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

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