its management had been thinking of a translational research facility for some time, to take the fruits of the institute's research to the public. Nothing seemed more attractive than the area of biology, where research discoveries have immediate medical applications. Translational research needed money, often far more than basic research.

The idea remained on paper for a while, with no one willing to fund such a non-commercial venture. While the IISc management was thinking about these problems, one of its senior scientists was nurturing her own dreams. Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath, Founding Director of the National Brain Research Centre at Manesar near Delhi, had moved to IISc four years ago to start a centre for neuroscience there. 

Her lab now focuses on neurodegenerative disorders, but she wanted to develop a larger centre that would look at such disorders from an Indian perspective. "This was my dream for a long time," says Ravindranath, "and one day Kris Goplakrishnan walked into IISc and said he would fund such a centre."

Indian Focus
Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan — who chose not to speak for this story — had wanted to fund a neuroscience centre in India as he had an interest in the subject. He had two specific interests in the area: neurodegenerative disorders and brain computer interface. IISc already had a rapidly-expanding centre on neuroscience, and so it was ready to work in this area. It was less prepared for a large centre on brain computer interface. So, Gopalakrishnan decided to give Rs. 220 crore (Rs. 2.2 billion) for a brain research centre.

To help IISc build competency in brain computer interface, Gopalakrishnan decided to endow professorships. "A lot of things came together," says IISc Director P Balram. The new brain research centre will be housed outside but near IISc, within the precincts of a hospital. It will be a non-profit society jointly owned by IISc and Gopalakrishnan's Pratiksha Trust. The IISc council is expected to give all formal clearances by next month, and work should start on the centre by April. It will have flexibility that government institutions do not offer, particularly on recruitment and salaries.

It also has committed funding for 10 years, something difficult to guarantee from the government. The centre also fulfils an intense need for brain research centre in the country as well. Dementia — an umbrella term for memory loss — in old age is one of modern society's biggest medical problems.

The Alzheimer's Disease International, a global organisation headquartered in the UK, estimates there are 44.4 million people with dementia in the world, with 62% in developing countries. The cost of dementia in 2010 was $604 billion, 70% of which was in the western countries. Dementia is rising in India, although comprehensive statistics are not available for the country.

Multi-disciplinary Set-up
Specific factors that contribute to dementia in India are not known in detail, and research can help unravel them. For example, there is high prevalence of stroke in India. Is that a reason for large-scale dementia? It is also known that multilingualism delays the onset of dementia. Does that play a role in containing dementia in India? One north Indian village, Ballabgarh near Delhi, has low prevalence of dementia.

People here are physically active, have low cholesterol levels and eat a vegetarian diet. Are these protective factors? Do Indians have genetic components that retard or accelerate dementia? Many diseases these days are diagnosed using biomarkers, specific molecules that signal the onset of a disease. Not in dementia. "Biomarkers have failed to diagnose dementia," says Ravindranath.

"So prediction of dementia requires a huge effort." Multivariate analysis is now the only way to predict dementia, according to Ravindranath. It means analysing different kinds of data using computers. Which is why the new centre will have computation as one of its focus areas. Researching dementia will need the help of clinicians, which is why the brain research centre will be located within a hospital.

The centre will also hire clinicians, a breed of scientists absent in the IISc at the moment. Also present will be imaging specialists, geneticists, epidemiologists, data scientists, not to speak of neuroscientists like Ravindranath, who will be a lead scientist. "We are looking at about 20 lead scientists," says Prakash Khincha, Advisor to IISc.

IISc had earlier started a society called Society for Innovation and Development (SID). It is now located just opposite the IISc campus, and houses many R&D centres funded by various companies. One such centre is the Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber-Physical Systems, for which Robert Bosch Foundation has committed Rs. 110 million every year for 10 years. The money comes with no strings attached.

Gopalakrishnan's grant is twice as much, and would be supplemented by government funding as well. The stage is set for one of India's most ambitious ventures in neuroscience.

Source: The Economic Times, February 25, 2014

MHRD's Must-do Targets before General Elections

Before he turns his full attention to a tough re-election bid from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister MM Pallam Raju has three items on his must-do list.

The minister wants to see through an ordinance to set up the Indira Gandhi National Women's University in Congress President Sonia Gandhi's constituency Rae Bareli; the finalising of the executive order allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India; and the establishment of the National Education Commission.

On the first item, the government is keen to go ahead with setting up the country's first central university exclusively for women in Rae Bareli. Sources indicated that the government was keen to go ahead with the central university though the matter would have to be discussed in cabinet before an ordinance was issued.

The Bill to set up the Indira Gandhi National Women's University in Rae Bareli was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session last year. The standing committee, which has supported the idea of an exclusive university for women, submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha only in January, leaving little time to ensure the legislation was passed by parliament.

Setting up the central university in Rae Bareli is not without political significance, especially in an election year. However, the government has argued that locating the university in the district made sense as it is educationally backward and well connected to the major cities of the state. Additionally, the government has argued that it would be a fitting tribute to the country's first woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi, who represented the constituency.

As for foreign universities' entry in India, Raju is seeking an executive order allowing them to do so. In September, the ministry, on the basis of the powers vested in it through the UGC Act, prepared an executive order setting out rules and regulations permitting foreign education providers to set up campuses in India on their own and award foreign degrees. The rules are yet to be formally announced as the Ministry of Law is still vetting the order.

Raju is likely to seek Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention to speed up the process. Officials indicated that it is unlikely that there will be a hold-up because the idea of permitting foreign universities to operate in the country was high on the priority list of Kapil Sibal during his tenure as the HRD minister.

However, Raju may have to shelve the third item on the agenda — the appointment of the third National Education Commission. On August 15, 2011, Prime Minister had announced that the government would set up an education commission to work out the vision, objectives and goals of the education system.

Source: The Economic Times, February 25, 2014

Government may rope in private players to assess, accredit educational institutes

So far the government’s preserve, the job of accrediting educational institutions may soon be handed over to private entities. India has 723 universities including institutions of national importance, 37,204 colleges and 11,356 professional schools offering diploma-level courses. Overall, some 28.6 million students are pursuing higher education, according to data available with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The government thinks that with such a huge educational network, it is not possible for a single government body to accredit all the institutions and ensure quality parameters are met. The MHRD has made accreditation mandatory for all educational institutes.

The University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex education regulator, wants private entities to share the job of accreditation. “We want to open up the sector. Only one body accrediting over 35,000 colleges is not a good situation. We would like to become a licensing agency or give franchise to capable players to do the job,” said UGC Chairman Ved Prakash.

Around 20% of higher educational institutes are currently accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), a body affiliated to UGC. “We will give certain guidelines and eligible players including private players with requisite efficiency can join the process. We will screen and give them licence or permission to carry out accreditation. But all of them will work under NAAC supervision,” Prakash said.

Accreditation is essential for maintaining minimum standards in higher education, which is multi-layered both in structure and quality. It is a quality assessment exercise of educational institutions, which are graded on an eight-point scale — with A+ the top rank and C the lowest. For the last 20 years, seeking accreditation has been left to the discretion of educational institutes.

The government made accreditation mandatory through an executive order last year, after the MHRD could not get a law to that effect approved in Parliament. Private educational institutes and lobby groups were against the proposal.

A MHRD official said requesting anonymity that the move to allow more entities in the accreditation and assessment space would help the educational sector. The UGC is working on creating an overarching body to implement mandatory accreditation, the official said, adding the commission is likely to put a detailed framework in place in the next week to 10 days.

“Anything voluntary does not gain popularity. Mandating education accreditation or grading, like financial product grading, will bring transparency and help the end-users — here, the students and their families,” said Sunil Sinha, Director at Indian Ratings, a part of the Fitch Group. India Ratings has estimated the Indian education market to be worth Rs. 5.9 trillion in 2014-15 as against Rs. 3.33 trillion in fiscal 2011-12.

“Now, getting accreditation requires nearly two years and that does not solve the purpose of an educational institute. Giving it to private parties or even capable organizations in the government set-up with necessary infrastructure and understanding will help the sector,” said Prashant Bhalla, Chancellor of Manav Rachna International University, a private institution in Haryana.

Source: Mint, February 25, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Soon, college courses to be graded

Soon students will be able to make more informed choices on the courses they wish to pursue. A system to accredit individual programmes offered by colleges and universities is being put in place by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD).

Under the Rashtriya Ucchatar Shikshan Abhiyan (RUSA), a national higher education mission, undertaken to provide funding, all institutes and universities must acquire ratings not only for themselves but also all their programmes. This means individual courses across colleges and universities in the country will be graded. For instance, Jai Hind College will not only need an accreditation for the college, but will also have to get its courses such as BCom, BA or BSc or even self-financed courses like BCom in banking and insurance or BMS graded. Besides students, the move will help potential employers in selecting the best pass-outs from every college.

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has been grading colleges and universities across the country since its inception in 1994. But hampered by a staff crunch and facing the ever-changing education scenario, the quality assurance body feels it is not up to the mammoth task of accrediting individual courses along with institutes/universities.

NAAC Director A N Rai and Deputy Adviser Jagannath Patil have suggested a multi-layered framework to bring about quality assurance in institutes of higher education. "A fragmented approach has been taken at the central and state levels. There needs to be a coordinated approach for such a massive project," said Patil, also the President of the Asia Pacific Quality Network.

They recommend that NAAC acts as a nodal agency to accredit universities across the country. "State accrediting agencies can then accredit colleges. Individual programmes can be accredited by subject councils/associations such as sociological society, Indian Commerce Association, etc. NAAC can mentor these quality assurance bodies," said Patil. "These subject councils have experts from industry and academics and, therefore, can evaluate programmes with some training from NAAC." T A Shiware, from the Indian Commerce Association, said the agency is in talks with them. Being a national body, it can handle the task, he felt.

A MHRD official said the ministry has written to some of the councils (like National Council for Teacher Education) asking them to take up evaluation of individual courses (in this case, B Ed and M Ed). The possibility of bringing in third party agencies for the rating has not been dismissed.

Among the states, Kerala has set up the State Higher Education Council, which can function as a state accreditation body. A council to monitor higher education in the state is mandatory under RUSA. Maharashtra is yet to take any concrete measures to set up the higher education council.

Source: The Times of India, February 15, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Infosys plans to hire 200 MBAs from top business schools abroad

Infosys is setting out on a major talent hunt in global B-schools, hoping to recruit at least 200 MBAs in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific by June this year. The move will help beef up its business consulting practice and also intensify its client engagement.

Infosys hasn't hired a single MBA from a global B-school in four years, but will step on the gas this year visiting Harvard, Wharton, Kellog, New York University Stern School of Business, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and University of California Los Angeles, among others.

"Besides (B-school hiring in) US, we are focusing on Europe, given our revenue mix, followed by Australia, and APAC," Srikantan Moorthy, Senior Vice-President and Group Head of Human Resource, Infosys said.

Infosys' plan is among the largest ever global MBA hiring by an Indian company. TCS hires 'a few graduates from global B-schools' every year. It will do the same this year, too, Ajoyendra Mukherjee, Executive Vice-President and Head, Global Human Resources at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said.

"About 200 global MBAs is a very good number," a HR manager at another top IT services company said. He spoke on the condition of anonymity. Analysts say Infosys is really trying to get into the domain of business consulting and trying to become more of a change management consultant as well. "Infosys realises it has a lot of great technical skills, but not business skills," said Pascal Matzke, Vice President, Forrester Research. "This (hiring global MBAs) is to beef up business capabilities and skills so that they really can compete with the likes of Accenture."

Adds Ankita Somani, analyst, IT and telecom for Angel Broking: "Infosys wants to do more of upstream (high-end consulting) which brings in more revenues and, therefore, the hiring spree." About 19% of Infosys' revenues in FY06 came from consulting and package implementation while it was 33.5% in the third quarter of FY14, added Somani. Clients have also moved from a cost-optimisation mode and opened up their discretionary spends after a gap of two years. Such spends are used for business transformation and come in from the clients' coffers, he added.

In the UK and EU, Infosys is making offers in London Business School, Said Business School at Oxford, INSEAD, Rotterdam School of Management, International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, and ESADE, Spain. In Asia-Pacific, recruitment drives are on in the Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Melbourne Business School, and Australian Graduate School of Management in Sydney, National University of Singapore, and China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.

"It makes sense," said Matzke, referring to Infosys' push for more global MBAs. "But whether 200 is really enough and whether these rather inexperienced young professionals can really help elevate the whole relationship (with customers), I don't think so. I think it needs further hiring also of some more senior people."

Infosys is also making significant alterations to its hiring strategy in Indian B-schools. It re-started hiring at IIMs after a one-year gap offering salaries of $120,000-$123,000 (Rs. 7.4- 7.7 million) for global roles, one student, who got such an offer in January, said. Infosys has stepped-up hiring at IIMs - it made 18 offers compared to zero last year - but it intends to cut down local MBA hires from 550 to only 176 (excluding IIMs).

"We have extended 18 offers at the IIMs this year. The compensation is in the range of Rs. 2.7 to 3 million per annum," a company spokesperson said. For FY15, Infosys plans to make 25,000 engineering campus offers, of which it has already made 16,000 in 230 colleges.

This comes after several quarters of slowdown in hiring. In the third quarter of FY14, Infosys saw its total headcount declining by 1,823 employees. Wipro too, saw headcount go down by 814 people, while TCS added 5,463 people.

Infosys has also been struggling with the highest attrition rate amongst top-tier firms at 18%, which it expects to bring down over the next few quarters. "We have been making several changes in employee engagement, and we know it is going to take time. We expect these to yield results in the next four-eight quarters. We will be happy with anywhere between 10-15%," Moorthy said.

Source: The Economic Times, February 14, 2014

Companies pick top business schools by competence

In the fight for talent at top business schools, a handful of companies are using a targeted strategy to stand out. A combination of factors including previous experience, institute strengths and student interest have led to companies like Philips India, the RPG Group and Godrej Group visiting specific B-schools to hire for specific business functions.

From the organisations' standpoint, there are several advantages to the targeted hiring method. For one, it makes sense to capitalise on the tried-and-tested individual competencies created by certain B-schools. Also, it saves time and resources to have a focused gameplan.

"At the core of the concept of targeted hiring lies the idea of the right fit for an assignment. Businesses are always looking out for the right people. It only makes sense to go to places that are their best incubators," says Arvind Agrawal, President - HR & Corporate Development, RPG Enterprises.

RPG has been recruiting from top B-schools such as the IIMs, XLRI, SP Jain and MDI, for many years. For its CSR and HR requirements, it goes to TISS; for candidates with over 10 years of experience, it goes to the executive management programmes at the IIMs. For industrial and supply chain experts, it goes to NITIE. That's in contrast to the strategy followed by the bulk of companies, which evaluate every interviewee as a potential hire across roles, and decide on the best fitment only later.

Philips India, another regular recruiter for its leadership programmes, has a very focused approach on hiring from specific business schools for various functions. It targets IIM-Ahmedabad for strategy roles; ISB-Hyderabad and Mohali, IIMs and IIFT for sales and marketing; XLRI, TISS, SCMHRD and MDI for HR; IIMs and FMS for finance, NITIE and SPJIMR for supply chain.

"The Indian B-school space is highly competitive, with multiple companies vying for the same top talent pool. We had to come up with a targeted strategy to differentiate Philips from the other employers and create and sustain a preference for Philips as an employer of choice in the minds of the students in every passing batch," says Zenobia Madon, general manager, talent acquisition. She says the company has been successfully following this strategy over the past two to three years to attract the best of talent.

Sumit Mitra, Head - Group HR and Corporate Services, Godrej Industries and Associate Companies says that based on their past experience or institute specialisation, they have found some campuses to be more suited for certain kind of roles. For its management trainees, the group heads to IIM-A for agribusiness; FMS, MDI and IIM-Lucknow for sales and marketing and for its real estate business, to MDI, Symbiosis and XIMB. "We can't go to every campus and decide on every position. Since we go as a conglomerate, we need to have a plan in place when we visit a campus," says Mitra.

Source: The Economic Times, February 14, 2014

IITs may not get additional government funds to meet escalating costs

The government has signalled its reluctance to stump up additional funds for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to meet escalating costs, likely impeding expansion of the elite technology schools. The 16 IITs, including eight new schools that have been functioning out of temporary campuses since they opened in 2008-09, may be forced to reduce spending because of the government’s aversion, which stems from the need to limit its fiscal deficit.

New IITs may have to delay plans to move to permanent campuses in 2015-16 and their older counterparts put infrastructure expansion on hold, said two officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) that oversees education in the country. “We had an expenditure finance committee meeting earlier this week, but the committee was not very keen in accommodating the cost escalation. The way forward seems cost-cutting,” said one of the two officials, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

For the 12th Five-year Plan (2012-17), the government had allocated nearly Rs. 12,500 crore (Rs. 125 billion) for the IITs, of which the new tech schools were to receive a little over Rs. 6,000 crore (Rs. 60 billion), the official said. But construction delays and rising cost of infrastructure development pushed the funding requirement of the new IITs alone to Rs.14,000 crore (Rs. 140 billion).

So far, the MHRD has spent Rs. 2,500 crore (Rs. 25 billion) on the new IITs, which are located in Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Mandi, Patna and Ropar. The older institutions are IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Guwahati, IIT-Roorkee, and IIT-Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

The MHRD is calling a meeting of the tech schools to discuss the funding issues “and the way forward”, the official cited above said. The second official said the reluctance of the government to allocate additional funds to the IITs stemmed from the need to restrict the fiscal deficit, which has been projected at 4.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year.

The MHRD has called a meeting of IITs next week, said U.B. Desai, Director of IIT-Hyderabad. Without giving additional details, he said the meeting would discuss matters related to the construction of campuses for new IITs.

At least 64,000 students are pursuing education at the elite engineering schools, which together admit some 8,500 undergraduates every year.

Cutting costs will be counter-productive, said an administrator at another IIT, who requested anonymity. “It is not just physical infrastructure like buildings and classrooms, but the intellectual infrastructure like faculty hiring, purchase of lab equipment that will get affected. It will have an overall cascading impact,” this person said.

The IITs have been facing a faculty crunch for several years. The MHRD told the Lok Sabha on 18 December that its norms required all IITs put together to have a complement of 6,591 teachers. But there were only 4,099 teachers in all IITs combined, the ministry said.

It is evident that the government doesn’t want to accommodate cost escalation because it is keen to curb the fiscal deficit, said Enayet Kabir, a former associate vice-president, education practice, at consulting company Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd. “Unless you mobilize required resources, the brand IIT will get affected,” Kabir warned. “Before establishing new IITs, the government should have done its homework on cost of setting up new ones and operating cost of all the 16 IITs.”

In their formative years, the new IITs need more hand-holding to catch up with their more established counterparts in terms of quality, he said. Given that IITs don’t work on a fee-based model, cost controls could undermine the institutions, he said. The government allowed IITs to increase fees from Rs. 50,000 a year to Rs. 90,000 a year at the undergraduate level in January 2013. But tuition fees meet less than 30% of the recurring expenditure at IITs.

Source: Mint, February 14, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Indian Education Sector: In the pink of health

India has emerged as a strong potential market for investments in training and education sector, due to its favourable demographics (young population) and being a services-driven economy. Further, India's expanding role in sectors such as software development, generic pharmaceuticals and healthcare, would require the country to invest into learning and training segment as well.

The education sector of India is divided into two main segments; the core segment comprises schools and higher education, while the non-core comprises coaching classes, preschools and vocational trainings.

The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) controls this segment. It requires affiliation or accreditation from either of the following bodies: ICSE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations), CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), IB (International Baccalaureate from Geneva) and the State Boards.

Market Size
The market size of Indian education sector is expected to increase to Rs. 602,410 crore (US$ 97.03 billion) by FY15 on back of strong demand for quality education, according to a report by India Ratings.

The private education segment alone is expected to cross US$ 45 billion mark by 2015 from the present US$ 35 billion, according to a research report. Major investments are being seen in the areas of pre-schools, private coaching and tutoring, teacher training, the development and provision of multimedia content, educational software development, skill enhancement, IT training and e-learning.

India's online education market size is set to grow to US$ 40 billion by 2017 from the present US$ 20 billion.


The education sector has attracted foreign direct investments (FDI) worth Rs. 4,596.96 crore (US$ 740.35 million) during April 2000 to September 2013, according to the data released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

Government Initiatives
The Centre plays a vital role in the evolution and monitoring of educational policies and programmes. The Government of India has prepared the University Grants Commission (UGC) for implementing the Establishment and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Educational Institutions Rules, 2013. Under the proposed Rules, Foreign Educational Institutions (FEIs) can set up campuses in India, once the FEIs have been notified as Foreign Education Provider (FEPs) by the UGC, subject to fulfillment of certain eligibility conditions.

The Road Ahead
President Pranab Mukherjee has stressed the need for focussing on skill development and vocational training for capitalising on the 'demographic dividend' and boosting country's economic growth. India is expected to achieve demographic dividend by 2030 with half the population in its workforce and the largest workforce in the world.

There is clearly an opportunity for private players to enter the education space. This opportunity exists in all three segments – schooling, higher education and vocational training. Public-private partnerships (PPP) arrangements, tax concessions for education and encouraging foreign capital to build infrastructure in India would encourage the creation of new capacities by the private sector.

India's education sector is expected to witness huge investments from PE funds over the next couple of years on the back of increased government spending and expansion plans of private players.

Major Initiatives of the Government for Infrastructural Development of Education Sector

  • The MHRD has proposed to provide for 5,000 faculty positions in higher education under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) during the current Five Year Plan (2012-17). 
  • India and Mauritius have signed two MoUs in order to boost educational ties. The first MoU is between IIT, Delhi and Mauritius Research Council for setting up of an International Institute of Technology Research Academy (IITRA) in Mauritius and the second MoU is between Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and Tertiary Education Council (TEC) of Mauritius for mutual recognition of educational qualifications.
  • The Government of India plans to set up a framework of community colleges on the North American model.
  • The MHRD plans to launch 50 direct-to-home (DTH) educational channels.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Rs. 1 trillion (US$ 16.18 billion) Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA). It is a new centrally sponsored scheme for higher education which will spread over 12th and 13th Five Year Plan.
Source: The Economic Times, February 13, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

India and New Zealand pledge NZ $500,000 each for research

New Zealand is more than just its willowing mountains and captivating landscape. And if you have been dreaming of studying in the country, after watching the Lord Of The Rings trilogy on loop, read on. To encourage education ties between India and New Zealand, a joint call for research proposals for Indian and New Zealand academics has been made by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and Education New Zealand (ENZ), a government agency that promotes education in New Zealand.

This is the first time that ENZ is working on a joint research grant. Under the India New Zealand Education Council (INZEC) framework, both countries have agreed to commit NZ$500,000 (over Rs. 250 million) each.

The announcement made on the occasion of Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day that was celebrated recently, seeks to increase research collaboration across a range of areas including food security and agriculture, community development and innovation, health, environment and sustainability, to name a few.

Applications are open to research students and academic staff employed in a tertiary education institution or recognised centre of academic research in New Zealand, and all public education institutions in India which are eligible to be funded by UGC. The maximum funding available for each project from each funding body is the equivalent of NZ$50,000 and this may cover expenses for project-related consumables (up to a maximum of 15% of the total project budget), equipment (up to a maximum of NZ$2000), travel, accommodation, etc.

Applications should be submitted on or before 5pm, March 28, 2014. Send an email attachment to and The project starting date must be on or before June 1, 2014 and the project must be completed within 18 months.

As Ziena Jalil, Regional Director, ENZ, points out, “This call for proposals is part of the activity we undertake in India through the INZEC initiative which was announced by both our prime ministers in 2011. All New Zealand universities feature in the top 500 globally, and as a country, we are highly regarded internationally in areas such as agriculture and food processing, tourism, etc.”

New Zealand is emerging as a much sought-after higher education destination and India is the second largest contributor of international students to New Zealand (after China) with more than 11,000 students from India studying in New Zealand. Student visas issued to Indian nationals seeking to study in New Zealand increased by more than 10% last year, and more than doubled in the month of December 2013, making India one of the fastest growing student markets for New Zealand. It is also not an expensive option, with the cost of living for students around NZ$15,000 a year.

Michael Appleton, New Zealand’s Acting High Commissioner to India, says, “Education is a growing and exciting component of our bilateral relationship, with the number of Indian students in New Zealand increasing almost 200% since 2007. I am delighted that this new initiative will see Kiwi and Indian researchers working side-by-side and contributing to knowledge creation in both our countries.”

In order to encourage more Indian students, New Zealand has also made changes to its work and visa policies for international students. According to Nathanael Mackay, Area Manager, Immigration New Zealand, “We have increased the number of work hours our international students are entitled to. All tertiary level international students enrolled in a course with at least one academic year will be allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during each semester break/vacation.”

For more details on research proposals, visit or

Source: Hindustan Times (HT Education), February 12, 2014

Cabinet nod to more PG medical seats

There is good news for medical graduates in the country as the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for continuing the Centrally-sponsored scheme for upgrading state government medical colleges so that there is an increase in postgraduate seats in the country.

The continuation of the scheme at a total cost of Rs. 1,350 crore (Rs. 13.5 billion) will result in an increase of about 4,000 seats, with proposed Central assistance share of Rs. 1,124 crore (Rs. 11.24 billion) and state/Union Territories share of Rs. 226 crore (Rs. 2.26 billion). The funding pattern will be 75:25 by Central and state governments. Out of Rs. 1,124 crore, an amount of about Rs. 686 crore (Rs. 6.86 billion) has already been released to 72 government medical colleges. This scheme was launched during the 11th Five Year Plan in the year 2009-10. MBBS doctors apply for postgraduate courses in surgical specialities, MS or MD and DNB, which is a highly-qualified postgraduate qualification and super specialisation.

According to medical experts, currently, there are only about 12,000 PG seats in clinical disciplines. In comparison, there are about 19,000 undergraduate seats and about 32,000 PG and fellowship seats in the US.

According to Dr Navneet Motreja of Save the Doctors campaign, that has been pushing for an increase in the number of PG medical seats, “Lakhs (hundereds of thousands) of MBBS graduates all over the country spend many years attempting a multitude of entrance exams to become specialists. This move is welcome but it is not a sufficient increase though. With the severely skewed doctor patient ratio in our country, steps like these will ensure better healthcare for all.” 

With a pass rate of 80% to 90%, nearly 40,000 doctors graduate every year and compete for 12,000 seats with their batchmates and over a 100,000 seniors. In the PG entrance exam under NEET in 2013, more than 100,000 doctors appeared for the test to claim one of the 12,000 seats, adds Motreja.

Dr Manish Chandra Prabhakar, President, Indian Medical Students’ Association, says, “It is a good move but first of all we have to see how much time it will take to increase all the seats. However, more seats should be increased in government colleges with the ratio being 75:25 in government-private colleges.”

Source: Hindustan Times (HT Education), February 12, 2014

Indian students feel unwelcome in Britain

A majority of Indian students have admitted to feeling highly unwelcome in the UK. A study of the attitudes of 3,100 international students by the National Union of Students (NUS) has revealed almost 50% feel the UK government was either "not welcoming" or "not welcoming at all towards overseas students". The NUS is a confederation of students' unions in the UK.

The UK earns £7.9 billion a year from international students. By 2024, one in every three outbound higher education students across the globe is expected to be from India and China.

Figures revealed on Tuesday showed the non-welcoming attitude was most pronounced for PhD students. Almost 63% of Indian students doing their PhD in the UK felt unwanted, besides 64.5% from Japan and 63% from Nigeria. Students from India, Pakistan and Nigeria have also admitted advising their friends not to study in the UK.

Asked what bothered them the most, 40% cited moves to get landlords to check on their legal status, while 74% said introducing a National Health Service levy would make it impossible to study in the UK.

England is already witnessing a sharp tumble in the number of Indian students visiting its universities for higher education. Latest data shows between 2010-11 and 2011-12, over 10,000 fewer Indian students travelled to English shores to pursue a post-graduation degree. In percentage points, there was a nearly 25% fall in the number of Indian students studying a postgraduate course. While 39,090 Indian students enrolled in British universities in 2010-11 for a PG degree, the number fell to 29,900 in 2011-12.

Even after the drop, Indian and Chinese students make up almost 35% of all non-EU domicile students in the UK.

Prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May have pledged to reduce net migration to below 100,000 before the next election in 2015. Study remains the most common reason for migrating to the UK, but the numbers fell to 197,000 from 239,000 the previous year.

Source: The Times of India, February 12, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Association of Indian Universities (AIU) indicted for lack of professionalism

The one-man committee to evaluate the functions of Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has severely indicted the organization for lacking professionalism and becoming a highly personalized body. AIU, a body that first came up during the British period and serves as an inter-university organization as well as spokesperson for them, also assists universities in obtaining recognition for their degrees, diplomas and examinations from other universities, Indian as well as foreign.

However, technocrat M Anandakrishnan, who looked into AIU, said in his report that it has "lost its way and is drifting along aimlessly" and that it has "become a non-entity in the higher education system". Anandakrishnan also said that despite government having provided funds to AIU, there was hardly any interaction with the government or the UGC (University Grants Commission). The committee said the practice of giving equivalence certificates to post-graduate diploma of management should be suspended in view of potential for its misuse till UGC approves the process.

Anandakrishnan said the main structural weakness of AIU was the absence of enlightened leadership. "For quite some time, the position of Secretary General, the key administrative leader, has been functioning on an ad-hoc part-time basis," he said. Despite provision for nominations from five zones and search committee, final choice of Secretary General is left to the governing council with a "lot of scope for manipulations as is alleged to have happened recently".

As for the system of choosing president of AIU, Anandakrishnan said the practice of choosing on the basis of seniority was leading to a situation whereby vice-chancellors of private universities who had unlimited terms were more likely to become presidents and not necessarily on the basis of merit.

The committee pointed out specific instances of faulty staff selection and promotion. For instance, many incumbents in senior position never appeared for interview but got promoted by manipulation and nepotism. Anandakrishnan also found that several key administrative positions were lying vacant for years. In the research division, out of 17 sanctioned positions, 12 were vacant including those of director, deputy director, assistant director and senior research assistants and yet a sum of Rs. 4.6 million was shown as establishment charges.

Anandakrishnan recommended drastic modification of its by-laws and doing away with selection of president by seniority, appointment of Secretary General through open advertisement, division of AIU into three separate entities looking into publically funded universities, private universities funded by not-for-profit family trusts/societies and private universities funded by non-profit endowments.

Source: The Times of India, February 10, 2014

Government enterprises look to leverage IITs' expertise

State-owned firms such as Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd ( ONGC ) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd ( BHEL ) may tap the expertise of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to help attain energy security and spur manufacturing in the country.

The government plans to develop an institutional mechanism to do this instead of the sporadic attempts made so far. The partnership between ONGC and the IITs will be for R&D in exploration and that between BHEL and the schools, manufacturing, according to Ashok Thakur, Secretary, Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Thakur added that the 16 premier engineering schools in the country had met the two companies and “would work as a unit” and not as “individual IITs”.

India needs to develop its domestic resources to achieve high growth. However, there has been waning interest in the hydrocarbon sector, with around 70% of Indian basins remaining largely under-explored. ONGC itself has been battling concerns over its production capabilities and diminishing yields at its ageing oil fields.

Thakur claimed that the IITs would play their part in meeting the government’s ambitious target of increasing the contribution of manufacturing output to 25% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 and creating 100 million additional jobs. Currently, manufacturing contributes 15.2% of India’s GDP. 

The two state-owned firms are enthused by the idea of partnering with the IITs. “While we are working with individual IITs, the work is getting replicated. The idea is to appoint a person who could interface between the IITs and ONGC. A lot of E&P (exploration and production)-related work is being done at the IITs,” said Sudhir Vasudeva, Chairman & Managing Director, ONGC. “For example IIT-Madras does a lot of work on offshore, while IIT-Kharagpur does work in the area of corrosion. Also, a lot of work is being done at IIT-Roorkee and IIT-Bombay in the area of geosciences.”

“One of the ways to go about it is that the students at IITs do their academic research and then come to ONGC’s labs. This may also lead to the outsourcing of research from our labs to the IITs. The ideas need to be fleshed out. We plan to tie up with the IITs in a big way,” Vasudeva added. “It has been suggested that ONGC would be interested in increasing research investment in IITs to have IITs as research referral units for that critical mass could be provided for their massive futuristic projects,” a MHRD document said.

India’s energy demand is around 700 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe). To meet the country’s growing energy demand, ONGC aims to produce more than 130 mtoe by 2030. While ONGC’s domestic reserves increased to 1,287 mtoe in 2011-12 from 1,243 mtoe in 2010-11, its production declined to 52.4 mt from 52.6 mt in that period. ONGC produced 26.12 mt of crude in 2012-13, against 26.92 mt in the previous fiscal. Gas production fell to 25.33 billion cu. m (bcm) from 25.51 bcm.

Any increase in domestic production will help India’s efforts to contain its current account deficit. The country has been trying to bring down its oil import bill by taking equity in overseas assets, which could reduce both supply risks as well as price shocks. Of India’s total imports worth $491 billion last fiscal year, oil accounted for $164 billion.

B.P.Rao, Chairman & Managing Director, BHEL said the company is expanding an existing relationship with IIT-Madras to other IITs. “We are looking at high-end manufacturing. The problem is that high-end manufacturing doesn’t happen in India. This will create jobs and will increase the contribution of manufacturing to GDP. We have identified some technologies for these joint efforts,” Rao added.

BHEL’s efforts come in the backdrop of the challenge it faces from Chinese manufacturers and their local joint ventures. BHEL has been trying to woo customers and revive growth in the capital goods space. It has been working with state-owned NTPC Ltd, as well as the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research for setting up an 800 megawatts (MW) prototype by 2017 of advanced ultra-super critical technology at an investment of around Rs.8,000 crore (Rs. 80 billion).

Source: Mint, February 10, 2014

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