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Private colleges

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The latest 'India Today' ranking of the top engg colleges in the country places Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) at no 10, the highest amongst all the private engg colleges, and higher than quite a few NITs. Amongst the Bangalore city colleges, only M S Ramaiah College of Engg figures in the list at no 21.

There are no takers for Comed-K this year. Most toppers have written other competitive exams and are opting for them instead. High fee structure was the most-cited reason for opting out of Comed-K. Besides, some candidates sat for the exams just for the experience and to see how they would fare.

Sharat, from Gulbarga, who is ranked third in CET and state 70th in AIEE, isn’t keen on Comed-K either. Having aced the IIT exams, that’s his first choice. "I don’t want to go through Comed-K,’’ said Sharat, whose aim is to be an IITian. I am interested in electronics and communications. My IIT ranking may not permit to choose this branch. I may get civil or mechanical. However, I don’t mind studying any branch as long as I am in IIT’’ he added.

The above are the excerpts from an article captioned 'Comed-K gets cold shoulder' in Times of India (page 5) of 5th June, '08

The latest 'India Today' ranking of the top engg colleges in the country places Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) at no 10, the highest amongst all the private engg colleges, and higher than quite a few NITs. Amongst the Bangalore city colleges, only M S Ramaiah College of Engg figures in the list at no 21. The other 'prestigeous' colleges, which figured in last year's list, are not in the picture this year. It is unlikely that their academic standards have dropped badly, because they have been producing consistently good results, going by distiction percentages and near total placements of the students passing out. The reason could possibly be that they have opted out of the evaluation process because they have a few things to hide.

Now, it's well known that these colleges have been collecting fairly sizable capitation fees, and with the state government coming up with all kinds of new regulations, they have been forced to collect these amounts in cash. Very likely, the Tamilnadu government is a little more liberal in these aspects, and consequently, the VIT which also collects capitation fees (and, which would now possibly increase it for the next year, using the India Today ranking), has no problem declaring it.

All said and done, whatever, the fees charged by the Bangalore colleges are nowhere near what is charged by even lowly colleges in places like Australia, Dubai, etc, which the students who have not been getting sufficiently good rankings in the competitive exams here have been opting for. So, why should the government be interfering in these matters resulting in the creation of all kinds of artificialities? Can't they instead team up with India Today and build up a robust evaluation system, whereby the institutional merit will command premium fees, quite like in the US.

And, with keen competition, India will emerge as the most cost competitive knowledge capital of the world.

Muralidhar Rao


City.Zen's picture

Private Colleges

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Is it correct to expect the Government to improve things in higher education when it is not able to do much in primary education? Imagine this scenario: All colleges to be treated on par with the present entities called tutorial institutes with absolutely no control whatsoever by the government. What will be the effect? Fees and capitation amounts will go sky-high? -- Hasn't it already even with so much control by the govt? Quality will go to the dogs without govt. control? -- Is quality at an acceptable level now? The industry has been constantly complaining about too many graduates being of unemployable quality. So, will somebody explain why the govt. should be there at all in higher education except providing employment and some destructive work to those in the ministry and departments?
City Zen
murali772's picture

Disclosure norms for colleges

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The four-page format sent to all colleges and universities mandates that institutions make public crucial data like approved intake, examination results, number and quality of teaching staff and physical facilities and infrastructure.

For more, click on

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

The Business Of Teaching

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One big reason for corruption is the government’s no-profits allowed policy for private institutes. Every educational institution has to be incorporated as a non-profit trust. Technically, you cannot make money from the college. The government somehow believes there will be enough people who will spend thousands of crores setting up good colleges for the millions who need seats every year, just out of the goodness of their hearts. On this flawed, stupid assumption that people are dying to run colleges without ever making money rests the higher education of our country.
Of course, none of this noprofit business ever happens. What happens is that shady methods are devised to take money out from the trust. Black money, fake payments to contractors and over-inflating expenses are just a few ingenious methods to ensure promoters get a return on their investment. This ensures that none of the legitimate players ever enter the field. Ex-academics, world-class corporates and honest people will never touch private education, for they do not want to pay bribes at every stage and devise shady methods to bypass no-profit rules. Thus, people like local country liquor barons, sari manufacturers and mithai shop owners open technical colleges for engineering and medicine. And we hand over our kids and their future to them.

You don’t need to be an expert to realise that what is happening is seriously wrong. However, policymakers are doing little about it. Perhaps, much like the bootlegging industry, so many regulators and inspectors are making money that nobody wants to fix it. However, corruption in the education sector is not to be taken lightly. When you have corruption in infrastructure, you have pot-holed roads. When you have corruption in education, you have pot-holed minds. We are destroying an entire generation by not giving it access to the world-class education it deserves.
I have nothing against commercialisation of education. Commerce and business are a good thing. However, when it comes to education, it needs a sense of ethics and quality. Good people must be incentivised to open colleges. Say, by a simple policy fix like allowing private institutes to make a profit. This would mean companies like Infosys and Reliance might open colleges, perhaps on a large scale, as shareholders will approve the huge investment required. If these companies open colleges, at least they will be of a certain standard. Competition can ensure that the ability to make profits never turns into greed. But if the business model is sustainable, many good players would be attracted to this sector.
This can be done. This needs to be done. Indians care about education. We can have one of the best education systems in the world. It is a matter of collective will and a few good leaders who will make this happen. It should not require a fast or dharna or yatra or antipolitician slogans. When something is sensible, it should just be done. For, that is what educated people do. And we would like to call ourselves educated, won’t we?

For the full text of the column by Chetan Bhagat in the ToI, click here.

Doesn't Mr Kapil Sibal understand this? So, what has he been doing about it in the over two years that he has been the minister for Education? All we heard was about his tinkering around with the school exams system, reactions to which have been mixed amongst the academic circles. If he addresses the above issues, he could perhaps expect unanimous support from the academic circles, though there could be some bit of opposition from the purely business types. So, is he pandering to the diktats of such businessmen? 

Muralidhar Rao
n's picture

It is also important that

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It is also important that private initiatives in the field of higher
education are not driven by the sole motive of profit. They should
not confine themselves only to ‘commercially viable’ sectors of
education, such as management, accountancy and medicine etc.
but should also encompass areas of social and natural sciences
by establishing comprehensive universities.

Above is extract from a report to the HRD ministry. Some good explanation of the current state of affairs here.  Wish newspaper reporters point to some authoritative source(s) like UGC's policy (section 2.1), than making blanket statements.

So, the problem is potential subversion of the system (as in all things Indian ;-)) to exploit profitable courses similar to computer institutes mushrooming when demand was high. Is that a bad thing? Won't demand and supply take care of themselves? Agree with the author that large, for-profit universities will get set up with long-term goals and would offer diverse course work. Tourism, education and hospitality have some of the biggest foreign income earning potential and should be fully encouraged.

murali772's picture

Kapil Sibal's hypocricy

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The system survives because of good institutions. It is corrupted by institutions, no matter how many or how few, in which seats and degrees even up to doctorate level could be purchased. At the other extreme, the Government expects private initiative on a large scale in education but with the hypocrite stipulation that profits shall not be earned!

Is it not the right time to insist that the Government comes out of its slumber, accepts the realities of the times and creates an environment in which transparency becomes possible and feasible?

For the full text of the article by J S Rajput, former director, NCERT, in the New Indian Express, click here.

Further reiteration from an expert in the academic field, if one was required.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

a right step

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With a host of higher education reform bills awaiting Parliaments nod, the HRD ministry has decided to implement part of its reform agenda through executive order from the next academic session. - - - - As part of the initiative, every institution would be required to appoint an ombudsman who would be a person with judicial or legal experience.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

A long overdue step that is very much required even as our higher educational institutions aspire to take on the best in the world in academics.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

More "Naxalistic" anarchy looks inevitable

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It's a mind-boggling ambition, India watchers say, given that most state governments do not have the budget, will or capabilities to build the required education infrastructure. Private initiatives, meanwhile, are stymied by archaic socialist laws that ordain that education be a 'not-for-profit' activity. While colleges have mushroomed in the country, the learning outcomes are so poor that they have developed an infamous reputation for being ill-respected teaching shops that dispense degrees on the tap.
"It is the biggest scam in history where political money has found its way into institutions of higher learning. While world over the government's role is focused on learning outcomes, in India the focus is on political controls in the name of 'not-for- profit. Urgent education reforms is the need of the hour," said Sachdev (a human resources specialist and career coach).
The poor education standards are recipes for social problems as incidents of crime escalate, added Sinha (co-founder of the new-age Ashoka University and ex-dean of Indian School of Business).
"The consequences could be huge if no action is taken. Already we are seeing an increase in violence, rape and crime in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. If more than two-thirds of the youth don't realize their economic potential, how can a nation achieve its growth targets? Trouble is no one seems to be paying heed," he said. 
For the full text of the essay in Yahoo Finance, click here
I am not sure between a Kimmane Ratnakar in the state, and a Smiti Irani at the Centre, we are going to see much change happening in the immediate future. In the meanwhile, more and more generations are getting lost. If the situation is not corrected soon enough, far from reaping demographic dividends, we are headed for "Naxalistic" anarchy. 
Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture

private colleges are a disaster

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I have two data points. First is a relative who recently graduated from one of the so called relatively decent engineering colleges in the city. One gets the impression of a degree shop with poorly qualified and ill experienced faculty, a focus on infantile discipline, terrible laboratory instruction and other bad practices. The second is a former boss who transitioned from the corporate to education sector. His experience was so terrible that he resigned from the job in 4 months.
murali772's picture

no, and yes

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@ Sanjay - Even as you cite your data points, which I don't in the least doubt, reproduced below is an excerpt from a recent report in the New Indian Express:
Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) will set up a new campus in Bangalore. The campus, the first one outside Tamil Nadu, is set to admit students by 2015 (for the full text, click here).
Apart from VIT, there are Shastra, and a few other colleges too from Tamilnadu, and namma RVCE, PESIT, Ramiah, etc too, from all of whom IT companies have been recruiting in droves, year after year, and at fairly decent salary levels too. So, there's got to be something right they are doing.
Of course, there are plenty of lousy ones too, many of which have even had to close down. And, if you ask me, that's the best part of private colleges, unlike government colleges, which carry on with tax payers' money irrespective of their performance. 
So, wouldn't you say characterising "private colleges are a disaster", is rather an uncharitable generalisation? Yes, "infantile discipline", etc are issues alright, and they need to evolve and grow out of their out-dated mind-sets. In fact, if I understand correctly, this is one area where RVCE scores over PESIT, VIT, and the like, though academic performance-wise they are more or less on par. And, these factors will begin to count more and more as competition hots up, like now with VIT setting up its campus in Bangalore. 
I would again point to the ham-handed (rather mercenary) ways of the government dominated regulatory bodies (AICTE and its state counterparts in the case of engineering; and RGUHS; Medical Education dept, etc in the case of medicine - as evident from a reading of the excerpts from a NIE report reproduced below - full text accessible here) largely responsible for the maladies afflicting the sector:
An educational institute in Mangalore has come under scanner for its ‘vanishing’ act, just a day after it secured permission to run a medical college from the 2015-16 academic year.
It now seems the Kanachur Educational Institute, located at Deralakatte on the Mangalore University Road, has ‘created’ a hospital set-up for two days when the committees from the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) here and the Medical Education Department came visiting.
According to locals, the hospital vanished within 24 hours of the Karnataka Government granting it permission.
An Express reporter who visited the spot also could not find any trace of a hospital functioning there.
The university rules stipulate that only a 300-bed hospital, with 20 acres and running for six months, could apply for a medical college licence. Once a hospital applies for permission to the university to start a college, its inspection committee checks the infrastructure and forwards the recommendation to the university.
Very clearly, what is required is of the government to get it act together, after limiting its role to where it essentially needs to be, since it's hard put to carry out the jobs it already has on its hands even.
Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture


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Murali, yes there are always exceptions to the rule.  There are definitely some fairly decent prrivate colleges.  However, considering the entire gamut of colleges out there (at least in engineeering), I have to say the same thing.  They are not really educating students and are thus failing in their main mission.

The fault is with the way education is managed. I did not mean to suggest that the fault lies with the fact that colleges are private  The whole non-profit concept, accreditation, quality of faculty etc. needs serious rethink.  In many cases, one hears that colleges are another racket to convert black money to white money.  That sort of motivation bodes poorly for the education sector.

My general view point is that the IITs which are held as a benchmark for engineeering education in India are themselves pedestrian, as reflected in their international rankings.  We need the whole curve to shift upwards.  

murali772's picture

can't be clearer as to where things have gone wrong

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Normatively speaking, education is a right that should not be dependent on the ability to pay. This aspiration is correct. But how do you square that with the idea of private education, where ability to pay will determine what you can access to some degree? Our answer: We will impose more regulation, more price controls (as the All-India Council for Technical Education is now proposing), more control over selection mechanisms. So what we want is a private economy with extensive price controls? Price controls can work in some areas but as a generalised principle, a price-controlled private sector is a bit of an oxymoron — with probably moronic outcomes.

But what the state cannot get itself to honestly answer is why so many students are at the mercy of the private sector. The state is willing to put all its energies into running loss-making airlines, reviving defunct fertiliser plants. But it cannot commit itself to infusing new energy in public education, at all levels. If you destroy public university after public university, the private sector will laugh all the way to the bank. And then, in response to an outcry, we will pretend that regulation of the private sector can produce social justice. In retrospect, it is truly extraordinary how much energy, focus and moral piety has been expended on “regulating” private education in India.

Yet proportionately, so little political effort has been expended to improve public education. It is a pipe dream to think that we can build a good, equitable education system without a major revival of public universities and government schools. And a strong public system will automatically “regulate” the private system by reducing demand. But it is a sign of how warped our thinking on the public and private has become that we are happy to hollow out the public where we should not, and regulate the private in ways that are counterproductive.

The increasing confusion over the role of the public and private has many sources. Some of it is ideological mystification: We thought reform meant rolling back the state, not building it in some areas. This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy to the point where we do not recognise the potential within the public system. Some of it had to do with political economy. The whole logic of public-private partnerships was driven not entirely by the idea of efficiency gains but the creation of new forms for rent-seeking. This form of entanglement of state and capital ended up corrupting both.

Crony capitalism backed by the state delegitimised capital as well. The dividing line between an anti-corruption movement and an anti-private-sector sentiment became very thin indeed. The confidence that the Indian private sector, particularly its big players, was ready to play by anything other than crony capitalist rules has diminished.

For the full text of the must read column (emphasis added by me) by the redoubtable Pratap Bhanu Mehta, click here.

Tells you exactly where things have gone wrong. Do this government have the capacity to effect the necessary correctives, remains the important question.

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