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Scope of robotics in surgery expanding

| Times of India.

NEW DELHI: There are already robots that can assist in surgery, like the da Vinci surgery system. But what if a robot can be programmed into performing a certain procedure without any direct intervention from the surgeon? Like the driverless Google car?
The current robotic surgical system cannot run on its own, it has to be manoeuvred by a surgeon. While opinion is divided on the outcome, top surgeons, however, do not rule out such a possibility.
“Presently, robotic equipment can take you to the abnormal area like tumour, blood clot and abscess so that tissues can be biopsied safely. The next stage will be robotic instrument that can be manipulated 360 degrees, conducting the biopsy on its own based on the programme fed into the software system,” said Dr Rajendra Prasad, senior neuro and spine surgeon at Apollo Hospitals.
He said this could be done because “we have the benefit of all diagnostic imaging—CT scan and MRI—results being fused together into robotic computer” so the mechanical arm can avoid damage to other organ.
“Most medical equipments are being invented abroad and we have to import them at a high cost. India has lagged behind. If engineering institutes such as IITs and top medical colleges can work together, we can outpace them in developing new technologies,” the doctor said. He cited the example of a software programme developed by IIT wherein a boy paralysed neck down could operate computer with only five keys.
“In 1970s, till the CT scan was made available, surgeons would explore just on history and clinical examination to see which part of brain is involved. But now we have advanced imaging system such as MRI to explore all details of the abnormality,” Prasad said.


New IISc chief seeks industry link : Dr. Anurag Kumar


Anurag kumar. (Photo: DC)

Anurag kumar. (Photo: DC)
BENGALURU: Indian Institute of Science (IISc) should scale new heights by reaping the benefits of higher funding, opening of new laboratories for research in frontier areas, and the addition of new faculty and research scholars, says the new Director Dr. Anurag Kumar.
Dr. Kumar, an expert in communication networks, is the first engineer to take over as Director after a gap of more than three decades. The last Director with engineering background was the late Prof. Satish Dhawan. He, however, maintained that the institute was known for its mix of scientists and engineers and such distinction was inconsequential.
He values experience gained at AT&T Bell Labs, the Cornell University, and IISc, and plans to strike a balance between administration and research during his five-year tenure at the top but contemplates cutting down the number of students guided by him at department of electrical communication engineering (ECE), where he serves as a professor.
He said Indian entrepreneurs and enterprises are beginning to support science in a big way at IISc. For instance, Infosys Technologies Ltd has just set up two high-profile chairs, one each in Physics and Mathematics departments, a move which helps renowned physicists and mathematicians from across the world to visit these departments for long duration. Besides, several small companies too are stepping forward to collaborate with researchers at the institute.
“It is true that the IT industry has been services-based for many years, but they have become famous like TCS. I hope that they move up the value chain or move sideways and invest in science,” he added.
He said he would like to witness the coming together of the large number of people trained in high quality instrumentation, those with doctorate degrees and venture capitalists of Bengaluru though such a unification would be a challenge.
Dr. Kumar said he was surprised to receive a call from the outgoing Director Prof. P. Balaram and to be invited to head the institute. “I took a day to think about the responsibilities and whether my personal, research and family plans will be impacted. I guess I will have to spend more time on administration, but will continue to teach and work even on weekends,” he added.
Born in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, Dr Anurag Kumar secured his B.Tech degree from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, and his doctorate from the Cornell University. He worked at AT&T Bell Labs, for six years and joined IISc in 1988. From 1989 to 2003, he was the coordinator at IISc of the nationwide Education and Research Network (ERNET) project, which established the first country-wide packet communication network in the country, and supported more than 1,300 R & D laboratories across India.

Row over VC’s Qualification will Affect Sanskrit Varsity, Kerala

KOCHI: Coming down heavily on the Vice-Chancellor of the Sree Sankara Sanskrit University, Kalady, the Sanskrit University Employees Union (SUEU) alleged that the controversy over the Vice-Chancellor’s qualification would negatively affect the university.

“Since the education minister himself has stated in the State Assembly that the Vice-Chancellor lacked the qualification required for the post as per the UGC norms, it will  result in the denial of NAAC accreditation and thereby a large amount as grant to the university,” said SUEU office-bearers at a press meet here on Thursday.

They appealed to the Chancellor to save the university from the disgrace as all the Vice-Chancellor appointments done by UDF Governments, except one, are coming under this criteria.

They also alleged that a lot of money was being wasted to boost the image of the Vice-Chancellor, and that the financial condition of the university was in a poor shape. The union leaders deplored the manner in which the university is being managed, and alleged that even the academic council was not being convened at regular intervals.

“It is mandatory to convene the academic council in every six months.  However, it has not happened for one year, which indicates the poor state of affairs,” they said. According to SUEU office-bearers, the 14th annual meeting of the Sanskrit University Employees Union would discuss the problems being faced by the university, and would formulate the plan of agitation.

CPM State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan will inaugurate the meeting on Monday at the Kanakadhara auditorium at PKC Nagar, Kalady, the headquarters of the university. SUEU president P M Salim; and conveners T Chandrababu and Muhammed Sageer attended the press meet.



Certificates for dropouts soon, says Smriti Irani

Times of India |

NAGPUR: Stung by all-round criticism over the allotment of the HRD ministry to Smriti Irani, who is not even a graduate, the Narendra Modi government is contemplating bringing in a policy under which school/college dropouts can pursue higher education and get certificates, including diploma and degrees.
“We are preparing a framework for those who had to leave education midway, due to family or financial constraints, so that they can get vocational training and don’t suffer due to absence of certification,” Irani said while replying to a query during a programme organized by Vijnana Bharti school at Maharshi Vyas Sabhagruh on Tuesday.
The HRD minister said those dropping out from Class VII till the PhD level would get certificates depending on ability. “Creativity has nothing to do with qualification,” she said. “Persons should be judged on the basis of their ability. Many of them are forced out of the education system due to various reasons and I am one such person. I had to leave education to feed myself and family.”

She did not elaborate how students would be judged and certificates would be provided without attending classes. As such, an open university system is already functioning in the country.
Making a slew of announcements during her interaction with students, she declared that ‘Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyaan’ will be launched from next year for promoting research and innovation among students and parents. “It would aim at making them participate in research and innovation activities and also finding out patents,” she said.
Irani said the government would be relaunching her ministry’s website, which would have a section called ‘opportunities managers’ where they would invite research and innovative ideas from all over the country that had transformed lives or had the capacity to do so. “Renowned personalities like Wipro chief Azim Premji would be guiding lights for the selected projects,” she said.
Irani said the ‘Pt Madan Mohan Malviya teachers training programme’, announced in the Union budget, would train 20,000 teachers, and motivate and sensitize them to promote education.
The ‘School assessment programme’, launched to improve infrastructure (especially toilets and drinking water facilities), will monitor quality and provide facilities for differently abled children. “We’ve already issued directions in this regard to Kendriya and Navodaya vidyalayas,” she said.
Citing the rags-to-riches story of a 70-year-old rickshaw puller who invented a unique machine for Indian gooseberry (amla), the Rajya Sabha MP said there was no need for formal education for pursuing research. She defended caste-based reservations, saying the Constitution demanded equal opportunities for the weaker sections of society.
Admitting that government/corporation schools were lagging behind private ones in infrastructure and facilities, the minister said the government was committed to improving facilities and bringing them on a par with top institutions. “I am the proud student of a school which lacked even a compound wall,” she said. “This is the reason we’ve initiated measures like constructing one lakh toilets for girls in schools under the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign.”


Uniform Regulatory Framework for Universities

India Education Directory | July 30, 2014 |

New Delhi: The National Policy on Education 1986, as amended in 1992, has been the guiding document for the policies of the Central Government in the education sector. The Government has been following National Policy on Education 1986, as modified in 1992, which provides for National System of Education implying that up to a given level, all students, irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, have access to education of a comparable quality.
The National System of Education envisages a common educational structure. The 10+2+3 structure has now been accepted in most parts of the country. However, in the last twenty years, the education scenario has seen a monumental change with the emergence of several new paradigms like rights based approach to elementary education, the endeavour to extend universalization to secondary education, reshape the higher education scenario and its impact on the innovation environment and providing an impetus to skill development through vocational education in the context of the emergence of new technologies in a rapidly expanding economy placed in a globalised environment.
The Government proposes to formulate a New Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research and innovation in our educational institutions.
In accordance with the National Policy on Education (NPE), the National System of Education envisages a common educational structure. It is based on the National Curriculum Framework which contains a common core along with other components that are flexible. Further, the Universities have the necessary autonomy, subject to NPE and University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations, in the matter of framing of syllabi and curriculum as per their Acts, Statutes and Ordinances. This information was given by the Minister for Human Resources Development Smt. Smriti Irani in the Lok Sabha today.

Reforms in Higher Education

India Education Directory | July 30, 2014.

New Delhi: Enhancing access, equity and quality in higher education through institutional and policy reforms is continually being undertaken by the Central Government, in consultation with all stakeholders, including State Governments and academics.

This information was given by the Minister for Human Resources Development Smt. Smriti Irani in the Rajya Sabha The University Grants Commission(UGC) has made the accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions mandatory, issued regulations for affiliation of colleges to Universities, maintaining standards in Deemed and Private Universities, laid down the minimum qualifications for appointment to teaching positions, minimum standards for grant of first degree, Master’s degree, M.Phil / Ph.D degree, etc for enhancing quality and access in higher education. The UGC has also laid down regulations for promotion of equity and grievance redressal in higher educational institutions.

Further, the Central Government is implementing the Rashtriya Uchhatar Siksha Abhiyan during the XIIth Plan to incentivise reforms in the state higher educational institutions.

The UGC is a statutory body established in 1956 through the UGC Act, 1956, under Entry 66, List –I of Schedule VII of the Constitution, for the purpose of funding as well as coordinating, determination and maintenance of quality standards in higher education or research in higher educational institutions and the scientific and technical institutions. The mandate of the UGC includes maintenance of standards of higher education, setting standards of curriculum, teaching evaluation and research in universities and colleges, monitoring developments in higher education, disbursing funds to institutions and serving as a link between various agencies of the Central and State Governments. The UGC is specifically mandated to take, in consultation with the Universities or other bodies concerned, all such steps as it may think fit for the promotion and co-ordination of University education and for the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in Universities. While discharging its mandate, the UGC also has to take into account the Rules framed by the Central Government, the Regulations notified by the Commission and the policy framework, as expressed in the National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. It can issue advisories and directives to Universities for breach of its Rules, Regulations and the NPE. It is also mandated to undertake inspections of Universities and Colleges for ensuring compliance with the norms and standards laid down by it.

In one such case, ie. involving the Four Year Undergraduate Programme of the University of Delhi (DU), the UGC issued an advisory and subsequently a directive to the DU, on 20th June, 2014, to adhere to the 3-year undergraduate programme as envisaged under the 10+2+3 structure under the NPE 1986, while ensuring that students are facilitated through the process of transacting the curriculum under the 10+2+3 structure. The DU was asked to undertake admissions for the academic year 2014-15 and the subsequent academic years in the University of Delhi (including the constituent and other colleges under it) for the general undergraduate programmes in the three year structure which was prevalent in the DU prior to introduction of FYUP.

The UGC also species a list of degrees, in accordance with Section 22(3) of the UGC Act, 1956, to be awarded by the Universities and Deemed to be Universities. The Parliament has also reviewed the UGC Act, 1956 from time to time and amended it in 1972, 1984 and 1985. Subject to the observance of UGC Rules, Regulations and the NPE, the Universities already have the necessary autonomy in the matter of award of specified degrees and framing of syllabi and curriculum as per their Acts, Statutes and Ordinances.


UGC to move apex court on 41 deemed varsities

| Times of India.

PUNE: The University Grants Commission (UGC) will seek another two months’ time from the Supreme Court to enable the commission’s sub-committee to finalize its recommendations on the 41 deemed universities, including three in Maharashtra, which are facing derecognition following the 2009 review exercise by the HRD ministry’s P N Tandon committee.
The Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth in Pune, Krishna Institute of Medical Science at Karad in Satara district and D Y Patil Medical College in Kolhapur are the three institutions from the state.
On May 5, an apex court bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen had set July 31 as the deadline for the UGC to extend its opinion to the HRD ministry on the status of these deemed universities based on an inspection by the commission’s sub-committee.
However, at its meeting held on July 22, the commission’s top executive body, headed by chairman Ved Prakash, was told that the sub-committee has inspected all the 41 deemed universities, but was still finalizing its recommendations on each institution.
Considering that the process will take some time, the commission resolved to move the Supreme Court for a two-month extension in the July 31 deadline. UGC vice-chairman Devaraj and nine other members, besides secretary Jaspal S Sandhu, financial advisor Upamanyu Basu and director Vikram Sahay, were present at this meeting.
On January 21 this year, the court had directed the commission to furnish its advice regarding the universities to the ministry by March 21 after examining all the three reports related to deemed universities in the country. These reports included one prepared by an UGC experts’ panel in 2009, another by the Tandon panel in 2009 and one filed in October 2011 by a panel of officers headed by HRD secretary Ashok Thakur.
The commission had subsequently convinced the Supreme Court to extend the March 21 deadline on the grounds that the three reports varied in their approach, analysis and conclusion, and that considerable time had passed since the panels had submitted the reports.
The UGC then emphasized that a fresh inspection of the 41 institutions was required to ascertain the present situation vis-a-vis available physical and academic infrastructure and improvements made, and to form a fresh opinion based on the same.
Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the UGC, had brought to the court’s notice that the commission’s regulations of 2000 and 2010 related to deemed universities and the April 6, 2009, notification of the HRD ministry allows the commission to review the functioning of the institutions even within a period of five years. The court had then allowed the commission’s plea for time till July 31.


UGC passing on NET to CBSE sparks protest from university teachers

Prepsure |Rruchi Shrimalli | July 29, 2014.

University teachers do not approve of passage of the National Eligibility Test (NET) from the University Grants Commission (UGC) to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Meant as an eligibility test for teacher recruitment in higher education institutions, they doubt the capability of the CBSE which is basically a school board to conduct NET.

Vinita Chandra, English teacher at Ramjas College of Delhi University, criticised UGC NET saying, “I know a candidate who was not able to clear UGC NET even though she did her MPhil from Cambridge University on a full scholarship. UGC NET did not evaluate teaching skills or critical thinking abilities.” However, she doubts the CBSE version of NET too and asks, “How can the CBSE hold the teachers’ test when the entire system is against any kind of critical analysis?”

Arts and social sciences teachers, especially, blame CBSE’s policy of including only single-mark or objective questions in the exam for students who are not able to cope up with college studies. DU Teachers’ Association chief Nandita Narain says, “Let CBSE get its acts together first. Doling out high marks is only posing a problem for colleges.”

President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) Arun Kumar has object to the NET itself. He says,“In higher education, we need diversity of views and capabilities. This test is about beating the system and is not the best way to test eligibility for teaching and research. CBSE, being a school board, has no idea of teaching at higher education institutions.”
Subhadoy Dasgupta of the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association is also against CBSE conducting NET. He suggests that there could be collegiums of teachers to hire college teachers. He also said that the UGC should go back to the system where MPhil degree did not have to write NET.


Teachers unhappy with UGC handing NET to CBSE – Times of India – Read More…

Maharaja’s college may miss autonomy bus, Kerala

| G Krishnakumar | The Hindu.

The Ernakulam Maharaja’s College seems to have missed the opportunity to obtain the autonomous status. Meanwhile, UGC seeks explanation on protests against autonomy proposal.

The Ernakulam Maharaja’s College seems to have missed the opportunity to obtain the autonomous status.

Hopes that the University Grants Commission (UGC) would permit a fresh inspection of the institution by an expert committee in this academic year have been dashed.

The Hindu has reliably learnt that there is no word on a second round of inspection in the latest communication from the apex body to the State Higher Education Department.

Instead, the commission has sought an explanation on the opposition to the autonomous college proposal among a section of the teachers and students on the campus.

Police had removed agitating students who tried to enter the Principal’s room when the expert committee members were holding discussions with college representatives as part of its visit in April. The UGC had pointed out that the inspection by the expert committee was not satisfactory.

The Higher Education Department has submitted a detailed reply to the letter from the commission elaborating on the misconceptions regarding autonomy existing among a section of the stakeholders. Senior officials have also apprised the commission on the political reasons behind the opposition against autonomous colleges in the State. In its reply to the commission, the college management said that the expert committee could not visit all the facilities on the campus as many classrooms at Maharaja’s were used to store the Electronic Voting Machines for the Lok Sabha elections. Several policemen were also then posted on duty as part of the security measures ahead of counting.

Maharaja’s has missed the bus at a time when three educational institutions including St.Teresa’s College, Sacred Heart College, and Rajagiri College in the district got the green signal for autonomous status.


NAAC finally moves towards autonomy, to come out of UGC’s shadow

| Times of India.

MUMBAI: After dilly-dallying for six months, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has been pushed to start the process of autonomy.

At the NAAC’s 66th executive council meeting, it was decided that the country’s accreditation body for higher education institutions would snap ties with the University Grants Commission (UGC), thus ending the commission’s two-decade-long supremacy.

In the EC meeting that took place on Thursday, it was also decided that the HRD ministry will take the NAAC under its wing. Currently, the NAAC functions under the UGC, but the ministry had, in a letter, bluntly asked the accreditation body and the regulator to keep each other at “an arm’s length”.

Despite that, there was enormous internal resistance from within the NAAC.

The divorce will require the NAAC to draw up new byelaws, besides amending its memorandum of association. HRD ministry sources said that besides routine administrative changes, the NAAC, whose inspections have been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate with allegations of favours taken and given, has to be revamped and “sanitized”.

“After the UGC made accreditation mandatory, the idea of making the NAAC an independent body has been stressed upon in several meetings,” an HRD ministry official said. Across the world, such a separation is the norm. “Yet, despite several reminders, the ministry’s suggestion was not being acted upon,” he added.

Many in the HRD ministry blame the UGC for the NAAC’s limited growth. Officials said the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), which grades technical courses, underwent a transformation “financially and functionally” after it was separated from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The process of making the NBA autonomous and independent of the AICTE was driven by the goal of making the NBA a member of the Washington Accord, which is seen as an international platform for governing quality in undergraduate engineering programmes. “Thus, keeping in view the existing requirements of a globally accepted quality regime for enhancing student mobility, it is requested to work out a copy of the draft MOA and rules to make the NAAC autonomous in relation to the UGC,” the letter dispatched by the HRD ministry stated.

“The regulator and the assessor cannot be the same body; they must be independent,” NAAC’s former executive council chairman Goverdhan Mehta said. “How can assessment be carried out by a body of your own creation?”

He said that assessment and accreditation in the country were late starters, but now the NAAC was mature enough and had the requisite experience to function independently.


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