Monday, September 22, 2014

New IITs to be set up with foreign help

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government plans to establish five new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) announced in this year's budget with the assistance of foreign countries, just as the Congress did in the 1950s and '60s under then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's initiative.

The proposed IIT in Goa will come up in collaboration with well-known institutions in the United States, an official familiar with the matter said, adding that human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani will accompany Prime Minister Modi to America later this month to sign a joint declaration for this purpose. 

The partner countries for the rest of the proposed premier engineering schools in J&K, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala will also be identified soon, the official added on condition of anonymity. 

The IITs in Mumbai (then Bombay), Chennai (then Madras), Kanpur and Delhi were established in collaboration with the erstwhile USSR, then West Germany, USA and the UK respectively. IIT Kanpur, for instance, had received technical assistance from a consortium of nine leading US institutions including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and University of California at Berkley.

According to officials, the consortium of US institutions to help the proposed IIT in Goa will only be finalised once the two countries sign a joint declaration of intent. "The details of how many and which institutions will help IIT-Goa and in what capacity will be worked out by the joint work group, which will be set up after India and the US sign the joint declaration," the official said. There are 13 IITs at present, with as many as eight set up between 2008 and 2011 under the mentorship of the existing institutes during the second term of the Congress-led UPA government.

Most of the newer IITs continue to function out of makeshift campuses and face difficulty attracting faculty of the desired calibre. Despite such issues, the Modi government announced another five new IITs in its maiden budget for 2014-15 soon after taking charge in May. The finance ministry has allocated an initial sum of Rs. 5 billion for these institutes this year.

Responding to concerns regarding the proposed IITs against the backdrop of the wobbly infrastructure provided for the ones set up over the past few years, Irani had told ET in an interview earlier this month that she wasn't there to "fix the blame for the past but chart a course for the future".

Source: The Economic Times, September 22, 2104

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Not one Indian university in world's top 200

Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) has for the first time emerged as India's leading university in the world university rankings. IIT-B has overtaken its counterpart in Delhi for the first time. IIT-Delhi has been the leader in India throughout the first 10 editions of the QS rankings. The bad news however is that not a single Indian university features in the top 200 rankings. Just like last year's rankings, the top-placed Indian institution is 222nd in the world — IIT-B. IIT-Delhi has slipped one rank to 235th this year.

IIT-B's success is down to improvements in its reputation among both academics and employers. It is now in the top 60 in the world in the QS international survey of employers and its position of 160th in the academic survey represents a rise of 23 places. But it has work to do on research citations and the proportions of international students and faculty, which are all outside the top 300, if it is to break into the leading positions in the ranking.

IIT-Kanpur is ranked 300th globally followed by IIT-Madras (321), IIT-Kharagpur (324), IIT-Roorkie (461) and IIT-Guwahati (551). University of Calcutta has jumped 50 ranks since last year's ranking and is placed 650th in the world while the University of Delhi has jumped 20 ranks to 430th.

The number of Indian institutions in the ranking has grown from 11 to 12, with Banaras Hindu University joining the group below 700th place. But the overall standing of the remaining institutions is similar to last year: six have gone up and five have gone down, with the two leading IITs well ahead of the rest.

India's strength is in the QS survey of academics, where the two leading IITs, the University of Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore all feature in the top 200.

All but one of the Indian institutions in the ranking has improved on this measure — a good foundation for the future since it is accounts for 40% of each university's score. They are much less competitive, however, in terms of the number of times their academics' research is cited. The weakest elements for India are the proportions of international staff and students.

Dr Karthick Sridhar, Vice-Chairman, Indian Centre for Assessment and Accreditation says, "With the increasing globalization of higher education, Indian universities need to compete to attract the best students, as well as best qualified faculty from across the world. Students continue to use rankings as one of their decision-making tools to choose their destinations. The prestige associated with higher ranks also drives universities to benchmark themselves globally."

Ben Sowter, who is responsible for the rankings as head of the QS Intelligence Unit, said, "India may not have made as much progress as it would have liked in the new rankings, but new measures always take time to be reflected in higher positions. Indian universities are engaging with the rankings more than ever before and this should bear fruit in the medium term."

Mohandas Pai, member, board of governors, IIT-Hyderabad said, "All great universities have full academic, financial and administrative autonomy to chart their own future. Indian universities lack the autonomy needed to be world class. They are controlled so heavily by regulators/government that they cannot innovate, be current nor aspire to reach the top. They are also starved of adequate research funding. Unless these issues are settled urgently even hopes are optimistic."

Source: The Times of India, September 17, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

4 of the world’s top 5 universities in UK, 5 London universities in top 100

Four of the world's top five universities are in UK with London being the only city in the world with five universities in the top 100, according to the latest global university rankings. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has emerged as the world's top university but it was Imperial College London that has made news. Imperial has soared up the rankings this year to secure second place behind MIT making it the top UK university in the tables equal with Cambridge for the first time ever.

The performance of Imperial College London in citations per faculty has helped it become the biggest climber in the top 10, leapfrogging Harvard, University College London (UK) and The University of Oxford (UK) to rank second equal in the world, tied with the University of Cambridge.

A total of 31 countries are represented in the Top 200; the US remains the dominant nation with 51 institutions, 11 of which are in the Top 20. The US dominates also for research impact with seven of the 10 top spots in the citations per faculty indicator.

After the US, the countries with the most universities in the top 200 are: UK (29), Germany (13), the Netherlands (11), Canada (10), Japan (10) and Australia (8). 

The global emphasis on high-impact scientific and technological research is the key driver of leadership in the QS World University Rankings. 

The rankings are, for the third year, led by MIT which increased year-on-year citations per faculty by 14%. Imperial College London (UK) also reported a 14% increase in this metric compared to 11% by The University of Cambridge (UK) and 2% by Harvard. The average increase in this dimension amongst the top 10 was 7%. Caltech remains the world's top university for research citations.

All the top 10 institutions achieve excellence in academic reputation, employer reputation, student faculty ratio or measures of international faculty and students. 

London is the only city in the world with five universities in the Top 100, more than Boston and Hong Kong (3), New York, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne and Beijing (2).

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said, "These rankings consolidate London's position as the education capital of the world. Nowhere else will you find such a critical mass of top universities within just a few miles of each other, all providing an excellent education and producing graduates who go on to be leaders in their fields". 

London's other world-beating universities include King's College London at 16, London School of Economics (LSE) at 71, and Queen Mary University of London at 98. No other city has as many universities in the overall rankings, with London topping the table with 18.

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London said "Imperial has a rare ability to turn outstanding research into discoveries that have a real impact on the world. To achieve this, our scientists, engineers, medics and business scholars reach out and collaborate with academic and industry partners across the globe. This engagement coupled with our entrepreneurial culture creates enormous academic, social and economic impact."

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS, added: "In the wake of the recession, both governments and private sector funding sources are placing greater emphasis on high-impact STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research, much of which takes place in specialist institutions".

"Tech-focused institutions are increasingly the focal point of a global race for innovation. With budgets from public sources increasingly coming under strain, institutions seem more focused than ever on potentially lucrative research in science, technology and medicine."

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), September 16, 2014

India missing in top 200 global varsity in the new QS rankings

India still does not feature among the Top 200 world universities in the new QS rankings. Just like last year, the top-placed Indian institution is 222nd in the world, but this year the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) has overtaken its counterpart in Delhi for the first time.

IIT-Delhi has been the leader in India throughout the first 10 editions of the QS rankings, but has slipped to 235th this year, virtually exchanging positions in the table with IIT-B. IIT-Bombay has moved up from 233rd to 222nd and IIT-Delhi from 222nd to 235th. While IIT-Bombay has done better in the 'Employer Survey' a component that accounts for 10 per cent weightage in the World Rankings, IIT-Delhi's performance has dropped. This could also be read as IIT-Bombay receiving a better score or more responses in the 'Employer Survey' than IIT-Delhi.

Also, IIT-Delhi's decline in the Citations Per Faculty Indicator, which accounts for 20 per cent weightage in the World Rankings, has been far greater than its peers. While in the regional rankings such as Asia and BRICS the emphasis is also on quantity of research papers published, the World Rankings only focuses on the quality of papers published by taking into account the citations, thereby making it more rigorous and globally competitive.

"It's time Indian universities embraced global rankings and put their best foot forward," says Dr Karthick Sridhar, Vice Chairman, Indian Centre for Assessment & Accreditation. With the increasing globalisation of higher education, Indian universities need to compete to attract the best intellectual students, as well as best qualified faculty from across the world, he says. Globally, students continue to use rankings as one of their decision making tools to choose their destinations. The prestige associated with higher ranks also drives universities to benchmark themselves globally, adds Dr Sridhar.

Parameters where Indian universities are weak in comparison to global peers are quantity and quality of research (as represented by number of papers and their citation counts); surveys of academic peers and employers (a representation of the perception of the quality of the university and 'outgoing' students); and internationalisation (as represented by number of international faculty and students). "These have to be addressed through reorientation of institutional priorities; focused deployment of human and financial resources; enhancement of global reputation and prestige through academic excellence and national higher education policy reforms," says Sridhar.

The number of Indian institutions in the World Rankings has grown to 12 from 11. "Indian institutions are engaging with ranking agencies more than ever before and this has started bearing fruit. There are more Indian universities in the QS rankings than any other international comparisons," a release said. The global rankings are, for the third year, led by MIT, which increased year-on-year citations per faculty by 14 per cent. Imperial College London (UK) also reported a 14 per cent increase in this metric compared to 11 per cent by the University of Cambridge (UK) and 2 per cent by Harvard. Caltech remains the world's top university for research citations.

A total of 31 countries are represented in the Top 200. The US remains the dominant nation with 51 institutions, 11 of which are in the Top 20. The US dominates also for research impact with seven of the 10 top spots in the citations per faculty indicator.

Source: The Economic Times, September 16, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Government plans higher education overhaul

In a bid to create uniformity among central universities, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has decided to frame guidelines for common admission, common curriculum, student and faculty mobility as well as a national system of credit transfers. It has also been decided to evolve a national ranking system of central universities.

These decisions were taken in the two-day retreat of HRD minister Smriti Z Irani with vice-chancellors of central universities in Chandigarh. A committee comprising VCs of central universities of Kerala, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Tripura, Delhi and Pondicherry University has been constituted to frame the guidelines. The committee has been asked to submit its report within a month.

"Imagine one university with 39 campuses with seamless mobility of students and teachers. Common curriculum and admission will be a great step forward," an HRD ministry official. However, there could be practical problems related to implementation. For instance, it is unlikely that faculty from premier central universities like DU and JNU would move to new central universities in places like Motihari or even universities in northeast. A former MHRD official said, "Attempts to have a common admission during Kapil Sibal's term also did not materialize. It remained confined to 14 central universities created in 2009. Old universities did not agree." As for the proposal of single legislation to run all central universities, the ministry has sought opinions of all VCs.

Another committee comprising VCs of English and foreign languages university, University of Delhi, Central University of Gujarat and JNU was constituted for developing a framework for the national ranking system within a month.

It was also decided to operationalize Council of Industry-Higher Education Collaboration (CIHEC) to identify initiatives to promote research, mobilize resources, develop market-ready manpower and enhance employability. The Council will collaborate with placement cells of Central Universities for identification of the emerging areas as per requirement of neighbouring industries to make students employment ready. The CIHEC will also help train counsellors at all placement cells for better counselling and placements. Central universities have been asked to establish a placement cell for all disciplines. Every placement cell will have counsellors who should give in-house training for skill development and coordinate placements.

In tune with the new government's emphasis on employment, 100 Knowledge Upgradation Centres for Skilled Human Action and Learning (KUSHAL) will be established within a year. These Centres will coordinate the entire skill development efforts of higher educational institutions. The University Grants Commission (UGC) will frame guidelines on the scheme within a month.

Under the new system GIAN (Global Initiative for Academic Networks), universities will provide a list of eminent scholars, researchers from within and outside the country, who they would like to invite in their universities as guest speakers/scholars in residence etc. They have been given one month's time. Universities have been asked to identify 40 great personalities of India by locating schools / colleges / universities which had the privilege of teaching them. Central Universities have also been asked to complete their National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) as per time frame given by UGC. Irani also told VCs to ensure that sexual harassment complaints are taken seriously and steps are taken to safeguard girl students.

Source: The Times of India, September 14, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cambridge University to help India improve primary education

The University of Cambridge will soon partner with India to improve its primary education system, its vice-chancellor said on Friday. "The work will range from improving teacher quality, learning systems and evaluation. We want to collaborate and work on the entire education system at the primary and secondary level. However, Cambridge will not set up any school in India," Cambridge VC Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said. Sir Leszek, a 61-year-old medical researcher, is on his seventh visit to India.

So far, Cambridge has collaborated only with higher educational institutions in India and partnered for research in chemical biology, therapeutics, stem cell research and nanoscience with many institutions, including the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

"For any education system to survive, the foundation must be strong. UNESCO has been pointing out the need to strengthen this fundamental phase (primary and secondary).That's our objective. Next week, we'll commence talks on our primary education project with the Indian government," he said.

Reiterating that India will continue to be a major innovation partner for Cambridge, Sir Leszek said the university has 270 projects with Indian institutions. "The focus is on building partnerships with these institutions as they're committed to quality. It's important for universities to also invest in research in the Arts and Humanities. Science alone is not enough."

He said despite the UK's government's tough immigration laws, there's no drop in the number of foreign students to Cambridge. "I do not agree with the UK government on the restrictions. We must open up to overseas students. In any case, students are not denied visas."

Asked what programmes offered by Indian institutions attract UK students, he said: "PhD students are interested in doing individual research in science and humanities in India. For example, a Cambridge student took up the Indian elections as a research project."

Sir Leszek is unperturbed about Cambridge's rankings in the World University rankings. "I completely disagree with its methodology. We in Cambridge choose not to comment or react to our or other university rankings. It's a silly way to assess universities. Unimaginable talent comes to Cambridge from all over the world. For 800 years, we've been committed to quality and excellence," he said.

Source: The Times of India, September 13, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Australia steepest for foreign studies, India cheapest

Australia has once again emerged as the most expensive overseas education destination for students followed by Singapore and India the cheapest in a study conducted by a global bank. Last year, Singapore was sixth in the list.

The survey across 15 countries says while an international student in an Australian university spends $42,093 a year on university fees and living, in India the total cost works out to just $5,642. India was included in the study only this year, which has not taken into account the cost of education at Ivy League colleges.

K P Singh, an overseas studies counsellor, said, "Singapore's dollar is growing at a faster rate and therefore education there is getting expensive. The dollar rate has grown almost three times in three years." 

The survey, which spoke to over 4,500 parents across countries, also examined their attitude and behaviour towards education. Around 62% of Indian parents said the US provides the best quality of education followed by the UK and Australia.

The study, this year, also ranked the quality of education offered in these 15 nations where the US emerged as the most preferred destination in terms among parents. India, though, ranks eighth in terms of the quality of education provided, with only 5% of the respondents putting it up in their top three choices.

The research was conducted by HSBC. Data was collected on the basis of the average tuition cost for international students in the top 10 largest institutions in each country. The cost of living has been calculated taking into consideration inflation. "All these nations do offer scholarships for overseas students, but they are very limited and do not exceed 10-15% of the total number of international students studying there," said Singh.

Source: The Times of India, September 11, 2014

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

5,000 govt scientists to teach in schools, colleges

The government has decided to make it mandatory for over 5,000 scientists, working in different central agencies including the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to undertake 12 hours of lecture classes in an academic year in public-funded schools and colleges across the country.  Announcing the decision, Union Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh said it would be "mandatory" for the scientists to formally take classes in schools and colleges which would be identified for this purpose in coordination with the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD).

The minister said this kind of engagement would be "free of any honorarium" and it would be part of the duty the scientists have already committed to do. He said the government was devising a methodology depending upon the scientists' area of interest, area of excellence and specialisation.

The minister also announced a special promotion scheme --- KIRAN (Knowledge, Involvement, Research, Advancement through Nurturing) for women scientists "to bring about, as far as possible, gender parity in the field of science and technology".

"There are a number of women scientists who have inevitable break in the continuous career...we are trying to evolve a mechanism (to see) that we don't lose out to them and they don't lose out to us," Singh said while listing initiatives of his ministry.

Giving a detailed account of the achievements and initiatives taken in the first 100 days of Narendra Modi government, Singh said the ministries under his charge had been able to scale-up scientific research to address several key socio-economic issues. This has been achieved by collaborating with other ministries while making a concerted effort to build scientific temper among the youth.

Highlighting specific achievements, he said that the department of science and technology got approval of Expenditure Finance Committee for India's participation in Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project involving astronomy research institutes in India, US, Canada, Japan and China. TMT will be the world's largest telescope when it becomes operational in 2023, capable of peeping into the farthest corners of the Universe and address some of the most fundamental scientific problems of this century.

About other initiative, the minister said three new vaccines including indigenously developed Rotavirus vaccine will be provided to all Indian children as part of India's Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). A fourth vaccine for adults to protect against Japanese Encephalitis will be introduced in high-priority districts.

Source: The Times of India, September 9, 2014

Saturday, September 06, 2014

India is second largest & fastest growing source of international students to New Zealand

Representing 12% of the international student population in the country, New Zealand is turning out to be an emerging attraction for Indian students aspiring to go abroad. In last one decade there has been 700% increase in number of students from India. First time student visas has increased by 123% in January-July 2014 from that of the same period in 2013.

This was revealed by New Zealand High Commissioner to India, Grahame Morton, stating that New Zealand's economic future is very much tied to our key relationships and India is a key export market for New Zealand. He said that one of the best to make these connections is through the people-to-people links that international education offers.

According to Immigration New Zealand Area Manager Nathanael Mackay, the country has put in place policies to make the country a top choice for international students. "The New Zealand Government has made changes to our work rights programme which allow more international students to work while they study, enabling them to gain valuable first world business experience whilst they study," said Mackay.

In 2013 there were a total of 11,984 Indian students studying in New Zealand, representing 12% of the international student population in the country. Management and commerce with 38% is the most popular option followed by information technology (15%). "We want to ensure that Indian students studying in New Zealand gain a meaningful experience, which will provide them with greater future opportunities, particularly in study areas in industries experiencing skill shortages in New Zealand such as IT, engineering, science and technology and construction," said Mackay.

On India specific approach, Ziena Jalil, Regional Director, South and South East Asia, ENZ said: "Over the last year ENZ has undertaken a range of initiatives to raise awareness of New Zealand as a study destination. These have included institution visits, media programmes, digital campaigns, education fairs, scholarship opportunities and other events. We've launched a new agent programme - working with quality agents to guide students and we have also expanded our own presence in India, with the expansion into Mumbai, which gives us greater reach into the western and southern states."

Recently a range of scholarships were announced which includes New Zealand India Sports Scholarships. For example University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand has launched a NZ$ 1 million international scholarship fund early this month. The scholarship for Asia will provide financial aid for pre-degree (foundation), undergraduate and postgraduate students with scholarships of up to NZ$ 10,000 on offer to students from 12 Asian countries - India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

Source: The Times of India, September 6, 2014

Friday, September 05, 2014

Red tape cut for foreign students planning to extend stay in India

Foreign students studying in India stand to gain as the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has empowered Foreigner Registration Offices (FROs) to extend the validity of student visas. Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday approved the delegation of more powers to the FROs.

Currently, about 93,300 foreign students are studying in India. The FROs can now extend validity of student visa and of provisional student visa for up to six months. They can also grant additional entries on student visa over and above three entries per academic year.

The FROs have also been given the power to cancel visas in case a foreigner discontinues study and wants to leave India voluntarily. They can also now convert entry visa to student visa as well as student visa to entry visa on marriage to an Indian national. 

Earlier, these powers were with the foreigners' division of the MHA. "The delegation was done with a view to ensuring that services to foreign students already in India are further streamlined," an official statement of the MHA said.

Roll out of the Information Technology-based Mission Mode Project of Immigration, Visa, Foreigners' Registration and Tracking (IVFRT) would enable greater delegation of powers as all transactions and decisions are recorded in the online system for any future review or audit. Greater use of IT has allowed facilitation of legitimate travellers while strengthening security, the statement said.

Source: The Times of India, September 5, 2014

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