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Showing posts from September, 2012

Breakpoint: Endings and Beginnings

I am at the endpoint, as I should be. Only a few hours to go before a phase in my life ends and another begins. Despite the thrills of the new beginning, it is the sadness of the ending that dominates my thinking at this time. Yet, endings are inescapable and often, as now, desirable, and a matter of entirely my own choice. 
John Lasseter, the Pixar maestro, ascribes all of studio's success to one simple principle: It's gotta be about how the main character changes for the better. Regarding my various endings and beginnings in life, I keep asking the same question: Did it leave me a better person? This ending passes this Pixar test. This is one episodic tale where I really changed things, dramatically and significantly, and transformed the whole proposition. But, more importantly, in so doing, the work changed me - for better. 
It has something to do with the many wonderful people I worked with. I have always held the view that everyone has a gift: But the college being what …

Breakpoint: Making The Transition

I have finally left the college I was working for, after two and half years, and now setting myself up again for a new venture. My life hasn't changed much yet - I shall go out Monday morning and turn up in office - but next Friday being my last day in this job, I am not doing anything significant anymore. The last week is always awkward, a time to say goodbye and to write emails, to take stock and to look at all the relationships and think which ones are worth preserving, all the while preparing to start something new.
As always, I am looking forward to the next phase now. That is surely going to be exciting, though in no sense restful. It comes in good time. Two and half years back, when I took this job, I was tired of travelling and wanted to have a stable life. However, now having done this for a while, I am now tired of the predictable trains and the usual office work. Still, I feel happy about what I have achieved, a complete turnaround in delivery efficacy and value system…

On For-Profits in Higher Education

For-Profits in Higher Education generate strong emotions, somewhat unjustly so. They are portrayed as money-grabbing student-cheating scams, and while there are cases where this is indeed true, For-Profit can innovate and deliver good education. In this day and age when the usual publicly funded model is coming under pressure, both because of availability of money but also as higher education is coming to be seen as a private good, For-Profits is a model one has to indeed consider. It is in the interest of the wider society, as well as Education Entrepreneurs, to have a honest debate about profits in Higher Education, or more specifically, on how much is enough.
Indeed, most countries mandate that while they like private investment in education, they like it to be in Not-for-Profit form. It is possible to argue against the absurdity of prescribing philanthropy: However, it is plain to see that such regulations only attract entrepreneurs who cut corners and set up Not-for-Profit form …

Going Global: Ideas for A New Education

Our contexts are global already, and with every passing day, it will be more and more global. This is irreversible: The Information and Communication Technologies, the cheap travel, the global movements of capital, all point to the same direction. However, I say this with sadness, as I mourn the passing of the local, the familiar and the native; I am not a cheerleader of the march of the flat world. Rather, I am deeply foreign, a person from the periphery rather than the centre, and my world and upbringing are full of special things that will need preserving. But I say this as a statement of fact, something that is happening in front of us, and with foreboding, because if we live in denial, we get marginalised.
If this isn't a celebration of globalism, I am not complaining either. It is not just that global reach of technologies and global reach of money has suddenly ripped open the treasure trove of my childhood land; I see globalism as an inherent tendency, an inescapable futur…

UK For-Profit Higher Ed: The 'Home Market' Opportunity

The 'Home Market' opportunity is the buzzword in the For-Profit Higher Ed in the UK, not just for the colleges themselves but for the Private Equity houses that chase them. There is a sense of fatalism here: The 'Home Market' is at the fore because there may be no other market available. The big overseas market which sustained private Higher Education in Britain for the last three decades is all but shut out, given the cavalier attitude of the UK Border Agency. They have done everything they can to indicate that British Higher Ed is closed for business and overseas students are not welcome here. This leaves UK Higher Education in general, but For Profit Higher Ed in particular, without an option but to focus solely on the 'Home Market'.
Except, that no one really figured out how the Home Market looks like. There is a fairly simplistic assumption underlying the Home Market proposition, which may turn out to be false. The underlying idea behind this talk is that…

Saving History: Note on the Long Tail of Education

History, and alongside it, Philosophy, Sociology and Literature, are lucky: They may be saved from extinction.
It did seem, at one point, that these disciplines, whatever their importance, are irretrievably consigned to the past. They have become 'trivialized' - knowledge that no longer matters! People were writing defences for them. The ascendancy of professions, and technology, and the mass conversion to education for private benefit and the application of commercial principles in provision of education, both in public and private spheres ('does-this-make-money' principle), meant the disciplines such as history will be reduced to margins, not suitable for the smart, the ambitious and the academically able. 
However ludicrous that may sound, it was indeed turning out to be that way. In India, the sunshine state of Andhra Pradesh in the 1990s, at the time when Bill Gates and Bill Clinton paid a visit and praised the technocratic administration of the state, and shiny …

India: Gambling For The Future

India is burning! Somewhat - or, so it seems on Facebook. But then India is rarely stirred, given the gravitas of our culture, our indifference to the shocks and flavours of the day. Irrespective of what the Facebook chatteretti says, life will go on in India: At least, that's what the Government hopes at this time.
In a way, the Indian cabinet has done well. Within 24 hours, they have broken through the shackles they found themselves into in the era of coalition politics and thrown the gauntlet back to various demagogues and populist politicians, who, despite being in the coalition and in the government, continued to behave as the opposition, trying to benefit from both sides.
In a way, these moves were expected. Indian government, and particularly its Prime Minister, was being lampooned in the world media for their inability to get anything done. The story of India's government for last few years have been the story of endless corruption, and nothing else. This was dangerou…

Breakpoint: An Update on My Life

Start up or not to start up, is indeed the critical question. Having now spent almost three years working in and studying about Private Higher Education in the UK, I feel ready to launch my idea of technology-led higher learning network; what is holding me back is the issues related to capital raising and how the things should be structured.
My primary interest is indeed institution building, so ownership issues are somewhat a distraction. However, for the last one year, I have been advised, quite rightly, not to plan to do a start-up, but rather align the whole project with an existing entity. The rationale is straightforward: The project is too ambitious, too complex and may require a large seed capital, and therefore dissuade investors from backing a start-up. This led me to reformat our efforts and sent us on a wild goose chase of finding a suitable platform, the reassurance of a brick-and-mortar college, which, it seemed, most investors are in the look out for. This meant compro…

New Partnerships for Transnational Education

David Willetts, the UK Universities Minister, advised its universities to go overseas in search of students. (EducationInvestor, 17th May 2012) Whether he, like his other colleagues in Government, seems to think that Britain is besieged by student migrants, or this is a statement of exasperation and frustrated acknowledgement that the current immigration policies will drive away the international students, is a matter of conjecture. He may draw comfort from the available data, which showed that in 2011, the 5% growth in the number of students coming to UK (total number 428,225) was far outstripped by a 23% growth in the number of students studying overseas for a British degree (total number 503,795), and particularly in programmes delivered through partner organisations (a growth of 40%) [Source: UKCISA]. He may also point to various experiments in overseas campuses, the most celebrated being by the University of Nottingham's China campus, which, beyond its symbolic value, was un…

On the Economics of UK For-Profit Higher Education

The debate about For-Profit Higher Education is reaching a fever pitch in the UK. On one side, the Pro-Choice group, the predictable band of private equity, businesses, and politicians, the latter group being committed to a corporate state and reduction of public expenditure in Higher Education, at least in the medium term. On the other, the Pro-Life-as-usual group, the disaffected public sector teachers' unions (University and College Union, or the UCU), and most public universities, who are wholly unprepared for a competitive marketplace. Predictably, as is the spirit of the age, the rhetoric of choice is trumping the pleadings for status quo: By making this a battle for privilege and perks, the UCU has dealt themselves a losing hand. There is very little research and understanding on how For-Profits work (despite a large body of literature from across the Atlantic and other countries) among the ranks of the Public Sector universities. This is the context of setting out this sk…

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