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A new imagination for Indian universities in the context of global rankings of educational institutions.

The Hindu | Opinion »

Indian universities need a transformational change for them to become relevant in the context of global rankings of educational institutions.

The Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Rankings 2015, which gives new insights into the performance and contribution of universities in BRICS and emerging economies, demonstrates a stronger and sharper attention to issues of quality and excellence to be paid by India. These rankings give comprehensive data on 100 universities in 18 emerging economies of the world. The results have shown that out of the top 10 universities, three are from China, three are from Turkey, one is from Taiwan, one is from Russia, one from Brzail and one from South Africa. There is not a single Indian university in the top 20 universities. Only the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, ranks 25 on the list. This year’s rankings have once again shown the extraordinary progress achieved by Chinese universities. Turkey is another great example of a strong performer in this year’s rankings; besides the three mentioned, eight institutions figure in the top 100.

Besides China, another performer has been Russia (seven Russian universities can be found in the top 100). There is a substantial focus on the importance of international rankings of universities among Russian universities and policymakers. There is also a significant impetus for capacity building to improve quality of education and to promoting excellence in all aspects of university governance. In this context, Russia has embarked on an ambitious initiative called “Project on Competitiveness Enhancement of Leading Russian Universities Among Global Research and Education Centres.” This is expected to be a transformational initiative for Russian universities to seek a stronger presence in global rankings. Project 5-100 is a new initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation government in order to support the best universities in the country. Its vision, says Alexander Povalko, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, is to “…support the best universities in Russia, with a desire to see at least five of them enter the top 100 of the leading global university rankings by 2020…Project 5-100 is a comprehensive academic excellence initiative that unites top-tier Russian universities behind the goal of deep transformation of the institutions according to the best international models and practices.” There is a collective consciousness emerging within many universities to seek excellence that will ultimately help them fare well in international rankings.

The way forward for India

While India has 11 universities in the top 100, most of them have actually climbed down in this year’s rankings. Indian universities need a transformational change for them to become relevant in the context of global rankings of universities. The last two decades have witnessed extraordinary changes in university systems around the world. India needs to take into account these developments and how they are affecting and impacting the nature of higher education around the world. The higher education system in India, including the university governance systems, needs to consider the following reforms and policy initiatives. First, there is an urgent need to recognise that not all universities need to be engaged in the same manner on different aspects of institution building. They need to be treated differently depending on the kind of contribution they are making. Indian universities should not be differentiated based on whether they are public or private; the differentiation instead should be based on quality, performance and contribution with more resources being made available for universities that are performing exceedingly well. We also need to recognise that not all universities in India need to be research focussed, but they need to excel in other areas and should be measured for their quality and excellence on those focal areas of university development.

Second, taking inspiration from the Project 5-100 initiative, India could consider empowering 50 of its top universities in every possible manner to seek global excellence. For this there needs to be a clear mandate, with funding and resources given to these 50 universities to augment their capacities. While choosing them, policymakers should choose as their main selection criteria institutional diversity and the institutions’ potential for achieving global excellence. Ten Central universities, 10 State universities, 10 private universities, 10 deemed universities and 10 institutions of national importance could be considered. This diversity will enable India to build strong capacity for establishing a few model institutions of excellence that can compete globally.

Third, the issue of regulatory reform has been the heart of policy reforms in higher education. There is an urgent need to seek a complete overhaul of the regulatory framework. Universities in India need to be made more autonomous; they need freedom, in every sense of the word, from both government and from regulatory bodies. The agenda of universities needs to be established by the faculty and students, keeping in mind the needs and aspirations of everyone in society.

Funding for research
Fourth, there is no doubt that world-class universities are built and nurtured with a strong focus on research. There is a need to substantially increase the amount of funding that is currently available for research in Indian universities. This aspect of policy seeks significant reform, both in terms of increasing the quantum of funding as well as in the policy and management framework of disbursing research grants. The existing framework to disburse grants is a multilayered and complex system and leads to frustration and inordinate delays among faculty members who are trying for grants. There is also a need to significantly incentivise research and publications among faculty members. The current system of faculty recruitment, appraisal, assessment, promotion and rewards is not necessarily based on performance as measured through research contributions and publications. Fifth, it is important that we need to focus on internationalisation of faculty members and students within Indian universities. Almost all Indian universities have faculty members who are only Indian nationals. Universities in India are unlike most parts of the developed world and also many countries in the emerging economies, which hire faculty members from around the world. In a world that is globalised, knowledge creation and sharing cannot be limited because of nationality and place of origin. World-class universities have always attracted faculty and students from around the world. Indian universities need to learn from the experiences from other countries in BRICS and emerging economies. There has to be a new imagination for Indian universities — one which draws inspiration from the past, but will also have to look to the future. Transformational change needs to take place at every level of policymaking, regulation and governance in higher education if Indian universities are serious about seeking global excellence and achieving higher rankings. (C. Raj Kumar is the Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University. He delivered the keynote address at the Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Universities Summit that was held in Moscow on December 3-4.)


The Gujarat Technological University’s (GTU) start-up policy for students released

The Indian Express | By: Express News Service |  December 18, 2014 | Ahmedabad |

The Gujarat Technological University’s (GTU) start-up policy was released by State Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma two days ago. The start-up policy prepared by GTU is quite important because more than 95 per cent of engineering students are currently studying in affiliated-type technological universities like GTU and hardly five to six per cent engineering students are studying in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Technology (NITs). Speaking to The  Indian Express,  GTU V-C Akshai Agarwal said the start-up policy had drawn on the best practices from across India and abroad.  The GTU start-up policy focuses on 3Es: Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Employability. The policy aims to extend support systems to student entrepreneurs right from their college days, thus integrating the academic process into innovation and incubation process.

Under the start-up policy, the students would be allowed to convert their final year projects to start-ups and would also be permitted to avail one year official leave for entrepreneurial initiatives during their study. The policy also allows students to complete their four-year degree engineering course in eight years to allow the students to complete their entreprenurial projects. The policy also permits a grace of up to 10 per cent in attendance, based on the stage of start-ups in any semester to help young entrepreneurs.


NDA Government withdraws circular on Good Governance Day on 25 December (Christmas day)

Live Mint | Thu, Dec 18 2014 | Prashant K. Nanda |

HRD minister Smriti Irani had on 15 December claimed all schools will stay closed on Christmas. But she was silent on any similar direction to colleges and universities.

New Delhi: Christmas will be a holiday at all technical education institutions, and students won’t need to attend college to observe Good Governance Day as planned. Facing intense pressure, the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry on Wednesday withdrew a 11 December circular asking colleges under the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to organize events on 25 December, when Christmas is celebrated. Technical education regulator AICTE informed colleges, said that Christmas will be a holiday and Good Governance Day can be observed on any day before 25 December. “The birthday of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister of India will be observed as Good Governance Day. All AICTE approved institutions are hereby informed to celebrate this day by organizing events related to use of technology and innovation in promoting good governance and a competition on oratory skill,” a fresh circular by AICTE signed by its chairman S.S. Mantha said late Wednesday. “However, it is clarified that the programme may be organized on any day before 25th December 2014 since all educational institutions will remain closed for Christmas,” Mantha said in the circular to all colleges under it. Mint has seen a copy of the circular dated 17 December. HRD minister Smriti Irani had on 15 December claimed all schools will stay closed on Christmas. But she was silent on any similar direction to colleges and universities. Opposition parties have disrupted Parliament proceedings and demanded a response from HRD minister Smriti Irani and prime minister Narendra Modi. The ministry’s higher education department had, in fact, issued such circulars to higher educational institutions. On Wednesday, Congress parliamentarian Jyotiraditya Scindia told reporters that his party wanted to know from Irani and parliamentary minister M. Venkaiah Naidu whether such circulars were issued or not, and whether the minister misled the House by giving wrong information.

Close Call (shut down) for Engineering Colleges in Telengana

The New Indian Express |  By Vikram Mukka | 18th December 2014 |

HYDERABAD: They once ruled the roost and enjoyed a healthy relationship with the governments of the day. But those heydays for managements of engineering colleges ended in Telangana when the government cracked the whip against 174 errant colleges. Now, they are caught between the devil and the deep sea. For the dejected managements who were contemplating closure owing to severe dip in the admissions this year, the ‘convoluted’ process of All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has only worsened their despair. Around 50 colleges are mulling the option of downing the shutters from the next academic year 2014-15. To shut down the colleges, the managements have to pay Rs 3 lakh towards processing fee to AICTE, procure a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the university concerned and the State government. Besides, a team of AICTE officials visits the respective colleges before granting the permission.

Having known this procedure for shutting down colleges, the perplexed managements are their wit’s end as they feel it’s as bad as launching a new college. “This is not going to end soon. Whether you set up a college or want to close it down, it involves too much procedures and processes,” rued an annoyed correspondent of a college, who is planning to apply for closure in January. A requisition has been placed with  AICTE officials to do away with the processing fee completely and visit of the team of officials. The response of AICTE executive council is still awaited. “One can understand paying fee and complying with various norms to set up a college. But having such a round-about method would further exacerbate the woes of managements which have already gone bankrupt,” says Telangana Engineering and Professional Colleges Management Association chairman N Gowtham Rao. Meanwhile, officials in the AICTE regional office said that a notification for applying for introducing new courses/colleges and shutting down colleges would be issued in the first week of January.


HRD Ministry to discuss higher education reforms with state education ministers and secretaries

Times of India |

NEW DELHI: To discuss reforms in the higher education sector, HRD Ministry will convene a meeting of state education ministers and secretaries on January 6, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Replying to queries related to higher education, HRD minister Smriti Irani said a meeting of state education ministers and secretaries has been convened on January 6 to discuss reforms with regard to higher education. The government has already set up committees to review University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), she said. The UGC Review Committee, constituted in July, is chaired by Prof Hari Gautam, who is a former chairman of UGC. The panel would look at the restructuring UGC – which regulates higher education system. “While UGC has endeavoured to regulate higher education system in the country and promote quality and access, it was felt that the UGC could have done better, if it were strengthened and re-structured,” Irani said. UGC has no mechanism to ensure follow up on regulatory instructions and enforce compliance with it. “These limitations can only be overcome by a thorough review and amending the UGC Act, 1956, to meet the emerging challenges in the higher education sector,” the minister said. Meanwhile, a committee chaired by M K Kaw, former secretary at HRD Ministry, to review AICTE. With regard to shortage of teaching staff in universities, Irani said the government consults with states as part of a continuous process to appoint teachers. The government is considering a new scheme to train teachers, she noted. According to her, the government is working on drawing up parameters for national ranking of universities. International ranking of universities has been a matter of debate, she said.


Maharashtra Government may buy some private engineering colleges

Times of India | |

NAGPUR: State government is mulling buying private engineering colleges instead of starting new ones provided the owners agree to terms and conditions of the government. There are a large number of private colleges on the verge of closing down because of lack of students. The owners have incurred huge losses and many have defaulted on bank loans. The issue was raised by BJP MLC NG Ganar during the question hour. The MLC said that the government was spending crores of rupees on giving subsidy to private engineering colleges for teaching SC and ST students for free and OBC students at half the normal fee. It would be better if the government started one college in every district. At present, only ten districts have government engineering colleges.

Education minister Vinod Tawde agreed that many private colleges were in a bad shape. “Around 42% seats were not filled up in 2013-14. Some colleges are on the verge of closure,” he said. He, however, made it clear that as on date the government had no plan to start new engineering colleges. He also said there was no plan for increasing the number of seats in government colleges. “We are also thinking of making clusters of three to four engineering colleges so the same faculty can students in these colleges,” he added. When Tawde said a plan was being drafted for new engineering colleges, Congress MLC Rajendra Mulak countered him by pointing out that a plan had been made in 2010-11. The minister later said in his reply that colleges were not getting students because courses they were teaching no longer fetched any jobs. “We will change the courses and submit it to AICTE for approval. The courses will not be completely changed but they will match the needs of industry,” he said. When Congress and NCP members said subsidy to colleges for OBC students had not been paid in this academic year, Tawde pointed out that Congress-NCP government had not sanctioned Rs 650 crore in 2012-13 for OBC subsidy.


NPTEL announces 11 opportunities to get an IIT certification; Massive online certification courses (MOOCs)

India Education Diary | Tuesday, December 09, 2014 |

Chennai: After the tremendous success of the massive online certification courses (MOOCs) launched in September, NPTEL at IIT Madras now introduces 11 brand new courses.  This time the courses cover a wider range of disciplines – Humanities, Physics, Management and Chemical Engineering to name a few.”850+ courses in more than 20 disciplines, created by the 7 IITs, IISc and partner institutes are available on our website for anyone to access for free, but they are meant for self study and do not involve a certification process. NOC ensures student involvement and continued participation during the running of the online course. This is followed by a proctored certification exam with e-verifiable scores that attests the learning of the student and adds value to the resume. Doing an NOC course provides the student with a close-to-complete classroom-like learning experience. This is another step taken towards the final goal, which is the Virtual Technical University” says Prof.Andrew Thangaraj, Coordinator, NPTEL, IIT Madras. The course platform that is powered by Google Coursebuilder has an array of new features – improved interface, matrix entry for answers, upload for essays and images. The number of cities where exams are held has been increased from 10 to 100 and the reach extended to J&K and the north-eastern states.  Physical certificates are awarded whose digital versions along with the student scores which can be verified online by prospective employers. These improvements should help increase the number of courses being offered across disciplines and enthuse more students to register and benefit.The previous two courses had over 60,000 enrollments and were widely lauded by the online learning community.  Tamil Nadu topped the list with the highest number of registrants, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) is a joint initiative of the IITs and IISc. Through this initiative, we offer online courses and certification in various topics. Online course: Free for all, Certification exam: For a nominal fee.

NPTEL – Online Courses – To Register Click Here…


Does the draft bill (Distance Education Council of India Bill 2014) address concerns of all stakeholders?

HT Education Correspondent, Hindustan Times | New Delhi, December 17, 2014 |

Education experts say the Distance Education Council of India Bill 2014, details of which are up on the website of the ministry of human resource development for suggestions/views/comments of all stakeholders, should be passed in Parliament as soon as possible. Academicians are of the view that open and distance learning (ODL) institutions, which enrol one-third of students in higher education, offer huge opportunities for providing low cost education to anyone and anywhere. “However, there is hardly any attempt to make a comprehensive survey of the functioning of open and distance learning centres on the basis of which appropriate inferences for designing policies on ODL could be drawn. Unfortunately, the UGC, as regulator, has been oblivious to the lack of quality and efficiency in functioning of ODL institutions. I think the draft bill should be enacted as soon as possible to protect the interests of the students,” says MM Ansari, member, UGC.

Even on the question of territorial jurisdiction, a majority of the stakeholders agree that distance education shouldn’t be confined to any boundary and allowed to go beyond the country, provided there is a mechanism and regulatory methods to control the quality and standards of education. According to RK Arora, former deputy director, erstwhile Distance Education Council, “I don’t see a specific provision in the draft bill on the subject of territorial jurisdiction. However, I believe that once the regulator comes into place, it will not restrict the distance education within any boundary. I firmly believe that distance education needs no boundaries.” Agrees Prof Menon, “There are ample provisions in the bill which ensure that the quality of education will not suffer and learners’ rights will be protected even if a university is allowed to offer courses beyond its own territorial boundary. If there is no provision for ensuring quality, then distance education even within the territory of the university remains a big problem.”

Owners of some institutes  have objected to a lot of provisions of the draft act. AK Bajpai, secretary, Kurmanchal Institute of Degree and Diploma Engineering (KIDE) Educational Society, Nainital, which had got a clean chit from a Supreme Court-appointed committee  investigating allegations against it for not maintaining proper infrastructure and facilities, says: “I have written to the HRD ministry objecting to provisions in the bill. It allows study centres at existing degree colleges and AICTE-approved centres which, according to me, is wrong. If an institute can have proper facility, faculty and infrastructure, it should be allowed to run distance education programmes. I have seen many AICTE-approved institutes not maintaining adequate infrastructure. “

Once the regulator comes in place, it will not restrict distance education within boundaries —RK Arora, former deputy director, erstwhile distance education council.
In the absence of a provision to ensure quality, ODL within a state can pose major problems — NR Madhava Menon, eminent scholar and academician


Why is a regulator for distance education needed?

Jeevan Prakash Sharma | Hindustan Times | New Delhi, December 17, 2014|

It’s a nightmare for students who have joined distance learning classes. The issue of territorial jurisdiction and valid degree courses in the distance education sector is virtually getting out of control. Despite a June 2013 notification by the University Grants Commission (UGC) which restricts a state/private university from offering courses beyond its state boundaries, private universities continue to bend the rules. That the UGC is helpless is obvious because all it has managed to do so far is complain to state chief secretaries about the mess and urge them to stop the universities from committing the violations. In a recent RTI reply, the UGC has also admitted to writing to the chief secretary of Karnataka to stop the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) from offering degree courses through institutes in other states.

“The violation is so blatant that even in Delhi hundreds of institutes affiliated to state/private universities of other states, are offering degree courses which are illegal in view of the UGC’s own notification. Since the UGC is a mute spectator in this case, the future of lakhs of students is in jeopardy as the degrees they get will not be considered valid in spite of the fact that they have paid good money for the same,” says a UGC official. Appointment of UGC as a regulator for distance education programmes is a stopgap arrangement till a new distance education council of India is set up. UGC does not have the requisite expertise to perform the task. “There’s an urgent need for the  distance education of India bill to be passed in Parliament and made an act so that a regulatory authority can take control of distance education in India. It should  have come in earlier during the UPA government rule. There is a complete paralysis as private universities have been offering all sorts of courses without any checks for the  last couple of years. So some authority must come up to stop this  right now,” says Professor NR Madhava Menon, an eminent  academician, under whose chairmanship a committee was set up to revamp distance education in India. It was his committee’s recommendation based on which the Distance Education Council was dissolved and the UGC was given power to regulate distance education till a new regulator came in. The Madhava Menon Committee has envisaged a regulatory authority such as the distance education council of India through an act of Parliament.

Another issue hampering student interests relates to new three-year and postgraduate degree courses being launched by numerous private universities without UGC approval.  Interestingly, a national collaborator of KSOU recently circulated a mail among various institutes informing them about new three-year-degree course devised and started by the university. These degree courses are BSc in hotel management, BSc in fashion technology, BSc in interior design etc. The collaborator also said there were some other degree programmes such as BSc in multimedia, BSc in fire and safety etc which are under process in the university. The institutes were asked to sign agreements with KSOU for running the courses. While other private universities are more discreet in offering such courses,  KSOU is defiantly defending its programmes, with the registrar of the university saying, “These courses are approved by the statutory bodies such as academic council and board of management of the university so they are valid and the university has the power to introduce such new courses.”

HT Education has also received many replies through RTI applications in which the UGC has said that a private/state university cannot “invent”  degree courses on its own and that such courses are illegal. In an RTI reply published by HT Education on July 23, 2014, the UGC had said that courses such as MSc in fashion communication, MBA in interior designing, BSc in operation theatre technology, MBA in fire safety, and BSc in airlines and hospitality etc were invalid. Says Prof Menon, “The UGC has the overall authority in higher education and therefore, if you are introducing a new degree course, the UGC will have to concur. It is independent in its domain.”

Draft bill: Salient points
Lay down norms, guidelines and standards for offering various programmes of higher education through distance education system. Grant recognition toprogrammes of higher education offered through distance education system. Lay down norms, guidelines and standards for regulating and monitoring online programmes. Regulate the collaboration between foreign education providers and Indian higher education institutions and take steps to prevent commercialisation of distance education
Develop guidelines for fees to be charged by higher education institutions imparting distance education to ensure that the fees is not exorbitant and recovers programme development costs . Take all necessary steps to prevent commercialisation of open and distance education.

36,36,744 students enrolled in 2009-2010
1,112 students joined the system in 1962-63


As engineering seats go a-begging, Kerala rethinks on entrance tests (examination)

The Hindu | Business Line | Kochi, December 16 | KPM Basheer |

With thousands of seats in private engineering colleges in Kerala lying vacant this year, the State government is seriously considering to undo the annual engineering entrance examinations. One of the possible criteria the government is considering for engineering college admissions is the percentage of marks a student gets at the Plus Two examination, which had been the default setting before the advent of the entrance exam. At present, the performance at both the entrance exam and the Plus Two examination are taken into account for admission.

Changed scenario

The engineering entrance exam is a laborious, time-consuming and expensive annual exercise for the government. However, the exam was a necessity when there were very few engineering colleges and the total number of seats on offer was just a fraction of the number of applicants. But, the situation changed drastically after the government opened up the education sector and several private engineering colleges were set up. The opening up led, over the years, to a glut in the market. But for a dozen top-rated colleges, seats are going a-begging at these engineering colleges. According to GPC Nayar, leader of the Kerala Engineering College Managements Association, the entrance exam had been introduced at a time when there were only 2500 seats on offer and there were more applicants more than ten times that number. Now, there were 56,000 seats on offer. This year, only a little over half of these seats could find occupants, even after all the eligible candidates were accommodated.

Move opposed

But, the move for relocating to the marks-based entrance has been stiffly opposed by private schools in CBSE and ICSE streams. This is because, they point out, the valuation norms of these streams are pretty strict compared with the State syllabus. So, the CBSE-ICSE students would end up getting much lower marks than the students under the State syllabus. TPM Ibrahim Khan, Chairman of the Kerala Federation of CBSE-ICSE, has termed the move suicidal. He claims that it would destabilise engineering education and drastically bring down the quality of engineering graduates coming out the colleges.

Low demand

Already, because of the low demand for engineers, the sheen has gone out of engineering education. There are thousands of jobless engineering graduates in Kerala. A sizable number of those employed are working outside their engineering specialties. When the Kerala Public Service Commission held several rounds of recruitments for clerical positions in the government, the largest number of professionals came from the engineering stream. Yet another factor is, engineering college teachers point out, hardly a half of the engineering students graduate within the stipulated four years. Others take six or even eight years to complete their course, and many thousands fall by the wayside.


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