Welcome to the ITBHU Chronicle, October 2009 Edition Reports Section.
Business of Knowledge
@ Oct 26, 2009
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(Another article by Devesh Kapur in Times of India)


Devesh Kapur6 November 2009, 12:00 am IST

While many disagree about how to fix Indian higher education, there is broad consensus that it is, to quote Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "in a state of disrepair". Most analyses put the blame squarely on the government's shoulders. Higher education has been deeply politicised and as one of the last bastions of the licence raj, lofty rhetoric has typically disguised egregious venal behaviour.

However, much less attention has been paid to the role of business interests in shaping the direction of Indian higher education. Availability of skilled labour is a critical input for all firms, and hence Indian business has an enormous self-interest in the functioning of this sector. One could argue that just as Indian firms have been forced to adapt to chronic infrastructure shortages and disadvantageous labour laws, they have also adapted to the weaknesses of the Indian higher education system.

A surrogate higher education system has evolved and, in particular, workforce skill development is occurring outside the traditional domestic university model - within firms, by commercial providers, overseas, through open-source/virtual learning and in narrow specialised institutions. Investment by Indian firms in an array of workforce skill development practices, including new employee training, continual instruction, performance appraisal systems and university partnerships, have all gone a long way towards improving the skills of their workforce. But these practices are confined to the large corporate sector, which both has the capability to undertake such initiatives and can internalise the costs.

Indian business is also involved in provision of higher education. Where business enterprises offer narrow professional skills, such as training in a computer language, this model has been somewhat successful. But the vast majority of private sector efforts involve the promotion of professional education in fields such as medicine, engineering and business management. These are ostensibly not-for-profit institutions set up as trusts or societies, yet they represent some of the worst aspects of crony capitalism in India, with politicians and business interests colluding to provide dubious education at inflated prices. Government policies have ensured that it is easier for such suppliers to enter higher education than for genuine philanthropists. Professional associations, even statutory ones like the BCI and MCI, have largely failed to regulate the quality of these institutions - a testimony to the failure of the professions to self-govern.

But while Indian business has been somewhat successful in securing its short-term interests by aggressively pursuing skill development programmes, it has shown a striking absence of any long-term strategic vision with regard to higher education. No world-class higher education institution anywhere in the world makes profits. Great universities produce knowledge - where knowledge is a public good. Consequently all such institutions require subsidies, whether through the government or private philanthropy. Despite rapidly increasing wealth within the Indian corporate sector, private philanthropy has had very little impact on higher education.

The commitment of Indian business to philanthropy in higher education was strong prior to independence and has dwindled ever since. Pre-independence, business interests not only made the transition from merchant charity to organised professional philanthropy, but did so in a significant way. They created some of India's most enduring trusts, foundations and public institutions, including the Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University, Jamia Millia, Annamalai and Indian Institute of Science. Of the 16 largest "non-religious" trusts set up during this period, 14 were major patrons of higher education.

Today, the so-called not-for-profit educational institutions do not engage in philanthropy. Their income comes from fees rather than endowments and investments. Thus even while the number of "trusts" set up for philanthropy in higher education has been steadily rising, the total share of "endowments and other sources" in higher education funding has been consistently falling - from 17 per cent in 1950 to less than 2 per cent today. Some of this decline is to be expected, as the government has expanded its role in higher education, yet the extent is remarkable. Furthermore, donors today are more likely to retain effective control over the resources they contribute.

But Indian business has much to explain for a more egregious failing: for the most part, it sees little value in research and even less in building quality institutions that produce good research. This is manifest most starkly in its unwillingness to fund even world-class think tanks, let alone an outstanding university. The reality is that most Indian business elites' children study abroad, not in India. The sad implication is that this reduces their stake in lending a badly needed voice to genuine higher education reform in India.

It is extraordinary how much energy and capital Indian corporate titans are willing to commit to summits, conclaves and the like, where photo opportunities and power-point presentations pass off as the epitome of deep thinking and real insight. Yet, for all the posturing by Indian business elites and their courting of universities in the West (especially in the US), the notion of Indian business coming together to fund research centres that produce knowledge and provide quality education accessible to all sections of society in India does not seem to be on the horizon.


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Starting Point Of Higher Education-by Devesh Kapur (Chemical 1983)
@ Oct 22, 2009
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(This Opinion article (first in a series) is published in Times of India by Devesh Kapur (Chemical 1983), who is director, Centre for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, US. He can be contacted at: dkapur@sas.upenn.edu)

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(Prof. Devesh Kapur)


Devesh Kapur17 October 2009, 12:00 am IST

Few issues are likely to have as crucial an impact on India's future as its ability to rapidly and significantly improve its human capital. Even though higher education is critical to this goal, few policy areas have been as politicised or poorly executed. I begin by addressing the lack of clarity in thinking about the fundamental underlying question: What are the goals of Indian higher education? Appropriateness of public policy, after all, depends on the aims being pursued.

All societies wrestle with the "proper" role of higher education. Is the intention to train people to enter the labour force, or to prepare them to be easily trainable by their employers? If the former, then one might emphasise professional education; if the latter, then an education that develops analytical and critical thinking skills would be more desirable. Should the emphasis be primarily on developing skills, disseminating knowledge or creating new knowledge? Is an important goal the creation of a middle class, or a society with greater social mobility? Is it to mould the minds of young people? If so, to what end? Do we seek to create better citizens or promote a stronger sense of nationhood?

The most discernible instrumental outcome of higher education is its links with and impact on labour markets. Let us say one of its key goals is to provide skills to a very large number of new entrants to the labour force. But then, should one invest in IITs or ITIs? Suppose we want to leverage the human capital resulting from investments in higher education to improve Indian health care. A supply chain of health care would require doctors, nurses and paramedics, pharmacists and lab technicians, hospital administrators and even accountants. If the goal then is better societal health outcomes, where should resources be directed? In India, investment in the human capital of nurses and paramedics might matter much more than specialist physicians, and in civil and environmental engineers who can ensure clean water and sanitation much more than the high-tech engineering behind MRIs. But what do we do? When we think of skills we are obsessed with IITs; when we think of health care we can scarcely think beyond doctors.

But suppose the priority were different: designing higher education to promote greater socio-economic mobility. Many underlying handicaps faced by students from lower socio-economic groups appear to occur much earlier in life. Indeed, they begin at the prenatal stage and are subsequently amplified by poor health care in early childhood followed by poor education at the primary and secondary school level. Policies seeking to rectify these handicaps through affirmative action in higher education admissions, together with financial transfers in the form of scholarships, are undoubtedly important, but they are far too late and benefit only a privileged few. This is not a reason to discontinue these policies, but we must apply much greater energy and investment in earlier stages of individuals' lives for this goal to be achieved in any significant way.

What if the goal of higher education focused less on narrow instrumental benefits and instead on something fundamentally deeper but less discernible: shaping the sensibilities and values of citizens? Should policies have national integration as a goal, transforming universities into sites for creating a more cosmopolitan Indian identity out of multiple parochial identities across the country? That too might require a form of affirmative action but with a difference. Fifty years ago, even regional Indian universities had faculty from all over India. By contrast, faculty at most state universities today are locally recruited (often products of that university itself), and there is a virtual absence of mobility in faculty labour markets in the country. Apart from the nepotism and mediocrity that result from such in-breeding, state universities have failed to light the spark of a more cosmopolitan Indian sensibility and instead become petri dishes of parochialism. Should there be reservation policies to ensure greater representation of out-of-state faculty and students?

What if India could conceive of higher education in a more strategic sense, as an instrument of Indian foreign policy and "soft power"? A country with renowned universities is able not only to retain its own best and brightest, but also to attract talent from around the world, generating knowledge, wealth and influence. Would India then create tiny "islands of excellence", while allowing its broad-based universities to go to seed? Would it create universities catering to a narrow clientele, such as NRIs or the SAARC community, or broad-based institutions of learning open to all? Would it rather push its talented students to do their research in the best foreign universities, or instead invite these universities to flourish in India?

These broad aims are not mutually exclusive indeed there will always be multiple goals underlying higher education. But clarifying these goals and placing them within an overall vision of India's future that helps prioritise trade-offs is an essential first step if the country is to take advantage of its most important and expanding resource: its people.

The writer is director, Centre for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, US.


Additional Link:

* Biography of Devesh Kapur on UPenn website



Devesh Kapur - Professor, Director CASI and Madan Lal Sobti Associate Professor for the Study of Contemporary India

Phone: 898-1731

Email: dkapur@sas.upenn.eduThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Ph.D., Princeton University

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Devesh Kapur is Director CASI and Madan Lal Sobti Associate Professor for the Study of Contemporary India. His research examines local-global linkages in political and economic change in developing countries, particularly India, focusing on the role of domestic and international institutions and international migration. He is the coauthor of The World Bank: Its First Half Century (with John Lewis and Richard Webb, Brookings); Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World (with John McHale, Center for Global Development) and Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design (coedited with Pratap Mehta, Oxford University Press). He has a B. Tech and M.S. in chemical engineering and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Princeton University. He received the Joseph R. Levenson Teaching Prize, Harvard College, in 2005.

* Devesh Kapur takes over helm of UPenn's India study centre



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IIT Conversion news update
@ Oct 26, 2009
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Parliament's winter session to start from November 19


New Delhi, Oct 21 Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal on Wednesday said that Parliament's winter session will start from November 19 and will end on December 22, having 24 sittings in all.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday took the decision to this effect.

Both the government and the opposition at the end of the budget session this year had favoured at least 100 sittings of Parliament in a year and the winter session to be a six-week affair.

Normally, the winter session lasts for four weeks beginning in the last week of November and ending just ahead Christmas. (ANI)


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Program for 4th International BHU Alumni Meet (IBAM 2009) and International Seminar on "Higher Education: Global Perspective and Indian Vision"
@ Oct 22, 2009
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(The information is provided by Ms. Padmini Ravindranath, BHU Alumni Cell. Email: padmini_1109@hotmail.com).

The 4th International BHU Alumni Meet is planned on Dec. 25-27, 2009 on BHU campus.

The meet will be called 4th International BHU Alumni Meet (IBAM 2009). This Meet will be held in association with the Mahamana Malaviya Mission.

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Registration for the Meet:           December 15, 2009

Submission of abstract       :           October     30, 2009

Submission of full paper    :           December 10, 2009


For registration and payment details for IBAM 2009 meet, please visit BHU Alumni Cell website at: www.bhu.ac.in (at Alumni Cell).



Friday, December 25, 2009

Venue: Swatantrata Bhawan, B.H.U.


Registration and Breakfast for Delegates of IBAM 2009

8.30 AM-10.00 AM


Inauguration of Faculty Exhibition

10.00 AM


Inaugural Session

10.10 AM-12.30 PM



12.30 PM-12.45 PM


Technical Session I (Documentary on Mahamana)

12.45 PM-1.45 PM



1.45 PM-2.30 PM


Keynote Addresses on

(a) Higher Education: Global Perspective and Indian Vision

(b) Sustainability: Global Perspective and Indian Vision  


2.30 PM-3.30 PM

3.30 PM-4.30 PM



4.30 PM-5.00 PM


Malaviya Deepawali (Malaviya Bhawan)

5.30 PM-6.00 PM


Cultural Programme (Swatantrata Bhawan)

6.15 PM-8.15 PM



8.15 PM

 Saturday, December 26, 2009

Venue: Swatantrata Bhawan, B.H.U.



8.00 AM


Technical Session II

9.00 AM-10.30 AM



10.30 AM-10.45 AM


Technical Session III

10.45 AM-12.00 Noon


Technical Session IV

12.00 Noon-1.30 PM



1.30 PM-2.30 PM


Technical Session V

2.30 PM-4.00 PM



4.00 PM-4.15 PM


Valedictory Session

4.15 PM-5.30 PM


Valedictory Tea

5.30 PM-6.00 PM


Invited Performance by Padmashri Geeta Chandran Ji

6.00 PM



8.00 PM

Sunday, December 27, 2009                                                                                            


Breakfast (at Swatantrata Bhawan)

8.00 AM


Alumni Meet and Academic Programmes in the Institutes/Faculties


Note: Arrangements for lunch will be made for our delegates at Swatantrata Bhawan between 1.30 PM and 2.30 PM


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