Monday, February 23, 2009

Deemed universities: proposed UGC plan

Dr J D Bapat

According to the draft regulations prepared by the University Grants Commission (UGC), that august body will have the power to fix a uniform fee structure for all deemed universities, besides overseeing a centralised admission process, which will determine student intake at these universities.

The status of 'deemed university' granted to some private institutions gives them a measure of autonomy in running their affairs, on the principle that an institution can attain excellence, only if administrators are given a free hand in running it. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC), that was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to suggest ways in which India can take advantage of the 21st century knowledge economy, has said that the present regulatory system is a formidable barrier to the expansion of higher education.

All the institutions, whether private or public, may not attain the giddy heights of excellence the moment they are allowed flexibility in determining their students, faculty, syllabi, fees and cost structures including remuneration paid to faculty and staff. But at least they have a chance of doing so and those that don’t will weed themselves out by attracting fewer students. When demand gets to match supply, the cost of higher education will fall as well.

Give your comments on the proposed UGC plan for the deemed universities

Deemed universities: some suggestions

Dr J D Bapat

One can understand that the Government has a social agenda to fulfill. However to fix uniform fee structure for all deemed universities will not be appropriate. The fee structure of an educational institution must have a relation with what the institution spends on the academic development, namely laboratories, staff salary and welfare, students projects, teaching aids, computers, library and so on. In some States, the Shikshan Shulka Samiti appointed by the Government carries out this task. A similar body established at the Central Government level can do the job. In that case, the fee chargeable by an educational institution will be proportional to what the institution spends on the academic development. The Government should also ensure easy availability of the educational loans through banks.

Besides the faculty and the infrastructure, good students are essential to build a good institution. Centralised admission process is good, provided the transparency and the quality standards are maintained.

It should be noted that the academic autonomy is the key to quality education. Excessive controls will only paralyse the development of higher education in the country.

Comment whether should the fees in the educational institutions be related to their expenditure on the academic development activities.

Deemed universities: bad examples

Dr J D Bapat

The UGC was perhaps prompted to increase the controls looking at the bad examples of the deemed universities in the country. The practices commonly observed in some badly managed deemed universities in the country are as follows:
- stage-managed written tests
- heavy donations
- gross lack of faculty. For example, the university awards Ph D but does not have adequate faculty with doctoral degree in its institutions.
- poor quality teaching
- rampant corruption in the system of examination and evaluation
- siphoning of money collected through fees towards non-academic activities
- absence of research by the faculty and lack of research facilities

Suggest ways to prevent malpractices in the educational institutions

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Common Entrance Test (CET):

Consequent upon the Supreme Court of India, the State Governments are conducting Common Entrance Tests (CET), mandatory to seek admissions to the higher education degree courses in all health sciences, engineering and pharmacy. The idea behind the Supreme Court ruling was to give a level playing field to students coming from different parts of the state to seek admissions for degree courses in the institutions of higher education. In the State of Maharashtra alone, to site an example, in the year 2008, there were 71,691 engineering seats and 3,685 medical seats were available to the students. Large number of students appeared for the CET. However over the years it is seen that CET is not serving its purpose.

The Tamil Nadu Government has already passed an order scrapping the CET in that state, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court and is pending a ruling. The Karnataka government too has initiated steps to scrap the CET

It should be noted that a similar entrance test, namely All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE), is also conducted at the national level and the students in large number appear for examination also.

Common Entrance Test: where is the catch ?

Considering that there is no negative marking, students often try to maximise their scores by maximising the number of attempts. This is where the catch lies.

200 questions to be solved in 150 minutes with no negative marking! That's what the CET written test is all about. If you wish to attempt all the questions, you can afford only 45 seconds for each. Essentially, 'speed' is very important. Keeping this in mind, it is advisable to have an eye on the time. If, after spending a whole minute, you are unable to arrive at the solution, it is better to move on rather than getting stuck on that particular question. Further time spent on the question can be used more fruitfully elsewhere.

For the past few years there have consistently been 30 questions on Visual Reasoning. This is an area where you will either spot the answer immediately or end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out the pattern of movement. Again remember to time yourself while attempting the paper as Visual Reasoning is an area, where many students get stuck.

While preparing for the CET, students often forget that reasoning questions form a major chunk of the paper. CET 2008 had around 105 questions on Reasoning, while the balance 95 questions were on Maths, Data Interpretation and English. You need to balance your preparation to crack the CET. Focusing only on Math or only on English will not help in cracking the paper.

Source: Research Team, Career Launcher India Ltd, through

Karnataka pattern:

There is a general demand from the students and the parents to improve the transparency in conducting the CET. The example is cited of the Karnataka Pattern. In Karnataka State, separate CET are conducted by the Government and the managements of the private educational institutions. All formalities, starting from filling of the form onwards, are carried out online. The final admission cards can also be downloaded from the website. The most important aspect is the student gets the Question Paper and the Answer Book written by him, soon after the examination. The model answers are declared on the website. Thus the candidate can estimate the number of marks he is likely to get. Similar system is also in operation in the State of Kerala. If the Karnataka example is followed by the other states, that will improve transparency and remove confusion and instill confidence in the examination system.

Common Entrance Test: an Argument for Discontinuation

It is argued that the CET has not served its purpose. Some State Governments have initiated action to discontinue it. The main aspects against the CET are as follows:

(a) Declining importance of the higher secondary certificate (HSC, std XII) examination. It is seen that the students do not pay much attention to seeking good grades in the HSC examination, unlike in the past, when the admissions to the degree courses were given solely on the basis of HSC marks.

(b) Private coaching classes benefiting out of the CET

(c) The utility of multiple choice objective questions vis-à-vis essay type questions, for testing real knowledge. In the HSC examination, the evaluation is based mainly on the essay type answers.

(d) The students are burdened with an extra examination.

(e) Huge disparity between urban and rural students; urban students manage to score better in CET.

Give your orgument on continuation or discontinuation of the common entrance test