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February 28, 2012

Poor standards of engineering colleges are behind seats going vacant

Filed under: Uncategorized — vikkykyt @ 9:21 pm

In a country faced with an acute shortage of trained engineers, there are still no takers for at least three out of every 10 of the 10.73 lakh seats in engineering colleges. A National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) study says engineering services are a $40 billion opportunity for India by 2020, but only one in four of the 4,00,000 graduates passing out of the 3,200 engineering colleges every year is employable. Worse, only three out of 10 of the teaching faculty is competent and qualified.Avaricious politicians intent on either making a quick buck or laundering their kickbacks have worked assiduously to open engineering colleges, giving standards the go-by. It has never been easier to set up one which may cost anywhere between Rs.3 crore and Rs.10 crore. A politician ropes in relatives or friends to set up a trust and, if resources permit, puts up an impressive building. Then, with the help of a retired academic appointed as director or principal woos part-time faculty and admits students collecting hefty sums as donation to build the college campus. This is besides the tuition fee of Rs.60,000 and more a year. The more enterprising run a B-school, pharmacy college and even a teachers’ training college on the same campus.

While most governments are quick to blame private universities and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) rules for the way questionable colleges have mushroomed, the AICTE’s response is that it doesn’t interfere too much in education as it is on the Concurrent List. It is this ambiguity that keeps institutions such as R.K. Institute of Management and Computer Sciences in Bangalore-started in 1999 and which admitted all of two students last year-and Nivedita Institute of Management and Technology-started in 2008 at Murshidabad, West Bengal, and which has less than four students on its rolls-in existence.

In Bangalore, once India’s private college capital, 8,000 seats could not be filled in its 186 colleges for the 2010-2011 season. In Rajasthan last year, the state government not only sanctioned 25 new colleges, but also added evening shifts in 23 of them, increasing the seat count to 50,000 this year. The result: 14,000 seats went vacant this year and half a dozen colleges in the state have applied for closure.

In West Bengal, where even five years ago there was a clamour for a technical degree, 2,000 seats have gone vacant this session. There were 306 engineering colleges in Maharashtra and 31 more were approved last year. Many of the colleges are owned by prominent politicians.

S.S. Mantha, AICTE chairman, while conceding that there are problems in technical education said that with 5 million students and 10,500 institutions offering technical education, the task of monitoring them is difficult, mainly due to a manpower shortage. The AICTE is taking steps to alleviate some of the malpractices that have become rampant in technical education, he said and pointed out that between November 2010 and January this year, the council has served more than 1000 show-cause notices and cancelled four approvals to engineering colleges.

Andhra Pradesh is one state where the crisis is more stark than anywhere else in India. From 282 colleges with a sanctioned intake of 98,793 seats in 2006- 07, it has now 707 colleges with 2,62,221 seats in 2010- 11. While students were admitted to 88.45 per cent of the seats in 2006- 07, admissions rose over the next two years to 89.62 per cent of available seats. Thereafter, it is showing an alarming decline-75.24 per cent of the seats in 2009- 10 and 72.28 per cent, or a staggering 76,432 vacant seats, during the current year.

Over-supply is not the only reason for vacancies. Mandatory norms are also a deterrent. The AICTE is insisting on a minimum score of 50 per cent in mathematics, physics and chemistry in the intermediate examination. The technical education revolution has soured. “Some colleges exist only on paper,” concedes Bangalore University vice-chancellor N. Prabhu Dev. “We have started an inquiry against 127 colleges which did not submit their admission lists. Even among the colleges which have single-digit admissions, some just exist and continue their affiliation to get government grants, while some are minority institutes,” he says. The quality of education offered at some of the colleges is also a cause for concern. “Most of these places go for a huge publicity drive during admissions with glossy brochures and advertisements but students are advised to find out the actual credentials of these universities,” says Vibha Puri Das, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

While the AICTE’s lax enforcement of rules has encouraged many to enter the education business, it is now time that the states join the AICTE in stepping up vigil to improve standards, so that fewer seats remain vacant.

February 26, 2012

BSNL launches Aakash tablet’s rival

Filed under: Uncategorized — vikkykyt @ 8:28 pm

BSNL has launched three tablets including two 7 inch resistive screen based tabs with Android 2.3 operating system while the third tablet comes with an 8 inch capacitive touchscreen.

Made by Noida based company – Pantel, the tablets will be sold with discounted data plans from BSNL. The three tablets are priced at Rs 3,250, Rs 10,999 and Rs 13,500.

The cheapest model is Panta Tpad IS 701r which is priced at Rs 3,250. Notably, Aakash is priced at just Rs 2500. However, Tpad has better specification than the Datawind’s low cost tablet.

Panta Tpad is a WiFi only tablet with Android 2.3 operating system, it has a 1 GHz processor (ARM11 IMAP210) clubbed with 256 MB RAM. The tablet also offers HDMI port through which it can be connected to a TV. Its 7 inch resistive touch screen comes with 800×600 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio.

The tablet has a 3000 mAh battery and 2 GB internal memory which can be expanded through micro SD card. The tablet also has a VGA front facing camera for video calling. While Panta Tpad IS 701r has the BSNL branding, the other two tablets images do not have.

The second tablet is named ‘Panta Tpad_ws704c’. It has the same specification as its cheapest cousin (701r) but offers added 3G connectivity which supports both CDMA/EVDO and GSM, inbuilt A-GPS, Accelerometer and Bluetooth. It also comes with a 2 megapixel rear camera and also has bigger 512 MB RAM for faster performance.

The costliest amongst the three is the Tpad WS802C which has an 8 inch capacitive screen. It comes with a faster 1.2 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM. The internal memory is also bigger at 4 GB. Rest of the features like GPS, camera and Bluetooth are same as the 704C.

February 5, 2012

Brilliant Tutorials turns a new page with Career Launcher

Filed under: Uncategorized — vikkykyt @ 9:48 pm

NEW DELHI: Brilliant Tutorials, the Chennai based IIT-JEE coaching giant that was facing closure in north India a few weeks ago, has found a saviour in alumnus and new-age rival Satya Narayanan R, the founder of Career Launcher.

Career Launcher, or CL Educate, will run the brick-and-mortar business of Brilliant Tutorials in north and east India, which account for 20% of the institute’s 40,000-odd students, from January.

“Brilliant is too important a brand to die,” says Satya, who was a Brilliant student in 1990 while he was training for MBA entrance exams. He made it to IIM-Bangalore.

The Rs 170-crore CL Educate, which offers vocational training and test preparation through some 225 centres in the country, will control Brilliant Tutorials’ brand in north and east India, and will have access to its teaching material.

In return, it will pay a royalty to the Rs 40-crore Chennai institute. “There is no stake, no equity involved. You can look at it as a licensee arrangement,” says Satya.

Brilliant Tutorials will continue to control its mainstay postal business across the country. The coaching institute founded in 1970 by N Thanu is one of the best in the business, having helped more than 30,000 students join IIT.

Ravi Venkatesan, independent director on the board of IT bellwether Infosys and former Microsoft India chairman, was a Brilliant Tutorials student before joining IIT-Bombay in 1980. “I found it quite valuable. More than anything else, it gives a lot of confidence,” he says.

Brilliant Hit Rough Patch Last Year

Brilliant Tutorials slumped into a crisis last year when its chairman T Neelakantan, son of its founder, passed away. His wife and company MD Vasanti Neelakantan, who has been running the business, says managing diverse locations was proving a challenge.

A few weeks ago, Brilliant Tutorials centres in Delhi were on the verge of closure and classes were disrupted because of non-payment of rent and salaries. Some of its faculty members then approached CL Educate, seeking space to hold classes for students because their own centres were locked. CL Educate gave its centres, including Pitampura, Punjabi Bagh and Noida, to Brilliant in the afternoon slot.

“This was a philanthropic exercise and a goodwill gesture to students,” says Satya. But this prompted him to reach out to the Brilliant management to see if there could be more to this partnership.

“Satya had respect for the brand, passion for education and the commercial perspective to nurture the brand,” says Neelakantan, who has turned down similar offers earlier.

For Satya, this was “more than a logical decision”. All his senior executives as students took the Brilliant Tutorials postal course on their way to IIT. “It’s a huge connect with many generations,” he says. He says the move makes big business sense.

Half-a-million students sit for IIT-JEE every year. “The number of students that Brilliant has for engineering is four times the numbers we have. By merging, it becomes one of the largest players in engineering test prep,” says Satya. CL Educate’s engineering test prep programme ARC will merge with Brilliant’s programme in January 2012.

In the summer of 2001, Satya sat in the Dadar office of GD Agrawal, founder of the Agrawal Classes, another iconic brand connected with IITJEE, to strike a partnership. He was denied. Early this year, Agrawal Classes shut down. The Brilliant story has ended on a different note.

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