Monday, November 22, 2010

For-profit legal structure for higher education in India

The 1986 Indian National Policy Statement on Education states as follows: "In the interests of maintaining standards and for several other valid reasons, the commercialisation of technical and professional education will be curbed. An alternative system will be devised to involve private and voluntary effort in this sector of education, in conformity with accepted norms and goals". The Indian Government and the policy makers are wrongly interpreting the Indian Constitution in stating this policy. The Indian Constitution states that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to education. This duty does not extend to the State preventing any private entity from delivering education, in any format, especially when the State's economic capacity is exhausted.

In implementing this policy for "non-commercialisation", the policy makers are opposed to the setting up of higher educational institutions as a for-profit entity adopting the Limited Joint-Stock Company format under the Indian Companies Act. Commercialisation of education can happen even in the non-profit format as has been happening now by educational bodies set up as a Society or a Trust. The Government and the task force that has been set up is confusing "commercialisation" with the "for-profit" legal structure of an organisation to deliver education. More importantly, the policy does not define "commercialisation". If the Government means "profiteering" as a definition of commercialisation, then the current system of education under non-profit societies and trusts are profiteering blatantly.

Commerce happens once there is a buyer and a seller irrespective of their legal form. In higher education, the student pays money to buy education from the institution that sells or delivers education; so commerce happens here, even in Government Institutions such as the IIT or the IIMs.

A main reason given by the policy statement to avoid "commercialisation" is to maintain standards. This assumes that commercial organisations cannot maintain standards and that only non-commercial organisations can deliver quality. Again, something that has been proved very wrong, going by the quality of higher education delivered by scores of government or government-approved private institutions that are run by Societies or Trusts.

The policy statement also states that "an alternative system will be devised to involve private .. effort in this sector of education". However, this alternative system has not been discussed nor proposed so far.

The Supreme Court of India has established very clearly that the private sector and any individual has the fundamental right to set up educational institutions. The Constitution does not deny the private sector from setting up a for-profit educational institution. It only makes it a duty of the government to provide education. It does not make the Government the sole provider.

The task force that is examining and proposing the current legislations in the education sector should bear this in mind. Any proposal to deny any segment of the society the right to offer education in any format will be subject to protracted legal action.

It may actually be better for the Government to allow the for-profit format in higher education and derive revenues from service tax on tuition incomes and income tax on surpluses made by the institutions. Currently, the Government is foregoing that share of the revenue from these society or trust run institutions who anyway profiteer. In the present set up, the AICTE restricts the number of students that an approved educational institution can admit and thus creates an artificial shortage of seats, enabling these so called non-profit educational institutions to charge enormous fees, that put higher education out of bounds. Instead, if the Government recognizes the right of the private sector to provide education under the for-profit format, then the fees will automatically be market determined and become affordable. The income that the Government makes from these for-profit entities can then be reploughed into education at the primary and secondary levels, which is where the Constitution makes it a duty of the State to provide free education.

National Management B School, India

Friday, September 3, 2010

Integrative Learning At NMS: A Multi-Layered Approach To Education

The latent knowledge in any learning program is made potent only through a pedagogy that can bring this power of knowledge out. NMS’s Integrative Learning program follows a unique teaching methodology that helps convert latent knowledge into potent power and empowers our students.

NMS B School has a three-dimensional curriculum in place as part of which the students study one functional discipline, three industry verticals and also included are two country studies. This ensures that students have a holistic curriculum that covers the key aspects of business in today’s world.

The three-dimensional curriculum is supported by 20 hours of understudy, about 80 hours of a Business Plan Preparation course and about 80 hours of a Consulting Practicum. The focus of all such programs and studies is on specific, real-time and outcome-based projects.

The students are also involved in a 6-week internship at the end of the first year and that gets them out on the field to learn hands-on what they have been preparing themselves for. It gives them a first-hand experience of playing the roles that they are expected to play in the future and maximize their learning.

Not just this, students at NMS take part in additional activities like Golf, Organic Farming, Sailing etc since NMS believes that these activities teach lessons as fundamental as the ones learnt in classrooms. With this multi-layered approach to teaching, NMS aims to turn out well-rounded business leaders who understand businesses on a deeper and broader level.

With that we hope that this series on taking a closer look at the Integrative Learning Program of NMS helped you gain an insight into our approach to education. Stay tuned to hear more from us

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Integrative Learning At NMS: Nurturing Better Managers

In our series about Integrative Learning at NMS, today we look at how the Integrative Learning program inculcates basic managerial skills among its students.

NMS School organizes a Basic Managerial Skills programs for its students in every batch. This program aims at enhancing students’ existing managerial skills and preparing them for sustainable and scalable career. The program is conducted primarily through classroom sessions. Supplementing the classroom teaching are a host of case studies and group discussions that help students analyze real-life business situations and derive learning from them. In addition there are individual and group exercises designed to give the students different people situations to work with. All this is topped with video recordings that simulate contexts for the students to work with.

Fitted into this program structure are topics that cover various aspects that form the flesh of a managerial role: communication, leadership and people dynamics. Topics like communications skills, presentation skills and the basics of writing hone the existing communication faculty of the students. Leadership skills are covered as a separate module in this program. People skills are sharpened by way of sessions on conducting group discussions and interviews as well as on goal setting and motivation.

The Basic Managerial Skills program is a key component of the Integrative Learning at NMS. The program aims at nurturing better managers who can lead their teams from the front in the corporate world and thus giving the world better business leaders.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Integrative Learning At NMS: Outbound Program

Last week we saw how NMS B School provides its students the advantage of Integrative Learning that combines Functional Discipline, Industry Analysis and Country Study to offer participants the kind of exposure that is not otherwise possible in a typical management program. Integrative Learning at NMS follows a comprehensive approach to ensure that the students constantly learn, both in and outside the classroom. This week we take a look at some of the components that go into nurturing corporate-ready students through Integrative Learning.

The courses at NMS begin with a one-week Orientation session that attempts to bring all students on the same page and homogenize a class consisting of students from diverse backgrounds.

What NMS students attend additionally is an Outbound Program that aims at cultivating an atmosphere of trust among the students, exposing and alleviating any fears or inhibitions they may be harbouring, helping the students understand themselves better and bond with peers while experiencing a sense of adventure.

NMS achieves these in two ways.

The first is by involving students in a Group Sharing exercise where students share something personal about themselves in a moderated environment with the help of an experienced facilitator. Given that the students are to embark on an educational journey together, this exercise helps them to know others in the group and also discover themselves, an essential exercise for a group that will be exchanging cultures and contexts over the span of their course.

The second is by engaging the students in group activities and exercises like a night drive in the forest, trekking, rappelling, rock climbing, kayaking etc. These activities help the students bond better and prepare to work in a team not only for the forthcoming educational journey but also through life.

Students who were part of the Outbound Program last year enjoyed the challenges that the planned activities presented and how they made the students face their fears. Not to mention, all of them came back enriched with each other’s stories and more emotionally bonded than before the program.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

India As The Global Destination For Education

As early as 500 years Before Christ, India had become an International Centre of Learning for students from South East Asia. Scholars from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and the likes were drinking from the fountains of knowledge that were the universities of Taxila (Takshashila) and Nalanda. Two universities that had a formidable reputation, when it came to both the extent and depths of knowledge that was available to be absorbed by a willing student, were the pride of place in ancient India. And from then on, India has carved its own niche in the field of education, building on its heritage.

Modern day amenities, the ease of travel and globalization have ensured that more and more students have access to the repositories of knowledge across the world. And that has truly made knowledge borderless and added more dimensions to existing know-how by allowing global experiences to enhance existing knowledge. In this context, let us take a moment to see where India stands in the global education scenario at present and what the world can look forward to.

If we embark on a cost-benefit analysis at the outset, the cost of education in India set against the standards it is offered at makes it an immediate cost-effective proposition for obtaining world-class education. And this fact applies to education across streams right from technical education to education in arts and culture, enabling students with varied set of interests to access India’s knowledge at very reasonable costs. And this is the primary reason for International students to come to India and seek education.

Couple that advantage with the unique cultural fabric that India is, with roots from thousands of years ago and branches growing constantly into the new skies. India is a strange mix of tradition and progressive environments that lets students experience a very different cultural context in education. When it comes to International students, this increases their gamut of educational contexts to include both Western and Eastern philosophies as well as multifarious approaches to every aspect of education and becomes another reason why students seek India as a preferred educational destination.

To top that, India’s colonial heritage includes English as one of the official languages of the country and that makes it multiple times easier for International students to learn as well as adjust socially in the country. English being the medium of instruction in most educational institutions gives students a good reason to consider studying in India and it remains India’s edge in the world.

These advantages are supplemented sufficiently by the pioneering work that Indians have and are doing in various fields ranging from science and technology to literature and the arts. Indians continue to constitute a significant percentage of the student community internationally and act as brand ambassadors for brand India. Their work speaks volumes for the research and development environment in India and the technological development taking place in the country. International students prefer this dynamic environment and look forward to the opportunity of learning from all the work being done here. Right from biopharmaceutical companies like Biocon that are setting new milestones in research, world-class research institutes like IISc and TIFR, professional institutions like the various Indian Institutes and the groundbreaking work being done in music, literature and the arts India attracts International students with a thirst to learn for the innumerable learning opportunities it offers.

Be it the ancient cultural roots, a search for new and exciting grounds to explore, the opportunity to explore and learn its art, a chance to make a change at grass-root levels, the easy access, the quality on offer, the exposure or the cost, the truth is that more and more International students are choosing India as their educational destination. In any institution and university across the geography of the country, a significant presence from around the globe is being felt and there is a huge potential for knowledge and cultural exchange in the offing. These are Easterlies and Westerlies of a new kind and the winds of change are beginning to blow. It is for us to ensure more and more knowledge flies through across the borders and makes the globe a richer place.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The NMS Advantage: Integrative Learning And Thought Leadership

Having taken a look at the advantages that NMS’s model of education coupled with industry exposure and cultural/business contexts lends to the students, we now look at the approach that NMS has adopted towards learning and how it is looking at nurturing Thought Leadership among business leaders.

NMS believes in Integrative Learning that combines Functional Discipline, Industry Analysis and Country Study to offer participants the kind of exposure that is not otherwise possible in a typical management program. And that is exactly what we are trying to achieve through the design of the program at NMS.

NMS is also positioning itself as a Thought Leader by launching the WHITESPACE Executive Session Series for Senior and Middle management. This series includes seminars on a wide range of topics conducted by the NMS faculty. It is here that NMS leverages its intellectual capital and makes a perceivable difference to issues that are high on priority when it comes to the corporate agenda.

The whole idea at NMS is to let students Discover as much as they can during their association with NMS. And to leverage that learning innovate in business contexts in the future.

With International Collaboration, International Faculty, International Curriculum, and even International students in the classroom, NMS offers students truly global exposure and a global network; enabling them to add value in the global corporate context. NMS’s commitment to excellence in management education and to borderless knowledge ensures that International students have the dual advantage of feeling at home with the delivery model and yet being exposed to a strongly different cultural, economic and business scenario so as to maximize their learning. By inviting International students to be part of the NMS experience we extend that commitment to students across the globe and enable them to be part of a dynamic and diverse student community that will define the future of business.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The NMS Advantage: Learning Across Contexts And Cultures

Continuing our series where we take a look at the NMS advantage and the NMS edge for students entering the world of management education, today we focus on the differentiating factor that NMS provides by combining global education with an Indian context.

At present, 8 Indian companies figure in the Fortune 500 list and many more are seen as global players when it comes to their respective areas of expertise. While they are in a position to compete with the best in the world, the cultural and people context with which they were built is starkly different from a lot of companies in the West. And that difference is seen at the level of daily operations as well. Owing to NMS’s collaboration with many of these Indian companies, International students have a chance to observe the Indian approach to business and learn from these contexts. This knowledge, coupled with the exposure they receive back home, gives them a wide platform of business development contexts to work with.

NMS is located in the heart of the IT corridor in Chennai. It takes students right where the action is. And the student housing, which matches up to any international student housing facility, allows students to interact outside the classroom with their peers from across cultures.

With access to world-class education improving drastically over the years, the differentiator in the wake of globalization is created by how well future leaders understand and work with cultural contexts. And at NMS, students stand to gain exactly that by learning across contexts and cultures – diverse outlooks that make great leaders.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The NMS Advantage: A Truly Global Outlook

With an increasing influx of International Students in India for its cost-effective quality educational options, NMS is looking at supporting more and more International Students with their educational pursuits so they derive maximum value out of their experience. Over the next few days, let us look at the NMS advantage and the NMS edge for students entering the world of management education.

NMS offers American Education at Indian costs. What that translates to for our students is global exposure with faculty visiting from the US – almost all of them with a PhD from the US - at very reasonable costs. The program itself is designed after the MBA program in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University. It conforms to the standards of the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) standards - the highest accrediting body for management education in the world, ensuring absolute credibility and quality in the fundamental structure and design of each course. And the degree awarded at the end of the program, equivalent to that awarded by any university in the US, is co-signed by Deans of The National Management School and Georgia State University.

In addition, NMS offers the advantage of practical implementation of this acquired world-class knowledge to the Indian Business Context. At NMS, students are given the opportunity to interact with business leaders and be mentored by them. The CXO Panel at NMS comprises of senior executives from the industry, the government and NGOs. These CXOs spend ONE full day with these students during these 2 years. This way, students get a chance to work with leaders from a diverse set of businesses at various stages of evolution. And this combination lets students take their management education experience to a new level of synthesis.

Offered in two modes - a two-year full-time MBA and a two-year Professional MBA (on weekends for working executives), the program lends students a truly global outlook in their education.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Nobel Laureate's Vision Revisited At NMS

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.

- Rabindranath Tagore

Almost a century ago, Gurudev dedicated this beautiful verse to this country, his dream and his hope for this nation encompassed into lyrical magic. His work placed the erstwhile colony of India at the top in the world of literature by winning the Nobel Prize. And just as he had wished, the country did awake into a heaven of freedom three decades after.

It is such vision of a few great men that has made India what it is and all that it represents to the world. In every age, India has been blessed with visionaries who have single-handedly changed the face of this nation. And the 63rd Indian Independence Day is an apt occasion to take a moment and revisit NMS’s vision for itself.

At its core, NMS’s vision can be likened to what Gurudev envisioned for India, in entirety.

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high…

By adopting an innovative model of education that gives both the classroom and the industry equal time and importance, NMS aims at becoming that place where the mind is without fear and the head held high. NMS wants to empower our students to become generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy. We want our students to become global leaders who can lead from the front.

Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls…

With its collaboration with the Georgia and Temple Universities and its global faculty, NMS believes in breaking all walls and making management education truly global. NMS offers American education in India at Indian education costs and in doing so it makes global education easily accessible for Indians. Knowledge and know-how from across the world is now available for the brightest Indian minds to lap up. NMS will continue its endeavour in the coming years with an increasing spread across the globe and bringing that knowledge back home.

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

The faculty at NMS comprises of experts from the top US Universities. This ensures that the students get to absorb only knowledge that comes from the depths of experience. NMS also has access to numerous CXOs from diverse business backgrounds who are at the helm of their organizations and have the best feel for the industry trends. This combination of faculty and industry mentors enables the students to get the true picture of the trends and issues in their fields, and NMS will continue to offer this differentiating factor to its students in the years to come.

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action…

NMS’s model of education ensures that enough rigour is built into the course and the students have to go that extra mile when it comes to any aspect of their education. A schedule that seamlessly integrates classroom hours and industry time leading to simultaneous learning and application of concepts brings in a need for the students to keep their axes sharpened at all points in time. And NMS will continue to inculcate this edge in its students in the coming years and develop them into sharp business leaders.

With all of the above, NMS’s students will undoubtedly awaken in that heaven of freedom and confidence that will allow them to take on the world of business with the backing of a global education in the years to come. Here’s wishing them the best and wishing fellow countrymen on the occasion of Independence Day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Foreign Educational Institutions Bill – Misplaced Priorities

If we are to go by the noise created in the media about the bill for foreign educational Institutions, one would tend to believe that the bill has been passed and that we would be deluged by the entry of foreign Universities. Let me state here that both these are not true.

Only the cabinet has approved this bill so that it can be placed before the Parliament. Even if it is passed by the Parliament and becomes an Act, it is definitely not going to result in any decent number of foreign universities coming into India in the near future. This bill was earlier proposed during Arjun Singh’s tenure in 2007, a copy of which I have, and it is now being pushed through after 3 years with modifications. At this time, no one seems to have a copy of the bill and it is definitely not available on the MHRD website. So, I doubt whether any of the reporters in the media who have written about this bill has read it and I am sure that authors who have written editorials in various papers have not read the bill in its entirety and have only gone by the various news media reports.

The current MHRD minister Kapil Sibal has already got one bill ready—the National Commission for Higher Education and Research Bill of 2010 – which seeks to coordinate all forms of higher education including University education, technical and professional education other than agricultural and medical education. As part of this bill, the existing regulatory bodies and their respective Acts such as the UGC, AICTE and the NCTE are sought to be repealed. Therefore, while the status of local educational Institutions is unclear (especially with the void in the leadership of the AICTE), and while the Ministry is seeking to regulate all forms of higher education, the question arises as to why the Foreign University bill is being pushed through before the NCHER bill.

Why should there be a separate bill for Foreign Universities instead of handling them under the NCHER bill itself? More importantly, the FEI bill states that foreign educational institutions will have to eventually register themselves under the NCHER bill. So, without the NCHER bill being passed into an Act, the FEI bill, even if passed as an Act will not result in foreign universities entering India.

Now, let us focus on other aspects of the FEI bill. The FEI bill stipulates that a Foreign Education Provider shall ensure that it takes into account the cultural and linguistic sensitivities of the people of India; it appears from this that the Government fears that foreign education providers may “adversely affect the integrity of India”. Then the question arises as to how the Government has thus far allowed colleges to be set up by the Society of Jesus (or the Jesuit Society) which is an institution of foreign origin that sets up higher educational institutions all over the world. The Jesuit Society has set up the Xavier colleges, the XLRI and some of the best colleges in India; in fact, I myself am an alumnus of XLRI. So, if the Government has already allowed such a foreign institution without any fear, then why fear foreign Universities now? More importantly, if our Government fears that a particular foreign University will adversely affect our integrity, how would the Government prevent some of our students from going abroad and studying in those very same Universities.

Let us be clear: educational institutions will influence the way students think about issues. The current macro economic policies around the world are a result of the thinking that the University of Chicago or the MIT fostered very deliberately over the last century. Such Universities are in the midst of the “battle of the minds”. Our current crop of senior political leaders are also products of such Universities.

The bill states that at least 51% of the investment needed should be brought in by the foreign university. By stipulating that the foreign university should compulsorily bring in financial resources and being silent about the intellectual resources that are needed to be brought by them, our Government has placed more importance on the financial investment. This is the bane of our educational system which does not focus on the quality of intellectual resources.

Reinforcing this argument, the bill also stipulates that the foreign university should deposit Rs.50 crores (US$10million) in a fund. Instead the Government can insist on these foreign Universities bringing their non-Indian professors to the Indian branch, thereby improving the quality of faculty. We can insist that these foreign providers have 1 foreign faculty for every 10 local faculty; each tenured professor is worth about $1 million. We can insist that for every 10 local students, they bring in 1 foreign student so that our student environment can be more diverse, and enable a global learning environment. We can insist that these foreign universities offer programs at the bachelors, masters and doctoral levels rather than just one level that is financially lucrative. We can insist that these FEIs create a comprehensive University rather than start a single school, such as business management, which may be lucrative. Instead, this bill makes the process an FDI in education rather than a means to enhance the quality of education.

Some of our more liberal social policy influencers also have been proposing ideas that are detrimental to our educational system. One author in an editorial piece has written that an “important weakness of the Bill lies in the fact that it does not in any way restrict our students going abroad” to study, since now with foreign educational institutions being allowed to set up in India, we can save on foreign exchange. If the bill indeed provides for this, it will be the biggest blunder that we could make.

Our legislators can take a close look at how large reputed universities fund their operations. A typical large US university with about 40,000 students has an annual budget of about $4 billion, out of which only about one-third comes from tuition fee revenue and another one-third comes from the state funding and federal government grants. The balance one-third comes from endowments (what we call donations) from private individuals. Even, the so called private universities get state funding. If such is the profile of university funding in the US, and if we want such universities to come to India, is our Government willing to fund them? More importantly, where are our philanthropists who are willing to give such funds to an entity that they do not control?

There is a worry among existing local institutions that once foreign universities are allowed to operate in India, many good professors will desert our local institutions and be lured by the higher income that these foreign universities may offer. Therefore I feel that the time has come for our regulators to stop stifling our institutions with restrictions on the number of students that they can admit or the fees that they can charge. AICTE actually charges a huge fee for approving an increase in the number of seats for every unit of 60 seats!! By restricting scale or limiting fees arbitrarily with no concern for the costs of delivering good education, we have made our institutions unviable and hence the lower salary levels for our professors locally. In the process, we have made teaching an unattractive profession.

So, two things need to happen: one, we must stop restricting the foreign universities with such stipulations on scale or arbitrarily fixed low fees. Two, we must free our local institutions from such scale and fee restrictions as well.

The other worry is that our good students will desert our local institutions such as IITs or IIMs and join these FEIs. If we gave our country the choice of telecom providers (remember the days of DOT monopoly) or the choice of TV channels including HBO or the CNN (remember the days of Doordarshan monopoly), or the choice of Kinley or Aquafina (remember the days of municipal water supply) then why shouldn’t our students have similar choices in education?

Before we worry about the entry of foreign institutions, let us focus on getting our act together first. Once the NCHER Bill is passed with liberalized regulations, then we can apply the same to the foreign universities. Let us not discriminate. There is no need for a separate bill for FEIs.

However, before we provide for the entry of FEIs, our Government should clearly state what their objectives are for allowing FEIs into India and also ascertain what these FEIs intend achieving by entering India.

Finally, let me pose a challenge to the MHRD Minister. Show us at least half-a-dozen reputed foreign universities who are willing to enter India under the conditions that are proposed in the bill and then let us pass the Act. Otherwise, let us not waste the nation’s time.