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Design News | Dave Palmer, P.E. | 8/26/2014.

IIT-UGC standoff set to reaches IIT Council

Economic Times | By Ritika Chopra, ET Bureau | 29 Aug, 2014 |

NEW DELHI: The standoff between IITs and the University Grants Commission (UGC) is now set to reach the IIT Council, the highest decision-making body of the 16 elite engineering schools headed by the Union HRD minister.  Miffed with the higher education regulator for its attempt to regulate their course structures, IITs had proposed that the matter should be taken up by the Council of which the UGC Chairman is also a member.  It is learnt that HRD minister has agreed to the idea and the meeting of the council is tentatively scheduled for October 1. Confirming this development, IIT Kharagpur Director Partha Chakrabarti, who first wrote to the ministry against the UGC circular asking IITs to offer courses as per established nomenclature, told ET in an SMS, “I am given to understand the minister has decided that the issue will be discussed in the IIT Council where all IITs participate and also UGC. I think this is the right decision and I would like to thank the HRM ( Smriti Irani) for deciding on a proper approach. I have not received a formal notification yet, but it should be clear soon, when we get the agenda.”

IIT-UGC standoff set to reaches IIT CouncilThe matter will be first taken up by the standing committee (read subgroup) of the IIT Council in the next two weeks. Renowned nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, who is the head of the standing committee, has already expressed his displeasure over the UGC’s move.  The controversy is rooted in an UGC circular which was sent to all institutions of higher education, including IITs, in the aftermath of the Delhi University ‘s Four-Year Undergraduate Programme row, asking them to ensure that their degrees conform to UGC specifications. The circular raised a storm with the IISc Bangalore locking horns with the UGC over this, and now IITs. If IITs were to implement UGC direction, then IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur would have to tweak their four-year Bachelors of Science degrees.

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Beyond Nehru-Gandhis: UGC to name research centres after ‘unsung’ heroes like S Radhakrishnan and others

Economic Times | By Ritika Chopra, ET Bureau | 29 Aug, 2014|

NEW DELHI: For decades, the Nehru-Gandhis have ‘made’ their names in centres of excellence, but it’s now the turn of a whole new lot to lend their glory to India’s best research chairs and institutions. In what would mark a fresh change in the education iconography of the country, the University Grants Commission is embarking on a mission to identify a host of unsung social figures/thinkers and recognise their contribution by dedicating research centres in their name. ET learns that Jan Sangh stalwart Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda, educationist and founder of Banaras Hindu University Madan Mohan Malviya, former presidents S Radhakrishnan and Zakir Hussain, religious and social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and philosopher-queen of Malwa Ahilya Bai could figure on this list, which could have as many as 50 names. The government, however, has no plans to rename centres and institutes that currently carry the name of members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

UGC Chairman Ved Prakash told ET that the regulatory body would soon set up a committee to propose the names of social reformers and thinkers. “The committee will draw up a list based on the contribution made by them in different fields. Once the personalities are finalised we will either name chairs or centres of excellence after them, which will propagate their work and conduct further research in their area of expertise.” UGC will start each centre of excellence with an initial grant of Rs 7.5 lakh. The move, according to government sources, is aimed at correcting the previous regime’s “bias” in naming educational centres after the Nehru-Gandhi family and honouring those ignored under Congress regimes. According to an RTI reply of 2012, there are 99 educational institutions named after Nehru-Gandhis. Ved Prakash refused comment on whether the decision had anything to do with the predominance of the Nehru-Gandhi name in the education sector. Modi regime’s first budget featured a host of schemes named after Upadhyaya, Shyama Prasad Mookerji and Malviya.

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Order Restoring Engineering College Seats Upheld; Telangana, JNTU

The Indian Express | Express News Service | Published: 29th August 2014 |

HYDERABAD: A division bench of the High Court on Thursday upheld the order of a single judge directing the Eamcet convenor to notify and make admissions to the full intake capacity sanctioned by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in relation to the petitioner colleges for academic year 2014-15. On August 25 the judge allowed a batch of petitions of 27 engineering colleges challenging the JNTU’s decision to reduce the intake of students while including them in web counselling. He said that the intake shall be as per the AICTE proceedings. The Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University of Hyderabad challenged the judge’s order. When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday, the division bench comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and A Shankar Narayana asked the Telangana advocate-general K Ramakrishna Reddy, counsel for JNTU-H, to tell about the authority which would decide with regard to fixation of seats in engineering colleges. Reddy said the AICTE would grant approval to colleges without conducting inspection. Based on that the government would give approval to such colleges subject to fulfilment of conditions and norms prescribed by the AICTE. When the AG said the AICTE was only an advisory body and it was for the university to decide on the issue, the bench felt that the university would have cancelled the affiliation if the colleges failed to fulfil the norms. It found fault with the university for reducing the number of seats without issuing notice to the colleges. The AG said that the decision to reduce the intake was taken basing on a report submitted by the task force committee of the government which pointed out that there was no faculty in these colleges as per the student-teacher ratio. While refusing to stay the orders of the single judge, the bench pointed out lack of coordination between the AICTE and JNTU-H. It directed each of the college to give an undertaking that it would take time-bound steps to rectify the deficiencies pointed out by the university.

30,000 Seats find no takers in TS

With the deadline for changing options ending on Thursday, the first phase of Eamcet counselling concluded in Telangana and AP. The seat allotment for these candidates will be done on August 30. Around 55,000 candidates from Telangana attended counselling and around 30,000 seats found no takers.

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MIT Technology Review Names Young Innovators Under 35; Manu Prakash, Shyam Gollakota, Tanuja Ganu, Indians

Richard Springer, India West  | Thursday, August 28, 2014 |

MIT Technology Review has published its annual list of its top 35 “Innovators Under 35” years of age. “Over the years, we’ve had success in choosing young innovators whose work has been profoundly influential on the direction of human affairs,” said MIT technology Review editor and publisher Jason Pontin. Previous winners have included Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple Inc. chief designer Jonathan Ive, Pontin pointed out. Manu Prakash, an Indian American assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, is on the list. “He’s producing instruments that enable people to undertake scientific explorations on the cheap,” the MIT journal said. “Many of Prakash’s inventions have a surreal quality. Consider his $5 micro-fluidic chemistry lab. At a holiday gift exchange, his wife received a hand-cranked music box that used a piano-roll-style punch tape to sound notes. “Prakash recognized the mechanism’s potential to combine chemical reagents according to a program (the punch tape), without electricity (thanks to the hand crank), at a fraction of the usual cost. He now makes the tiny labs from scratch.” Prakash also designed the Foldoscope, a “research-grade microscope made of plastic-impregnated paper,” that costs about $0.55; and OScan, a 3D-printed smartphone add-on to diagnose oral carcinomas. Born in Meerut, Prakash, 34, has a B. Tech. in computer science and engineering from IIT-Kanpur. He has done fieldwork in Uganda, Ghana and other developing countries. Also on the list is Tanuja Ganu, 31, a technical staff member at IBM’s India Research Laboratory. “Using the small box plugged in between a wall socket and an appliance,” the journal said, “Ganu can tell you when the electric grid in India is likely to shut down. Sensors inside the device, called nPlug, detect the voltage and frequency of the incoming electricity; analyzing that data over time, the box can determine the periods of maximum power demand on the grid and predict when the need for power will exceed the supply.”

Ganu, who joined IBM Research in Bangalore in 2011, is also developing SocketWatch, an autonomous appliance monitoring system to detect electricity wastage and appliance malfunctioning. Also named on the list is Shyam Gollakota, assistant professor of computer science and engineering and head of the Networks and Wireless Group at the University of Washington. The Indian American is an “expert on wireless technology” and “figures out how to power devices without batteries,” MIT said. “Gollakota’s prototypes use the fog of radio noise that surrounds us from TV stations, cell towers, and other sources as an energy supply and a means of communicating. By absorbing and reflecting those ambient signals, the devices can send messages to one another and even link to the Internet.” “Gollakota believes that eventually his energy-scavenging designs will make it possible for ambient radio waves to power stripped-down devices,” the MIT journal said, pointing out that many poor countries lack reliable electricity sources, but have strong cellular coverage. The 28-year-old assistant professor at the University of Washington has M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from MIT and a B. Tech. from IIT-Madras. Rumi Chunara, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard, made the list. Chunara “is mining social media and other online sources for information outside of medical settings,” MIT said. In one study, she discovered that a rise in cholera-related Twitter posts in Haiti correlated with an outbreak of the disease. “That’s important,” she told MIT Review, “because it takes the ministry of health in Haiti a couple of weeks to get their data aggregated.” In future outbreaks, tweets could help direct medical workers more quickly and make sure that supplies like water purification tablets get where they are needed. To get deeper than what might be normally found through social media, Chunara offered two-cent rewards to those in India who completed a survey about malaria, generating information that could help deploy diagnostic and treatment kits. In the U.S., she helped develop Flu Near You, a site creating flu maps based on user-submitted data about symptoms and diagnoses. Chunura, 32, has a Ph.D. from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Sciences and Technology and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Caltech. This year’s honorees are currently featured online at technologyreview.com, and in the September/October print magazine, hitting newsstands Sept. 2. They will also appear in person at the EmTech MIT conference Sept. 23-25 in Cambridge, Mass.

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Akshay Krishnan youngest stem cell donor in Kerala

Deccan Chronicle | DC | Manoj Mathew | August 28, 2014 |

Kochi: At 21, Akshay Krishnan, a B Tech student of KMEA Engineering College, Edathala, near Kochi, has become the youngest stem cell donor in Kerala. He is also the fourth donor from the state and the 62nd in the country.Akshay donated stem cells through a simple procedure at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi on Wednesday and saved the life of a 29-year-old leukemia patient in Bengaluru who will remain unknown to him and the rest of the world as per the ethical practice followed in stem cell donation. Akshay, who participated in a stem cell drive for young Sachin Sijoy along with hundreds of other students at his college on April 3, was happy to learn a couple of month ago that he turned out to be a genetic match for a patient in Bengaluru.“His was a 10/10 match and he readily agreed to donate,” said Eby Sam John, one of the three other donors from Kerala who is now working as a coordinator of Datri, the NGO which maintains a registry of willing stem cell donors. Akshay’s mother, a higher secondary school teacher, also encouraged her son’s humanitarian gesture.
Eby told Deccan Chronicle  that the procedure for stem cell donation was similar to that of blood donation but the awareness of it remained low in the state. “It’s a life saving measure, which is also completely safe for the donor. For thousands of patients suffering from blood disorders like leukemia, stem cell transplant is the last hope. But the chance of getting a genetic match is 1:20,000 to 1:2 million,” he said. Datri’s registry has over 61,000 willing donors now. The other two stem cell donors from the state are Gireesh Kumar C.S., clinical application specialist at Alcon Laboratories Pvt Ltd and Sidhin T.R., an employee with Kochi Shipyard.

UGC Makes a Climbdown on IIT Issue

By Express News Service | Published: 28th August 2014

NEW DELHI:  A day after clarifying its position  on the specification of degrees over the tussle with the IITs, UGC appeared to have softened its stand. Playing down fault lines that have developed between the UGC and the IITs,  UGC chairman  Ved Prakash called the circular as a routine one issued to all degree conferring institutes. “Unfortunately the communication of the UGC has been misconstrued as an encroachment on the autonomy of institutions of higher learning, especially the IITs,” Prakash said on Tuesday, as the issue seemed to snowball into a major controversy. In the circular, the UGC had stated that prior approval of the Government of India would be required to issue degrees as specified by the Commission under Gazette notification dated July 5, 2014. The IITs– which are regarded as premier institutes of global standards– viewed it as an attempt to undermine  its autonomous status and a direct interference from the UGC. However, this may not douse the fire.

As IIT Kapur, Director,  Manna’s  reaction indicated. He said, “We’ll seek clarifications in the IIT Council meeting on Oct one.’’ Meanwhile, sources in the HRD Ministry said that UGC chairman, who discussed the stand-off with the officials close to HRD Minister, Smriti Irani had been asked to find an amicable solution to the issue.  It should be noted here that the President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended a conclave of IIT governing body at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The President is the Visitor of the IITs.

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Under Government Control; ( Under the UGC Act, the HRD ministry has the power to declare any institution a deemed to be university (DU)

The Indian Express | M M Ansari | August 27, 2014.

Summary : Under the UGC Act, the HRD ministry has the power to declare any institution a “deemed to be university” (DU).

The ministry of human resource development has constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Hari Gautam for the “review of University Grants Commission for its restructuring and strengthening to address the challenges of higher education”. The government’s order shows that as many as 14 terms of reference (ToRs) have been identified for the committee. A cursory glance at them indicates that the UGC is unable to fulfil its mandate to promote, coordinate and maintain standards of university education, or to disburse funds to eligible institutions. This is probably due to the internal inefficiency of the UGC. The ToRs, however, do not take note of external factors, particularly the legal handles through which the functioning of the UGC is tampered with by the HRD ministry. The problems that are not included in the ToRs but are responsible for the ineffective functioning of the UGC are as follows. First, the UGC is the only national commission which functions with part-time, non-executive members (10), most of whom are serving vice chancellors or college principals, funded and regulated by the UGC themselves. The government does not feel it necessary to appoint full-time experts to guide and manage the vast education system. Nor does it see any conflict of interest in appointing serving heads of educational institutions as members. Such an organisational structure was deliberately created and is being retained by the Central government. In effect, the UGC functions as a subordinate office of the HRD ministry, toeing the Centre’s line. Second, under the UGC Act, the HRD ministry has the power to declare any institution a “deemed to be university” (DU). In exercise of this power, as many as 130 universities, largely under private management, have been established. Sensing the preferences of successive governments, the UGC from time to time gives the “desirable” advice, whenever sought by the ministry, to create such institutions. Of late, the credibility of a few DUs has been questioned. The Tandon Committee, which scrutinised the performance of DUs at the behest of the HRD ministry, recommended the closure of at least one-third of them (44). But this has not been done, mainly because of a lack of political courage.

Education is a subject on the concurrent list. Since 2009-10, the Centre has not been entertaining proposals for establishing DUs. Most state governments have encouraged the establishment of private universities and colleges as profitable ventures to reduce their burden to support higher education. Business houses and industrialists have established their own colleges and universities with the support of political parties in power. Over 80 per cent of universities and colleges are under private management and over 60 per cent of students study at these institutions. Public universities are hardly effectively operationalised in terms of infrastructure or staff, which is why none of them makes the top 200 in global rankings. The Centre and states should act responsibly in providing a policy framework and resources to promote quality education rather than casting aspersions on bodies like the UGC, which is heavily dependent on the ministry for legal and administrative support, for funding higher education and for hiring the services of specialists. Third, the functional autonomy of the UGC is compromised by the UGC Act. Recently, the commission tried to rationalise decisions on a number of issues, but it was not allowed to function autonomously or in a transparent and objective manner. For instance, government directions under Section 20 of the UGC Act reversed a number of UGC decisions, or were issued without regard for efficiency in the delivery of educational services — take the rollback of Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme, to which the UGC had already provided tacit support.

The purpose of this discussion is to demonstrate that the relevant laws governing the management and regulation of higher education and the manner in which these are implemented by the HRD ministry should also be reviewed to improve the responsiveness of higher education institutions to the society and economy. Unfortunately, the scope and coverage of the ToRs, as submitted to the review committee, is confined to operational areas of the UGC. Certain aspects of the role of the central bureaucracy have been ignored. Is this not an attempt to find a scapegoat in the UGC for the malfunctioning of higher education systems? The HRD has constituted different committees, the reports of which have already been submitted to the government, with a view to creating separate regulatory authorities for open and distance education, and for carrying out accreditation of institutions and amendments to the UGC Act. Yet these areas of concern have also been mentioned in the ToRs, which would lead to the duplication of efforts and waste of resources. To conclude, in the context of today’s knowledge economy and the globalisation of education, we ought to evolve a comprehensive approach to reform higher education systems so that they are more responsive to societal aspirations. The constitution of the review committee by the government does not meet such expectations.

The writer is member, University Grants Commission , express@expressindia.com

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UGC distance learning policy violated, admits HRD minister

Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times | New Delhi, August 27, 2014

After HT Education highlighted the plight of thousands of students who spent good money on distance learning programmes not approved by education regulator University Grants Commission, the matter came up for hearing  in the upper house of Parliament, when it was in session. On August 11, 2014, BK Hariprasad, member of parliament representing Karnataka; questioned Smriti Irani, the union minister for human resource development, about the number of state and private universities violating UGC norms by offering distance learning courses though institutes outside their territorial jurisdiction. In her written response,  Smriti Irani acknowledged the violations, saying, “The University Grants Commission (UGC) has informed that a university established or incorporated by or under a state act shall operate and function only within the territorial jurisdiction defined under its act and in no case beyond the territory of its location.” “Contrary to this provision, a few state universities and private universities set up under state act have violated this policy of the UGC. The Commission has asked these universities to close down such centres and to comply with the UGC’s instructions in the matter,” responded Irani.

Despite the HRD minister’s statement in Parliament, however, no concrete moves have been evident in curbing this malpractice. For instance,  Karnataka State Open University in Karntaka (KSOU) and Mewar University in Rajasthan are still openly offering affiliations in distance learning mode to institutes outside state boundaries. When questioned, the registrar of KSOU, PS Naik, had said, “We can offer courses beyond our territorial jurisdiction as our state act allows us to do so. We don’t need to follow UGC.” Even an assistant director of Mewar University had admitted to giving affiliation to institutes for training. “Thousands of students who have enrolled in reputed institutes in Delhi for degree courses through distance learning offered by other states’ universities do not hold valid degrees. However, nobody is talking about taking action against these institutes and universities,” says a senior UGC official.

In addition to this, violation of territorial jurisdiction is not the only worry for students and parents. Replying to another question related to unapproved courses run by some universities, the HRD minister said that the UGC had never approved courses such as MSc in fashion communication, MBA in interior designing, BSc in operation theatre technology and MBA in fire safety etc. This means that the state and private universities cannot offer these courses through distance learning programmes even in their own states because they don’t have UGC approvals. “The minister says that the UGC will consider approving such courses. Thousands of students have passed out or are at present enrolled in these courses. What happens to their future as such courses are not approved now?” asks Hariprasad, when contacted by HT Education.  “The minister’s response raises many serious issues. If the UGC hasn’t approved some programmes, how are these being offered to the students. All these degrees are fake. The HRD minster also says that the UGC has published advertisements to inform and educate students, but the UGC’s responsibility does not end here. It should take strict action against these universities. I am not satisfied with the minister’s response. We will pursue this issue,” he adds.

Crucial ­Questions
# Instead of issuing public notices to sensitise ­students and parents, why is UGC, the regulator for distance education programmes, not taking any action against erring private, state and deemed universities which are openly ­violating its order?
# Is UGC unable to stop private and state ­universities from ­offering hundreds of unapproved degree ­courses such as MSc in fashion communication, MBA in interior ­designing, BSc in ­operation theatre ­technology etc?
# Many private and state universities have hired national collaborators (private companies) who work as agents between universities and private institutes. Who is ­regulating these ­companies?

A few state universities and private universities set up under state act have violated this policy of the UGC. The Commission has asked these universities to close down such centres… Smriti Irani, the union minister for human resource and development.

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UGC, don’t stifle teaching innovation; let IITs and private varsities experiment

The Economic Times |By ET Bureau | 27 Aug, 2014 |

The University Grants Commission (UGC) is needlessly pushing IITs to scrap their four-year undergraduate programmes (FYUP). Conformity with the UGC’s national policy was used as the instrument to end Delhi University’s misguided FYUP. Now, the UGC wants to straitjacket that national policy on the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science and some innovative private universities. This is a grave error. India needs reform in higher education to compete in an increasingly knowledge-intensive economy. Students graduating from our universities should have the ability to think out of the box and to innovate. All this calls for a change in culture including how courses are designed, and how institutions are run. The UGC should not be a stumbling block in nurturing innovation. Rather, its policy framework should not just leave room for but also encourage innovation and experimentation.  UGC’s fiat infringes on the autonomy of IITs that are governed by a separate Act of Parliament.

There is every reason for these institutions to experiment with varied programmes. The UGC and the government must encourage, rather than thwart, innovation in pedagogy. Centres of excellence such as the IITs and the IISc and small, private universities are ideal for carrying out such experiments. If found successful, these can then be deployed in larger universities across the country.  An FYUP is a prerequisite for admission to the masters’ programme in the US and some other foreign varsities.  If some Indian students want to pursue a four-year degree in preparation for a Master’s abroad, why should the UGC stand in the way? The DU experiment was illconceived and rushed through without proper consultations with all stakeholders. The extra one year in the DU programme was devoted to 12 compulsory but substandard foundation courses. Not just poor course design. DU also lacked the capacity for additional seats to house the fourth batch of students. A flawed DU experiment should not throttle innovation elsewhere through the UGC.

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