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No students, engineering colleges tell regulator: Drop 1.36 lakh seats

The Indian Express | Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |  April 21, 2018 |

The AICTE had decided last year to facilitate closure of technical institutions even if applicants are not able to procure No Objection Certificates from the state governments.

Left with a large number of vacant seats, engineering colleges have approached the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to reduce intake by almost 1.3 lakh B.Tech and M.Tech seats from the new academic year starting July. According to the AICTE’s provisional data, 83 engineering institutes that collectively offer 24,000 seats have applied for closure. Another 494 colleges have sought permission to discontinue some undergraduate and postgraduate engineering programmes, which would reduce the national intake by another 42,000 seats. That apart, 639 institutes have requested the regulator to reduce their intake by 62,000 seats collectively. These applications represent a proposed cut of almost 1.3 lakh B.E/B.Tech and M.E/M.Tech seats. The AICTE hasn’t taken a final decision yet but sources told The Indian Express that it is likely to accept all requests for winding up of colleges. It had decided last year to facilitate closure of technical institutions even if applicants are not able to procure No Objection Certificates from the state governments. The AICTE is also expected to approve about 80 per cent of requests for partial or complete closure of selected engineering programmes. The final figures will be available in the first week of May.

In addition to the above, the technical education regulator is also expected to impose penalty on colleges with poor admissions over the last five years. Technical courses, including engineering, where student admission has been less than 30 per cent in the last five years consistently will have their seats reduced by half from the new academic year. Programmes where admissions have been zero during this period will be closed immediately, the AICTE had announced in its approval handbook late last year. Engineering makes up 70 per cent of the technical education seats in India. Management (MBA), pharmacy, computer applications (MCA), architecture, town planning, hotel management and ‘applied arts and crafts’ form the rest. Last December, The Indian Express had published the findings of its three-month-long investigation, which found there were no takers for 51 per cent of 15.5 lakh BE/BTech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17. The investigation found glaring gaps in regulation, including alleged corruption; a vicious circle of poor infrastructure, labs and faculty; non-existent linkages with industry; and the absence of a technical ecosystem to nurture the classroom. All this, it found, accounted for low employability of graduates. The AICTE’s decision to reduce the intake in courses with poor admissions by half from the new academic year is aimed at addressing the above mismatch. According to sources, the final figures for the reduction in engineering seats (M.Tech and B.Tech) will be offset by applications for setting up of new colleges and capacity expansion of existing institutes. This year, AICTE has received 64 applications for establishment of new institutes — a proposed addition of 15,000 seats — and 247 existing colleges have applied for expansion, which would add up to 25,000 seats approximately. – Courtesy

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Work visa issue : MHRD writes to Kuwait Government

The New Indian Express | 20 April 2018 |

KOCHI: Taking serious note of Kuwait’s decision that expatriate engineers cannot renew their work visas unless they obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE), the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, has sent a letter to the Kuwait government stating the graduates from the premier Indian engineering institutions have qualified duly accredited courses. According to Jithin Jose, a mechanical engineer in Kuwait, Raj Gopal Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Yashwant Chatpalliwar, Second Secretary (Community Affairs/Consular), along with representatives of the Kuwait Engineers Forum and Tamil Nadu Engineers Forum visited KSE chairman and held a meeting. “The letter from the MHRD was handed over to the KSE chairman during the meeting. He has promised to discuss the points mentioned in the letter with the Kuwait Ministry,” said Jithin.

In its letter, the MHRD said: “The National Board of Accreditation (NBA) came into being only in 2012. There are many engineers currently working in Kuwait who have secured degrees prior to setting up of NBA. Hence, it is requested the qualification of such engineers may not be questioned at this later stage.” In the letter, it was also highlighted the candidates are admitted to the engineering institutions through highly competitive entrance examinations. – Courtesy

How IISc is using its knowledge to incubate core tech products with a societal impact

The Economic Times | J Vignesh | 20 April 2018 |

Fathima Benazir and Alex Paul used to be friends at school in Ooty, but then lost touch. Benazir studied biochemistry, while Paul took the engineering route to become director of IT service management at Zoho, where he spent close to 13 years. When they eventually reconnected over calls, both were ready to try something new. Paul was getting bored in Australia and wanted to come back to India. Benazir was keen on exploring further afield in molecular biology. Those conversations led to Azooka Life Sciences and eventually an organic stain product called Tinto-Rang. Critical to this process was the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), which acted as incubator and has been doing so for several startups over the past few years. The institute has once again retained the No. 1 spot in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). IISc is unlike most incubators, devoid of much of the glitz thats usually associated with the space. That may be one of the reasons for its record. Getting into IISc is difficult, a lot of interviews and panels… where the panel is not judging how much money each startup is going make, but eventually, how many lives are you going to impact, said Paul. In terms of incubators, it may not be fancy looking… but it is definitely a house of knowledge. It helped that Benazir was an alumna. From giving the duo space to helping with various facets of the product, IISc STEM Cell incubator has helped the startup grow. Azooka is currently engaged in field trials of its product, which is used in molecular diagnosis but is safe enough to be ingested, unlike most of the other products that are used in such research. IISc, the highest-ranked institute for higher education in the country in most global league tables, has long been known for its research. It been making a concentrated effort to translate that knowledge into real-world impact. While there have been startups on campus since the early 2000s, the initiative has picked up momentum since 2014.

The institute has put in place policies to support startups that have science and technology at its core, by alumni, faculty or others as long as there is a societal impact. Startups can also license intellectual property from IISc. Currently under incubation, which typically lasts three years, are ideas in domains such as space, healthcare, agriculture and biotechnology. STEM Cell takes 4-10% equity in such enterprises. As you know, IISc has been a research led institution… therefore, the focus has been on research and publishing papers in conferences. Not much thought was given to its relevance to society. You may become the top-ranked institute, but to the common man, it will be like, so what? said CS Murali, chairman, STEM Cell, explaining the philosophy behind the push. Untitled-6 Murali, an IISc alumnus who worked at Tata Consultancy Services , IBM and Cognizant, said the thought of giving something back occurred to him during the school centenary celebrations in 2008: Hundred years is a great number, but what can we do for IISc? He and a few of his friends started mentoring startups at IISc informally that year. After retiring from Cognizant in 2012, Murali got into it full time. The earliest ventures from IISc included bioinformatics company Strand Life Sciences and the handheld Simputer. Around 2001-02, the first wave happened… Strand Life Sciences, Simputer… that helped us understand what it was. Not all of them succeeded–Strand is an exception, said Bala Gurumoorthy, chief executive of IISc Society for Innovation and Development (SID). The second wave happened around 2008, when Murali and others came on board. In the last three-four years, it has seen an uptick. It probable that this is a reflection of the change in the country as well, he said, referring to the startup explosion in the last 10 years that created companies like Flipkart. SID, which was established in 1997 as a research and development bridge between industry and IISc, also supports entrepreneurship. The early engagements with startups did not have much support from the institute but that changed. Faculty members can be promoters or technical advisors and can hold equity. The policy, which came into being five years ago, allows them to spend one day a week in activities related to the company. They can take sabbaticals as well, allowing them to engage with startups full time. Every IISc-incubated startup gets a faculty mentor who a sector expert. For Rohan Ganapathy and Yashas Karanam, IISc has been an invaluable partner. The cofounders of Bellatrix Aerospace , both in their mid-20s and neither of them alumni of IISc, are building an electric propulsion system for satellites designed to use water as fuel. They were previously based in Coimbatore but were challenged by a lack of test facilities and expert advice. Coming here, we have been able to scale things up faster, said Karanam. We are working with several departments and working with professors, using a lot of lab facilities available at IISc–this is the greatest plus point. No other incubator would have helped in getting such a big space. We have got a 1,000-square feet lab space dedicated for us. Bellatrix is the only startup that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working with, having ordered its system for satellite missions. Azooka similarly works with various departments in IISc to finetune various aspects. Within three years, IISc has helped us collaborate with the centre for nanoscience, we work with biochemistry, we take advice of molecular biophysics that helps us with structure, for liquid handling we take advice from the device instrumentation and control department, said Paul. Being able to access high-tech labs means costs can be reined in. If you want to use, say, scanning electron microscopy for some sample, you can go to a lab that offers this facility. You can get it done rather than thinking where to get this one crore or two crore worth equipment, said Navakanta Bhat, professor in the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering and cofounder of Pathshodh, which makes portable diagnostics devices. There are departments which also offer facilities to startups with special consideration, with discounted pricing. It is a big boon. The Tata Trusts are using Pathshodh device for its rural healthcare programme. Bhat has taken a sabbatical to work on Pathshodh. About 350 kilometres away, the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras has been consistently successful in nurturing intellectual property-led startups for decades. About 140 startups have been a part of the IIT-M Incubation Cell.

IISc has nurtured about 28 startups, with more than half of them starting up since 2014. The aspiration is to bump up that number. Murali said about 8% of faculty members are involved in some startup activity or the other. While this is seen as an improvement from before, funding is a challenge. Money comes by way of grants and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets of corporates. One main challenge our startups have faced is raising money, said Murali. Some of them have managed to raise a decent amount from grants. When we brought in investors, they looked at these companies, liked them but said it is too early for us. Siana Capital Management–led by technology outsourcing advisor Siddarth Pai and former managing director and chief executive officer of IL&FS private equity Archana Hingorani–wants to raise up to $100 million to help academic ventures get funding, ET recently reported. Siana Capital struck an agreement with IISc recently that enables it to review startups and gives it the first right to provide seed funding. The pipeline is looking healthy, said Gurumoorthy, with April having seen more than 20 applications thus far. IISc is working on building a network of alumni mentors to help companies. IISc has done this in the past, said Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head of education, KPMG (India). They have not done it like an incubation centre, the way they are doing it now. It is a timetested concept, and it is good that somebody like IISc, who represent research in India in very many ways, particularly, the basic sciences area it is good that they are coming up with this. One big success story could help pave the way for more. We have companies that will make a mark, said Gurumoorthy. But it is like making a movie–will we get a super hit? We (have to) wait. We will keep our fingers crossed. – Courtesy

Study in India Portal launched

The Hindu | Special Correspondent |  NEW DELHI, April 18, 2018 |

Scheme to attract foreign students to study in good Indian higher educational institutions

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday launched the Study in India website, marking the setting in motion of an ambitious scheme to attract foreign students to study in good Indian higher educational institutions. The scheme will entail the admission of foreign students from 30 countries — with a focus on South Asia, South East Asia, West Asia and Africa — to study in 160 quality higher educational institutions of India as per NIRF ranks and NAAC grades. With a large number of the available seats involving fee waivers, the attempt is to make quality education affordable to foreign students, said Higher Education Secretary R. Subrahmanyam. The central education portal put in place for Study in India was comprehensive, he said. Once students register on it, they can apply for 160 institutions and get seats as per merit. It also has a provision for online counselling and a helpline number. The goal of the ambitious scheme is to increase the number of foreign students in India to 2 lakh by 2023. – Courtesy

The Indian education system has conquered a strong position in international circuit. India is a popular destination for higher education amongst foreign students as the country has an unparalleled variety of academic courses. A large number of students fly to India every year from all corners of the globe to satisfy their desire for learning more. Studying in India, the second largest higher education network in the World is an enriching experience in itself. A welcoming atmosphere, non-discriminative approach and an assured educational and career growth is what attracts students from all over the world to India and assured educational and career growth. There are universities focusing on the study of medicine, arts and language, journalism, social work, business, commerce, planning, architecture, engineering, and other specialised studies. Most Indian universities teach in English Medium and conduct special language classes for those weak in English.

India has an impressive list of universities and colleges sprawled across its major states and cities, which have inducted numerous foreign students from time to time. With 343 universities and 17000 colleges, India offers a wide spectrum of courses that are recognised globally. Apart from undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses, there are many training and diploma-level institutes and polytechnics that cater to the growing demand for skill-based and vocational education. The quality education that India offers is within the reach of every income-group considering the reasonable fee structure. With 66 distance education institutions functioning in 60 universities besides 11 open universities, India has an enlarged outreach of distance education as well. So, visit India and be a part of an educational system that lives on the values of quality, growth and truthfulness. – ANI News  – Please Do Visit –  http://www.studyinindia.gov.in/

‘Disconnect with students causing campus protests’

The Times of India | TNN | Apr 18, 2018 |

GREATER NOIDA: Engineering courses being taught in universities and colleges need to undergo changes as technology is developing by the day, AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe said on Tuesday.  Stressing the need for revision on a regular basis, Sahasrabudhe said teachers, too, needed to be trained and exposed to the changes that are taking place in the field of technology.  He said educational institutes should be opened for a noble cause and those that had been opened with an intention to make profits were closing down one by one.  Sahasrabudhe was addressing representatives of 55 educational institutions at Bennett University during the inauguration of “Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence Skilling and Research”. He also urged the representatives to participate in a three-week induction programme of the AICTE to improve teacher-student connect.  “Technology is developing and the rate of change may be higher in engineering courses. Even within engineering, it will be faster in computer science and electronics rather than mechanical and civil. The automobile industry, too, is rapidly changing. This has to be brought into our curriculum. Once revision on a regular basis begins, teachers, too, need to be trained,” he told TOI.

Sahasrabudhe advised all the institutes to start a course named MORSE (mathematics, operational research, statistics and economics), which is aimed at improving artificial intelligence and deep learning for students from remote educational institutions. “Many students in remote areas do not have these facilities. They may not be part of these institutions associated with the project, but why should they miss out on this opportunity?” he asked. Sahasrabudhe said the field of artificial intelligence and deep learning had “tremendous opportunities” and suggested that an application be designed in this regard. Emphasising on the relevance of a three-week induction programme for first-year students introduced by the AICTE, Sahasrabudhe said institutes should try to avoid dull-fledge classes in the first three weeks of a course and instead allow the students to get familiar with the surroundings. “A connect between the students and teachers is necessary and it is the lack of it that is leading to agitation at institutes. Authorities hardly engage in talks with the students and vice-versa,” he said. On the programme, Sahasrabudhe said a batch of 20-25 first-year students should be associated with one faculty member and activities like yoga, discussions, dance, drama, film screenings, etc, should be introduced. – Courtesy

IIT Delhi fellowship to research students and PhD degree-holders to launch start-ups

The Telegraph | Our Special Correspondent | Apr 18, 2018 |  IIT Delhi fellowship to launch start-ups |

Representational Image

New Delhi: IIT Delhi will become the first tech school in India to begin a fellowship to help research students and PhD degree-holders to launch start-ups with products developed through their research findings. IIT Delhi director Prof. Ramgopal Rao told reporters that the PhD incubator would be set up on its Sonepat campus in Haryana in four months.  At present, nearly 2,500 students are pursuing PhD in centrally funded technical institutions but hardly any opportunity exists now for them to start companies based on their research. PhD students usually pursue a career in academics. “We will give an opportunity to PhD students to launch start-ups by converting whatever they have learnt and discovered. They will get fellowship for three years to pursue their vision,” Rao said. He cited the example of Intel, which was started by PhD students. IIT Delhi will select 20 candidates based on their research and help them pursue their start-up initiatives. Those who have submitted their theses or have already received their PhD degree will be eligible, said IIT Delhi deputy director M. Balakrishnan. “If we can incubate 20 companies and two of them succeed, that will be a big achievement,” said Rao. The director said no other IIT or tech school in the country had started such a programme.

He said the IIT would send 50 of its students this summer to villages to understand the problems in rural India. The students will stay in the villages for a short duration. At an exhibition on Tuesday, the IIT showcased several technology solutions that have been developed at the institute. One such technology is about prevention of crop residue burning. Developed by researchers at the bio-medical engineering department, the technology seeks to make products such as disposable plates and glasses by using crop residue. Crop residue burnt by farmers in Haryana and Punjab is suspected to be one of the major contributors to air pollution and smog in Delhi. The IIT has also developed a nasofilter to purify air. The product developed by the textile engineering department can be put on the nostrils. – Courtesy

HRD ministry to set up online network of research facilities available in universities

Hindustan Times | Apr 17, 2018 | Press Trust of India |

It is proposed that through the network access to research equipment and facilities will be provided to researchers and other legitimate users for their academic or non-academic research work. – Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map, I-STEM

The Union HRD Ministry has decided to establish an online national network to list all the scientific, technical, analytical and research equipment available in universities across the country to help legitimate users access them. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has written to all the universities and higher educational institutions in the country, asking them to furnish information about the existing facilities.

“The government has planned to establish an online national network that lists all the scientific, technical, analytical, research equipment and facilities procured with funds provided by its agencies and installed in academic research and development organisations across the country,” the UGC communication to the institutes read. Through the network, it is proposed that the “custodians” of such equipment and facilities will provide access to researchers and other legitimate users, so that they can utilise the facilities for their academic or non-academic research and development work through an online reservation system, according to the communication. – Courtesy
Accordingly,all the Higher EducationalInstitutions are requested to furnish information about the existing facilities at different centres (including instruments funded under extra mural projects by funding agencies) on the website: The I-STEM Web Portal is the gateway for users to locate the specific facility(ties) they need for their R&D work and identify the one that is either located closest to them or available the soonest.

It’s time to replace the UGC Act

The Hindu | Arvind Panagariya and B. Venkatesh Kumar |  April 17, 2018 | Opinion |

The stage is set for a long overdue overhaul of higher education in India

The Prime Minister’s vision to create 20 institutions of eminence and the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reforms push have set the stage for an overhaul of higher education in India that is long overdue. The HRD Ministry first saw the passage of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, which will extend greater autonomy to the IIMs. It followed this up with reforms in the rules and regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), giving autonomy to India’s best-ranked universities and colleges. Subsequently, the Union Cabinet approved the continuation of the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, which has been working quietly to improve the quality of higher educational institutions in the States through outcome-based grants. The time is now ripe for another change: to replace the UGC Act, 1956, with a new law that should respond to the current needs of higher education. Such an Act will take forward the reforms adopted until now, remove the clutter of regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry’s purview, and pave the way for the emergence of high-quality higher educational institutions.

Categories of universities

The new Act should establish a higher education regulatory commission (HERC), which will subsume the functions of all the three existing regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry. Recognising the critical role of States in higher education, it should further establish an advisory council consisting of representatives of all States and the Central government. In addition, it must have as members leading educationists from diverse fields. The council should advise the HERC on all matters, though the final decision-making power needs to be vested in the Commission and its different bodies. The UGC recently issued new rules and regulations under which it divided universities into three categories: I, II and III. Category I and II universities were awarded autonomy, with Category I universities receiving greater autonomy than Category II. Under the Act, we propose merging Category I and Category II universities under the recent rules into a single category.

The HERC should not be in the business of writing curriculums for universities and colleges. Under the proposed Act, Category I universities will be free to write their own curriculums. In addition, they will oversee the curriculums of the colleges affiliated to them. Autonomous colleges will write their own curriculums as well. Category II universities and the colleges affiliated to them will adopt the curriculums of one or more Category I universities. Colleges affiliated to these universities will adopt curriculums of colleges affiliated to Category I colleges or autonomous colleges. There may be courses that exist in Category II universities or in colleges affiliated to them, or courses that these institutions wish to start which do not exist in any of the autonomous universities, colleges affiliated to them, or autonomous colleges. In such cases, the HERC will appoint a small committee of experts from the relevant field to approve or reject the proposed course in a time-bound manner.

Tasks of the Commission

If this reform is adopted, a major function on which the UGC currently spends a vast amount of time will be eliminated from the responsibilities of the HERC. This will leave the HERC with two major tasks: decisions on the disbursement of funds and accreditation. To fulfil the first function, the HERC should have a finance board. To discharge the second function, it should have an accreditation board. Both these boards should have full autonomy in discharging their functions once the broad policy is formulated at the level of the Commission. Presidents of the boards should be ex-officio members of the Commission. The HERC should formulate guidelines for the establishment of new institutions. A new institution should be able to enter on honor basis once it posts in a transparent statement on its website explaining how it has satisfied all the criteria stipulated by the Commission. The HERC should have the power to review whether the entering institution has genuinely fulfilled all the entry criteria, and in cases of deviations from the criteria, to close it down.

The Commission in cooperation with the accreditation board will have the responsibility to draw up standards and a grading system for colleges and universities. Multiple accreditation agencies will be permitted, with the board serving as the approval authority for them. Universities and colleges may be asked to deposit an accreditation fee in a fund held by the accreditation board from which accreditation agencies can be paid. This will eliminate the need for financial dealings between the accreditation agency and the university or college being reviewed. Matching universities and colleges with the accreditation agency may be done through a random selection by a computer. The Commission in cooperation with the finance board will also develop guidelines for funding universities and colleges. Once these are framed, the board will have autonomy in implementing them. The Commission must also formulate policies on tuition fees and teacher salaries. The Act should explicitly provide for independent efforts by institutions to raise funds and even incentivise such efforts by providing matching funds via the finance board. The HERC will have a secretariat to maintain a separate grievance and redress office. The office will receive complaints from students, the faculty and university authorities. While routine complaints can be dealt with at the level of this office, those with wider ramifications will be brought to the Commission.

Entry of foreign institutions

The Act should lay down a clear path for the entry of foreign institutions. The top 200-300 institutions in the world, according to generally accepted rankings, may be allowed entry as Category I institutions. As India has a large young population, foreign institutions will have an incentive to enter the country. In turn, India stands to benefit from the expertise and reputation of these institutions. Finally, the Act must also chart a path to integrate teaching and research. The separation between teaching at universities and colleges and research at research councils has not served the cause of either higher education or research well. To be motivated to do research, students must have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and opportunities to interact regularly with scholars actively engaged at the frontiers of research. Conversely, scholars stand to benefit from interacting with young, inquisitive minds. It is critical for this interaction to be brought to the centre of university education.  –   Arvind Panagariya and B. Venkatesh Kumar are Professors at Columbia University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, respectively   – Courtesy

NIRF ranking: How govt plans to rate India’s educators and improve them

Business Standard | Gina Singh | April 16, 2018 | Opinion |

Ranking is a good way to encourage institutes of higher learning to meet the standards the government wants to set

Rankings and listings are naturally our way of gauging any pecking order. We seek the top three, the top 10, top 100, and so on, simply to evaluate positions and pecking orders. And, if the ranking is about educational institutions, as numerous business magazines have discovered to their joy, such issues are a sellout: Students and parents grab copies to know which the top-ranking institutes are. Based on the ranking of an institute, a student’s future career and opportunities might be entirely different. While an alumnus of a top-ranking institute will see doors open to lucrative jobs and career opportunities, one from an unknown institute might not get the same options through campus placements. While a number of rankings are in existence, the Government of India in 1914 announced its intention of ranking the higher education system. By 2016, the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIFR) had released its first annual ranking of universities and colleges. The rankings are released in the first week of April, well in time for students to begin evaluating colleges and universities for admissions.

Why ranking?

Higher education and education as such are reviled in India. While there are many ills to the system, it might be an impossible task to bring a dramatic change. Ranking is a good way to encourage institutes of higher learning to meet the standards the government wants to set. Each of the five parameter defined by the government are actually goals to be met by the institutes. These parameters define the higher education, as well as social goals of India. The weightage given are 30 per cent for teaching learning, 30 per cent for resources, research and professional practice, 20 per cent for graduation and outcomes, 10 per cent for outreach and inclusivity, and 10 per cent for perception. The weight differs for colleges.  The other significant purpose that the ranking will serve is to help the government identify and fund the top 10 public and 10 private universities to make them world-class institutes. According to the Budget announcement of 2016, these universities will work towards being counted among the top universities of the world, armed with funding from the government – as of now, the arms cache could be up to Rs 100 billion to be spent over 10 years.

Accepting the ranking

The success of a plan is in the participants. It cannot be a party of two. In 2017, as many as 3,319 institutes participated. Of those, 216 were centrally funded institutes and 685 other universities. This year, 3,954 universities and 199 centrally institutes are participating in the rankings. While it is not compulsory for institutes and universities to participate in the ranking every year, colleges and universities know the value of the exercise. Already, some of the unknown universities are cashing in on their rankings, displaying the NIRF ranking prominently in advertisements. Besides, the truly ambitious universities will want to be in the top 10 for sure.

The methodology: Placing value on integrity

Institutions, universities and colleges are supposed to register and upload information according to the guidelines issued by the NIFR. They also have to upload the information submitted to NIRF on their own site for a period of three years. As a step towards encouraging transparency, the NIFR is empowered to do random and surprise audits on the data submitted by institutes. If the submitted data are inconsistent with findings, the institute could be barred from participating in the ranking survey for the next two years. While the ranking depends heavily on self-declaration, asking institutes to publish data on their own site is a simple way of ensuring transparency and integrity of information. Research published only in renowned international journals like Scopous, Web of Science, Indian Science Index is given weight in the ranking. It, therefore takes away the burden of ascertaining the value of research by a government body. If these high-ranking journals accept a paper, it meets a certain internationally accepted standard, making the job simpler for NIRF. “The rankings, with all its teething problems, is a welcome move to encourage a culture of research and subsequently innovation that we sorely lack,” says Sujatha Kshirsagar, co-founder and CEO, Drstikona Consultancy and PMS Pvt Ltd, a start-up with bridging the divide between corporate needs and academia as one of its aims. Drstikona  encourages corporate houses to spend their CSR budgets on meaningful projects like research in academic institutes. With HP Incubator in BHU as an upcoming project and two other Indian clients signed up, it is positioning itself as a conduit to research in academic institutes. Kshirsagar believes a mindset of research with an aim to publish in the renowned peer-reviewed journals will lead to a culture of innovation over a period of time.

Variation in ranking

The first steps are always faltering, flawed even, but NIFR is open to change and is willing to make changes in the evaluation criteria. Some institutes have move up and some have slipped many places, but as the government moves towards encouraging participation, the place at which an institute stands is likely to flip as well, in some cases, dramatically. Indian colleges do not foster a research mindset, with a 30 per cent weight on papers being published in international journals, institutes will begin to encourage it. Research is the first step towards innovation. Innovation will eventually encourage an entrepreneur’s mindset. “A large part of jobs of the future will have to be generated, therefore innovation is key,” adds Kshirsagar, herself an alumni of IIM Bangalore. Currently only IISc, Bangalore, has been ranked as the best university in India, according to NIRF ranking 2018. It is the only University from India that is counted among the the top 500 in the world in the Times World Ranking of Universities. Established in 1909 by Jamsetji Tata and Maharaja of Mysore, Indian Institute of Science (IISC Bangalore) is one of the premier engineering institutes in India. – Courtesy

Global benchmarking of Indian learning

The Hindu Business Line | 12 April 2018 | Rana Kapoor | Opinion |

The UGC’s move to give full academic autonomy to universities and colleges is a step in the right direction

Skilling India Going Global

The competitive landscape of advanced manufacturing and services places India in direct competition with advanced countries of the world such as the US, Germany, China, and Japan. To successfully compete, India needs to benchmark its education and skills systems with the best in the world. This is even more significant for our country as it has envisioned being the ‘Skill Capital’ of the world driven by its favourable demographics. The dream of ‘Make in India’ and leading the Industrial Revolution 4.0 can be achieved only if there is a seamless alignment of vision for skill development, education and research with the overall economic agenda of the country. The developments in the education space in the last two years have been very encouraging.

Autonomy push

The government through the regulator UGC has provided almost complete academic autonomy to universities and colleges through gazette notifications in February. Top rated universities are freed of UGC inspections; can start new programmes and skill courses without prior approvals; set up open research parks and incubation centres; engage in foreign collaboration with leading global universities and hire foreign faculty at self guided norms. Universities can also open constituent units and off-campus centres. Autonomous colleges’ regulations have also been liberalised on similar lines.

Financing

Regarding financing of higher education institutes (HEIs), they now have to take concessional loans from the Higher Education finance Agency (HEFA) for their capex requirements which would be paid back by the government. The institutes would only be liable to pay the interest amount for the loans taken. This is expected to bring a lot of accountability in the public higher education system and should be seen as a first step to build a credit market for public higher education.

Vocational education

Considering the parallel needs of basic skills for low end manufacturing and high end skills for IR 4.0, we need to take a multi modal approach to build relevant skills in the workforce. The government has done a great job in consolidating varied skill initiatives under the Skills Ministry, listened to voices outside the government including private think thanks and increased funding of skills significantly. It has been piloting several skill initiatives with other countries; this is expected to result in major breakthroughs in fine-tuning the skill ecosystem.

Learning outcomes

Quality of education both in K-12 and higher education is crucial. A granular approach with focus on district level indicators, proposed re-entry into PISA evaluations and linking funds with quality are steps in this direction. Also steps for mutual recognition of Indian higher and vocational education qualifications abroad which shall go a long way in global benchmarking of Indian learning. The recent agreement with France, Australia, Malaysia, Qatar and Mauritius among others for cooperation is significant in this regard. We however need a continued stream of structural reforms to catch up with the world. These include administrative and financial autonomy to HEIs, increase research spending manifold and create an environment of innovation and entrepreneurship. While the government’s role as the ultimate financier (payer) of education has to continue (it needs to be enhanced to touch 6 per cent of GDP), it needs to earmark funds for research, quality and innovation in all forms of learning and distance itself from managing execution. The process for ‘Institutes of Eminence’ and complete freedom to elite institutions like IIMs is a good start. Adding to this momentum is a whole new generation of ed-tech companies which are transforming learning, sometimes mitigating the necessity of brick and mortar institutions and providing hope to potential learners to bypass the rickety public education system. It is time that our regulations enable education entrepreneurs. Let a billion dreams be given wings by ensuring equality of education opportunity!  –   The writer is Managing Director and CEO of YES Bank – Courtesy

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