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Attempts to depose English subject our universities to dangerous social engineering

First suspension cloud on UGC NET in 33 years

The Telegraph | 19 April 2017 | Basant Kumar Mohanty |  First suspension cloud on NET in 33 years

New Delhi, April 18: The National Eligibility Test (NET), through which university and college teachers are recruited, may face temporary suspension for the first time in 33 years because the agency entrusted with the task has said it is bogged down by other exams. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which took over the NET from the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2014 under instructions from the human resource development ministry, has said it is unable to hold the test in mid-2017. Over 5 lakh candidates take the exam every year.  Students and academics have criticised the uncertainty over the test, which is supposed to be held in June-July. The results of the exam are used for various other purposes, including the awarding of the Junior Research Fellowship to students.  The uncertainty has been created as no notification regarding the exam has been issued by the CBSE. The UGC has not clarified the reasons behind the delay, increasing the anxiety of students.

“The UGC and the CBSE are silent on the NET. This is frustrating. I am preparing for the exam. I cannot imagine the test being suspended,” a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University said.  The UGC used to hold a test for awarding the Junior Research Fellowship since 1984. The government asked the UGC to conduct the eligibility test for lectureship in 1988, following which the commission rechristened its earlier test as NET. The NET is conducted twice a year – in June and December – on subjects such as humanities, social sciences, environmental sciences and computer science and applications.  Students clearing the NET are recruited as assistant professors in universities and colleges. The top scorers are also awarded the Junior Research Fellowship depending on the availability of slots. The awardees are exempted from appearing in entrance tests in universities for admission to PhD courses.  The CBSE usually issues a public notification announcing the NET on its website around three months before the exam. Last year, the CBSE issued the notification on April 4 for the exam held on July 10. The last NET exam conducted by the CBSE was in January this year. The notification had been issued in September. CBSE chairman Rajesh Kumar Chaturvedi had written to the HRD ministry six months ago expressing inability to hold the test because the board is already overloaded with multiple exams such as the JEE-Main, the Central Teachers’ Eligibility Test and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, apart from the board exams.

A senior CBSE official said the chairman had also informally told board officials that it would not hold the NET any more. Extra exam work affects the board’s core responsibility of ensuring quality schooling, Chaturvedi is believed to have said. An UGC official said they had not received any instruction on which agency would hold the NET.  An HRD ministry official said the government was in the process of setting up a national testing agency to conduct all kinds of education-related competitive exams.  Rajesh Jha, who teaches at Delhi University, said if the NET was suspended, it would affect lakhs of students, many of whom could have started their career in academics in 2018.  “When there is a dearth of faculty, the suspension of the eligibility test would further deepen the crisis. I hope the exam is not cancelled,” Jha said. –  Courtesy

‘NIRF better in terms of transparency’

Business Standard | IANS  |  Kolkata  April 8, 2017 |

India’s National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is “better” compared to global ranking systems in terms of transparency because it doesn’t give much weightage to perception, a library and information science expert said here on Saturday.  “In India we are doing a better exercise in the sense that our transparency is 100 per cent. Every data that we have is displayed and people can see that data. If two private universities are competitors then they can talk about each other’s data and that way it is transparent,” Jagdish Arora, Director of Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET) Centre told IANS here

INFLIBNET Centre, Gandhinagar is an autonomous Inter-University Centre (IUC) of the University Grants Commission (UGC) of India.  INFLIBNET Centre is involved in the data capture for NIRF rankings.   Arora was speaking at ‘Open Access: Road to Freedom’, the 33rd annual convention of the Society for Information Science organised in partnership with CSIR’s Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.  Asked about the contrast between the NIRF and other popular global ranking systems, Arora said India’s version does not bank heavily on perception. “We do not give much weightage to perception. You go for QSAWorld University Ranking or the Times Higher Education ranking, perception is heavy… for QS perception is about 40 per cent. “The perception is something which can be played with. You have a West Bengal State University and you have Calcutta University (CU)… so when the West Bengal University was formed… half of the colleges came under it. And those colleges have very low enrolment because people know CU. So this is perception. We give attention to peer perception… the experts,” he explained.

The INFLIBNET also hosts ‘Shodhganga’, a portal for research students to deposit their Ph.D. thesis and make it available to the entire scholar community in open access.  Asked about the risks of plagiarism associated with making data open access, Arora contended open access also makes it easy to detect plagiarism. “Plagiarism is happening for ages. When resources such as research articles are available openly, it is easier to copy but then it is much easier to detect when it is available openly. “Once thesis goes online, there are more chances that plagiarism will be detected. We are also providing access to anti-plagiarism package to universities who submit theses with us. They have to sign an MoU with us and they get access to the package. Our advice to universities is subject your theses to plagiarism detection and then only you submit,” he added.  –  Courtesy

Now, Mumbai University students and alumni can store documents in e-lockers

The Times of India | TNN |  Apr 2, 2017 |

MUMBAI: The University of Mumbai has thrown open its digital locker facility for students and alumni after a year-long pilot project. The first alumni digital locker was created for the university’s old boy Mukesh Ambani. The locker holds documents safe and in digital format, relinquishing the need for physical papers.  The Digital Locker system, developed by an IIT, Madras-incubated company, was handed over to the university as part of the R&D and technology transfer plan for powering universities to go digital.   The technology will support requirements of the government’s digital locker programme, academic repository, embassy/foreign qualification recognition plans and private digital locker service providers, said vice-chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh. Using the digital locker facility, students and alumni can send digital credentials for job applications or higher studies requirements. The facility will also comply with the UGC’s new requirements of adding Aadhaar number, photographs and other details of the student on certificates and marksheets.

As part of the programme, verification of degrees, marksheets and other documents will go digital. The online process aims to reduce processing time by more than 80%, added Deshmukh. The university’s verification staff has been provided with a secure and dedicated login ID. Higher officials will review reports of turnaround time, cases of fake degrees and long pending cases.  Details of fake degrees detected will be uploaded on the university’s website automatically as required by the state information commissioner, said a university official. The programme is in line with the government’s efforts to set up a National Academic Repository and Digital Locker Service. The university is taking up key initiatives to turn itself into a centre of excellence with a focus on digital initiatives, added Deshmukh. –  Courtesy

Bogus journals weighing down research in India

Hindustan Times | April 02, 2017 |  Malavika Vyawahare  |   New Delhi  |  Opinion |

While India takes pride in its ISRO satellite launches, academic research in the country is being hollowed out by practices like predatory publishing.  The results of a global sting operation by Polish researchers published in March revealed that 48 so-called scientific journals were happy to have a fictitious scientist – Anna O Szust – on their editorial board. Interestingly, Oszust is Polish for fraud. “Thousands of academic journals do not aspire to quality. They exist primarily to extract fees from authors,” the Polish researchers said in their paper. “These ‘predatory’ journals exhibit questionable marketing schemes, follow lax or non-existent peer-review procedures, and fail to provide scientific rigour or transparency.” G Mahesh, head of the International Standard Serial Number International Centre (ISSN) in India, has come across hundreds of such applications with bizarre journal titles, fake addresses and non-existent editorial board members in the last three years.

An example is the Springer Group of Journals, an MP-based outfit that sounds similar to Springer Nature — a reputed publishing group.

Feeding this frenzy of publishing low-quality journals is the UGC’s method of calculating academic performance indicators (APIs). The API system was introduced in 2010 to decide recruitments and promotions.  Experts, however, decry the manner in which it rewards quantity instead of quality.  These dubious journals are run as businesses with no regard for academic rigour. When the UGC announced the API system, it granted points for papers published in journals with ISSNs. Since then, India’s ISSN centre has been flooded with applications from publishers who seek the legitimacy of an ISSN number.  However, the ISSN number is a unique numerical code that identifies publications – not a character certificate.  Predatory publishing is an unintended consequence of the open access movement, launched two decades ago to make research easily accessible to the public. When big names in publishing dominated the global market in the past, they could act as gatekeepers for good research. The internet changed all that.

 In the current scenario, setting up a publication is as easy as creating a website. These so-called academic journals lure researchers with the promise of quick publication time and names that sound legitimate. As publishing in international journals fetches more points in the API, many bogus Indian publishers prefix their titles with ‘international’ or ‘world’. Or, as seen in the case of Springer Group of Journals, they simply “borrow” the titles of renowned international players. A big stumbling block to checking this phenomenon is the absence of a universally accepted definition of a predatory journal. Though Jeffrey Beall, an associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, decided to make a list of predatory publications in 2008, pressure from publishers brought it down earlier this year. Meanwhile, Indian researchers are increasingly finding predatory outfits an attractive medium of publication. Almost 35% of the papers published in “cash-seeking, pay-to-publish journals” reportedly come from India.  This figure far exceeds India’s overall share of the world’s scholarly output (4.4% in 2016). The UGC chose to turn a blind eye to the problem until January. After academics cried foul, it came out with a list of 38,000 journals where academics would have to publish for the researcher to earn points in the API system. However, questions have been raised about the UGC list of journals, considering that several among them figured in Beall’s blacklist. “We have identified 75 journals that are predatory,” said Vasantha Raju N, an expert.  There is also the matter of cost. Indian authors have used 488 open access journals who charge anywhere between ₹500 and ₹3.24 lakh in a period of five years to publish about 15,400 papers. India could be spending as much as US$2.4 million annually on author processing charges, another paper in Current Science found.  This is a problem for a country that spends around 1% of its GDP on research. –  Courtesy

NCVT To Award Class 10 And 12 Certificates To ITI Students, Says Union Minister

ND TV | Education | Edited by Anisha Singh | March 29, 201  |  PTI |

New Delhi: The central government has proposed to set up a separate board for Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). The board will allow them to conduct exams and award certificates at the same level as education boards like CBSE. The proposal was accepted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The move is expected to aide more than 2 million students who graduate from over 13,000 Industrial Training Institutes every year. It will also help students in pursuing regular courses from other schools and colleges.  As per reports in press Trust of India the Union Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, today informed the Lok Sabha that the proposed ITI Board will be formed on the lines of CBSE and ICSE. He also informed that the certificates awarded by the board will be equivalent to class 10 and class 12 certificates which are issued by regular school education boards in India.

Rudy admitted that recently there has been a decline in the quality of education being provided at various ITIs but he assured that in coming years new ITIs set up in the country will be at par with the quality of central schools such as Kendriya Vidyalayas and other training institutes providing quality education. He said,”23 lakh students used to pass out from ITIs but did not get the equivalent certificate of X or XII standard because no such provision was there earlier”.  Senior Officials in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said that once the proposal is fromalised, the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) will have the proper authority to conduct examination and award certificates for class 10 and class 12 enrolled in ITIs.  Following the formalization, UGC, CBSE, AICTE, NCERT, AIU and all State Education Boards will be informed that the class 10 and class 12 certificates awarded by NCVT should be treated as valid by all educational institutes for higher education opportunities. –  Courtesy

UGC to continue funding schemes beyond March 31

The Times of India | Yogita Rao | TNN | Mar 29, 2017 |

MUMBAI: The UGC, on Wednesday, issued a circular announcing the continuance of funding of several of its schemes beyond March 31, 2017.  While this may come as a relief for many teachers working in UGC-sanctioned centres, who were to lose jobs in universities across the country, including Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), there is still no clarity in the issue. Director of TISS, S Parasuraman, has decided to revoke the contract termination letters, only after getting more clarity from the UGC.   Contracts of 18 teachers and several administrative staff from three UGC-sanctioned centres at TISS were terminated last week after the institute failed to get an extension from the commission.

 In the commission’s meeting held on March 28, it was resolved that all the existing schemes of the UGC under the plan would continue for the fiscal year 2017-18. “However, these schemes will be reviewed by the UGC”, reads the circular. While speaking to TOI, Parasuraman, said that the UGC has set up a review committee to review the schemes. “What if the UGC refuses to extend the functioning of the centres after reviewing,” asked Parasuraman, adding that the institute will decide how many to retain and work out the details after the UGC completes the reviewing process and releases funds. The institute’s management spent Rs 5.11 crores on these three centres as UGC failed to release funds even in the previous plan years. Contracts of teachers from centres for social exclusion, women’s studies and human rights were terminated last Friday. – Courtesy   /    Click here to Read the UGC Circular – Published on 29/03/2017,  UGC Notice reg.: Continuance of funding under Plan Schemes of UGC beyond 31st March,2017

Indian student applicants applying to US universities dropped in numbers

The Hindu Business Line | Washington, March 27 | PTI |  ‘US varsities register drop in Indian student applications’ |

Representational Image

US universities have registered a sharp decline in the number of applications from Indian students after a spate of hate crimes and fear and anxiety about potential changes to visa policies by the Trump Administration.  According to preliminary results of a survey of more than 250 American colleges and universities conducted by six top American higher education groups, students from India this fall registered a 26 per cent decline in undergraduate applications and 15 per cent decline has been reported in graduate applications.  The full version of the ‘Open Doors 2016’ report is slated to be released later this week. These higher educational institutions reported a drop of an average of 40 per cent in applications from international students.  The report said India and China currently make up 47 per cent of US international student enrollment, with almost half a million Indian and Chinese students studying in the US. China reported a drop of 25 per cent application in undergraduate studies and 32 per cent from graduate studies, said the survey report.  The survey was conducted jointly by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Institute of International Education, the Association of International Educators, the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC) and its focus subgroup International Association for College Admission Counseling (ACAC).

The most frequently noted concerns of international students and their families, as reported by institution-based professionals, include the perception of a rise in student visa denials at US embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal and the perception that the climate in the US is now less welcoming to individuals from other countries. It also includes concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel, and employment opportunities and concerns that the Executive Order travel ban might expand to include additional countries. “I’d say the rhetoric and actual executive orders are definitely having a chilling effect on decisions by current applicants/admitted students, and by extension are likely to affect future applicants as well,” Wim Wiewel, Portland State’s president, who was recently in India told Inside Higher Education.  “India’s demonetisation policy and the weakness of the value of the rupee against the dollar,” are other factors according to Wiewel, the news report said.  Portland University has registered a 27 per cent drop in Indian students this fall.

“However, we were struck by how much US higher education is still considered the holy grail, and that especially in the southern half of India almost every middle class family seems to have a relative in the US… Thus, if nothing too bad happens in the future we will recover from this, but people are watching,” he noted. A lot of universities are concerned about declines in master’s students from India, John J Wood, the senior associate vice-provost for international education, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was quoted as saying by Inside Higher Education.  “A lot of the master’s students coming from India are ultimately hoping to get on the job market here through OPT (Optional Practical Training) and eventually H-1B,” Wood said.  The optional practical training programme allows international students to work for one to three years on their student visas after graduation. “There’s a lot of fear and anxiety about potential changes to H-1B and/or OPT that would limit their opportunities. Making the decision to invest in a master’s programme when the uncertainty on the other end is there is an issue for a lot of students in India,” he was quoted as saying by the report. The recent killing of an Indian engineer in Kansas and other hate crime is another factor that would have an impact on application of students from India, Woo said.  “Those events affect us, whether we like it or not. The impact is not just going to be on Indian nationals. It could impact other students from other countries who may now be concerned about coming,” Ahmad Ezzeddine, associate vice-president for educational outreach and international programmes, at Wayne State University, told a media outlet that focuses on higher education. –  Courtesy  /     www.iie.org/opendoors

HRD Ministry’s national institutional ranking framework (NIRF) gets cold response

Millenium Post | Dhirendra Kumar | 27 March 2017  |

The higher educational institutions have given a thumps down to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry’s revamped National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), a methodology adopted by the ministry to rank all institutions of higher education in the country. According to latest data, about 828 higher institutions have not shown any interest in the ranking system of the government as 2,735 institutions participated for 2017 rankings in comparison to last year’s 3,563 participants. However, the fact that may bring some sigh of relief for the HRD Ministry is that there are 816 new participants under the new category introduced from this year onwards, which includes institutions of medical and law. Notably, the HRD Ministry had launched domestic ranking system on September 29, 2015 and ranking of institutions was declared on April 4 in 2016. Similarly, this year’s ranking would also be declared in the next month. In the first ranking framework, the institutions such as universities, engineering colleges, management institutions, colleges, pharmacy and architecture had participated, while in the revamped ranking, medical and law colleges were also included for their ranking apart from new category of colleges.

In reply to a question of BJP MP Ravindra Pandey in Lok Sabha on ranking of institutions, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar acknowledged that Indian educational institutions do not rank high globally. “There is scope for improving the ranking internationally,” he said, adding that there is a possibility that the situation will improve as international faculties are coming to the Indian institutions. The minister said with an aim of evaluating the performance of educational institutions in the country, the government has launched the NIRF. The NIRF ranks the institutions using data on five broad parameters — teaching learning resources, research and professional practice, outreach and inclusivity, graduation outcomes and perception, the minister said. The HRD officials defended the low participation of institutions for national ranking framework by saying that “stringent” norms of the NIRF “might” have been reason behind it. “Given that under the NIRF, the institutions have to submit an affidavit declaring infrastructure availability, developmental plans, which might had not gone down well with universities,” the HRD official said, adding that in the coming years, the number of participants would increase. –  Courtesy

10,000 plus modules available on ePG Pathshala website as Open Educational Resource

10K plus modules available on e-Pathshala Around 10,000 plus modules have been developed in 57 subjects which are available on the ePG Pathshala website as Open Educational Resource, informed MHRD in a release here on Wednesday.

New Delhi:* Around 10,000 plus modules have been developed in 57 subjects which are available on the ePG Pathshala website as Open Educational Resource, informed MHRD in a release here on Wednesday. It can be used as a supplementary reading material by the PG students. Also under the study webs of Active -Leaming for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) programme of Ministry of Human Resource Development, UGC has developed 72 MOOCs courses of which 43 are available on the SWAYAM platform https://swayam.gov.in/ . The content developed under this programme is of high quality, curriculum based and interactive which is available in open access through the e-PG Pathshala website i.e. http://epgp.inflibnet.ac.in/   |     Click Here to Download UGC Circular : Published on 21/03/2017 –  UGC Letter reg: e-PG Pathshala and SWAYAM platform