Friday, July 24, 2015

IIT-Hyderabad draws top rankers

Among the host of new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) that have struggled to attract top rankers, there is an outlier --- IIT Hyderabad. Top rankers are choosing this seven-year-old IIT due to its innovative curriculum, freedom to do research right from the first year, and one of the best student-faculty ratios among all IITs. Above everything else, it offers a better placement ecosystem than most new IITs.

Started at the same time as eight other IITs (2008-09), IIT-Hyderabad is sprinting towards joining the league of old IITs. The number of top 1,000 rank holders joining IIT-Hyderabad has trebled to 20 this year from only seven last year. This is significant, considering the number of top 1,000 JEE rank-holding students has remained more-or less the same for older IITs like Roorkee and Kharagpur with 40 and 110 students, respectively .

Surya Teja (635th JEE advanced rank holder in 2013) and Goutham Veeramachaneni (632nd JEE advanced rank holder in 2014), both pursuing computer science, chose Hyderabad over older IITs like Kharagpur, Guwahati and Roorkee. Both wanted to be in a city --- close to the startup community and home to companies that promise good placement and internship opportunities. “I got through IIT-Bombay and Delhi but did not get computer science. Hence it had to be Hyderabad for me as I wanted to be close to startups,“ said Veeramachaneni, who intends to turn into an entrepreneur soon after graduation.

Being a small institute has helped students at Hyderabad build a close-knit network with peer and faculty. Teja was pulled towards this IIT primarily because of its faculty-student ratio at 1:12, better than almost all the IITs. Comparatively, the ratio at IIT-Delhi and Bombay is about 1:15. “Like most aspiring engineering students, I too did my homework and found that Hyderabad had the best faculty-student ratio. Also, Hyderabad is a bigger urban centre than Roorkee or Guwahati so the chances of getting good placement and internship offers are high,“ said Teja.

There are other factors. IIT-Hyderabad is gaining from proximity to the international airport besides a rise in supply of apartments to fulfil demand from professionals. “New organisations are setting up offices in Hyderabad. The surrounding ecosystem would enable these organisations to hire locally and attract students to settle in Hyderabad,“ said Ruchika Pal, India practice leader, global mobility at Mercer. Availability of housing, schooling and airport connectivity will enable these, she added.

Focused heavily on research, IIT-Hyderabad has been able to draw young faculty to its campus. P Rajalakshmi, who is in her 30s, hails from Tamil Nadu. She has a PhD in communication systems, and joined IIT-H in 2009. She is very clear she does not want move to any of the other IITs --- not even IIT-Madras.

“The research opportunities offered by IIT-Hyderabad are on par with any of the older IITs. Being a smaller IIT, the thrust and freedom in carrying out research is greater than old IITs,“ said Lakshmi. IIT-H has 110 laboratories, of which 50 are exclusively for research. IIT-Hyderabad has close to 150 faculty members (excluding the visiting and emeritus faculty) with a student strength of about 1,800.

“IIT-H has recruited good young faculty at a rapid rate and has started constructing the new campus. They have also innovated with the curriculum,“ said IIT-Madras Director, Bhaskar Ramamurthi, who is the mentor for IIT-H. Nearly 80% of faculty members have at least one sponsored research or consultancy project, added IIT-H Director, UB Desai. Till date, the institute has be en involved in 238 sponsored research and consultancy projects.“We believe we should do new things that older IITs are not doing; simultaneously, do well what the older IITs are doing,“ Desai added.

IIT-H is slowly moving up in terms of ranks too. “The opening rank of top 1,000 students in 2014 was 632 compared to this year opening rank of 534,“ Desai said. This young IIT has also structured its curriculum in such a way that it gives its students more choice. IIT-H offers what is known as `fractal academics' to all its BTech students. They are provided with more choices on topics they want to pursue outside their core area.

Working on the lines of the PM's Make in India initiative, the institute has started the first-of-its-kind DigiFab laboratory for 3D printing. “We are the only institute in India to offer this lab --- perhaps the only institution in the world to offer it to first-year students. The DigFab lab equips students with future manufacturing technology,“ said Desai.

Students at IIT-H can also pursue a double major, wherein they get a BTech degree in two disciplines. It also has a BTech in engineering science with a specialisation in any of its core areas. Under this, a student in the first two years does basic courses in math, physics, chemistry and the different fields of engineering. In the last two years, the student specialises in any field of his or her choice.

By August 2015, IIT-Hyderabad is targeting 500 PhD students, 450 MTech and MPhil students among others, besides approximately 900 BTech students.

Source: The Economic Times, July 24, 2015

Thursday, July 09, 2015

IISc Bangalore ranks No. 5 in BRICS university standings

Indian Institute of Science, (IISc) Bangalore, has emerged No. 5 in a ranking of 404 universities in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) region. This is the first time any Indian educational institution has broken into the top 10 of the rankings published by London-based QS, previously known as Quacquarelli Symonds.

This is the first time IISc has submitted data for the QS ranking. In 2014, IISc did not formally provide the data, and was ranked 13. When a university does not provide data, QS sources data available from websites, employers and peers.

However, the clear leader in the QS BRICS university rankings, released in Delhi on Wednesday, is China. Tsinghua University, Peking University and Fudan University from India’s northern neighbour occupy the top three ranks in the QS survey. Russia’s Lomonosov Moscow State University is at No. 4, followed by IISc. In total, there are 110 Chinese universities among the top 400 and 67 among the top 200. For India, the corresponding numbers are 94 and 31.

“India has seen a rise of more than 50% in the number of institutions listed in the latest ranking of the top 200 universities in BRICS countries,” QS said in its ranking booklet. “The Indian Institute of Science has come straight into the ranking in the top five in the first year in which it has submitted a full set of data.”

“We are considered the best research-oriented university. It feels good to be in the top 10 list among BRICS universities, but we would like to be in the top 100 list of world university ranking,” said Govindan Rangarajan, chairman of division of interdisciplinary research at IISc.

Including IISc, there are five Indian institutions in the top 20. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi is at the 13th rank, same as last year. IIT-Bombay, at 16th place, dropped one place from last year. IIT-Kanpur at 18th place and IIT-Madras at 20th place are the others in the top 20 of the rankings.

The University of Mumbai has made the maximum progress in the top 100 list. It jumped from 68th position last year to 58 this year. The University of Calicut progressed nearly 100 places to reach the 100-110 bracket from the previous 200-plus bracket. Similarly, Aligarh Muslim University and the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, have made significant progress from the outside-200 list to 110-120. After ranking the top 100 institutions, QS gives ranking in brackets of 10.

Balvinder Shukla, vice-chancellor of privately run Amity University, said Indian universities can enter the top 200 list, provided they supply enough data to the ranking agency. Amity has been ranked in the 141-150 bracket, the same as last year. “Structured data supply, improvement in research papers, and its publication, are getting attention of academicians in India of late, and they have realized that by doing so, their own brand value will grow internationally,” she said.

Karthick Sridhar, vice-chairman of Indian Centre for Academic Rankings and Excellence, which helped QS in India in the ranking process, said more Indian universities participated in the ranking process this year and gave required information leading to better performance. “If the trend continues, then their ranking shall certainly improve in the world university rankings, but Indian universities need to better their performance in two key areas — academic reputation and employer reputation, other than research paper publications,” he said.

No Indian university features in the separate rankings of top 200 world universities, published by QS, or Times Higher Education, another international ranking agency in London

Source: Mint, July 9, 2015

Monday, July 06, 2015

Australia’s fast-track residency is attracting Indian students

Australia is again emerging as a popular destination for Indian students going overseas for higher education with enrolments during the first four months this year having jumped to over 48,000 as compared to nearly 37,000 during the same period last year, according to official government figures released recently. India remains at second place after China in sending students to Australian universities.

The number of Indian students in Australia during January-April this year stood at 48,311 as compared to 36,964 during the same period last year. The sector where enrolments rose was higher education where the number was 25,439 as compared to 17,694 last year. Enrolments in the vocational education and training sector (VET) from India during the same period jumped from 16,772 last year to over 18,350 this year. “Australia offers a world-class, high-quality education for students across the world with eight Australian universities in the global top 100. Australia’s vocational education system is highly respected internationally, with close links to industry, and a high proportion of graduates gaining employment. Five Australian cities also make the top 30 student cities to live in in the world, so Indian students can enjoy the great lifestyle that Australia offers,” a spokesperson for the Australian high commission in Delhi said.

The 2014 International Student Survey in Australia found that over 88% of Indian students were satisfied with their overall education experience, above the average of students from other countries. “Indian students contribute to a vibrant and culturally-diverse Australia.

International education fosters inter-cultural understanding and creates the people-to-people links that underpin Australia’s research, trade, investment and social engagement with the world,” the Australian high commission spokesperson said.

The option of a fast track to permanent residence for international students is probably the most important reason for Indian students to choose Australia as a campus destination for higher studies. “After completion of studies, students can apply for subclass 485 visa category, which enables them to work in Australia full-time for a period of 18 months to four years (depending on which level of studies they have undertaken) along with an option of applying for permanent residency,” said Ravi Veeravalli, principal consultant, Star Global Education Alliance, a consultancy focused on Australian education and migration services. He added that India has been upgraded to assessment level 1 under the streamlined visa processing arrangements, which is another advantage. “This enables students to apply for a visa with lower requirements for evidence that needs to be shown such as eligible funds, eligible sponsors, etc. – this enables more students to apply to Australian universities,” he said.

Another advantage that Australia offers is the acceptance of partners / spouse of the student, allowing them to apply along with the primary applicant (main student). “It also enables the students’ partners to work in Australia,” Veeravalli said. The English language requirements (IELTS) for international students in Australia has also been relaxed by lowering the individual bands for each section from 6 to 5. However, the overall band should be 6.

Recently, Australia’s official migration trends for 2013-14 showed that India was the main source country for immigrants with 40,000 Indian nationals migrating to Australia in that period.

“A large number of preferred occupations (filled in Australia by skilled migrants) such as electronic engineers, telecommunications engineers, software developers, analyst programmers, developer programmers, network engineers and accountants are from India. Students from India choose such related courses. Areas like Melbourne (Victoria), Perth (Western Australia), Adelaide (South Australia) enable the existing permanent residents to sponsor their relatives if they belong to the above-mentioned professions,” Veeravalli said.

Australia’s business innovation and investment programme that was created in 2012 to attract high-quality investors and entrepreneurs to Australia, is finding takers in India. It includes the investor visa, the business innovation visa, the significant investor visa, and the newly-introduced premium investor visa.

This article is written by Ishani Duttagupta.
Source: The Economic Times, July 6, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MHRD holds fresh talks on IIM bill

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on Monday restarted the negotiations with the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) to build a consensus on the controversial IIM Bill, which the B-schools say will undermine their autonomy and vest sweeping powers with the ministry. Starting with IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), which has been the most forceful in its opposition to the bill, the ministry is looking to consult all 13 IIMs.

IIM-A Director Ashish Nanda, who held a about 90-minute meeting on Monday with MHRD officials in New Delhi, sounded a conciliatory note after the meeting. “There was a bump in between...but the ministry believes in the consultations,” Nanda said after the meeting. The meeting holds significance as it is seen as a sign of the ministry climbing down and a possible prelude to a redrafting of the IIM Bill. Although Nanda did not divulge details of his meeting, he cited news reports that the ministry was planning to rework the bill, terming it a good move.

Mint reported on Monday that the MHRD was likely to redraft the controversial draft legislation to include changes suggested by some of the premier business schools. With the bill likely to go back to the drafting stage, it is unlikely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament that begins 21 July.

A MHRD official, requesting anonymity, said that the ministry is considering all options and redrafting the bill cannot be ruled out. The ministry may drop some contentious clauses, especially from Section 35 and Section 36, which were added without discussions with the IIMs and which empower the Union government to set rules for the elite B-schools.

Section 36 states, “The (IIM) board may, with the approval of the central government, by notification, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made thereunder to carry out the provisions of this Act.” Section 35 empowers the central government, among other things, to “make rules, for carrying out the provisions of this Act”, ranging from the appointment of the IIM chairpersons to terms and conditions of their service.

The official cited above said any decision to this effect can only be taken after consultations with HRD minister Smriti Irani, who is travelling and expected in office only next week. IIM-A has been vehement in its resistance to the legislation, which it said last week would vest “sweeping centralization of authority” in the government. IIM-A Chairman A.M. Naik asked the ministry to take a fresh look at the bill and extend the deadline for public discourse on it up to 31 July, instead of the 24 June deadline set by the ministry. IIM-Lucknow Chairman J.J. Irani warned last week: “If the bill is passed in the current format, then there will be a revolt in the IIM system.”

IIMs have fiercely guarded their autonomy over the years. In 2012-13, when the bill was initially talked about, these B-schools opposed provisions like the formation of an IIM Council to oversee the functioning of the institutions.

India has 13 IIMs and six more will open in the current academic year. The existing 13 IIMs have an intake capacity of about 3,500 students. Nearly 200,000 aspirants vie for these seats through the Common Admission Test (CAT) every year.

Source: Mint, June 30, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

IIM bill likely to be redrafted

The human resource development (HRD) ministry is likely to redraft the controversial Indian Institute of Management (IIM) bill to incorporate changes suggested by some of the premier business schools after criticism that the proposed legislation was designed to erode their autonomy and vest sweeping authority with the government. With the bill likely to go back to the drafting stage, it is unlikely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament that begins on 21 July, two government officials said, requesting anonymity.

The ministry’s retreat on the bill, which has been surrounded by controversy since being put in the public domain in the second week of June, signals a victory for the IIMs. The draft drew sharp criticism from the IIMs and industry, who claim the bill in its current form will turn the premier B-schools into mere “operating centres” with all major decisions being taken by the Union government. “IIMs are doing just fine. If a bill is required at all, it needs to be redrafted,” said Vamshidhar Guthikonda, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore. The ministry needs to disclose why it needs to bring a bill to control IIMs, said Guthikonda.

The HRD ministry, headed by Smriti Irani, is likely to extend the deadline for seeking public comments on the bill, following requests from IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Lucknow. IIM-A chairman A.M. Naik has asked the ministry to extend the deadline to 31 July. The ministry had earlier sought public comments and feedback between 9 June and 24 June.

“If you look at the suggestions of some IIMs, especially IIM-A, then an extension is required. If the 31 July deadline is accepted, then it is very obvious that the bill cannot be tabled in the coming monsoon session,” said the first government official. In fact, it will take the ministry more time to go through the feedback that it has already received and incorporate some of them, the second official said.

“In a way, reworking the bill seems a must at this point of time. If we keep the controversies aside, still some suggestions need to be looked at with favour and this means reworking the bill,” the official said. IIMs have also complained that the draft that was discussed with them and the one that was put up for public comments were different. “If the bill is passed in the current format, then there will be a revolt in the IIM system,” J.J. Irani, chairman of the board of governors of IIM-Lucknow, said in an interview on Thursday.
The first government official said that three sections — 3(k), 35 and 36 — will be given special attention as some IIMs have raised objections to them. These sections empower the Union government to set rules for IIMs. While the first clause reads: “Regulations mean regulations made by the board with the approval of the central government”, section 36 states: “The board may, with the approval of the central government, by notification, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made there under to carry out the provisions of this Act”.

The official said that IIM-A has asked to remove the phrase “with the approval of the central government” from section 3 and section 36 as they believe it will erode the autonomy of the institute. “The HRD ministry shall have a look at it. The HRD minister (Irani) was travelling and is back in Delhi now and the issue will be discussed at the minister’s level.”

The IIMs also want section 35 to be removed as it was not discussed with them. Section 35 empowers the Union government, among other things, to “make rules, for carrying out the provisions of this Act”. “In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely: (a) manner of appointment of chairperson under clause (a) of sub-section 2 of section 11; (b) such other powers and duties of the board under clause (x) of sub-section 2 of section 12; (c) the terms and conditions of service.”“Some of the IIMs feel that the bill should allow them the flexibility to fix compensation to its staff,” the first official said. There has been a growing clamour for IIMs to get more flexibility to decide on the compensation of teaching and administrative staff if they so deserve. There is a clause in the draft bill which proposes that IIMs seek central government permission for such a move.

Naik, who is also group executive chairman of Larsen & Toubro Ltd, said in his 24 June letter to the minister that the present bill needs a re-look as it is favouring a “sweeping centralization of authority”.

The second official said some 14 different clauses were questioned by the IIMs. IIM-A director Ashish Nanda and IIM-Bangalore director Sushil Vachani said they are hopeful of resolving the issues after discussions with the ministry. The basic premises of the bill, including allowing degree-granting power to IIMs and facilitating excellence, will, however, remain unchanged, the government officials cited above said.

Source: Mint, June 29, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

IIMs flag concerns over proposed bill citing threats to autonomy

The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the country’s best known business school, has flagged concern over the proposed IIM bill, saying it will lead to erosion of autonomy of the institutes and vest “sweeping centralization of authority” in the government. IIM-Bangalore, IIM-Calcutta and IIM-Lucknow, too, have expressed their worries over the draft bill.

In a strongly worded letter to Union human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani, A.M. Naik, chairman of the IIM-A board of governors and IIM-A Society, said, “I would like to convey deep reservations on the proposed IIM bill that has been put up for public comments". "If the bill is passed in the current format, then there will be a revolt in the IIM system,” J.J. Irani, chairman of the board of governors of IIM-Lucknow, said over the phone from Jamshedpur.

Naik and IIM-A director Ashish Nanda pointed out that the draft bill that had the approval of all IIMs, including IIM-A, was very different to the one that has been put up for discussion. “From the chairman’s selection to constitution of the board, from deciding the fee structure to formation of a department, even construction on campus, everything will require the government’s approval,” Nanda said.

India has 13 IIMs and six more will open in the current academic year. The existing 13 IIMs have an intake capacity of around 3,500 students; nearly 200,000 aspirants vie for these seats through the Common Admission Test (CAT) every year.

IIMs have fiercely guarded their autonomy over the years, successfully resisting an IIM bill that was proposed in 2012-13 with a provision for a council of the kind that oversees the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and is headed by the HRD minister. The provision for an IIM Council has been replaced in the latest draft bill with a proposal for a coordination forum to be headed by the minister. Naik said that while it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to develop 25 world-class institutes in India, the proposed bill will have the opposite effect.

All hopes of developing IIMs as world-class institutes will be dashed as the new bill will take away the business schools’ autonomy and make for centralization of authority, Naik and Nanda said at a press conference on IIM-A’s campus on Thursday. “We are not against accountability but the government cannot micro-manage day-to-day affairs of IIMs,” Nanda said, adding that different IIMs are trying to work in different ways and innovate in order to excel but the new bill will take away the spirit of competition. The director said his vision of building IIM-A along the lines of Harvard Business School will not materialize if the bill is implemented. He, however, was “hopeful that the issue will be resolved through dialogue with the government”.

Naik, who is also the group executive chairman of Larsen & Toubro Ltd, in his letter referred to two particular clauses in the bill — sections 3(k) and 36 — saying these prescriptions will lead to “sweeping centralization of authority, currently held by individual IIM boards, with the central government”. While the first clause reads, “Regulations mean regulations made by the board with the approval of the central government”, the second states: “The board may, with the approval of the central government, by notification, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made thereunder to carry out the provisions of this Act”.
Naik’s letter holds significance as the HRD ministry has been pushing for the IIM bill, claiming it has held consultations and all stakeholders are on board. The ministry had not put the bill up for public discourse before sending it to the cabinet in March; the cabinet returned the bill asking the ministry to put it up for debate. IIM-A has also asked the HRD ministry to extend the public discourse till 31 July. The ministry on 9 June had asked for comments by 24 June.

J.J. Irani said the “purpose of bringing a bill was to give more freedom and independence to IIMs but the current bill with the addition of two sections — 35 and 36 — has turned all this on its head”. In section 35, for instance, the draft bill empowers the central government among other things to “make rules, for carrying out the provisions of this Act. In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely: (a) manner of appointment of chairperson under clause (a) of sub-section 2 of Section 11; (b) such other powers and duties of the board under clause (x) of sub-section 2 of section 12; (c) the terms and conditions of service”.

Irani, a former managing director of Tata Steel Ltd, said the ministry is trying to “centralize the powers of the IIMs and control them”, which “will not be good” for the system. He said the intention of the bill as mentioned in the initial paragraphs of the draft is fine but the details go completely against that intention. He said all the leading IIMs are in touch with each other and are “opposing” the bill.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson of the board of governors of IIM-Bangalore, tweeted that the “draft IIM Bill 2015 compromises autonomy” and is “not in the spirit of government’s ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ maxim”. Ajit Balakrishnan, IIM-Calcutta chairman, did not respond to calls or a text message sent to his mobile phone. But a professor at the institute, on condition of anonymity, said the concern is over how the government will implement the bill.

Vamshidhar Guthikonda, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore, accused the government of trying to micro-manage the IIMs and said a group of alumni from the institute had sent their feedback to the HRD ministry. “What is the ministry trying to fix when nothing is wrong with the top IIMs? The draft bill has come without enough consultation with alumni groups or industy leaders,” Guthikonda, from the 2000 batch, said.

Source: Mint, June 26, 2015

IIMs divided over NDA government's new draft bill

IIM (Indian Institute of Management) is a divided parivar over the new draft bill moved by the government with some saying it will turn the institutes into "mere operating centres" with no autonomy while others have welcomed the provisions on grant of degrees instead of diplomas and the focus on research.

On Thursday, A M Naik, chairperson of the board of governors of IIM-Ahmedabad joined the institute's director Ashish Nanda and IIM-Bangalore director Sushil Vachani in protesting against the draft IIM bill. Naik, also chairperson of engineering giant Larsen & Toubro, said the proposed bill will curtail "autonomy", reduce IIMs to "mere operating centres" and give the Centre "sweeping powers". He said the earlier draft agreed upon by IIMs and the HRD ministry was completely changed. Naik said the bill was floated suddenly and IIMs got to see it only now.

However, not everyone agreed with Naik. IIM-Raipur director B S Sahay fully supported the bill. "Without an Act of Parliament, we will not be able to grant degrees and conduct PhD programmes," he told TOI, adding that the fear of losing autonomy was misplaced.

Naik pointed out that as per the bill, each IIM will have to take "prior permission of the government in matters related to admissions, courses, fee structure, new building and regulating powers of the academic council". "Further, we will be required to take the government's permission if we want to form a new department in the interest of the institution, as if expertise for this is available elsewhere rather than with the institute," Naik said.

On his part, Sahay argued, "What is wrong in being accountable? If we spend public money, we better be answerable." At the helm of one of the new IIMs, Sahay said he had faced no interference from the HRD ministry. For Sahay, a far more pressing reason for having a legislation was that it would help IIMs give proper degrees and expand further. "The flagship post-graduate programme is a diploma programme. It should be a degree programme so that IIM degree is accepted uniformly," he said. Sahay also said IIMs should have a strong PhD programme like many prestigious international management institutes. "In IIMs, students do Fellow in Management Programme (FMP). So what? When you do PhD, it is different," he added.

The HRD ministry is closely watching the protest by IIM directors. An official said, "It is the change in the bill that has created problems. The earlier version had near-approval of the IIM establishment." He agreed that the bill, first proposed during Arjun Singh's tenure in UPA-1, emanated as a tool to control IIMs which were not toeing the ministry's line on the fee issue. "The threat worked and IIMs fell in line. During UPA-2, the bill was put in cold storage but it has resurfaced now," he said, adding that the key reason for the legislation was to give more teeth to IIMs so that they could award degrees and PhD.

The official gave the example of Institutes of Technology Act which governs IITs. "How has their autonomy been compromised? IIMs should give their views to the ministry. It has not been finalized yet. We are seeking public opinion and are open to change," he said.

Source: The Times of India, July 26, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Now, IITs become fertile ground for faculty startups

A new wave of startups are springing up across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) with faculty members turning entrepreneurs. Dozens of faculty members from IITs in Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur and Hyderabad are now working on startups either by themselves or collaboratively with students.

Ravikrishnan Elangovan (33), joined IIT Delhi's department of biochemical engineering and biotechnology as assistant professor in 2010. He met Vivekanandan Perumal and Shalini Gupta, both of whom had also just joined the institute as faculty members after their post-doctoral degrees from the US. The trio wanted to develop a solution for typhoid diagnosis, put up a proposal with the department of biotechnology in 2013 and got funded.

Faculty floating new companies is an integral part of the academia-entrepreneurship intersection in the US, especially in places like Stanford and MIT. But the trend is slowly gaining momentum here.

Nineteen startups with faculty as shareholders were founded in 2014-15 in IIT-Madras, as compared to 11 such companies in 2013-14. "We are witnessing an increasing trend of joint collaboration between faculty members and their current and graduated students, with research being translated into commercial ventures/companies," says Tamaswati Ghosh, CEO, IIT-M Incubation Cell.

IIT-Madras has so far spawned 16 startups that have been founded or co-founded by faculty. Thirty of the 89 tech start-ups birthed at the institute have faculty members as founders or minority shareholders.

Planys Tech, Air OK Tech, Daksha Imaging, Yrs Intuitions are some examples. About 40% of startups incubated at IIT-Bombay's Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship are faculty-student projects, says Milind Atrey, professor-incharge, SINE.

iKen Solutions by RM Sonar from School of Management, Zeus Numerix by GR Shevere from Department of Aerospace Engineering and Vegayan Systems by Girish Saraf are some examples of faculty-promoted start-ups that graduated out of SINE. Sensibol, NanoSniff Technologies and kWatt Solutions are among such companies currently being incubated at SINE. "There has been an increase in faculty interest in entrepreneurship ventures," says PVM Rao, professor, mechanical engineering department of IIT-Delhi.

Investors find it easier to trust faculty-led start-ups. They also play a key role in creating a culture of entrepreneurship, encouraging more students to take the same route. "The collaborative entrepreneurial venture provides a space for students and faculty to combine their perspectives, lean on each other, and build something larger than what would otherwise be possible by either party," says Anil Prabhakar, professor, IIT-Madras, department of electrical engineering. He is also the founder of Unilumen Photonics and co-founder of Enability Foundation For Rehabilitation.

At IIT-Kharagpur, though the first such registration for a joint venture between a faculty member and a student happened way back in 2007, such instances have gained momentum only recently. "For the past two to three years, we're getting registrations from three to four such companies each year," says PP Das, head of Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship at IIT-Kharagpur. One more such company — in the Internet security business — is likely to get registered next month.

"Research can't be taken to people unless it's entrepreneurial," says Das. "Most of these ventures are in information and communication technology, education through IT, or making educational materials or software development consulting. The remaining are in healthcare or in biotechnology."

Even the newer IITs are witnessing a similar trend. IIT-Hyderabad has two successful startups which are joint ventures between students and faculty — Plianto Technologies and AR solutions. A few more are in pipeline, says Sobhan Babu, professor, department of computer science and engineering at IIT-Hyderabad and founder of Plianto Technologies.

Source: The Economic Times, June 23, 2015

Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan gives away Rs 300 million to set up three brain research chairs at IISc

Infosys co-founder 'Kris' Gopalakrishnan and his wife Sudha have set up three research chairs at the city-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc), continuing their push for brain research in the country's top institutions.

The first of the three chairs — K Vaidyanathan Distinguished Chair named after Sudha's father — was launched on Monday. Each chair will be set up with a corpus of Rs. 100 million funded by Pratiksha Trust, a charitable organisation Kris founded with his wife.

The Pratiksha Trust has endowed three similar chairs at IIT-Madras, where Kris studied. The 60-year old billionaire hopes the chairs can bring distinguished researchers in the areas of computational neuroscience, machine learning, data science and neuromorphic engineering to the IISc to enable collaborative research.

"I hope the launching of these distinguished chair positions will help push the frontiers in these areas. It would be excellent if the collaborations lead to highly creative, new computing architectures and algorithms inspired by the functioning of the brain. These three chairs along with three more at IIT Madras will create critical mass in the area of neuromorphic computing and machine learning in India," Kris said.

The K Vaidyanathan Chair at the IISc will be occupied by Shihab Shamma, a professor at the Institute of Systems Research of the University of Maryland. An expert in neuromorphic computing, neural signal processing and representation of speech signals in the brain, Shamma holds a PhD from Stanford University.

"I am sure these distinguished chair positions will add a new dimension to research collaboration in key strategic areas between IISc researchers and star contributors to these areas anywhere in the world," IISc Director Anurag Kumar said. At IIT-Madras, two of the three chairs — Prof Mahabala Chair and N R Narayana Murthy Chair — on computational brain research have been launched.

Both chairs are occupied by US-based scientists of Indian origin. In early 2014, the Infosys cofounder announced a Rs. 2.25-billion grant over a period of 10 years to develop a Centre for Brain Research (CBR) at the IISc. This philanthropic act is widely-considered one of the biggest contributions to pure science in the country, and one of the single largest donations by an individual to the IISc.

A few months later, Gopalakrishnan doled out Rs. 110 million to foster a partnership between the CBR and Carnegie Mellon University.

Source: The Economic Times, June 23, 2015

Medical colleges struggle to get good faculty

At a time when 31,000 students battle for 2,200-odd seats in Tamil Nadu this year, the state government's efforts to increase the number of MBBS seats have come a cropper. After an inspection in January, the Medical Council of India (MCI), the apex regulatory body for medical education in the country, cited faculty shortage and poor infrastructure facilities to reject TN's request to increase the seats from 150 to 250 each in Madurai, Tirunelveli and Coimbatore medical colleges. It also turned down Kanyakumari Government Medical College's request to increase seats from 100 to 150.

"In the recruitment conducted by Medical Services Recruitment Board at the end of 2014, only around 300 applications were received for the post of 1,727 assistant surgeons. Hardly 100 joined. Still there are more than 1,500 vacancies for specialists," said Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association President Dr K Senthil.

Even if the state government takes immediate steps to rectify the issue, it will take a few years to get adequate specialists, he said. "It will take time for the existing faculty members to get promoted to associate and assistant professor cadres," he said.

Medical experts said infrastructure facilities could be improved by pumping in more money but it would not be easy to increase the number of teachers in medical colleges in the near future. For example, they said, the Tiruvannamalai Government Medical College, which was started three years ago, was managing with just 50% of the required faculty in departments like obstetrics and gynaecology. Drawing up a long-term strategy and executing it alone will help, they said.

While the shortage of teaching faculty in the Coimbatore college was 17.98%, in Tirunelveli it was 16.73%, Madurai 14.60% and Kanyakumari 18.2%. There are plenty of vacancies in resident doctor categories as well in these colleges. For example, the shortage in this category in Tirunelveli is 26.59 %, while it is 10.20% in Kanyakumari. In October 2014, when the first inspection was conducted by MCI, Madurai had the worst shortage of 30%.

A senior health department official said it was an open secret that the authorities were managing the situation by adopting ad hoc measures like deputation. "Whenever there is an inspection, specialists are deployed from other colleges to evade the wrath of MCI. However, if MCI takes cognizance of the issue, the individual doctors will be in trouble as they stand the risk of being disqualified," he added.

While opening new colleges was welcome, the government should also focus on strengthening the existing institutions, said Doctors' Association for Social Equality general secretary Dr G R Ravindranath. "The important strategy to address the teaching faculty problem is to promote non-clinical courses," he said. Many people shunned teaching as it involved long work hours and the pay was low, he said. "The government should increase their salaries and offer promotions," said Dr Ravindranath.

Source: The Times of India, June 23, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

World’s 1st kidney transplant varsity opens in Gujarat

The world's first kidney transplant university in Ahmedabad, built by Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) at the cost of Rs 50 crore, was inaugurated by chief minister Anandiben Patel on Saturday.

IKDRC director Dr H L Trivedi will be university's chancellor for five years and IKDRC deputy director Veena Shah will be the vice-chancellor. He said that the university, expected to come up on more than 25-acre land near IKDRC, will offer courses in dialysis technology, anesthesia, clinical nursing, nurse technicians, immunology, biochemistry and other vital organs that are affected due to chronic kidney disease.

The varsity will prepare documentary-based science evidence on transplants and new-age techniques. He said: "We'll conduct research programs in diabetic nephropathy, immunology, cell infusion, cell development and other key areas."

The university will draw research faculty and students from across Indian, American and Canadian universities. Sources said IKDRC is also in negotiation with the health department to use its buildings as laboratory, library and admin office.

Addressing the event, Patel said: "The varsity will help bridge the gap of professors' shortage in the state. Gujarat will also get three new universities this year like Public Health University, Guru Gobind Singh University for tribals in Godhra and Narsinh Mehta University in Saurashtra."

Source: The Times of India, June 20, 2015

Saturday, June 13, 2015

US may allow foreign students to stay for 6 years after degree

If American corporations can't hire H1-Bs, they can hire H1-wannabes. That in essence will be the outcome of the Obama administration's move to allow tens of thousands international students to stay on in the United States for up to six years after they finish their college degree.

The far-reaching proposal, which will be of interests to a large body of students from India who come to the US for higher education, comes amid continuing resentment in some American quarters about "low-wage" foreigners taking up jobs as illustrated in the fracas at Disneyworld, where native-born US workers, seen as opponents of free trade, are fuming about being displaced by guest workers from India in a trend broadly known as outsourcing, leading to tension in the world's best-known amusement park and an icon of Americana.

On Thursday, the anti-outsourcing brigade, gathering steam in an election season and supported by US lawmakers who back their protectionist stand, persuaded the US Labor Department to open an investigation into two India-based firms, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for alleged violations of rules for visas for foreign technology workers under contracts they held with Southern California Edison, an electric utility. As in the case of Disneyworld, the power company is said to have laid off hundreds of US tech workers after they were forced to train workers from India under the H1-B visa program for guest workers.

But while anti-outsourcing groups were trying to shut down - or at least narrow — the H1-B gates, the Obama administration began the process to open another avenue to retain more high-skilled immigrant work force that many US corporations and experts say is needed in a country that simply does not graduate enough native-born STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) workers.

According to new regulations proposed by the administration and submitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee, students with STEM degrees can stay on in the US for a total of six years under the Optional Training Program (OPT) - three years after finishing an undergraduate program, and then if need be, another three years after a graduate program. This would give them as much work time in the US as foreign guest workers get under the H1-B program.

At present, OPT for international students who finish either an undergraduate or graduate program from a government-certified educational institution in the US is 12 months to 29 months depending on whether their degree is non-STEM or STEM. Typically, graduating students, a large number (upwards of 300,000) from China and India, use the OPT timeframe to land jobs, or internships leading to jobs, during which period employers usually sponsor them for an H1-B visa if their performance is good.

But with the increasing demand for H1-B visas, partly because many are cornered by outsourcing bodyshops, many foreign graduates who don't make the cut in the lottery system are forced to return to their home countries, much to the dismay of free-traders who believe the US is best served when the students it educates are retained in the country.

So the new proposal will essentially expand that window of opportunity to land a job and get an H1-B visa for up to six years, ensuring that a student who comes to the US to study is not under pressure to return. The new proposals, already under fire from lawmakers such as Chuck Grassley, comes on the heels of another Obama administration initiative to grant work permits to H-4 visa holders (spouses of H1-B) who meet certain eligibility requirements.

"The proposed new regulations, while still being internally discussed, are irresponsible and dangerous considering the Government Accountability Office report issued in March 2014 finding that the (OPT) program was full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and that the Department was not adequately overseeing it," Grassley complained a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Source: The Times of India, June 13, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Government plays safe, puts draft IIM bill up for debate

A draft bill to improve the governance of Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) proposes to set up a coordination forum and formalize a closer scrutiny of the premier B-schools — from directors’ tenures to a corporate-style annual report with details of the highest-paid employees. The draft bill also proposes a four-year term for the chairman of the board of governors instead of the current five years and seeks to keep the number of board member to 15 across all IIMs.

“What the government is trying to do is keep a close watch on the functioning of these institutes without infringing upon their autonomy,” a government official said, requesting that he not be named. The human resource development (HRD) ministry has now put up the draft bill on, the government’s crowdsourcing website, inviting comments and suggestions.

A second government official said the draft bill “has tried to explain the role of different stakeholders”, as the 2008 R.C. Bhargava Committee report on IIMs had suggested that responsibility be fixed on “key players” to improve accountability at these institutes. This official, too, requested anonymity. “Divided responsibility for governance, and lack of clarity of the role of government, boards, chairman and the directors has meant that none of the key players has any real accountability for results,” the Bhargava committee said.

The committee had also suggested that the boards of IIMs be reconstituted and consist of 11 members against the present 24-26. Six of these would be independent professionals and the other five would be: a nominee each of the central government, state government, faculty, and the chairman and director. No person should be a board member for more than six years, with a single term of three years. Board members would be expected to have a minimum of 75% attendance. The second government official said the draft bill aims to streamline the functioning and governance of IIMs.

On the director’s role, the draft bill says the person shall function as the chief executive officer of the institute and present an annual report. In the report, the director shall mention the key achievements and targets — from shortfalls in expenditure to surplus of income, appointment of faculty members and officers, performance indicators and internal standards set by the institute, including innovation in teaching, research and application of knowledge.

“The report of the director shall also include a statement showing the names of the five officers, including faculty members and other employees of the institute, who received the highest remuneration (including allowances and other payments made to such employee) during the financial year and the contributions made by such employees during the financial year,” the draft bill said. It shall also indicate whether any such employee is a relative of a member of the board or academic council of the institute and “if so, the name of such member; and such other particulars”.

An IIM professor said though the draft bill has clearly mentioned that a chairman of the board can be selected for a second term, it is silent on the appointment of a director. “It means they don’t want a director to get more than a single term. The logic is ambiguous,” said the professor. He, however, said having a fixed number of board members will lead to better decision-making.

But both the government officials cited above said more than the content of the bill, the HRD ministry is intrigued that the cabinet has sent back the bill for public comments after keeping it with itself for more than 10 weeks. “We had done the consultations with key stakeholders and thought it would be enough, but higher authorities told us to put it up in public,” said another government official, adding that the government is perhaps thinking that after public scrutiny it will be easier to get Parliament’s nod.

The official said the “huge IIM lobby”, in an election year in some states, can create a problem for the bill in Parliament. “Opposition political parties have become very active ahead of the Bihar assembly election later this year and the huge IIM lobby will lap up the issue. Like labour reforms, the government will be accused of going ahead arbitrarily without enough consultation. Public scrutiny may delay the bill by a few more months,” said the official.

Shikhar Mohan, an IIM Indore alumnus, said putting the bill in the public domain is a welcome move. He suggested that the bill should allow one-year courses at IIMs to get MBA status keeping in mind international trends. Mohan said some 400 IIM alumni and students plan to send a petition to the HRD ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office outlining these proposals.

Source: Mint, June 12, 2015

Wanted: Faculty that fits the bill at IITs

With the undergraduate class of 2019 set to enter India's premier technology institutes in a month's time, here is a shocker. Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are facing a faculty shortage of 30-40%. There is no dearth of people interested in the job, but often these candidates don't match the requirements of the top tech schools.

At IIT-Kharagpur, the shortage based on the ideal ratio of one faculty member for every 10 students is more than 40%. It needs 435 more faculty members for the existing student base of over 10,000. IIT-Bombay, which currently has 687 faculty members including part-timers, has a shortage of 213. Other IITs fare no better.

The problem lies in the availability of quality faculty members, said Kushal Sen, dean faculty at IIT-Delhi. The IIT is usually flooded with hundreds of applications at any given time. “Only three to five of the hundreds of applications that we receive are worth selecting,“ said Sen. IIT-Delhi hires around 30 faculty members every year. It tries to attract talent by doling out research grants of Rs. 100,000 for peripherals and Rs. 1 million for equipment. It currently has 523 faculty members for 7,800 students.

Fearing it will lose competent faculty to competition, IIT-Kanpur recently closed a hiring in less than two weeks compared with the usual three to six weeks. “It was a question of losing out this professor to competition had we prolonged, hence we had to quickly close this with an offer letter,“ explained Manindra Agarwal, IIT-Kanpur's dean for faculty affairs. Other IITs are also working round the clock in getting good faculty talent as well as promptly closing the hiring.

Most of the IITs are looking overseas to meet the demand for faculty. Of the new faculty hired in the past five years, around half are foreigners at IIT-Bombay. IITs in Delhi, Guwahati, Gandhinagar and Kanpur are all trying to grab the best from overseas. IIT-Kanpur has an office in New York while at other IITs, representatives are sent overseas to scout for faculty.

According to Vineet Nayar, founder of Sampark Foundation and former CEO at HCL Technologies, inadequate research opportunities are keeping many competent people away from joining IITs as faculty members. “Unfortunately as a nation we have lost our charm for teaching as a profession Research is great but only in patches at the IITs in India. Corporate interest and funding both are low in research. Demand for these researchers in the corporate world is low and thus for a high potential faculty, it is unattractive to work in such an environment,“ Nayar said.

For newer IITs, attrition is a major problem. Until recently, faculty members were leaving every two to three months at IIT-Guwahati, said Pina keswar Mahanta, head of mechanical engineering. Most of the leading IITs are busy working around making the compensation packages more attractive. In the form of chair professorship or research grants, IITs are trying their best to lure teaching talent with better packages. For instance, starting this year, IIT-Madras is initiating 'Institute Chair Professorship' wherein the chosen faculty will get additional compensation Rs. 25,000 per month apart from space and funding for research.

Using donations largely from the alumni community, IIT-Kanpur also offers a top-up salary of Rs. 25,000 or even more to monthly compensation. Sensing that research is a big draw for competent faculty , IIT-Madras is adding two research centres every year. "We have initiated a ramp-up research centre which would help us to attract and retain faculty," said R David Koilpillai, Dean (Planning).

Subramanian Ramadorai, Chairman of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and National Skill Development Agency as well as former Vice Chairman at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said: "The current faculty at the IITs is world-class but surely they face a severe shortage. They (IITs) have to be bold enough to address this challenge by sprucing up research activities."

IIT-Kanpur has total faculty of 407 for 6,477 students, a ratio of 1:16. It is aiming to reach 450 faculty members next year, but that will still fall short of the ideal ratio of 1:10. At IIT-Kharagpur, the existing faculty strength is a little over 625, while the sanctioned strength is 1,060.

"Retaining good faculty is proving a bigger hurdle than hiring faculty as we are facing a huge problem due to lack of space (office, laboratory, hostel, etc.) and infrastructure," IIT-Kanpur Director Indranil Manna said. Last year, IIT-Bombay conducted two cycles of interviews for faculty. “We will continue to do so,“ said director Devang Khakhar.

Source: The Economic Times, June 12, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Only 9 Indian universities make it to Times Asia rankings 2015

Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore upstaged Panjab University as India's number one university, while IISc and IIT-Bombay, were the two new entrants in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education University Asia Rankings 2015, released on Wednesday.

However, there is cause for concern as this year only nine Indian universities made it to the top 100, down from 10, whereas IIT-Guwahati, IIT-Kanpur and Jadavpur University, which made it to the top 100 comfortably last year-have exited the rankings altogether this time. Meanwhile, China has overtaken Japan as the Asian power house in education, but Japan's University of Tokyo is still in the numero uno position.

IISc-Bangalore entered the table at 37th, one place ahead of last year's leader, Panjab University, whose rank fell from 32. Five IITs, led by IIT-Roorkee (joint 55th) formed the lion's share of the country's representation, although Aligarh Muslim University (90th) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (96th) too made it to the top 100.

Phil Baty, editor of The Times Higher Education Rankings, said, "It is cause for concern that India has lost ground in the league table. Most of last year's representatives have fallen down the list. With India's major chunk of population under 25 years of age, it is more crucial than ever for India to invest in research and strengthen its academic links with other nations. "

The Asia rankings use 13 performance indicators to examine each university's strengths against its core missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. Besides seeding its position to China, many of Japan's representatives have lost ground, with only 19 universities in the list, down from 20 last year and 22 in 2013.

China now has 21 representatives in the top 100, going past Japan for the first time, with three of its universities as new entrants. Last year China had 18 universities and 15 in 2013. Both Peking University (fourth) and Tsinghua University (fifth) have moved up a place.

Hong Kong University managed to retain its third place and had a strong presence from the Chinese special administrative region, with all six of its universities in the top 50. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology rose from ninth to seventh, while the Chinese University of Hong Kong stood at 13th.

"The world expects Asia to be the next global higher education superpower after Europe and North America. Times Higher Education data shows many of the continent's leading universities competing on equal terms with the best in the West," said Baty.

Source: The Times of India, June 11, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Medical Education - Craze for specialisation, few takers for general medicine

ENT specialist for a sniffle; a cardiologist for a minor breathing problem; a neurologist for a throbbing headache. With doctors being judged by the panoply of degrees suffixed to their names, general practitioners with MBBS degrees have been pushed to work as subordinates till they earn an extra acronym on their name plates.

While more than 5,000 MBBS students in the state of Tamil Nadu fought for 1,200 post-graduate seats, senior doctors say the rat race has taken a toll on the health sector since fewer people are opting to become general practitioners attending to minor ailments.

"Over a decade ago, many MBBS students would go back to their native place to practice medicine and would apply for post-graduation after two to three years," said J Mohanasundaram, former director of medical education. But, now, pursuing a specialization immediately after under graduation has become an obvious choice for students. "Now, a general practitioner with an MBBS is seen unfit to write out prescriptions. Even for a minor ailment, people head to a specialist," he said, adding that in most countries, patients first approach a general practitioner, who would then refer them to a specialist.

Students who complete their MBBS can practice as physicians and start their own clinics or nursing homes. However, with many struggling to pay off hefty student loans, they choose to work as duty medical officers in the government sector or in private hospitals. "However, most of them eye post-graduate seats and prefer to join government sector so they can secure a seat through the state quota," said Dr V Kanagasabai, former dean of Madras Medical College (MMC). 

Senior doctors say that students often begin preparing for their specialization during their one-year compulsory house surgency period. "The one year is to train them as physicians and they learn to treat all sorts of ailments. But most of them use this time to prepare for their PG admission. They focus only on the specialization they are interested in," said Mohanasundaram.

Although age is no bar for applying for postgraduation, MBBS graduates are reluctant to wait for more than a year or two. "I feel I won't be competent enough to crack the entrance compared to those who are fresh out of college," said Pavithra E, a medical officer in a private hospital who plans to appear for the entrance exam next year.

Experts say increasing the number of PG seats would help in a big way. "The thrust on postgraduation is so much that many of them pay hefty capitation fees and join private medical colleges. They don't realize that having an MBBS doesn't make you half a doctor. It is the hands-on experience and the learning that you get that really matter," said Dr K Raghavan, former head of the department of general medicine at the government general hospital.

Source: The Times of India, June 10, 2015

IIM bill proposes coordination forum, not IIT Council-type body

Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), the country’s premier business schools, may be guided by a coordination forum led by the Union human resource development (HRD) minister if legislation proposed by the Union government takes effect. The forum is aimed at helping IIMs leverage each other’s resources and give policy direction to these institutes without creating a body like the IIT Council.

The Ministry of HRD on Tuesday put up the draft of the proposed law on IIMs for comments and public opinion, taking forward a proposal initiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Four ministers in charge of technical education from governments in states where the institutes are located will be members of the forum by rotation each year. The draft bill proposes to cover all aspects of the functioning of IIMs. “This Act may be called the Indian Institutes of Management Act, 2015,” the draft bill said. It also permits IIMs to award degrees instead of diplomas as is the current practice.

On the coordination forum, the draft bill said it shall consist of the minister in charge of the ministry or department of the central government having administrative control of the technical education and shall function as ex-officio chairperson. The technical education secretary of the government of India, the chairperson of the board of each IIMs and director of each IIM shall complete the forum. 

But other than policy direction, it shall not have the power to fix fee, a demand made by IIMs during discussion rounds. The IIT Council, also headed by the HRD minister, is the final authority on all matters — from fee determination to key administrative matters at IITs.

The draft bill, however, has empowered the board of governors of each IIM to review the performance of the directors of the institute at regular intervals. “The board shall conduct an annual review of the performance of the director, in the context of the achievements of objects of the institute,” the draft bill said.

“The board shall, within seven years from the incorporation of the institute, and thereafter at the end of every fifth year, evaluate and review the performance of the institutes on the parameters such as long-term strategy and five-year rolling plan of the institutes,” the draft bill said.

A professor at an IIM said that the bill is fine in intention, but the forum should not flex its muscles and start interfering in the matters of the IIMs as the autonomy of these institutions are key to its quality so far. “There are too many government officials in the forum and hope they stick to just advisory role,” the professor added, asking not to be named.

India has 13 IIMs and six more are in the pipeline. Each IIM is structured as a society and governed by its own board of directors. Once the law is drafted and passed, IIMs will cease to be societies and become institutions created by statute.

Source: Mint, June 10, 2015

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

PM to discuss topic of allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has summoned a meeting of top bureaucrats to discuss the feasibility of allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India, his personal intervention brightening the chances for the UPA-era proposal that was once bitterly opposed by BJP.

Modi has called for a special meeting on June 11 at his 7 Race Course Road residence to discuss the subject, which the commerce ministry thinks has the potential to position India as an Asian hub for higher education and also help the country save foreign exchange. The meeting is probably the PM's most significant intervention in higher education till date.

It will be attended by the cabinet secretary, the head of the Niti Aayog, the foreign secretary, secretary in the Department of Expenditure, secretary in MHRD and the chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC), people familiar with the matter have told ET. According to these sources, the discussions at Thursday's meeting will be centered on "exploring ways and means of permitting foreign educational institutions to set up base in India".

An increasing number of students have been opting to go overseas for undergraduate and post-graduate studies in recent years, partly also because of the difficulty in getting admissions to top colleges of their choice. A vast majority of them also choose to work and settle abroad, in the process depriving the country of its best brains. This also the costs the country precious foreign exchange as studying abroad is not cheap.

According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, around 200,000 students from India went to study overseas in 2012, bestowing the country the status of having the second-largest population of so-called "mobile students" after China. China sent almost 700,000 students to study overseas that year.

Although the BJP had opposed the UPA's plans to open up India's education sector to foreign universities, the Modi government decided to revisit the issue. This was spearheaded by the commerce ministry which held its first meeting to discuss the issue in January this year.

ET had first reported on May 28 that the commerce ministry had mooted the idea of reviving the contentious Foreign Educational Institutions Bill in a strategy paper it shared with the ministries of external affairs and HRD and Niti Aayog in April. Recognition of online degrees abroad, improving infrastructural capacity to offer online courses, encouraging leading Indian institutes to set up campuses abroad, new parameters for ranking and accreditation, removal of procedural hurdles and participation in global trade promotional events were some of the highlights of the broad strategy.

"Global trade in higher education is a growing sector. We have a number of strengths including cost advantage and good number of English speaking professionals. Our geographical location makes India a viable destination for Asian students. This potential should be tapped. Inviting foreign universities to operate here is one of the ways to attract international students," said a commerce ministry source privy to the discussions held in January.

The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which failed to pass political muster during the UPA-II, was opposed tooth and nail by the opposition parties including the BJP, Left and the Samajwadi Party.

Faced with political opposition in enacting the law, the MHRD had in September 2013 decided 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. The regulations, however, were never issued with the government's legislative department failing to notify them. So there is at present no legal and regulatory framework to allow foreign universities to set up campus in India.

Source: The Economic Times, June 9, 2015

Friday, June 05, 2015

Only 5 of the 10 proposed IITs and IIMs to start admissions this year

With less than two months to go for the new academic session, it seems that the government may only allow about half of the 10 new IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management), announced in 2014, to start admissions this year.

According to sources, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) might postpone the launch of proposed IITs in Jammu, Chhattisgarh and Goa and new IIMs in Punjab and Odisha to next year as the respective state governments haven"t been able to offer suitable land for the permanent campus yet.

ET spoke to the mentor institutes of each of the above IITs and IIMs. None was willing to comment on admissions for the new institutes, saying there was little clarity on the matter from the Centre. Unlike the UPA-II when many institutions (IITs, IIMs and central universities) were immediately launched from temporary campuses, the MHRD under Smriti Irani has decided to not give the go-ahead unless the states fulfil the precondition of identifying suitable land for the permanent campus. The Modi government wants to ensure the permanent campus is not in a remote location and is well-connected to an airport and the nearest town/city.

"The new institutions announced by the UPA-II are still struggling to move to their permanent campus even five years after they started. IIM-Ranchi is an example of that. This would not have happened had the land issues been sorted beforehand. The delay eventually affects an institution"s ability to attract good faculty and also increases the cost of construction," said a ministry official.

Over the last one year, the site selection committee constituted by the ministry has visited each of the 10 states to inspect the sites offered by their governments. Of these, the panel has finalised and approved the sites for the proposed IITs in Kerala and Andhra and new IIMs in Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.

The final decision on whether new IITs in Goa, Jammu and Chhattisgarh and IIMs in Punjab and Odisha can start their academic session this year will be made in the next two weeks. "A decision needs to be made soon as the mentor institutes and state governments need time to refurbish the temporary campuses and make other preparations," said another officer.

The Centre is not leaving anything to chance. It has circulated a Cabinet note to set up societies for all new IIMs and IITs. The government has allocated Rs. 500 crore (Rs. 5 billion) in 2015-16 for setting up five IITs (Jammu, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Kerala and Andhra) and five IIMs (Odisha, Bihar, Punjab, HP and Maharashtra) announced last year.

Source: The Economic Times, June 5, 2015

Only 13 of India's 431 universities have women VCs

The prestigious Oxford University last week announced that Professor Louise Richardson, subject to approval, could go on to become the university's first woman Vice-Chancellor in its 800-year history.

Down in India, things are not too different. Multiple studies reveal the percentage of women vice-chancellors in India is at a shocking 3%, with just 13 universities of the 431 a UGC study surveyed, having women running a university. This, despite girls outdoing boys year after year in exams, and women constituting more than 50% of teaching positions in universities.

According to a British Council commissioned report titled 'Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia: Rejection, Refusal, Reluctance, Revisioning', the percentage of women teaching staff drops drastically at higher levels. "Women constitute only 1.4% of the professoriate, though there are many at other positions like readers, lecturers etc," the report released in February 2015 notes.

Adding that even of the 13 women vice-chancellors, six are from all-women universities, the report says there is a culture of discrimination. "There are many reasons -- from the way selection committees are constituted to the way women and men think. Most women academicians are more passionate about teaching than running institutions, which is why many of them, although qualified, do not choose to apply for such posts and stay with pure academics," Meena Rajiv Chandawarkar, Vice-Chancellor, Karnataka State Women's University, told TOI.

Quoting a Universities Grants Commission (UGC) constituted task force in 2013, the report says: "Glass ceilings and fears over promotion must receive more attention, as the feedback received by the Task Force would indicate widespread practices of discrimination and harassment among women working in higher education institutions." Berin Lucas, professor, sociology department of St Joseph's College of Arts and Science says: "Higher education must open its doors to new learning, but unfortunately, it is only a reflection of the patriarchal fabric of society, which operates in every spectrum of life, not even exempting education."

The statistics the report provides are at least two years old, and there could have been a slight ascent in the number of women V-Cs. Unlike in many developed nations, readily available statistics on gender disparity in India are missing. However, significant efforts have been made by some scholars to excavate data manually to show a lack of women's representation in higher education leadership, despite a growing presence at the undergraduate level.

"It appears that statistics on higher education employment are collected annually by the UGC, but not reported by gender. Although the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) conducted by the Government of India in 2013 provides a wealth of statistical data, which is differentiated by gender, as well as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, it is not clear when this will be repeated and no previous survey exists from which a trend analysis might be developed," the British Council report notes.

"Even the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Annual Report 2014, which has announced the launch of AISHE 2012-13 and the development of a Higher Education Statistics and Public Information System, does not provide any statistics on staffing," the report adds.

Prejudices hinder growth
Jancy James, Kerala's first woman Vice-Chancellor says, "The entire selection process is based on old assumptions and prejudices. There are many vacant positions, and I don't think the overall situation has changed much in the past two years. The problem of a glass ceiling and notions of what a woman can achieve are the biggest hindrance to their growth. Women can perform the tasks, it even reflects in the balance sheet. But the position of VCs in most universities is reduced to positions of defence against all kinds of violence — political, financial, and so on".

Women not allowed to grow
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, Executive Director - Leadership & Board Practice, RGF Executive Search, India says, "The findings of the report are shocking, the percentage shouldn't be this low. But there are multiple factors affecting women in the sector. One, there is a lack of opting in. I think many women get into the profession with a passion for teaching and do not, at a later stage, opt for a managerial job. There is also a problem of women being forgotten. Is the system forgetting to check for qualified women and forgetting to ask them? The second thing is a lot of women are being ploughed off at the HoD level and are not allowed to grow. The third is the job of a VC is not just academic, it involves building relationships with the industry, alumni, branding the institute, corresponding with the government and keeping in touch with foundations and so on".

Source: The Times of India, June 5, 2015

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

British students scramble for Indian varsities

In a reverse trend, Britain is now seeing a mad rush among its students to know modern India and become part of the country's amazing growth story.

Over 6,000 students from across British universities have applied to fill 400 spots under the first of its kind Generation UK programme - a project under which 25,000 British students will travel to India over the next five years to understand the country and enhance their chances of employability in global Indian business houses.

An additional 400 British students have applied for just 100 positions to teach across 60 Indian schools. Some of them are also getting internships to work in Delhi's ministry of skills development.

The overall batch of 500 will leave for India at the end of June. They will be placed across five Indian universities --- Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore), Delhi University, Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay) and the National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad).

Richard Everitt, head of education at British Council India told TOI, "We have seen an unprecedented interest among British students to be part of the India growth story. This is the first year of the Generation UK programme. Next summer, we plan to send 1000 British students and are appealing to more Indian universities to create space for them. At present we have five Indian universities who have agreed to accommodate British students. By next year, we expect to have 25."

Everitt added that the Council has seen a "terrific interest in British students wanting to gain teaching experience in Indian schools". Everitt said, "The programme is for three main reasons. A lot of UK employers are saying that British students aren't career ready and aren't competitive enough when they leave university and look for jobs. So we want them to go out into the world and gain international experience and understand India better. We also want to improve the balance - at present 20,000 Indian students go to UK to study but hardly a few British students come to India".

The programme starts with a Make in India initiative from July 1 which will see students spend two weeks in Mumbai, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi learning what drives India's manufacturing economy such as rural textiles, handicrafts and new technologies.

Between July 25 and August 7, they will learn about the Indian economy, history and culture by spending two weeks in Mumbai and Delhi, hearing from industry experts, academics and peers. Between September 30 and October 13, British students will learn about the relationship between technology entrepreneurship by travelling across Mumbai and Bangalore "exploring the importance of technology and developing your ideas with Indian peers".

The Council's India director Rob Lynes told TOI it will provide the practical support students need, as well as working with governments, academic institutions, industry and commerce in India. He said "the trip will help British youngsters become more eligible for jobs in global Indian companies through their understanding of India's work ethics and culture. At present, many Indian employers are not satisfied with the cultural awareness of British graduates".

He added "India will shape the 21st century and Britain's youngsters must have enough knowledge about the country. Even though India and UK have a long shared history, the 21st century relationship will be very different. At present, young Britons don't understand contemporary India. Generation UK will give them knowledge about what modern India is actually like. It will involve a whole variety of activities - from internships in companies in India to cultural courses and teaching opportunities in Indian schools".

Lynes added "The better they know India, the more they will engage with it. UK's trade with India is increasing every year and we need more British youngsters to be eligible to work in India's multi-national companies".

Source: The Times of India, June 2, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

TISS flounders as government fails to bolster it with funds

Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), widely recognized as a pioneer in the area of social science education, is in the grip of a financial 'nightmare' even as the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) work on a new framework for government policy towards funding deemed universities in the country.

TISS, set up in 1936 by the Tatas, is among eight deemed universities funded by the government which are faced with a financial crisis as UGC and MHRD are yet to decide whether the state should continue funding them. TISS has had to take bank loans in March and April and dip into its reserves — essentially funds generated through fee collection — to pay employee salaries and keep the institute running.

Willing to Follow New Rules
"TISS has sent a representation to both UGC and MHRD and it is now up to the government to take a decision. We urgently need the money — some Rs. 65-70 crore (Rs. 650-700 million) comes to us in grants from UGC. We are a fully public-funded institution and our existence depends on this funding. While funds for 2014-15 were released to us last year, now we are facing a nightmare. Salaries, pensions, maintenance of hostels, water and electricity bills are all dependent on this funding," TISS Director S Parasuraman told ET in a telephonic interview.

He pointed out that TISS followed government norms with regard to reservation and is also willing to adhere to any new rules. "This is an 80-year-old institution with 4,600 students. We are ready to follow all government rules, but stopping the grants while new rules are yet to come into effect is like choking you to death. For social sciences, there is especially a need for financial support. We are only requesting the government to quickly release funds," Parasuraman said.

UGC Chairman Ved Prakash confirmed there were funding issues with regard to eight deemed varsities, including TISS, but said a solution would soon be found. "UGC will take a considered view keeping in mind the interests of both the institute and the students. The idea is to facilitate the growth and development of good institutions. We are exploring possibilities of helping them out from the present stalemate," the UGC chairman told ET. Higher Education Secretary Satyanarayan Mohanty did not respond to queries from ET till press time.

Insufficient Funds
In a letter dated April 29, 2015, Parasuraman told the higher education secretary that funds were insufficient even to pay salaries. "The current financial year has commenced and we are yet to receive grants even to meet the salary and pension of March and April 2015 and other critical operational costs like electricity, water, security, annual maintenance contracts, etc. It has come to a situation that we had to take loans to pay salaries and pension for these months," Parasuraman wrote.

Acknowledging that the MHRD and UGC may be working on a fresh framework for funding of deemed universities, the TISS director had sought the secretary's intervention to ensure "the institute is not crippled and the grants for salary and pension are released immediately".

The institute receives both plan and non-plan grants from UGC with the latter touching about Rs. 50 crore Rs. 500 million) in 2013-14. It has received funding from the central government since late 1940s. After it was declared a deemed varsity in 1964, it has been wholly-funded by the government. Its existing campus in Deonar, Mumbai, was inaugurated by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

MHRD Raised Questions
Questions were raised by the MHRD in September-October 2014 about the rationale of government funding for these eight varsities. Subsequently, UGC held back funds for these varsities. While the institutes have been sending a stream of representations to the MHRD and UGC seeking release of funds, the two have yet to come to a resolution.

For about a year, TISS has been requesting that the MHRD directly fund its non-plan expenditure instead of UGC on account of delayed and irregular funding by the commission. TISS has also requested that its non-plan block grant funding be increased to Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) per annum.

While TISS is probably the most prestigious among the deemed varsities, there are others as well who are faced with a severe cash crunch owing to the rethink in MHRD and UGC over their funding.

Among these are Agra-based Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad, Gandhi Gram Rural Institute in Tamil Nadu, Avinashilingam University in Coimbatore. Government-run deemed varsities namely Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Delhi, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Tirupati and Gurukul Kangri University in Haridwar are also facing funds shortage.

Source: The Economic Times, May 29, 2015

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Soon, India to have own ranking system

India is set to evolve its own system of ranking of higher educational institutions. Designed with the Indian situation in mind, the new system will stress on outcomes and that ranking of institutions should not be confused with accreditation that is already being done by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

Late last month, senior MHRD officials, directors of IITs, IIMs, NITs and representatives of top industry bodies CII and FICCI met to work out the ranking system. "We have got six groupings of outcomes on which institutions will be ranked," a senior HRD official said.

These will be academic performance, teaching-learning, learning resources, graduation outcome, global MoUs and impact/innovation done by institutions. Ranking for science, engineering, liberal arts, social sciences, medicine, law and business administration will be done differently. IITs, IIMs, School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have been asked to look into outcomes again.

Though the weightage for each of the six outcomes will be finalized in the last meeting of the core team, a senior MHRD official said, "It will be markedly different from ranking system followed internationally." "For instance, Times Higher Education gives 30% to citations, QS Ranking gives 40% to academic reputation and ARW Ranking system gives 30% to alumni award/faculty award," he said.

In the new Indian ranking system, he said, weightage on a factor like 'perception of an institute' will be less. "We do not have too many higher educational institutions that can be on top merely on the basis of perception. In case higher weightage is given to perception factor, few good ones will permanently occupy the top slot," he said.

Instead, more weightage will be given to teaching/learning, graduation outcomes and research. Each of the six groupings consists of various sub-factors. For instance, in case of graduation outcome, sub-factors that will be looked are employment level, percentage of the self-employed, percentage of those pursuing higher education and those who are unemployed.

The official said it also needs to be sorted out how frequently rankings will be done. "Most likely it will be once in two years. We will also finalize if a new body is needed to carry out the ranking," he said. CII has offered to do the ranking.

Source: The Times of India, May 2, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

UGC taking action against blacklisted universities

The Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani has stated in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament) that the University Grants Commission (UGC) is making efforts in dealing with the issue of fake universities. The UGC has identified 21 fake universities across the country. These universities are carrying out their functions in violation of the UGC Act, 1956.

According to investigations by the UGC, these 21 universities are running several undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which are not accredited from either the state, central, UGC or any other authority capable of granting accreditation. These institutions do not have the capacity to award any degrees.

In her communication to the Rajya Sabha, Smriti Irani has mentioned the steps taken by the UGC in order to resolve the problem of fake universities in different parts of the country.

  • The UGC has published a list of fake universities on its website
  • It has informed all the unrecognized universities that any misleading advertisements by them will lead to legal action under the IPC (Indian Penal Code)and UGC Act and others. Few cases against the unapproved universities have already been filed by the UGC
  • The UGC will defend the cases against fake universities in the courts. However, any action against such universities can only be taken by the state governments and local authorities
  • The UGC has sent notices to the heads of these universities, asking them to close down the universities with immediate effect. It has also sent reminder letters to the education secretaries of states for taking action against the unrecognised universities
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had rejected the UGC proposal to clear 34 out of 44 deemed universities from the blacklist.

These 44 universities had been blacklisted in 2009, by the Tandon Committee set up under the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal. The committee found that these universities were lacking in the quality of education as well as the infrastructure that they provided. It said that they are unfit for recognition and awarding degrees. Only three out of these 44 universities voluntarily surrendered their deemed status and established themselves as institutes. The remaining varsities, however, moved court against the committee's report.

Recently, UGC also prepared its reports regarding the conditions of the remaining 41 universities. And according to its investigations 34 out of the 41 universities deserve to hold the deemed status.

As both the reports had inspected, the universities based on different parameters and the results of both commissions are entirely different, a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra had ordered the HRD Ministry to find out the validity of the two reports; and formulate uniform guidelines for conducting such inspections.

Source: India Today Live, April 30, 2015

DU, JNU, IITs make it to global top 100 list

Indian universities might struggle to make the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings list, but their individual departments are amongst the best in the world. Delhi University tops the list, achieving the highest rank of all 20 Indian universities that have made the cut, while being placed 17th globally on the development studies subject table.

Nine Indian institutions are listed in the top 100 within nine disciplines. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 published on Wednesday, India has secured 107 places across the 36 subject tables, including the six new disciplines for 2015—architecture, arts and design, business studies, dentistry, development studies and veterinary science.

IIT-Bombay is the most prevalent Indian institute, appearing in the top 100 for eight subjects. IIT-Delhi too has five of its departments in the top 100 while Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) figures on one subject list. "This is a reflection of the progress made by Delhi University in four years. Rankings have improved in several disciplines. If we can keep up the momentum, we would be placed even higher next year," Malay Neerav, media coordinator, DU, said.

Within the inclusion of the new subject of art and design, Shanmugha Arts Science Technology and Research Academy, Thanjavur, has been placed in the top 100, while Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has made it for materials science and electrical and electronic engineering. From Delhi, IIT also appears in the top 100 for civil and structural engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical aeronautical and manufacturing engineering and computer science and information system.

However, in business and management studies, none of the B-schools could make it into the top 100. The top ranks in this subject table are shared by IIM-Ahmedabad, IIM-Bangalore and IIT-Delhi.

Source: The Times of India, April 30, 2015

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