Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Indian Education System: Waiting for a reboot

When it comes to education, India is a study in contrasts — on the one side, it has a huge pool of human resources, and on the other, the quality of education outcomes is questionable, affecting the competitiveness of the country as a knowledge hub. 

The demographic dividend of which the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) spoke so highly five years back is yet to be realized. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on talent (one of the five ‘T’s he has spoken about in his campaign speeches — trade, talent, tourism, technology and traditions) and portions of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) election manifesto raise some hope, officials and industry experts said.

“We need to start with a vision for India’s education system, an ambitious aspiration of where we want to be, say five to 10 years from now,” said Ashish Dhawan, Chief Executive at Central Square Foundation, a venture philanthropy fund working on school education. Once the vision is set, the country must outline short- and medium-term milestones to achieve it and a clear road map to get there. “This has to be the starting point of education transformation in our country,” Dhawan said.

India Ratings and Research Pvt. Ltd, part of the Fitch Group, has valued India’s education market at Rs. 5.9 trillion in 2014-15, up from Rs. 3.33 trillion in 2011-12. “India’s young demographic would continue to benefit the sector even as protracted infrastructure upgrades and regulatory issues delay timely benefits,” said India Ratings in its 2014-15 outlook.

India has more than 220 million students enrolled in schools and some 27 million in higher education. The country has about 1.4 million schools, over 36,000 colleges and more than 610 universities.

Of the total education market, higher education accounted for 59.7%, followed by school education (38.1%). The balance was divided among pre-school and ancillary sectors like technology adoption, Care Ratings said in another February report.

While rising incomes and rapid urbanization, coupled with increasing awareness about the importance of quality education, have caused robust growth of the Indian education industry, many studies say that the quality of education is falling in India.

The 2013 Annual Status of Education Report by non-profit Pratham found that while three out of every five students in Class V were able to read Class II textbooks in 2005, only one out of two is up to the task now. In the Programme for International Student Assessment test (published in 2011), India came second-last among 74 participating economies. A 2011 report by lobby group NASSCOM said only a fourth of all graduating engineers in India were employable.

Almost all segments of India’s education needs a “serious revamping”, said Chitta Baral, a professor at Arizona State University who tracks the Indian education sector. From schools to teachers’ training, from assessment to parts of higher education, the sector needs a serious relook, keeping in mind the changing economy, global competition and India’s aim of becoming a knowledge superpower, he said.

While school education needs to emphasize comprehension and writing, the new government needs to give priority to setting up community colleges that can give region-specific skill education, leading to jobs, Baral said. Besides, India needs to have a few world-class universities for others to look up to, he added.

Education reform without reforming teachers’ education is unthinkable, said G.L.Arora, a former head of the department of education at the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the apex body on teachers’ education and school syllabus. “In last 10-12 years, the number of teacher training institutions has crossed 15,000 from less than 2,000 and most of them are run by private players and are commercial in nature. This is where the government needs to intervene and reform,” Arora said.

The Justice J.S. Verma Commission on Teacher Education had said that nearly 90% of the teacher training institutions in need of restructuring are in the private sector. Though the government started pre-entry testing for teachers through the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) — based on the commission’s report — the results were abysmal. In the last edition of CTET, just one in 56 candidates managed to clear the test for would-be school teachers. In other words, the success rate was 1.78%. Of the 750,722 candidates who took CTET on 16 February, only 13,428 cleared it to become eligible for being appointed as teachers for elementary level (Class I-VIII). “Such poor success rate reflects two things: the quality of general education from schools to colleges and the quality of teacher training institutes,” Arora said.

In the higher education space, there needs to be less government and more governance. Liberalizing the sector from the excessive regulation is necessary, said experts. “Regulation is required, but it needs to be contemporary — different from what the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), or University Grants Commission (UGC) are doing now,” said N.R. Parasuraman, Director at SDM Institute for Management Development, Mysore.

In management education, students prefer postgraduate programmes (PGPs) to traditional master’s degrees, said Ajit Rangnekar, Dean at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. “While PGP courses can innovate as per industry requirement, MBA has an old pattern with the affiliating university deciding its learning content — that needs to change. The government should be an enabler by removing impediments.”

Harivansh Chaturvedi, Alternate President of the Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI), a lobby group, said that in the last five years, one human resource development minister (Kapil Sibal) announced too many things arbitrarily, and the other (M.M. Pallam Raju) was a good listener, but could not execute the right things. “The government needs to take private players into consideration while planning policy decisions. Looking at all private institutions with suspicion needs to change and the government needs to stop differentiating between quality private institutions and public institutes,” Chaturvedi said.

The BJP’s manifesto proposal of increasing public funding on education to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) and restructuring UGC as a higher education commission rather than a fund granting agency, was seen by both industry and academic experts as the beginning of a much-needed structural shift.

Source: Mint, June 24, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

MHRD all set to bring foreign universities to India

Union MHRD Minister Smriti Irani has decided to focus on a legal framework for allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India and curb unfair practices by education institutions as part of the human resources ministry's legislative agenda, a government official said.

In doing so, the minister hopes to address the questions of increasing access and improving quality of higher education institutions in the country. "The Foreign Education Providers Bill and the Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill are on the priority list of the minister. We will have to go through the entire process — circulating a Cabinet note, discussions with the legislative department, then Cabinet approval, then vetting by the standing committee, before the Bill can be taken up for discussion and passage by Parliament," an official said on the conditions of anonymity.

"We don't know for sure if all of this can be completed in the course of the Budget session, but these bills are on the priority." Both legislative measures were initiated by the previous Congress-led government, but fell off the government's legislative priority agenda in the face of political opposition, some of it from within the ruling combine.

There is at present no legal and regulatory framework to allow foreign universities to set up campus in India, despite efforts by the previous government.

Faced with delays in enacting a law allowing foreign universities to set up base in the country, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) decided in September 2013 to take the executive order route to open the doors for the top 400 institutions to set up campuses in the country and award degrees, giving Indian students the opportunity to study in global institutions without leaving home or spending a fortune in dollars.

A legal framework making this possible has been pending for more than a decade now. The proposed UGC (Establishment & Operation of Campuses of Foreign Educational Institutions) Rules required that foreign education providers set up the India campuses as not-for-profit companies, that is companies set up under Section 25 of the old Companies Act (Section 8 of the new one). The proposal had the support of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).

However, the regulations were never issued with the government's legislative department failing to notify them. With newer players operating in the field of higher education, there is a need to improve the protection available to students against fly-by-night operators and other malpractices. The intent of the legislation is to give a legal basis to curtail profiteering in higher education institutions as well as ensure accountability of institutions by making it mandatory for them to disclose information related to admission process.

Source: The Economic Times, June 23, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dental Council seeks moratorium on opening new colleges

The Dental Council of India (DCI) today demanded a moratorium on starting new private colleges while citing "ample number" of dentists in society and the acute shortage of trained faculty in existing colleges as the main reasons.

Dr Dibyendu Mazumdar, the president of the statutory body which is responsible for regulating dental education and also the profession, said that the combined intake of students across 302 colleges has reached 25,000. 
"There should be a moratorium on starting new dental colleges. The DCI does not want to sanction new dental colleges anywhere in the country," Dr Mazumdar told PTI. He was speaking on the sidelines of the 2nd international conference on the theme of evidence-based education system (EBES) being organised by the Sumandeep Vidyapeeth in Vadodara. 

"The current dentist-to-population ratio is well above the requirement," Dr Mazumdar said, adding that he had already written to all chief ministers requesting them not to approve any new private dental college in their respective state. "Another reason for the moratorium on opening of new dental colleges is due to acute shortage of qualified teaching faculty," he said.

As per the procedure, a university concerned has to grant an NOC (No Objection Certificate) to the management of private college which then has to secure nod of the state government and finally send the proposal to Centre.

"The strict rules have resulted in rejection of 90 per cent proposals to open new dental colleges in the country. As many as 85 colleges were not given recognition to run a dental college because of stringent norms. Only 7 were considered and given approval during this year so far," he said. "Even if we give permission, the dental college should necessarily be attached to a medical college because as many as eight out of the 17 subjects are common for both dental and medical students," the DCI president said.

Dr Mazumdar said that the DCI recognised only those dental institutes which have other departments such as ENT, eye, orthopaedic and others to ensure sufficient inflow of clinical material and patients to the college concerned. He said that private colleges were not on par with their government counterparts in terms of training and standard of education.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), June 21, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Australia among top 3 choices for Indian students

Reversing the earlier trend of migration to Australia by majority of Indians, the country now continued to be one of the top three destinations of choice for Indian students due to its academic quality and education system, a senior Australian diplomat said today.

Though many Indian students preferred to study in Australia for migration and have permanent residency, nowadays the system and quality education now was attracting Indian students, as out of 390,000  International students from more than 190 countries, 38,000 were Indians, the second largest source country behind only to China, Sean Kelly, Australian Consul-General for South India, told reporters in Coimbatore today.

In 2012, the number of Indian students granted visas for Under Graduate or Post Graduate study grew by 165 per cent over the previous year, a ringing endorsement of the attractiveness of study in Australia, Kelly pointed out. There were many reasons responsible for the growth, in particular the reputation of the universities, the quality of living and the opportunities for students to work in Australia during and following study, he said.

As far as Tamil Nadu was concerned, Australia has a significant relationship with the education sector of the state, as there are 83 active higher education links between Australia and Tamil Nadu institutes, including 19 Australian universities and 34 Indian institutes, he said.

In fact, of 453 MoUs between Indian universities and research Institutes, Tamil Nadu has 80 MoUs with the Australian Counterparts, more than any other Indian state, Mike Carter, Consul (commercial), who was also present, said.

Source: The Economic Times, June 20, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Japan continues to be Asian giant in higher education, China closing in

Japan continues it's dominance in Asian higher education by holding the top position yet again in the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014, released a few hours ago on Thursday. The country has 20 representatives in the Top 100 table. But breathing down its neck is mainland China, which made significant stride registering 18 of its universities in the list, an increase of three since last rankings.

As reported by Phil Baty, editor of THE Rankings, University of Tokyo leads the pack in the Asia university rankings. However, Japan's strength came down by three from that of the 2013 list. Meanwhile in addition to China's 18, the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong recorded six of its own.

Holding fort for Japan is University of Tokyo at number one and Kyoto University retaining its 17th place. The Tokyo Institute of Technology holds on to 13th position, and Osaka University moves up two places to 15th, as per THE report. However, Keio University fell to 72 from 53, while Kobe University moved down to 88 from 73.

As reported in THE, at UTokyo, at least, there is growing acknowledgement that Japan's historic dominance of the region in higher education terms can no longer be taken for granted. The key concern is a relative lack of funding. Junichi Hamada, the university's president, tells THE: "With the financial ability (and the human resources) that Chinese universities have, they are a big threat to us. If we look towards the future, over the next 10 years, in specific areas perhaps they may overtake us. But it will still take time."

For China, Peking is the top university at 5th, though it has lost one place from 2013 rankings. Beijing's Tsinghua University is at 6th, while many others improved their rankings significantly. The University of Science and Technology of China has risen four places to 21st; Renmin University of Chinahas jumped from 41st to joint 32nd; Zhejiang University is up four places to 41st; and Wuhan University of Technology has moved from joint 58th to 49th. The Chinese entrants in the top 100 are Tianjin University (62nd), East China Normal University (joint 67th), Hunan University (81st) and Tongji University (87th).

Accoring to THE, one outstanding regional performer is Singapore: although it has just two institutions in the top 100, the first, the National University of Singapore, is in second place and the other, Nanyang Technological University, is 11th. Another exemplar of Asian success in higher education and research is South Korea.

As per THE analysis, South Korea is another exemplar of Asian success in higher education. "The country spent almost $60 billion on R&D in 2011 - some 4% of its gross domestic product. This commitment to research and education has supported its leading institutions to make serious gains in the rankings. South Korea has 14 representatives in the 2014 Asia table, including three in the top 10."

Seoul National University is the biggest riser at the top of the table, moving from eighth in 2013 to fourth. Close behind is the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (rising two places to eighth). Pohang University of Science and Technology completes the top 10 trio, although it has lost ground since last year, falling five places to 10th.

Source: The Times of India, June 19, 2014

Ten Indian universities including six IITs, AMU, JNU in Asia's top 100

India has dramatically improved its standing in the Times Higher Education Asia University 2014 rankings with 10 universities in the top 100 compared to just three last year. Panjab University tops the Indian list at joint 32nd position. Six of India's representatives are IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), but the list also includes Jadavpur University, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Japan aces the list in the rankings with 20 representatives in the top 100, though China is a close second with 18 institutes. South Korea is in the third spot with 14 universities while Taiwan falls to the fourth place from last year's second with 13 representatives.

India, however, is the clear winner in terms of improvement in rankings, a phenomenon attributed to Indian academic circles' growing engagement with the rankings process. Panjab University, which took top spot among Indian universities in Times Higher Education 2013-14 World University Rankings, has made its debut in the Asia rankings at the first place in India (joint 32nd on the list).

The alma mater of former PM Manmohan Singh is followed by IIT-Kharagpur (45th), IIT-Kanpur (55th), IIT-Delhi and IIT-Roorkee at joint 59th, IIT-Guwahati (74th) and IIT-Madras and Jadavpur University (joint 76th). Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University bring up the rear at 80th and 90th spots respectively.

"The country's increased engagement with the international agenda, particularly its decision to embrace global performance benchmarks and Times Higher Education's rankings, has dramatically improved its representation among Asia's top 100 universities. A drive to introduce systematic quality assurance and accreditation for the country's huge range of higher education institutions, plus plans to boost university research, should push it even further.

And the election of a majority government raises the prospect of further decisive action in the higher education sphere, cutting through the red tape that has untrammeled previous initiatives," said Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings in a release.

Overall, five countries or regions are represented in the top 10: Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and China. The University of Tokyo is Asia's number one.

Source: The Economic Times, June 19, 2014

NanoDegree: Higher education in 6 months

Could an online degree earned in six to 12 months bring a revolution to higher education? This week, AT&T and Udacity, the online education company in US founded by the Stanford professor and former Google engineering whiz Sebastian Thrun, announced something meant to be very small: the "NanoDegree." 

At first blush, it doesn't appear like much. For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like.

Yet this most basic of efforts may offer more than simply adding an online twist to vocational training. It may finally offer a reasonable shot at harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream.

Intriguingly, it suggests that the best route to democratizing higher education may require taking it out of college. "We are trying to widen the pipeline," said Charlene Lake, an AT&T spokeswoman. "This is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business." Thrun sounded more ambitious about the ultimate goal: "It is like a university," he told me, "built by industry."

American higher education is definitely in need of some disruption. Once the leader in educational attainment, the US has been overtaken by a growing number of its peers.

Education still offers children from disadvantaged families their best chance at climbing the ladder of success. David H Autor of the MIT reports in a new study that in 2012 a typical family of graduates from a four-year college earned about $58,000 more than a family of high school graduates. But this very statistic underscores the depth of the nation's educational deficit. One reason for the enormous payoff from a college degree, which is almost twice as big as it was in 1979, Autor finds, is that too few young Americans — despite a bump in enrollment right after the Great Recession — ever earn one.

Employers have been complaining for years about a lack of skilled workers to fill jobs. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the skill level of the American work force is slipping dangerously behind other nations. And yet despite the promise of a higher wage, only about half of high school graduates from low-income families enrolled in college in 2012 — compared with 80% of high-income graduates. Worse, only a small share of them manage to finish.

Source: The Times of India, June 19, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

IIT-Delhi India's best, not in BRICS top 10 institutions

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) continue to represent the nation most successfully as far as quality of imparting higher education is concerned, according to the QS BRICS 2014 University Rankings published on Tuesday. The good news is that there are eight Indian institutions that have made it to the top 50. However, India is the only country that couldn't find a place in the top 10-which is the bad news.

There are five institutions, led by IIT-Delhi, in the top 20. Among institutions devoted to general studies, Delhi University is the highest ranked at 39, having bettered its last year's rank of 53 and beating last year's top-ranked Calcutta University which is now at 50.

The QS BRICS 2014 University Rankings compares the Top 200 institutions in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and has identified China as the most likely among BRICS nations to achieve its goal of developing world-class universities. The top-ranked university is Tsinghua University, followed by Peking University, both from China. In fact, China claims six of the Top 10 places, ahead of Brazil (two), Russia (one) and South Africa (one).

The overall rank of the top Indian player --- IIT-Delhi --- is 13 this year, which is no improvement from last year's rank. The other Indian universities in the Top 20 are IIT-Bombay (ranked 15), IIT-Kanpur (ranked 16, up from 17 last year), IIT-Madras (ranked 17, down from 16 in last year) and IIT-Kharagpur (ranked 20, down by two ranks from last year). In all, 20 Indian institutions have found a place on the list.

Delhi University has overtaken the University of Calcutta to become India's highest-ranked general studies institution, thanks to improvements in staffing levels and research citations. The University of Mumbai is ranked 68 this year, down by six ranks from last year.

Meanwhile, IIT-Kharagpur has a higher proportion of PhDs among its staff than any other university with three other Indian institutions also in the top five on this count. However, in overall staffing, only Manipal University is in the top 100.

Ben Sowter, Head of Research, THE-QS World University Rankings, says, "Indian universities have been struggling to keep pace with increasing demand for university education from the country's vast young population. There are now frequent calls for reform of the country's complex higher education system and for universities to become more transparent."

The new government has promised a national commission on education to reform and revitalize the sector and to make India a knowledge hub. The first copy of the QS University Rankings: BRICS 2014 was presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Karthick Sridhar, Vice-Chairman, Indian Centre for Assessment and Accreditation (ICAA), said, "While it is sad to note India's absence in the Top 10, going by the excitement created by the new government, we believe that year 2015 will paint a different story."

"India is expected to be a $10 trillion economy by 2030, from the present $2 trillion. It will also be the most populous nation with over 130 million people in the college-going age bracket. The MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) under the new minister must mandate the IIT's and elite institutions to focus more on research, attract global talent and aspire for higher rankings and continue to shine a light of excellence on the global scale," added Sridhar.

Source: The Times of India, June 18, 2014

Original Five IITs among Top 20 in BRICS University Rankings

The original group of five Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) — Delhi, Bombay, Kharagpur, Kanpur and Madras — are among the top 20 institutions in the 2014 QS University Rankings BRICS, which grades higher education institutions of the BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Of the top 100 institutions, 20 were from India. Besides the IITs, they included University of Mumbai, University of Madras, Banaras Hindu University, Manipal University, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, University of Pune, Indian Institute of Information Technology, Calcutta University, Delhi University, Allahabad University, Amity University, Anna University and Panjab University.

The parameters considered for the ranking included academic reputation, employer reputation, student-faculty ratio, PhD papers per faculty, citations per paper and international faculty.

This year again Chinese universities dominated the top 100 and the top 10, while Indian institutions were the leaders in recruiting highly qualified academic staff. IIT Kharagpur has a higher proportion of PhDs among its staff than any university in the five countries. In fact, three more Indian institutions feature among the top five on this measure. On overall staffing levels, only Manipal University appears among the top 100.

The five IITs had ranked among the first 20 on last year's list as well. At No. 13, Delhi topped Indian universities on the list, followed by IIT Bombay, Madras, Kanpur and Kharagpur, ranked in that order from 15 to 18. Earlier in the day, HRD Minister Smriti Irani presented the first copy of the 2014 rankings to Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister said there was a need to link research and education to the development needs of the country and stressed on the need for India to evolve an independent 'India Ranking' metric which can then involve the SAARC nations as the existing systems are skewed towards western and developed countries. Modi's suggestion was taken up for discussion by Irani during her day-long consultation with state higher and technical education ministers on Tuesday.

The dedicated ranking of higher education institutions of the BRICS countries was introduced in 2013. The project, developed by QS World University Rankings in collaboration with Russian news agency Interfax, was an effort to highlight and track progress made by these countries in the field of higher education and facilitate comparison of universities amongst these five countries that share certain socio-economic dynamics.

Source: The Economic Times, June 18, 2014

Uttarakhand to host central university on Himalayan technology

A new Central University for Himalayan Technology with international faculty will be established in Uttarakhand, HRD minister Smriti Irani said on Tuesday. The minister also said there is need to launch Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyaan (National Innovation Movement) to make study of science interesting for children.

Addressing a conference of state secretaries of higher and technical education, Irani said a large number of institutes and universities are mushrooming in various parts of the country with no standard facilities or full faculty. She asked the states to monitor such institutes to ensure that they conform to the standards. The minister also supported a strong "Know Your College" drive whereby it would be possible to get details of colleges on the website, which would help students make right choices.

Irani sought the help of states to create an enabling environment for education of children in backward areas, tribal zones and among minorities, women and weaker sections. She said special steps are being taken by the HRD ministry to meet the needs of higher education of students from the North-east in the form of collaborative efforts with premier institutes.

Irani asked the states to revisit the Right to Education (RTE) Act in the light of their experiences. The fragmentation between the primary, secondary and higher education should be removed and skill development should start at the school level while continuing up to the higher levels, she added. Technology will be leveraged for empowering the students and teachers. For this, the ministry proposes to launch a large number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and also establish a national e-library by the end of this year, she said.

Irani said there should be a National Framework of Ranking of Universities & Colleges suited to the local conditions, circumstances and requirements. The Shaala Deep Programme of schools can also be replicated in colleges, she added. The representatives of states presented their state-specific issues as well as ideas to improve the quality of higher education.

Source: The Times of India, June 18, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

JED-I awards reflect larger issues in quality of engineering education

The annual JED-I event, which showcases the best engineering projects by final-year students, received fewer applications this year, organizers said. The overall quality, too, did not match up to last year’s standards, they said. “The number of quality projects was much lower than last year’s,” said Swami Manohar, who co-founded LimberLink Technologies that organizes the JED-I event every year. “It’s reflective of a larger problem of the obsession with grades and jobs in engineering education.”

JED-I, which stands for the "Joy of Engineering, Design and Innovation", was launched in 2010 by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore professors Swami Manohar and V. Vinay.

“The quality of the projects that won awards this year was much better than last year’s. That’s a positive sign,” Manohar said. “However, from computer science, the quality of projects was so low that we didn’t even create a separate category for them.” Students submitted 160 projects from 71 colleges in 15 states, down from 176 last year from 14 states.

In mechanical engineering, top honours went to a team from the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Silchar, which developed an industrial composite with self-healing properties, which can last longer. “We have taken a very common polymer, which is generally used in coatings and paints on an industrial scale,” said Abhinav Mathur, who along with fellow students Mohd. Ikbal Choudhury, Writuparna Nath, Aniruddha Phukan and Akhil Anurag developed this project. “We inserted a small capsule in it, which has a healing agent. Therefore, the life of the polymer increases manifold.”

Other winners included a student from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), who designed a body motion-controlled wheelchair for the differently-abled. For this project, Vivek Sarda received the top prize for innovation in electrical engineering.

Fresh engineers are facing a crisis in India, as top IT companies like Infosys Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Ltd hire fewer graduates from colleges because of slower growth rates. Moreover, of the 1.5 million engineering students who graduate from India every year, less than a fifth have the requisite skills to work in a top IT company, according to a recent study by Aspiring Minds. Part of the problem is that most firms hire from campuses at least two or three semesters before students graduate. Many, therefore, do not bother to finish final-year projects.

“One way to tackle this is for the larger companies to take a stand and say, ‘Look we’re not going to hire any student before the end of the course, and when we do hire, we want to look at what they have done as part of their final year projects.’ That is not the case as of now: none of the companies look at final-year projects before taking graduates on board,” said Manohar, who founded PicoPeta Simputers Pvt. Ltd that built what was arguably India’s first tablet computer. “I think it’s an issue that needs to be solved by the industry rather than the colleges, as colleges can’t turn companies away when they come for recruiting.”

With the Indian IT industry now trying to cope with the slower demand for services and the evolution of newer technology models, there is a growing realization that core engineering skills are crucial for companies to differentiate themselves and survive in the race to stay relevant to top Fortune 500 clients. This realization fits in with what the JED-I programme is trying to do: urging students to create innovative engineering designs and solutions, rather than become just another back-office programmer in India’s three million-strong IT workforce.

Source: Mint, June 17, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mumbai University to get its first women-only engineering college

The University of Mumbai will get its first engineering college exclusively for women from this academic year. With a total intake capacity of 300 seats in the first year, the New Horizon Institute of Technology and Management will come up at a campus on Thane's Ghodbunder Road. The management has already got approval from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) four days ago and is now awaiting the state government's nod.

The New Horizon Education Society, which runs three CBSE schools in Thane and Navi Mumbai, got the go-ahead to run computer, mechanical, civil, electronics and electrical engineering along with a new course on mechatronics (a combination of five disciplines including mechanical, electronics, control, telecommunication and computer engineering).

The approved intake capacity for each of the five courses in the first year is 60 seats. In the near future, the institute will also offer management courses. It has fulfilled all requirements as prescribed by the AICTE, including the land requirement of 2.5 acres and other facilities such as a laboratory and classrooms. While the advertisements for faculty vacancies have already been released, the appointments will be made only after approval from the state government is received.

A university official said, "In the last few years, the numbers of schools and junior colleges in Thane has grown in numbers, but the corresponding growth in institutes offering higher education has not been impressive. An engineering college for women will solve the problem for aspirants in the central suburbs who do not wish to travel too far for higher education. We are anyway working towards promoting women's education, so it is a good initiative." He added that most city students anyway are used to travelling to Navi Mumbai for engineering.

It will be the first institute affiliated to Mumbai University to offer its engineering courses to women. There are in all 65 engineering colleges under the university. In the state, there are only a handful of other managements, which run engineering colleges for women. SNDT University, Pune's Cummins College, Aurangabad's Savitribai Phule College, GH Raisoni Institute in Nagpur are some of the colleges running exclusively for aspiring women engineers.

S S Mantha, Chairman, AICTE, confirmed that the institute has been given the letter of approval for 300 seats. He added that the engineering college will be an advantage for girls in Thane and neighbouring suburbs.

Source: The Times of India, June 16, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

India joins select nations in Washington Accord

Ending a seven-year wait, India on Friday, June 13, became a permanent member of the Washington Accord, an elite international treaty on engineering studies that promotes the movement of engineers across signatory countries that include the US, the UK and Australia.

Permanent membership reflects a country’s stature in the technical education space — despite trying for years, India has been a provisional member since 2007.

“In a major boost to technical education and engineering programmes, India on today (Friday) joined a select group of 17 countries who are permanent signatories of the Washington Accord (WA). The meeting of the International Engineering Alliance of WA member countries met in Wellington, New Zealand, this morning and gave India the signatory status with effect from today,” the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said in a statement.

“India gets permanent membership of the Washington Accord. Congratulations to the team in MHRD,” minister for HRD Smriti Irani said in a Twitter post. The ministry said the accord has the charter of promoting mobility and quality assurance of engineers across international boundaries. The charter requires that nations set up suitable accreditation standards, which would ensure a minimum quality of attainment for their engineering graduates.

The Washington Accord was signed by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), an autonomous accrediting body under the MHRD, “with the mandate for accreditation of engineering and other technical programs at all levels in the country and making technical education outcome based”.

“This will ensure highest quality assurance standards to be implemented in our technical and engineering programmes and provide global mobility to our engineering graduates,” Irani said. “This will substantially enhance their employment opportunities around the world.”

The Washington Accord came into force in 1989 with six developed countries as initial members.

Rekha Sethi, Director General of All India Management Association (AIMA), said permanent membership of the accord is a recognition of India as an education destination. “Study in India will now be an acceptable norm worldwide and Indian certification will not be looked down upon by developed countries,” said Sethi, who is also a member of NBA.

She said greater mobility for engineering talent across the 17 signatory-countries will see better job opportunities opening for engineers. India has over 4,500 engineering colleges admitting over half a million students every year. “Now, we have joined the elite league and it would also lead to brain gain from a broader India point of view. And from students’ point of view, Indian institutions would now like to be part of the accreditation process as it will ensure quality and credibility,” Sethi said. “A lot of effort has gone to achieve this and now efforts must be made for continuous improvement of our system.”

The move follows concerted efforts by the last two HRD ministers, Kapil Sibal and M.M. Pallam Raju, to get India permanent membership. Raju made NBA an autonomous organization, separating it from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex technical education regulator. The accord authorities had sent mentors on at least four occasions since 2009 to assess and help India achieve the status, said a senior MHRD official.

On the first visit, the mentors questioned the system of reservation of seats for various sections of society. “The practice of continuous improvement appears to be ad-hoc than systemic... Bureaucratic system ingrained in the system make changes impossible to achieve,” said the mentors in a report to the government. Mint has reviewed a copy of it.

It also questioned the level of resources available with NBA and asked AICTE to clearly articulate the need for quality. “India has a legacy of leadership in technical education and preparing highly qualified engineers to assume leadership positions throughout the world. The lowering of quality by quota system poses a serious threat to credibility of the quality of engineers for even those who graduate from the prestigious IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology),” it had said.

But the mentors were pleased with progress made by Sibal and his senior officials in the ministry in 2012 and the fourth report praised them for their clearer direction and understanding of requirements. The International Engineering Alliance, secretariat of the Washington Accord, sent a review team in December 2013 and January 2014 to carry out a comprehensive review and audit of NBA’s accreditation systems and practices. The team submitted its report in March 2014, the ministry said. And getting membership was based on this final assessment.

Source: Mint, June 14, 2014

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Indian B-school graduates get jobs easily

Are Indian management graduates industry's first choice? A survey by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts GMAT, shows that 92% of Indian management students had an offer of employment, as against 33% in Asia-Pacific region and 57% globally. Industry-wise, for management graduates of India, jobs are raining from technology (31%), consulting (26%), finance/ accounting (16%).

Globally the highlight of the 2014 batch has been that 46% of the graduates launched their own businesses after getting enrolled in B-schools. The survey was carried out among the students of the class of 2014 across 111 universities in 20 countries. In all 3,049 graduate management students were surveyed.

It's a rosy picture for graduates from Indian B-schools compared to the global scenario. The Global Management Education Graduate Survey 2014, which also included 260 management students across eight institutions, stated that 9 in 10 students at Indian schools have job offers.

This is pretty high if compared to the Asia-Pacific region as well as globally. Maximum jobs are coming from the technology sector in India, which amounts to 31% of the offers to management graduates, which is followed by consulting and finance/ accounting with 26% and 16% respectively. Consulting remains the top job function with 26% of the offers are for this work profile followed by 21% in marketing/ sales.

Globally 57% of the students graduating this year have already received at least one job offer. 
Finance/accounting remained the top choice with 26% to work in this job function. Postgraduate programme students seemed to be preferred over those pursuing full-time MBA. Nearly 91% of students pursuing PGP have job offers compared to 53% of those in full-time MBA. 

And more than half of the management graduates of the class on 2014 are likely to switch industries after graduation. Percentage of job seeking students of European business schools having job offers has decreased significantly - down to 47% from 55% in 2013.

Source: The Times of India, June 5, 2014

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