Monday, March 31, 2014

Leading Indian companies to help establish more IIITs

Leading corporate houses including Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Coal India Ltd are partnering with the government to establish a chain of specialized technology schools.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), with the help from state governments, has roped in more than two dozen companies to set up 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), two ministry officials said. This has been a key project of the ministry since the 11th Five-year Plan period that ended in March 2012.

“So far at least 25 leading companies have committed to open IIITs in a PPP (private-public partnership) mode. For example, TCS will help set up at least three IIITs,” a top MHRD official said, requesting anonymity. “Industry has been complaining about lack of industry-academia collaborations and lack of job-ready human resources. The ministry believes this initiative will set a new precedent in the higher education space. It has taken years to come through but we are happy that leading companies have joined now,” the official said.

“PPP is a good model and IIITs give a good chance to industries to partner with the government,” said S. Ramadorai, Vice-Chairman of TCS and Chairman of the National Skill Development Agency. Industries can provide training of faculties and students, set up labs, and may source eligible manpower from these institutes, said Ramadorai.

Industries will be allowed to set up their own chairs in these institutions and partner to provide customized courses based on their demand, the second MHRD official said. They will be part of the governing boards as well. While Ramadorai didn’t divulge financial details or the states where TCS will set up the IIITs, the ministry has in a status report underlined that India’s largest software exporter will partner in setting up the technology schools in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Gujarat. Mint has reviewed a copy of the status report.

Each of the IIITs under this scheme will entail an initial investment of Rs. 1.28 billion. Half of the investment will be made by the Union government, while 35% will come from the state governments and the remaining 15% from the industry partners. The Union government will also give Rs. 125 million as recurring and other expenditures per year to each of these schools. Both private and public sector companies can partner with the government for establishing the IIITs and more than one company can be an industry partner for a particular school.

According to the ministry document, both private and public sector companies as well as foundations have come on board for the IIITs. “We have joined hands with the government for an IIIT in West Bengal. The state government convinced us to join in and we are giving Rs. 100 milliom for this,” said S. Narsing Rao, Chairman of Coal India, one of the top state-owned companies in India.

Source: Mint, March 31, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

University of Chicago opens centre in New Delhi

The University of Chicago opened an academic centre in New Delhi on March 29, supporting opportunities for collaboration among scholars and students from India and Chicago across disciplines.

"The opening of the Delhi center is a very important event for the University of Chicago because it represents about our commitment to academic work in India and with India and because of how it reflects the University's thinking about the importance of its global activities," University President Robert J Zimmer said during the inauguration. 

US Amabassador to India Nancy Powell inaugurated the centre. Nancy Powell. "Education is a very important part of our partnership. We need more American students who speak Hindi, more American businessmen who understand the complexity of this country," said Powell 

The centre will promote scholarship through three broad programmes, business, economics, law, and policy, science, energy, medicine, and public health and culture, society, religion, and arts. The centre will also be an intellectual destination, enabling the University of Chicago to better support research and scholarship that will benefit faculty, students and society, said a statement.

Located at Connaught Place, the 17,000-square-foot centre will provide space for seminars and conferences as well as faculty offices and study areas. It will host Indian and South Asian students and scholars, serve as a base for University of Chicago students and faculty working in India and throughout the region, and engage alumni and parents in India and South Asia.

Delhi joins the University's centre in Beijing, opened in 2010, and the centre in Paris, opened in 2004, in bringing together researchers and students to collaborate across the academic spectrum.

The centre in Delhi is a wholly-owned foreign enterprise operating under the name of 'UChicago Center' in India Private Limited.

Dozens of scholars come to India from the University of Chicago each year. With the university opening a centre in the capital, these scholars will now have a 'base' they can operate from. The centre will not run regular courses but will support and expand research opportunities between its faculty members and students and their partners in India. The centre will also serve as a launch pad for collaborations with educational institutions in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

"It will serve the entire region of South Asia. We are open to collaborations with other countries," says the faculty director of the centre, Gary A. Tubb, from the Department of South Asian Languages and Literature. Two faculty members of the university, Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd I Rudolph, will be awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President on March 31. "From Suzanne and Lloyd Rudolph's work in India to Indian physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar's work in Chicago in astrophysics and cosmology, scholars have worked in India and come from India," Zimmer added.

Adapted from: The Economic Times & The Times of India, March 30, 2014

105-year-old IISc has its first formal convocation

March 29, 2014 will go down in the history of Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore as a day when a trend was set. For the first time in its 105-year's of existence, IISc, a deemed university, held its formal convocation, where 289 students received their degrees. The amusement at the JN Tata auditorium was palpable. None was used to such an event. After all, it was a long-drawn tradition that was being overstepped.

But there weren't the usual formalities of a convocation either. No flowing robes, no flying caps, The participants wore no robes, caps did not fly up in the air, not even the trademark procession. There was no solemn air, but no resounding applause or cheers either. While most managed to stick to the 'white' dress code, some didn't bother. Looks were the last thing on their mind; One came in mundu, wearing a sunshade with green rim, but appearances did not matter. It was celebration time for the students and the institute.

P. Balram, Director of the institute, read out no annual report as is customary in any convocation. Instead, he chose to speak about the institute. "We never had a formal convocation. Periodically, students wanted it. But from the stories I have heard, the directors resisted it. Any tradition is hard to break. Our tradition has always been to work quietly, take degrees quietly, and go out into the world. Not to have a convocation was not just about modesty, it was also about the tradition. In effect, what we are carrying out is an experiment. We hope to make it more formal in the coming years," he said. "A convocation is about getting old students back and the faculty together. There are a lot of people outside the institute who has seen it grown. They are here. And we get to listen to a chief guest every year," he added.

The award distribution was equally casual. For instance, at one point a gold medal fell off the ribbon to which it was tied and landed on the floor with a clink; another time, the chief guest had to tie the ribbon around the winner's neck. The degrees too weren't awarded personally; but they posed for photographs, department wise. The groups had a handful of girls each.

As many as 47 students received gold medals, while 289 students got their degrees. When the institute started admitting students in 1911, it didn't award degrees but only diplomas. It was in 1958 that IISc was declared a deemed university and degrees started rolling out.

K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India was the chief guest. In his address, he said: A strong entrepreneurship culture is highly desirable in its planning. The research programmes certainly need to focus on frontier topics and at the same time be selective, thereby helping to channelize its collective energy into solving large scale problems...The Institute in a year or so has to develop a strategy and an action plan to ensure its place among the first 50 of the globally ranked educational institutions in 5 years.

Source: The Times of India, March 30, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why Indian students with foreign degrees are returning home

Akshay Kumar, 25, knew his journey would be tough. But he thought he was prepared. In 2012, after an engineering degree and a one-year stint with a multinational, Kumar felt he needed a makeover. “I didn’t want to be stuck with civil engineering all my life. I also wanted to see the world and explore new options,” he recalls. Doing an MBA from a premier institute was on his mind. He did think of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the Xavier School of Management, but the desire for global exposure pushed him to explore options overseas. Kumar settled for a one-year post-graduate course at the Imperial University in the UK, which he financed via an education loan. “Visa rules and the bleak job market there did weigh on my mind. But I had a feeling I could manage it,” he says. He had confidence in Imperial’s good global ranking, its alumni network and his own hard work.

Kumar began his hunt for a job virtually from the day he landed in the UK. He studied hard to get good grades but worked even harder to find a good job. By tapping into networks of his alumni, friends and family, Kumar reckons he would have reached out to over 200 firms during that year. “It didn’t work. My good grades made me eligible for plenty of jobs, but my non-European Indian passport was the problem,” he shrugs. Kumar moved back to India late last year and has just landed a job with a private equity firm. “All my plans have been delayed by five years,” he says. Close to half his salary today goes in paying monthly instalments on his education loan.

The World Isn’t Flat
The West has a problem. Its economy is in a funk, not enough jobs are being created, cautious companies aren’t hiring too many, and worried governments — from the US to the UK — are raising visa barriers for foreigners to work in their countries. Young Indians, who went overseas for education, are facing a tough time finding a job. Many like Kumar have returned home. And some are now casting the net wider — looking for jobs from the US to Hong Kong and Singapore — or settling for sub-optimal options. Rupa Chanda, Professor, IIM-Bangalore, who has worked on reports on international student mobility, says visa and immigration is the biggest factor affecting Indian students’ decisions.

The US, the UK and Australia — the three most popular destinations for Indians seeking global education — have seen the number of Indian students come down over the past few years. Remember, many Indian students take hefty education loans to finance their studies abroad. While many would find decent jobs back in India that would not help much as these students need dollar salaries to comfortably service their loan. This is taking its toll. “Overseas education is costly. Many Indian students are doing a cost-benefit analysis to figure how to recoup their investments overseas and putting off their plans [to study there],” explains New York-based Rahul Choudaha, chief knowledge officer, World Education Services (WES), a non-profit organization that provides credential evaluations for international students planning to study or work in the US and Canada.

But to be fully able to understand how this trend will play out, one must understand the backdrop. A big generational shift is taking place among the students looking for overseas education. Many of them now are India’s liberalization children, who have grown up post-1991 and lived in an increasingly global world with fewer barriers. So in many ways this is their first brush with a world with barriers. Many are also children of globetrotting well-paid senior corporate executives who think differently about education, exposure and investing in a world-class education. “These parents understand the long-term rewards of a world-class education. I see many of my friends taking their children to these top campuses after they pass out from school to give them a first-hand feel,” says Hema Ravichandar, strategic HR expert and a former HR head of Infosys.

Woes on Foreign Shores
Both of Ravichandar’s children have studied overseas. Her daughter, Aditi, is doing her MBA from Wharton in the US and her son Nikhil, 22, completed his Bachelor’s in economics from Warwick in the UK. Nikhil chose the UK over India because of the flexibility available in picking courses — he wanted to do economics with law which was impossible in India with its rigid course structures. “Education in India is not very research-driven and multicultural,” he adds. 

But during his stay there, the UK revoked the two-year work permit for foreign graduates. Thus he needed a firm job offer to stay on after graduation. This was difficult since he was particular about the kind of work. “I wanted a job in economic consulting,” he says. Unable to get that he preferred to do a postgraduate programme instead. While he did not take any loan, for many of his classmates, who had taken a hefty education loan, things were difficult. Now, Nikhil is back in India getting some interesting exposure at a few start-ups in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley. He is contemplating a start-up of his own. “This is the best time to take the risk and explore it,” he says.

Across the Atlantic, Sujoyini Mandal, in her 20s, offers another peek into the odds that Indian students face overseas. After her graduation from Jadavpur University, Mandal went to Singapore for her postgraduate and worked with a think-tank there. Life was good but since she had always yearned for a degree from a world-class university, she applied for a Master’s at Harvard’s Kennedy School. For two years, she deferred her admission as she did not get any financial aid. She saved some money and, with a bit of aid, finally took the plunge in 2011. Foreign students in her college face an education loan cap of $30,000 ($15,000 a year), she says, making things even more difficult

Mandal started looking for a job when she graduated in May 2013. But mandates that fitted her needs and aspirations were not easy to come by. She did land a contract with the World Bank but that was short term, uncertain and had no medical cover. Last month Mandal finally landed a job with an investment bank. Despite such struggles, there are many reasons why the pursuit of overseas education among young Indians is unlikely to die down any time soon.

The Demographic Bulge
Every year, around 800,000 Indian students reportedly go overseas for their education. This costs the country close to $15 billion of forex annually, estimates industry lobby Assocham. If students are going overseas for education, it’s because India has a problem of both capacity and quality. The country has one of the world’s largest education infrastructures: 600 universities and 34,000 colleges with 17 million students enrolled and 5 million students graduating every year. But India is also witnessing a demographic bulge — it has perhaps the world’s largest young population. Experts estimate that some 100-million-odd students will seek higher education over the next decade.

The capacity problem is compounded by the quality issue. About 70% of the capacity in India is of poor standards. At the other end of the spectrum, competitive intensity at the premier colleges is so stiff that it is often easier for bright students to get admission in Ivy League colleges in the US and the UK than in the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), IIMs and even top colleges in Delhi University.

All this coincides with the rise of India’s aspirational upper middle class. Over the past two decades, many first-generation Indians have risen up the corporate hierarchy and are financially well-off. These well-travelled, financially stable corporate executives desire the best for their children. “They are looking for the best educational experience. They know it is a life-long asset. Indian premier colleges do not have the capacity and are very rigid,” says TV Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education. Pai’s son studied at Stanford University in the US and now works for a start-up in Silicon Valley. 

This aligns well with the global trend of rising international mobility of students. According to Institute of International Education (IIE), since 2000, the number of students leaving home in pursuit of higher education has increased by 65%, totaling about 4.3 million students globally. What is more interesting is that the share of students from the developing countries in this pie is rising — it moved up from 54.8% to 69% between 1999 and 2009.

India vs China
Not surprisingly, the world’s two most populous and powerful emerging countries — China and India — send the largest number of students overseas. But China has rapidly shifted gears to overtake India. Consider what’s taking place in the US. In 2000-01, India topped the list of international students by country, with 66,836 against China’s 63,211. But by 2009-10 China had overtaken India. In 2012-13, China sent 236,000 students; India was nudging the 97,000 mark. While the number of Chinese students has been growing in double digits of late, that of Indian students has been sliding.

To understand why that is happening, it is important to analyze the profile of students going overseas from both the countries. Chinese students going to the US are evenly split between undergraduate (40%) and postgraduate programmes (44%). But Indian students are heavily skewed towards postgraduate programmes (55%) with just 13% at the undergraduate level. Indian students are also unique as over 60% are in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) category. Bear in mind that historically, postgraduate and STEM programmes offer more financial support than undergraduate and non-STEM programmes. “The decline in Indian students is directly related to the "Strivers" [value-for-money seekers as per WES research], who have been putting their plans on hold due to increasing cost of studying abroad which in turn was triggered by economic uncertainty and currency devaluation,” says Choudaha.

A majority of Indian students arrives at the Master’s level and funds education by taking loans as financial aid from colleges has dried up. So, while the majority of Indian students go for education loans, Chinese students are supported by their families. According to a research by WES, 47% of Indian respondents report loans as one of the primary sources of funding as compared with only 3% of Chinese. Chinese students, in contrast, are “explorers” (experience seekers), says Choudaha. Often the only-child of financially well-off parents, they have the financial wherewithal to study abroad and are under less pressure to find a job there.

But change may be afoot. Some Indian students could make the transition from "strivers" to "explorers" and Choudaha expects more and more Indian students — most of them children of well-off senior executives — to go overseas at the undergraduate level. Not so dependent on financial aid, he also sees many more Indians exploring new interdisciplinary fields, beyond STEM. Even in the STEM category, experts feel that Indian students will be the biggest beneficiary as the Obama government eases rules for this critical segment in future.

Lessons from China
Two decades back, China faced problems similar to those India faces today — its higher education had both capacity and quality issues. Since then China has worked hard to upgrade its educational institutions. It has two programmes — Project 211 and Project 985. The former aims to make 100 Chinese universities world class in the 21st century; this will help China churn out world-class trained professionals to push economic growth. These universities are expected to set national standards for education quality that can be replicated by others.

Project 985 started more than a decade back and is an attempt to build China’s own Ivy League colleges in the 21st century. In the first phase the project included nine universities. The second phase, launched in 2004, includes 40-odd universities. The projects have been backed by significant investments. According to a New York Times report, China is investing $250 billion a year in human capital. 

The dragon country’s efforts are now bearing fruit. Many Chinese universities are climbing up the global ranks. Two Chinese universities have made it to the top global 50 in the Times Higher Education report. India has none. In the top 500, 16 Chinese universities make the cut against seven from India.

Mobile international students are taking note. A decade back, China was hardly on anybody’s radar. Today, it is the third largest education hub in the world after the US and the UK with 328,000 international students, according to IIE. By 2020, it hopes to host 500,000 international students. Even Singapore is targeting 150,000 foreign students by 2015. In contrast, India was home to just 27,000 international students in 2012. China is aware that to push innovation and realize its economic ambitions, it must be able to attract top talent — in its colleges and workforce.

Also, in virtually every key statistic, the world today is seeing a shift from the West to the East. From economic GDP to consumption power, MNCs across the board are looking at Asia and the world’s two most populous nations. This shift is happening demographically too. But in the education space, the West still dominates. Of the world’s top 100 universities, 46 are in the US. Seven of top 10 universities are in the US. Asia has just 11 in the top 100. “It is difficult to replicate what US has done with its universities to emerge as an innovation hub,” says Pai.

So, ambitious and aspirational Indians will continue to look overseas for education. But if India has to realize its potential, it must invest heavily in building world-class institutions in the country — the China way.

Source: The Economic Times, March 23, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Indians are second highest users of MIT-Harvard e-courses

Over 250,000 Indians have registered for courses on edX, the massive open online course (MOOC) platform founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in May 2012 to host online university-level courses.

This makes Indians the second largest community, after Americans, to register for these courses, said edX President Anant Agarwal, an Indian American who grew up in Mangalore and who has been teaching the circuits & electronics course in MIT for 26 years.

The courses have been put together and are led by some of the finest professors in the world. Students require just an internet connection. The courses are free, can be normally completed within a duration of 4 weeks to 12 weeks, and those who complete them receive a certificate from the university that provides the course.

Some 2 million people from 196 countries have registered for edX courses, of which about 600,000 are from the US, about 80,000 each from the UK and Brazil, and about 60,000 from China.

For Indians, the most popular courses have been those related to computer science, engineering, and public health. Globally and for Indians, the two most popular courses are 'Introduction to computer science', led by Harvard faculty David J Malan and Rob Bowden, and the circuits & electronics course led by Agarwal.

"Some 220,000 people are currently registered for the introduction to computer science course, and some 360,000 have registered for this course in the past two years. The circuits & electronics course has had a total of 250,000 students since it started. About 12% of the students in both courses are from India," said Agarwal. Indians account for about 50% of the 70,000 enrolments in Harvard's public health course. Agarwal said this strong interest from Indians was thanks to the Medical Council of India (MCI) spreading the word among doctors.

edX, a not-for-profit initiative, and Coursera, a for-profit initiative by two Stanford professors, are among the biggest MOOCs providers. edX now offers some 160 courses including in science, engineering, business, law, history, social sciences, and artificial intelligence. Only around 6% of those who register for these courses actually complete them and go on to receive certificates.

For this and other reasons, Moocs still has a lot of critics. Few think it can completely substitute classroom teaching. The big promise of Moocs is that it can take world-class education to those who are otherwise excluded for socioeconomic or geographic reasons. But a recent University of Pennsylvania study revealed that over 80% of surveyed people taking Moocs already hold college degrees.

Agarwal is unfazed by these arguments. MOOCs, he says, are better than what you get in many universities, and particularly valuable for countries like India, for students who can't get into the top schools or can't afford them. "Today's generation is also used to watching videos. And our courses give a video game-like experience. So students are very engaged. We are planning a big push in India," he said.

He also noted instances of students benefiting from these courses. "One US student who took our software-as-a-service course added that to his LinkedIn profile and received a job interview call from a company in New York the very next day. Amol Bhave, a high school student in Jabalpur, took my course in circuits & electronics. He applied to MIT soon after and got in with financial aid," Agarwal said.

Source: The Times of India, March 22, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

23% of Indian B-school graduates land up in US: GMAC Survey

Fresh B-school graduates are increasingly shunning the security of a steady job and striking out on their own. A worldwide survey of B-school alumni reveals that 45 per cent of those who graduated between 2010 and 2013 preferred self-employment — that's almost double the proportion of their seniors who opted to pursue their own dreams in the 2000-2009 period.

The survey, conducted among nearly 21,000 alumni representing 132 institutions from 129 countries, covered batches from 1959 to 2013. It showed a steadily growing preference for self-employment among fresh graduates. In the 2000-2009 period, 25 per cent of graduates opted for it while in the decade before that the figure was 14 per cent.

The survey was carried out by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts the GMAT exam for admission to more than 6,000 graduate management programmes worldwide.

The US remains the most preferred job location for alumni from B-schools worldwide with Chinese and Indians taking the lead. As many as 38 per cent of Chinese graduates preferred to work in the US, while 23 per cent of Indian B-schoolers landed up in that country. The survey revealed that a quarter of B-school alumni across the world don't work within their own country.

While almost all B-school graduates from the US (97 per cent) are likely to work in their own country, a majority of the Chinese are likely to work overseas (52 per cent).

Canada leads the table for annual median salary at entry level with US$ 75,000, but it is the US which pays the highest mid, senior and executive-level salaries. The pay package for B-school alumni in India was among the lowest in the 18 countries listed in the survey.

"This is a robust survey results in this debut effort from direct collaboration with 132 business schools in 29 countries. A fascinating highlight of this year's alumni survey is the wide reach of salary data. Seeing earnings data by job level for graduates of business school who work in India is helpful information to consider in one's career planning and expectations," said Michelle Sparkman Renz, Director, Research Communications, GMAC.

As for B-school education, 77 per cent of the alumni said it was financially rewarding. Old students also ensured that they keep in touch with the alma mater, be it for mentoring scholars or for recruitment. Nearly 34 per cent of recent alumni have kept contact with the faculty, while 28 per cent attended alumni events. Around 43% of old students visited their alumni website, and an even higher 45 per cent followed their B-school on social media.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), March 17, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Foreign students can take CMAT

As controversy around the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) starts settling down, the technical education regulator said on Friday that it will open up to foreign students its common entrance test for admission to management schools, and make answer sheets public to boost transparency. Taking the common entrance exam global will help bring foreign students to India and, in the long run, help the country become an educational hub for developing countries, AICTE chairman S.S. Mantha said.

AICTE conducts the Common Management Admission Test (CMAT) twice a year and students can use their scores in the test for applying to B-Schools. CMAT started as a national entrance test in July 2011, but the Supreme Court has ruled that taking the test cannot be made compulsory for admission to any institute; rather it will be one of five national tests based on which B-Schools can select students.

“We will go global in the next edition of our entrance (in September-October),” said Mantha in New Delhi. “Our approach is practical - we are not trying to target the US or top European countries. We will focus on countries in Africa, Middle East and South Asia,” he added.

AICTE has been controversial in the past for alleged high-handedness and excessive interference in the functioning of educational institutions. In 2009, its then member-secretary was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and a case was registered against its then chairman for alleged bribery.

On 25 April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the AICTE does not have the authority to control or regulate professional colleges that are affiliated to universities, curtailing the powers of AICTE, leaving some 11,000 professional colleges without an overseer.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said it aims to restore the old powers of AICTE through legislation. Although the legislation could not be moved in the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha, the ministry has said the University Grants Commission (UGC) will oversee technical schools with support from AICTE.

As an interim measure, AICTE will continue to set the standards for professional colleges to follow; the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), another government body, will conduct the assessments; and UGC, through the universities under it, will offer affiliation and approvals to these technical schools, Mint reported in January, citing Higher Education Secretary with MHRD, Ashok Thakur.

India offers more than 400,000 seats in B-schools every year — more than the demand for admission to management courses, and opening them up to international students will be a way of filling up the seats, Mantha said. This would also help Indian campuses become heterogeneous and, in the long run, help improve the ranking of Indian B-schools. Currently, no Indian institute features in the top 200 rank globally.

“And those schools which have their seats filled can offer 15% more seats above their capacity,” said the AICTE chairman, adding that details of the plan will be worked out in the next few months. Making answer sheets public is expected to improve transparency in the management entrance test space. The proposal comes quick on the heels of the Calcutta high court asking the elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) to show a group of petitioners their answer sheets in the IIM-run Common Aptitude Test (CAT).

“We have no problem in making answer sheets public,” Mantha said. “We are more than willing to make it public if it serves students better. In our entrance we give raw scores and not percentile marks, hence there is less chance of any controversy.”

Any move to bring foreign students to Indian campuses is positive, said Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president of the Education Promotion Society of India, an association of private educational institutions. Still, the regulators need to consult all stakeholders, including private educational institutes, he said.

AICTE on Friday announced the results for the February edition of the CMAT, which was taken by 88,942 students. Maharashtra had 26,568 students taking the test, followed by Gujarat (17,636) and Karanataka (10,378). Of the total students who took the test, 56,017 were men and 32,925 women. A little over 49% of the total students were from rural India, AICTE authorities said.

Source: Mint, March 15, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

IIM-Bangalore and Toulouse Business School to offer Aerospace MBA Degree

The Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM-B) and Toulouse Business School have signed an agreement to set up India's first executive general management programme in aerospace and aviation management as a first step towards collaborating in teaching and research.

"As part of its commitment to develop aerospace management education in India, Airbus is sponsoring the two year part-time degree programme to develop and nurture local talent in the field of aerospace," a press note issued in Bangalore said.

The aerospace MBA will be the first of its kind in India and is conducted by Toulouse Business School, whose own established and respected Aerospace MBA course has a strong business focus. Each year up to 75 students will be enrolled in the course.

"India is one of the fastest developing countries in the aviation market and is also one of the richest talent pools for the next generation of business leaders and we want the best to enter the exciting world of aviation," Dwarkanath Srinivasan, CEO of Airbus India said, adding: "With more passengers flying each year in India, there is an increasing need for expertise in aviation business." The partnership has been established to address the need to develop the next generation of Indian aviation professionals.

Jacques Igalens, Toulouse Business School Dean said: "With the constantly evolving aviation landscape, the aviation industry needs world class leaders to anticipate trends and provide innovative solutions in today's fast changing and uncertain globalised markets. This programme truly aims at answering this need."

Prof. Devanath Tirupati, Director-In-Charge of IIM-B said, "The students will also have the option of earning an aerospace MBA degree from Toulouse Business School. We strongly feel that this will give the right skills and the best possible training for our next generation of aviation sector business leaders."

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), March 14, 2014

Degrees at IIMs likely to become a reality

If all goes well, much-awaited degrees at Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) would turn into a reality soon. Officials at the premier management institutes of India are eagerly waiting for the polls to get over as the decision on the proposed Bill in the Parliament is likely to be taken after the new government is formed.

If passed, the Bill would ensure that the post graduates and five-year (Integrated Programme in Management) IPM pass-outs from the prestigious institute get a degree and not just diploma or certificate. At present, IIMs do not provide degrees as they do not fall under the category of university. IIM- Indore is the only one among 13 IIMs to offer 5-year IPM.

IIM-Indore Director Rishikesha T Krishnan told TOI, "At government level, there is a proposal to enact an IIM Act, which will be applicable to all 13 IIMs in the country. Once it is passed, IIMs will be able to provide degrees of their own. We will also be able to provide degrees to our students at Dubai centre then."

"However, the whole process may take some time. We will have to wait for the new government to take office and if and when they pass the legislation, we will be able to give degrees for all our programmes in India as well as in Dubai."

Students are upbeat over the developments. "PGDM is not recognized at many places abroad and students face problems while pursuing PhD. A degree would ensure better job prospects for IIM students. It will enable them to apply for government jobs and pursue higher education at any place of their choice," said Ankur Jain, a second-year PGP student at IIM-Indore.

IIM-I passout Deepti Jaiswal said, "Quality of education and placement at IIMs matter more than degrees. However, a degree would definitely help students willing to pursue higher studies abroad".

Source: The Times of India, March 14, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

India among 30 countries where 'education' attacked most often: Study

About 140 schools were attacked by militants in the period 2009-2012 --- a number high enough to put India in a list of the top 30 countries where education - teachers, institutions, students - has been the target of violence. Education Under Attack 2014, "a global study of threats or deliberate use of force against students, teachers, academics, education trade union members and government officials" was released recently.

The 30 countries have been divided into three categories: countries with a 1,000 or more attacks are "very heavily affected", the ones that have seen between 500 and 999 attacks from 2009 to early 2013 are "heavily affected" and those with less than 500 attacks are "other affected." 

India belongs to the third category along with several south Asian countries - Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, The Philippines. Afghanistan and Pakistan are both in the "very heavily affected" category with the Pakistani Taliban alone attacked over 830 schools. The same group, in 2012, attacked school girl Malala Yousafzai whose miraculous survival and subsequent campaign inspired the report. 

The previous two editions of Education Under Attack - 2007 and 2010 - were both by UNESCO. This one, covering over four years, is by the group Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). "Most attacks on education occurred in states affected by a long-running insurgency led by Maoist and other left-wing armed groups - also referred to as 'Naxalites'," says the report of the situation in India.

"Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa were among the states most affected by the conflict in 2008," says the report adding that the number of attacks "peaked" in 2009 and has "declined steeply" since. It cites a Home Ministry report from 2011 which stated there were 71 schools attacks in 2009, 39 in 2010 and 27 in 2011 across Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. Only 12 incidents were reported in 2012. 

A 2013 Save the Children commissioned study - Caught In Crossfire: Children and education in regions affected by civil strife - covering Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, had reported in detail on the state of schools in districts with high Maoist activity. However, Maoists weren't the only agents of violence - the GCPEA report also mentions attacks on Christian institutions by Hindu and Muslim extremists. In the final count - covering incidents reported by human rights groups and the media - "at least 13 teachers, one catering staff member and four students were killed from 2009 to 2012. At least 73 teachers and 11 students were injured. Seven teachers were abducted, five of whom were subsequently found dead, and at least two students were kidnapped."

The GCPEA study "examines threats and deliberate use of force against students, teachers, academics, education trade union members, government officials, aid workers and other education staff and attacks on schools, universities and other education buildings carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic or religious reasons in 2009-2013." It examines, in particular, use of education infrastructure by armed groups or national armed forces which it says is "one of the key factors that can lead to attacks on education." Of India, it says "there was widespread use of schools as barracks or bases by government forces, mostly in the east of the country."

Fact-file on Education Attacks:
Attacks on education was reported in at least 70 countries.

The 30 countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

In 24 of the 30 countries, armed non-state groups and/or state armed forces used schools as bases, barracks, weapons caches, detention centers and even torture chambers... These occupations lasted for weeks, months or, in some cases, years.

In 28 of the 30 countries, higher education facilities and/or students and staff were attacked or institutions were used for military purposes. Attacks damaged or destroyed university and college buildings in 17 of the 30 countries.

The six "very heavily affected" ones are: Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

In many countries, individual students, teachers, academics and other education staff were murdered, abducted, threatened with violence, or illegally detained or imprisoned, and in some cases tortured.

In some countries, children were captured en route to and from school or taken from their classrooms and recruited as soldiers.

Source: The Times of India, March 12, 2014

UK witnesses 21% drop in study visas to Indians in 2013

In the aftermath of the murder of an Indian pupil and issues like stringent policies and depreciating currency, the United Kingdom witnessed a 21 per cent drop in study visas issued to Indians in 2013. The European country issued only 13,608 study visas to Indian nationals in 2013, which is 21 per cent lower than the earlier year, it said.

"I don't think anyone has one single answer to that. Some of it may be to do with myths. They think that there is a limit on the number of Indians who can come to Britain to study, they think it is difficult to get a student visa, they think that they cannot work after study," said British High Commissioner to India James Bevan. He was replying to a query on the reasons for the dip in the visas granted, after inauguration of a new visa centre in the city of Mumbai.

In 2013, Britain received 14,762 applications across all education sectors, which was 27 per cent lower than the same received in 2012, with the university sponsored applications which constitute a bulk of the category, falling by 7 per cent to 12,832.

Notably, the dip in numbers came after Anuj Bidve, a native of Maharashtra's Pune, was shot dead by a local factory worker near Manchester on December 26, 2011. "Such instances are very, very rare. Britain is a very safe country for everybody including students, including Indian students," Bevan said, assuaging any concerns.

Bevan gave a slew of statistics which show the country's importance when it comes to granting of visas by the UK, including occupying the top rank among all the countries in the visas issued. In 2013, Britain issued a total of 400,000 visas to Indians, which is 5 per cent higher than previous year and Bevan said he expects the growth to continue.

Over 90 per cent of the applications received get the visas, he said, clarifying that Britain does not look at India as a high risk country as some reports had stated. "We look at each country on its merit. In each country, there might be some category of high risk individuals, but that would apply worldwide. India is not seen as a high risk country," he said.

On the controversy over having a visa bond, Bevan said that the proposal has been junked. "There is no bond, there will not be a visa bond," he said.

Source: The Times of India, March 12, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Indian Statistical Institute to get Rs. 1.15 billion cryptology research centre

Encryption technology is set to take a leap in Kolkata with a dedicated research centre at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI). Home of code language research for more than a decade, ISI will soon host the RC Bose Centre for Cryptology and Security. To be set up at a cost of Rs. 1.15 billion and funded by the central government, it will conduct research on developing encrypted data transfer, primarily for defence and finance. ISI already has a cryptology research group (CRG) that has been working on encrypting classified data for transmission.

With the research centre, ISI will make a foray into the practical aspects of cryptology. So far, it has only been working on the theoretical part. "Our primary job has been to develop theories and pass them on to the agencies for which we have been working. But once we have a research centre, we must also delve into the practical part. In terms of theoretical research, it will be an extension of CRG activities that we have been involved in since 2000. The ambit and nature of research will, of course, be far more extensive," said Rana Barua, professor, statistics and mathematics unit and a member of CRG.

The research centre will also run cryptograph courses. It could offer a diploma or a degree course on cryptology. "We need more researchers and trained people to carry on the job. Courses are the obvious way of having more trained hands," said Barua. The research centre will have 15 to 20 research scholars, post-doctoral students and visiting professors. Many from the CRG will be joining the centre.

"It will be a centre of excellence that will encourage independent research. Funds have been sanctioned and we are waiting for the money to arrive," said Bimal Roy, Director, ISI. He added that the centre will not restrict itself merely to theoretical research. "In the long run, we must look into the possibility of exploring the practical part. It will be a comprehensive research unit," said Roy.

ISI initiated research on cryptology in 2000. It has been holding a cryptology conference every year since then. The institute has developed indigenous cryptology codes for defence and finance that have often been used. Even though government agencies also use commercially available encryption, they are not considered fully safe.

"It can be decoded by the company providing it. So, commercial encryption is not trusted. Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) uses its own encryption techniques. We have been in the fray for seven or eight years," said an ISI official. The centre will be set up on an ISI-owned plot on BT Road, a few kilometres from the main campus.

Source: The Times of India, March 11, 2014

Government won’t interfere in work of education accreditation agencies

The government will not interfere in the work of the country’s two education accreditation agencies, which will be run independently by competent experts. “Today, we have made the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) totally autonomous, and we are in the process of making the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) independent,” Higher Education Secretary Ashok Thakur said in New Delhi while addressing a world summit on accreditation.

While the NBA was earlier with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the NAAC currently functions under the University Grants Commission (UGC). The NBA accredits courses and the NAAC accredits institutions.

“The government should learn to restrain itself on doing professional work of accreditation,” Thakur said. “The government should create only broad, enabling conditions.” The government may rope in private firms to assess and accredit educational institutes, Mint reported on 24 February, citing UGC Chairman Prof. Ved Prakash. The secretary confirmed the development.

Thakur said the government is setting up a new authority, which will be “an arm’s length body” away from direct government interference to facilitate and coordinate the work of accreditation with little influence from UGC or other agencies. He said the new body will short-list competent entities including private ones to do the job of assessment and accreditation. “More agencies to accredit will make life easier for institutions,” said Gouri Shankar Bramha, assistant professor with the ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education, a deemed university in Hyderabad.

India has 723 universities, including institutions of national importance, 37,204 colleges and 11,356 professional schools offering diplomas. Overall, about 28.6 million students are pursuing higher education, according to official data. Less than 25% of these institutions are accredited.

When the country is talking about the demographic dividend, maintaining a certain standard in higher education is important and to manage the huge network, multiple agencies should shoulder the responsibility, Thakur said. All these agencies should not be manned by either “politicians or people from pure bureaucracy”, the secretary said, adding that government has made accreditation mandatory and linked funding of higher educational institution with it.

Colleges and institutions without accreditation may not get funding from UGC or under the new scheme called the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shikhha Abhiyan (RUSA). Under RUSA, India will spend some Rs. 990 billion over the next eight years to fund educational institution under state governments.

India is likely to become a permanent member of the Washington Accord, an international treaty for equivalence of engineering degrees among the top 15 countries including the US, and mobility of engineers among these countries. “We hope the good news comes by June 2014. This will help our engineers get jobs in these countries, too.” Thakur said. India has been trying for permanent membership since 2007, he said.

The authorities of the Washington Accord have reviewed the accreditation process in India and have submitted a draft report, according to Surendra Prasad, Chairman of NBA.

Source: Mint, March 11, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Global recognition of Indian degrees soon

India is set to get full-fledged membership status of the Washington Accord by June this year, enabling global recognition of Indian degrees and improving mobility of students and engineers. Secretary higher education Ashok Thakur also said steps were being taken to set up National Accreditation Regulatory Authority (NARA), supplementing the country's efforts to improve quality and meet international standards.

"After acquiring full status of the Washington Accord, employability of Indian engineers in other countries will go up substantially. This will help our students pursuing technical education," Thakur told reporters here. India is a provisional member of Washington Accord since 2007 and is confident to get the full-fledged status by June when a meeting of of the body is due to take place, he said.

The Accord signed in 1989 is an international agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting engineering degree programmes. So far, some 16 countries are signatories to it. Thakur said two members were deputed by the Washington Accord to help India align its accreditation norms with the best international practices.

Talking about NARA, he said it will be an autonomous body comprising experts who will identify agencies for accrediting institutes. The University Grants Commission (UGC) will initiate steps to set up the body soon, he said. At present, the accreditation is provided by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Board of Accreditation (NBA).

Government has made accreditation mandatory for all educational institutes and UGC has come up with a set of guidelines in this respect. He also said that IITs are free to decide if they wish to be accredited by these bodies as these premier institutes have so far refused to be accredited. IITs have instead decided to go for an internal accreditation process. Thakur, however, sought increased involvement of the IITs with the NBA accrediting institutes.

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), March 10, 2014

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Afghanistan turns to MS University to improve education

In every lesson or two that the kids in Afghanistan will learn now on, MS University, Baroda will have played a role for the better. Blighted by war, Afghanistan is looking to India to improve its education sector. And the choice has fallen upon the Department of Educational Administration of MS University's Faculty of Education and Psychology.

For the first time, education officers of Afghanistan are undergoing training and study programme outside their own country. Since Friday, 16 education officers deputed by the Ministry of Education, Afghanistan are undergoing a training programme at the MSU department through a programme funded by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA).

"The aim of this training and study visit is to increase awareness among the Afghan education authorities on approaches used in India and globally in managing schools," said Sayed Mukhtav Sadaf, project manager of SCA, which works closely with Ministry of Education of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its provincial and district departments to support community-based education.

"Although there are near 100,000 teachers and over one million students enrolled in the 10,000-odd schools in Afghanistan, quality of teaching is a big issue. For instance, during our visit to a school here, we realized that biology, which is taught to grade XI students here, is taught in grade eight in Afghanistan. This is happening as the context of education is not understood by the curricular development department and teachers are not being able to cope up with this," Abdul Baseer, senior education officer, said. Interestingly, the organizers had explored many other destinations before they finalized to undergo training at MSU.

"Culturally, we are very close to Indian people and it is easy to identify ourselves with Indians. India is 100 years advanced compared to us but the United States is 1,000 years ahead of us. Understanding education model of India can help us select its best to suit our needs," said Baseer. The group of officers visited Zenith School recently. They will visit other city-based private and government-run schools during their ten-day intensive training programme.

"It is a matter of pride that our department has been identified at the international level for training the educational managers. We will continue to work in this direction and extend our academic support to the educational organizations world over in capacity building of human resources for quality education," said MSU professor K Pushpanadham, who is director of the training programme. International organization, SCA, is operating in Afghanistan for almost 30 years now.

Source: The Times of India, March 9, 2014

Friday, March 07, 2014

No Indian university in top 100 global list

None of India's 700 universities and 35,539 colleges has made it to the top 100 list of the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings released on Thursday. This means that academics don't think too highly of the capabilities and work of our higher educational institutions.

The ranking, drawn on the findings of an invitation-only academic opinion survey, is based on the subjective judgment of around 60,000 senior, published academics considered as "the people best placed to know the most about excellence in our universities".

Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University in the US lead the list followed by the UK's University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. Agency reports said that Punjab University, the alma mater of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, found a place in the un-ranked section of 226 - 300. It is followed by the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) in Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Roorkee between ranks 351 and 400.

Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore is ranked highest among Indian institutions, at just below 200, from its 130th place last year. IIT-Bombay figures among the 210-220 group, and IIT-Delhi and IIT-Kanpur are ranked below 250.

The US has the most representation with more than 45 institutions figuring in the top 100 followed by the UK with 10 institutions, Germany with six and Japan and Australia with five. India is the only BRIC country that is not represented in the top 100 list. China has two of its institutions on the list while Brazil and Russia have one each.

Though based on perception experts said the reputation ranking cannot be taken lightly. In his article 'Credit check' on the website, Times Higher Education Rankings editor Phil Baty said that reputation is the currency of global higher education today, and is accepted by scholars, students, donors and industry.

"In today's academy, reputation is the currency: research has shown that institutional standing is the top consideration for academics when moving jobs, is vital for the formation of international collaborations, and is essential in persuading philanthropists to give and industrial partners to invest," Baty said.

According to data put together by the Institute of International Education (IIE) on international student mobility in 2012, the number of foreign students registered in Indian higher education institutions in 2012 is 27,000, much lower than in other Asian countries like China (328,000) or Japan (137,000).

"Personal experience has shown that IITs are incredibly highly valued in institutions like MIT or Caltech. When we host international delegations in the realm of technology, we find that IITs are as good as any other institution," said R Nagarajan, Dean, International and Alumni Relations, IIT-Madras. But he maintained the stand that it was unfair to compare IITs which are technical institutions with universities that also ran other courses.

VIT University Chancellor G Viswanathan said that the visibility of Indian institutions outside the country is poor. "If we want to be known outside the country, we must have partners around the world and get international accreditation. Senior institutions like the IITs are only taking the initiative to get international students or faculty," he said.

Source: The Times of India, March 7, 2014

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

IIT as unified entity can break into Top 100

If the 16 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are ranked as one institution, IIT will be among the top 100 universities in the world, an analysis by Careers360 magazine claims. According to an article in the magazine’s March issue, to be released on today, the IIT system as one entity could be ranked 61 in a listing of the world’s best universities. The article argues that this could serve as both motivation and pressure for Indian schools to do better. No Indian school is in the top 200 in any of the world’s education rankings.

The authors of “IITs@61: System Breaks into Global Ranking” used the methodology of the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings and said IIT does stand a chance to be among the top 100 in the world in the areas of funding, learning or research. While the article’s authors argued for making all IITs one legal unit on the lines of the University of California and its campuses, global rankings do not count the American institution and its various branches as one entity.

“It is by no means the case that entry into the ranking as a single entity would have the effects suggested by this article — most of our indicators are scaled for a university’s size, so under our methodology, big does not automatically mean best. Some of the most successful institutions in the rankings are small, dynamic and focused, such as Caltech,” said Phil Baty, Editor of Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) retained its number one position in the October 2013 World University Rankings for the third consecutive year.

Careers360 finds international research citations and collaboration in the IIT system to be weak. To be sure, there is great variation among the IITs and the authors point out that among the 16, the top seven at Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Khargpur, Madras and Roorkee, are among the best universities in the world.

For example, in the area of international expertise in faculty, IIT-Bombay’s 14% does not help as the entire IIT system’s international faculty makes up less than 2% of its teachers. The analysis also suggests that the IIT system is not as deficient in research output as perceived.

The article said, “While in terms of the number of doctorates, the IIT system would rank near 30-40 in the global order, in terms of the ratio of PhDs to undergraduate plus postgraduate students, IITs are actually comparable to the top 20.” Still, winning a unified ranking could take some doing, said one expert.

The Planning Commission’s higher education adviser Pawan Agarwal said it may not even be possible given the IITs are very different from multi-campus institutions. It is, however, heartening to see, in all areas other than international students and faculty, IITs together compare well with the top institutions around the world, he added.

The IITs are supervised by a Council that is chaired by the Union minister for human resource development and has the chairmen and directors of all IITs as its members. However, each of the IITs is legally separate and its board is responsible for general superintendence, control and direction of its affairs under the Institutes of Technology law. 

“Each one of the IITs has a distinct identity and we should aim to have each one of them in the top 100 universities of the world,” Agarwal said. According to Baty, “the only real way to rise up the rankings is to make real progress in improving research quality and improving the teaching environment — this comes from true reform and improvement, not through manipulating data submissions”.

India added three institutions to the top 400 of the global higher education rankings. Panjab University was the top-ranked Indian institution and was placed between 226 and 250 in the Times rankings. IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Roorkee, were ranked in the 351-400 range. Panjab University, IIT-Delhi and IIT-Kanpur are the new entrants.

Source: Mint, March 5, 2014

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