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UGC will be useless if its rules are not followed, says Supreme Court

Hindustan Times |  Apr 26, 2017 | Bhadra Sinha |   New Delhi  |

The Supreme Court voiced concern over a string of cases in which educational institutes sought exemption from UGC guidelines.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) would become a useless body if its regulations are not followed by universities, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, voicing concern over a string of cases in which educational institutes sought exemption from the statutory body’s guidelines.  A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud made the comment while hearing an appeal filed by Lucknow-based Integral University challenging a high court order ousting its vice-chancellor because he was not a distinguished academician as one is required to be under UGC rules. The university told the apex court that it was a minority institution and was therefore under no obligation to follow UGC standards.  The university said it had not adopted the UGC’s regulations, which an earlier SC verdict had made mandatory.

“If the regulations are not adopted, then we are not required to appoint a V-C as per the rules,” advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Integral University, told the bench.  He said a university’s needs have to conform to the regulations established while appointing teachers.  The apex court, however, disagreed with his argument and said it was willing to take a re-look at the two-judge verdict that gave this liberty to universities.  “Qualification of a head of the university has a bearing on the standards of the institution. Power to regulate standards is not just restricted to teaching staff but also its head,” Justice Chandrachud said.  What is left to the management is selection, it said, fixing Wednesday to hear the matter when a larger bench of three judges would be sitting.  An outcome in this matter is bound to have a bearing on Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) case which is contesting for autonomy. AMU is defending the appointment of Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah (retd) as the V-C on the ground it was a minority institution and that it never adopted the UGC regulations. – Courtesy

CBSE to conduct NET, confirms UGC

Live Mint | Tue, Apr 25 2017 | Prashant K Nanda |

The status of NET exam had been uncertain after CBSE had written to the HRD ministry earlier this year expressing its inability to conduct the exam.

New Delhi: Ending confusion for nearly 5 lakh students, the University Grants Commission Tuesday said it has convinced the Central board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to conduct the entrance test based on which college and university teachers are recruited.  For the first time in 33 years, the national eligibility test (NET) was facing uncertainly after CBSE had written to the human resource development ministry earlier this year expressing its inability to conduct the exam. Qualification in NET is a must for recruitment of teachers at college and universities. The decision comes even as students groups protested outside the UGC, the higher education regulator, over the last two days regarding the confusion over NET. The NET exam happens twice in every year during December-January and June-July.  “NET will happen in time – at max a week here and there. We have sorted out the issue with CBSE over the NET exam,” V.S. Chauhan, officiating chairman of the UGC said on the sideline of an education event in New Delhi.

Chauhan said CBSE, UGC and HRD ministry had a meeting over the issue and it was pointed out that the previous government had issued an executive order entrusting the CBSE to conduct NET exam. The results also help the UGC in grating junior research fellowships.  CBSE over the last few months had said that due to capacity crunch, it won’t be able to handle a lot of entrance exams. In fact, Budget 2017-18 had a proposal to set up a National Testing Agency to conduct all academic entrance examinations.  In the absence of any national testing body, CBSE conducts major higher education related entrances apart from school leaving exams at Class 10 and Class 12 level for CBSE affiliated schools.  It conducts the Joint Entrance Exam-main (JEE Main) for engineering schools including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and the National Eligibility Test for UGC (UGC-NET) for selecting professors in college and university system.  It also conducts the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) for appointment of teachers across several states. It is also in charge of conducting the single medical entrance test for admission to all MBBS courses. – Courtesy

Bengaluru engineering student Antony Jenitter develops an intelligent watering system for urban gardeners

Economic Times | Technology | |

Antony Jenitter has sold 27 indoor gardening devices which are priced Rs 299 and is working with prospective clients such as SAP Labs for the outdoor solution.

Many Bengalureans have been witness to those glory days when they could endlessly water their gardens and still have water left to wash their porches and cars.  Some still continue to spend huge volumes of water on their greenery at a time when water is a scarce commodity. Now, an engineering student has come up with an innovation that allows the garden city to hold onto its gardens but water it sustainably.  Antony Jenitter a sixth semester student of telecommunication engineering at CMR Institute of Technology, has built the system keeping farmers in mind but quickly adapted it to cater to urban needs, sensing an opportunity.  “Many people and places in the city are interested in or have greenery. However, they end up wasting a lot of water trying to maintain it,“ Jennitter said, giving the example of his college which has limited or no water supply on two days of the week and yet does not fail to generously water its plants with a hose on days there is water supply.
Several soil-moisture and temperature sensors are placed at predefined spots and are connected to a controller. A tablet, in which green patches of the campus are mapped, uses the sensor data to graphically display the water levels. Connected to this are sprinklers which automatically turn on and off based on moisture requirements.  The system is customised to water with precision. “For instance, if there is a circular patch of greenery, the sprinkler will be modified to water only in that radius. This way, not an extra drop of water is wasted,“ Jenitter said.  Another problem he found was that individuals who grow plants on their balconies or indoors often let them dry when they travel or forget to water. To address this, he has built a compact indoor garden watering device which is the size of an average smartphone. “When attached to a pot, the device will ensure that it is watered optimally ,“ he said.

After his idea was incubated at CMRIT, Jenitter decided to commercialise it. He registered it as the proprietor under the name Irrrigatronics in January this year. He has since sold 27 indoor gardening devices which are priced Rs 299 and is working with prospective clients such as SAP Labs for the outdoor solution, which is priced based on the area and other requirements.  Professor Kalaga Madhav, of the Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering at CMRIT, said Jenitter’s system has also helped the college optimise its water usage in the gardens.  “When you ask a gardener to use less water, it means nothing to him. However, a machine actually ensures you are neither over-watering nor underwatering,“ he said.  CMR Group of Institutions chairman and Rajya Sabha member KC Ramamurthy said that with the current unpredictable weather conditions, and failing monsoons, such innovations are crucial. “The government must take notice of such small-level frugal innovations and develop them to implement on a large-scale.“ –  Courtesy

MIT Pune to start railway engineering college in Solapur

The Indian Express | Express News Service | Pune | April 23, 2017 |

Stating that though Indian Railways is one of the largest rail networks, railway engineering is stressed and taken seriously worldwide except India, said MIT officials, adding that in China, more than 80 courses are offered related to railway engineering.

Coming as a good news for students who have an interest in working with the engineering department of the Indian Railways, the MAEER’s MIT Group of Institutions, Pune is set to open up a railway engineering college at Barshi, Solapur. The institute claims the college would be one-of-its-kind in India.  The institute, which will start from June-July this academic year, has got the approval from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), said MIT officials. Degree courses will be offered at the college whose syllabus include topics like railway system planning, railway infrastructure, railway operations, and so on. Besides the syllabus will include civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics and telecommunications engineering, computer engineering, industrial and production engineering and Railway Systems Engineering.

Stating that though Indian Railways is one of the largest rail networks, railway engineering is stressed and taken seriously worldwide except India, said MIT officials, adding that in China, more than 80 courses are offered related to railway engineering. “To ensure introduction of high velocity engines, safety of railway passengers and minimum delay in journeys, modernisation of railway technology and engineering is a must. In that direction, railway systems engineering needs massive development and that can only be possible with highly qualified and skilled railway engineers,” said Dr Vishwanath D Karad, founder president, MAEER’s MIT, Pune. –  Courtesy

275 engineering colleges have applied for closure, AICTE chairman says

The Times of India | Adarsh Jain | TNN |  Apr 22, 2017  |

Representational Image

COIMBATORE: A total of 275 engineering colleges across the country applied for closure this year, said chairman of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Anil D Sahasrabuddhe on Friday.  The maximum number of institutions that have applied for closure are from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. “The number of institutions are almost equal from all states. Tamil Nadu and Andhra alone have more,” Sahasrabuddhe said here.  In the past two years, the AICTE has been actively working on reducing the quantity of engineering institutions across the country. The regulatory body has also reduced the penalty for closing down an engineering institution that was a deterrent for many colleges which were willing to shut in the midst of poor demand. Sahasrabuddhe was in Coimbatore to inaugurate a teacher training programme on e-learning at Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology.  An initiative of the AICTE under the Union ministry of human resource and development, the teacher training programme is a pan-India exercise. “A total of eight programmes are being conducted where we are training faculty members from selected institutions on e-learning. And, these faculty members will train their colleagues at their respective institutions,” said AICTE director Mandeep Singh Manna.

 The teacher training programme will aim at equipping faculties of engineering institutions on using digital platforms like Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) for higher education. “There are about 280 subjects in SWAYAM so far, and about 350 subjects are ready to be introduced. We are looking at having 2000 subjects in the next two years,” said the chairman of AICTE.  The Union ministry of human resource and development has passed a regulation to introduce choice-based credit system where the student is allowed to choose courses of his choice from SWAYAM and earn credits for it.  Faculty from institutions across the country are working or preparing the modules for each subject. “Interested faculty has to first send a three-minute video to us about the module which will be scrutinised by an expert committee. Thereafter, we will decide if the faculty can be allowed to prepare the module for that particular subject,” said Sahasrabuddhe.  Asked if the faculty would get credits during his appraisal for preparing a module for SWAYAM, Sahasrabuddhe said, “We will introduce it in the appraisal system soon. Anybody who has taken efforts to prepare a module should be rewarded for it.”   –  Courtesy

Stroke of luck turns Pune engineering student Shraddha Mengshette into a crorepati

The Times of India | Kardhra Nair | TNN |  Apr 21, 2017  |  Stroke of luck turns Pune engineering student into a crorepati  |

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi feliciated 20 year-old Shradha Mengshette

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi feliciated 20 year-old Shradha Mengshette

PUNE: In January, when Shraddha Mengshette was browsing the Internet for smartphones, she was acutely aware that her father wasn’t keen on the purchase. Even so, she bought the device on a monthly EMI of Rs1,590. A few days later, the same transaction brought a windfall of Rs1 crore for the 20-year-old when she was chosen as the first prize winner of Niti Aayog’s Lucky Grahak Yojana.  On April 14, PM Narendra Modi handed the prize to Shraddha at a function held in Nagpur.  The big win has turned Shraddha into a celebrity of sorts at AISSMS College of Engineering, Pune, where she is a student, as well as at her hometown in Latur. “I have been invited to many felicitation functions. Even so, the win is yet to sink in,” she said.

For now, Shraddha’s parents, homemaker Meera and grocery store-owner Mohan, have deposited the amount in their savings account.  While the youngster may still be struck by the win, she clearly recalls how much she had to convince her parents to let her make the purchase. “I wanted to get a smartphone. The moment I told my parents, they said no but, after several conversations that see-sawed between scolding and pleading, they agreed,” Shraddha smiled.  The total cost of the smartphone was Rs7500. “It was a big amount for us and my father asked me to get another phone but I went online and bought it on EMI,” she shared.  On April 11, the Central Bank manager reached the Mengshette’s residence to inform the family about the win. “He also told us that the PM would give us the prize money. Even then, we were not told about the amount until we were in the bus to Nagpur,” Shraddha recalled.  The prize money, however, hasn’t helped Shraddha get away from her parents’ chiding. “They still think the smartphone is a nuisance and keep reminding me that I should concentrate on studying,” she said. – Courtesy

Predatory journals make desperate bid for authenticity

The Hindu | CHENNAI April 21, 2017 | National | R Prasad |

They try getting indexed on DOAJ and other websites to cheat innocent researchers

One more evidence that India has a huge and growing number of predatory journal publishers comes from the India office of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Since March 2014, when the new criteria for DOAJ listing were put out, there have been about 1,600 applications from Open Access journal publishers in India.  Of these, only 4% (74) were found to be from genuine publishers and accepted for inclusion in the DOAJ directory. While 18% applications are still being processed, 78% were rejected for various reasons. One of the main reasons for rejection is the predatory or dubious nature of the journals.  Desperate to give websites an air of authenticity, predatory journals try getting indexed on DOAJ and other websites. Being indexed in DOAJ makes the task of cheating innocent researchers more easier. The business model of predatory journal publishing is based on levying article processing charge (APC) on authors even while offering no editorial services.  The DOAJ India office receives applications from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nearly 70% of applications come from India, while the other countries account for 30%.

‘Flashy impact factor’

“Nearly 20% of the journals have a flashy impact factor and quick publication time, which are quick give-aways,” says Bengaluru-based Leena Shah, DOAJ Ambassador, India. “Under contact address, some journal websites do not provide any address but just a provision for comments. In many cases, we have written to people who have been listed as reviewers to know if the journal website is genuine.”  In some cases, even when the website looks fine, the DOAJ staff tend to look at papers published in the journals if they suspect the genuineness of the journal. “We are not subject experts, but we use certain methods to evaluate a journal,” she says. “Assessing journal websites is not an easy process.”  “We can’t police predatory journals. Can you bring down each and every predatory journal? Instead, we can educate the academic community about the cons of publishing in predatory journals,” says Ms. Shah. “The list of approved journals put out by the UGC is one way of rooting out predatory journals.”  The UGC has approved a list of 38,653 journals that are indexed in Web of Science, Scopus and Indian Citation Index.  Journals covered in selected indexing and abstracting services have been added to the UGC Approved List of Journals. In a recent letter, the UGC indicated that the approved list is available as a web-based database with search and browse interface at www.ugc.ac.in/journallist/. In a DOAJ blog post, Ms. Shah noted: “In March 2017, DOAJ submitted a request to the UGC to include Open Access journals that are listed in DOAJ in the approved list.” – Courtesy

95% engineers in India unfit for software development jobs: Aspiring Minds study

The Hindu Business Line | PTI | New Delhi | 20 April 2017 |

Image for representational purpose only.

Image for representational purpose only.

Over 36,000 engineering students from IT related branches of over 500 colleges took Automata test.  Programming skills are five times poorer for tier III colleges as compared to tier 1 colleges, the survey noted.

“Lack of programming skills is adversely impacting the IT and data science ecosystem in India. The world is moving towards introducing programming to three-year-old! India needs to catch up,” Aspiring Minds CTO and co-founder Varun Aggarwal said.  The employability gap can be attributed to rote learning based approaches rather than actually writing programmes on a computer for different problems. Also, there is a dearth of good teachers for programming, since most good programmers get jobs in industry at good salaries, the study said.  Moreover, programming skills are five times poorer for tier III colleges as compared to tier 1 colleges. “Sixty nine per cent of candidates from top 100 colleges are able to write a compilable code versus rest of the colleges where only 31 per cent are able to write a compilable code,” the report said. –  Courtesy   / Read More…     http://www.aspiringminds.com/technology/automata        /      http://www.aspiringminds.com/

IIT BHU raises objection on NIRF ranking 2017, says list based on ‘incomplete data’

The Indian Express | Express Web Desk | New Delhi |  April 19, 2017 | Opinion |

IIT BHU said the publication data as considered by NIRF is not complete and does not match with the publication data available on Web of Science, Scopus and Indian Citation Index.

Sixteen days after the Ministry of Human Resource Development released the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2017, the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) today said IIT (BHU) Varanasi at 31 rank under the top engineering colleges list is “based on incomplete publication/patent data obtained by NIRF directly from third party like — Scopus, Web of Sciences, Indian Citation Index and Thomas Reuter”. At a press conference Director, IIT (BHU) Prof Rajeev Sangal informed the research publication was obtained by NIRF directly from third party platforms instead of collecting it from respective Institution. “The publication data as considered by NIRF is not complete and does not match with the publication data available on Web of Science, Scopus and Indian Citation Index. Actually, it is very less than the actual. This has adversely affected rank of IIT (BHU),” he said.

Prof Sangal said the total research publications of the institute as published in calendar year 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Scopus is approximately 1500, while NIRF has shown only 205.  Further, total research publication in Web of Science is 1006, but NIRF has shown only 827. Institute has published total 125 research publication in Indian Citation Index, while NIRF has shown only 34. Director, IIT(BHU) has further informed that NIRF has picked patent-related data also from third party and did not take into account the data provided by Institute. “The third party namely Thomas Reuter has not published the patent related data of the Institute on its platform. Hence, based on this incomplete information only, NIRF has given zero marks to IIT(BHU) for publication as well as grant of patent. Though, as per our records our few patents has been published and granted,” he said.  Prof Sangal said that that he is hopeful that if these deficiencies are removed ranking of IIT (BHU) may become under top 20 engineering institutions. Director, IIT (BHU) has also informed that an e-mail has also been sent to NIRF for rectifying this data, and reply from them is awaited.  The Ministry of Human Resource Development had on April 3 released the ranking for engineering along with university, college, pharmaceutical institute, management institute and overall educational institute. Last year, IIT BHU was at number 14 but this year its rank fell down to 31. –  Courtesy

Govt shifts focus from HRD inspection to self-disclosure for university and college accreditation

Live Mint |  Thu, Apr 20 2017  |   Prashant K Nanda |

Instead of HRD ministry and NAAC sending teams for inspection, educational institutions will now disclose their claims on an online platform for accreditation.

Like what it advocates for industries, the Union government is now shifting focus from inspection of colleges and universities to self-disclosure as a prerequisite for granting accreditation.  Instead of the human resource development (HRD) ministry and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) sending expert teams for inspection and relying on their field visit report for granting accreditation, educational institutions are now required to disclose their claims on an online platform.  The move comes as accreditation is becoming essential for getting approval to open new departments, courses or extending the legal approval of an institution in entirety. The move will be part of the proposed plan to revamp the NAAC, the apex accreditation body that accredits colleges and universities in India. NAAC off late is facing criticism for poor rigour and subjectivity, hence a need for revamping its function.  The expert field visits which are now the key criterion for grading and accrediting institutions will get only 20% weightage. As part of the restructuring, NAAC has already stopped accrediting institutions beginning 1 April. Beginning July, the new accreditation process will kick in.  The move follows HRD minister Prakash Javadekar expressing unhappiness over the current functioning of NAAC and how it gives very high grades to even some of the institutions which are perceived poor in their education outcome.

“NAAC has embarked in revising its Assessment and Accreditation Framework. The revised framework would be more ICT enabled and is expected to come into effect from July 2017,” NAAC director D.P. Singh said in a circular posted on the official website.  However, all applications received prior to 1 April will be assessed via the old methodology that predominantly uses field visit reports by expert teams. An HRD ministry official said that Javadekar has already expressed his “willingness to rope in top institutions like IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) for the accreditation process to clip the wings of NAAC”.  The new system will now have inputs from top institutions and domain experts and try to reduce possible malpractice in the accreditation process. Once the new system is in place, colleges and universities will not know in advance which team will visit them for evaluation and travel and logistics plan may get outsourced to a third party—in a way, this will add a surprise element and reduce possible joint efforts by some experts and institutions for mutual benefit.  India’s higher education regulators like the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are now asking colleges and universities to get accredited and accreditation is playing an important role in getting approval for starting new courses, opening departments or extending old approvals. Hence, the HRD ministry feels that unless the NAAC process is revamped, it will not serve the purpose. –  Courtesy

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