Showing posts from August, 2012

London Metropolitan University: UKBA's Moment of Truth

One would have considered the events surrounding the suspension of London Metropolitan University as a farce, if its tragic consequences were not so obvious. To recount the events, the University was visited by UKBA in March, subsequent to which its Tier 4 License, which allows the university to recruit students from outside the EU, was temporarily suspended on the 20th of July. The university was reportedly audited again in the first weeks of August, and then a report appeared in Sunday Times on the 26th August, quoting a leak and reporting that the license has now permanently been revoked. In a bizarre twist, then, on the 29th August, BBC reported that UKBA is yet to make a decision , while the university reported that they are inundated with hundreds of calls from worried students and their parents . Coming right in the middle of recruitment season, this is going to have a significant financial impact: The university says that it would potentially create a funding gap of over £10

London Metropolitan University: Lessons For Everyone

The Home Office has revoked the Tier 4 License of London Metropolitan University and branded it 'a threat to immigration control', Sunday Times reports . Here is an university always in the news. It got its entire board of governors sacked only a couple of years back. However, it was popular and highly visible. It was fined in successive years for over-recruitment. It was criticised for not changing, and then for trying to change too much, as a new Vice Chancellor and his team tried to turn the university around. No wonder some of the commentators are now labelling it a 'controversial' university. Thus far, it is simple: A faltering university fell foul of the regulators. Going by the report, it allowed students whose visas expired to attend classes. It did not report students who got visa and failed to show up to enrol. It did not properly assess the students' English. So on and so forth, a list of all-too predictable sins have already been laid out. C

All Change Please: International Student Mobility Today

The first ten years of this millennium saw globalisation of Higher Education at an unprecedented scale. The number of students opting to study abroad grew exponentially, mostly coming from the newly industrialised countries like India and China (they were the two big elephants in the room) to the popular destinations like United States, UK and Australia. This made good business - all the recipient countries led out red carpet and competed with each other, often fiercely, for market share. Higher Education exports, which roughly translates into how much money the sector brings to the economy from abroad, became the fifth or sixth largest (depending on what you count) in the UK: It attained a similar prominence in national policy making in other countries as well. While America, reeling under the impact of 9/11, global wars and the wave of social conservatism, remained a somewhat reluctant participant, it continued to draw maximum number of students because of its highly respected unive

The Case for Reinvention of India

India is an ancient land but a modern nation: The battle to define what it stands for is about to begin. It is common in the history of nations, such battles. Despite the lore, nations are neither perennial nor indispensable, it is only a rather modern construct to define the state with cultural traits and organise the society around it. India as a modern nation, which emerged sixty-five years ago out of a retreating British empire, was based on certain ideas grounded in the belief systems at the time of its creation: of a redeeming optimism at the end of great wars and at the beginning of the end of political imperialism, of the triumph for modern science and technology in beating back our Malthusian destiny and expanding our physical capabilities, and of the faith in human freedom. These lofty visions that defined India, and the nations born thereafter, had one crucial drawback: They were aspirational, and ignored the muddy realities of concocted nations emerging out of centurie

A Personal Note: On Finding Meaning At Work

I need a meta-theory to explain whatever happened in my professional life, as I reach another decision point, where, yet again, I have to do some explaining for what happened so far. When I narrate the story of my career, which is a sequence of several mini-careers, it appears like a dance than a journey, the usual metaphor most people would be comfortable with. I moved vertically, did things which seemed like going back on time, took risks commonly deemed unacceptable, and mostly lived on the brink. I may have achieved too little, reached the right place often too early, and preached, to those who cared, a view too antiquated. Someone, who was my Line Manager for several years, told me that I was the most intelligent person she ever worked with, but I should be mindful that intelligence is a double-edged sword: The wisdom of her words is beginning to dawn on me only now. There is one easy explanation of my relationship with work: That I sought meaning. I was motivated by the stor

Higher and Lower Education

The Promise of College Education Being middle class means, among other things, aspiring to go to college and having a white collar job of some description in the end. While millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America follow this dream, in the West, there is a different reality: Middle class jobs are disappearing. They are mostly moving down the ladder, reduced to irrelevance by the rise of clever machines. The solid certainty, the ethic of working for a retirement, alongside a clear vision of what life would be like thirty years on, are all fragments of nostalgia. Regardless of aspirations, middle class lives and jobs are disappearing all over the world. If middle class life is to change, the educational ideals must do so too. This is a debate whether the College-for-Jobs myth should be propagated any further and whether time has come to reshape the modern higher education all over again. The Hangover of The Fifties We have come a long way from the Fifties, the age of opt

Education Business: The Need for Patient Capital

In my quest to get a technology-led global education network off the ground, I have now made several iterations of the business plan, made several presentations and attended scores of meetings, some with some success. Indeed, the ideas that I started with changed somewhat: However, that hurts no one as they have only become better, more road worthy, if anything. After several months of doing this, I feel more wedded to the process than I ever was. But I still I have one reservation which I have to deal with before we end signing up with anyone. It is that to build an institution of any value, one needs what the silicon valley types will call 'patient capital'. My interactions with venture capital industry have told me a very different story than what I initially signed up to. It is fair to say that the structure of the venture capital industry may have changed since the heady days of dotcom, indeed because of that; it has become more interested in traction and tried and te

Making Knowledge Count

Yesterday, for me, was a day of fascinating conversations, particularly on the state of Higher Education in India. This is with two senior executives from an Indian Higher Education institution. We talked about a number of things, including the changing mindset in India and the the regulatory regime, as well as the possibilities, and pitfalls, of collaborating with British and American institutions. For me, forever an enthusiast of global education, it was insightful, if dispiriting, discussion. Importantly, it gave me yet again a clear sense of the private higher education space in India. We agreed on most things, except one perhaps, and that is the role and importance of knowledge in Higher Education. The Indian Educators were quite clear: Knowledge is no longer important. Commercially, they did not think it made sense, as the students don't care about knowledge: They want the degree, as easily as they can. The parents don't care what the students are learning, they said

Suspension of London Metropolitan University: Has UK Border Agency overrreached its mandate?

London Metropolitan University, one of the bigger and popular universities in London, had its license to recruit international students temporarily suspended on 20th July. This is a result of an audit of the university's management of its international students, reportedly carried out last March by UK Border Agency. The university has now disappeared from the UKBA's sponsors' list, despite reassurances that a follow-up audit has already been carried out, and the university would be reinstated 'next week'. The chat forums are now abuzz with students complaining, and being right in the middle of the recruitment season, this is bound to hit the university, and the international students who opted to come to it, quite hard. For UK Border Agency (UKBA), it may indeed be a case of over-reaching its mandate. Let's be clear: The rationale behind the current, tough visa regime was to weed out 'bogus colleges'. No one denies the fact that there was widespread a

Foreign Higher Ed Institutions and India: Much Ado About Nothing?

There is widespread dismay among the British universities this week that the Indian government chose to delay the Foreign Education Providers' Bill yet again, as it failed to gain traction among the Indian MPs ( see story ). The disappointment is understandable: Despite the lure of 'Myanmar, Kurdistan, Vietnam and Brazil' (which John Fielden of Chems Consulting identified as more interesting markets, quoted in the Times Higher Education story), India remains the biggest and most accessible market for British universities, where they enjoy relative superiority over their American and Australian competitors in terms of affinity and cultural connections. Indeed, squeezed under twin pressures of changing funding regimes and impractical visa regulations, most British universities have lost their business models and staring into the abyss: De-regulation in India would have brought some cheer and optimism in this gloomy climate, which proved not to be.  However, se

The Asian Pivot

This is a bit of Washington-speak I picked up from watching the news: It basically means that the American strategy for world dominion, shall we say world peace, have changed its focus to Asia. The Cold War is well and truly over, and despite its vast nuclear arsenal and apparent ambitions, Russia is no longer considered a threat. The American military personnel and arsenal would now shift to Asia, particularly East Asia, where the Chinese presents the biggest threat to the current world order, one of American hegemony. Or, at least that's the plan.  Indeed, despite the professed Asian pivot, very little has actually happened on the ground. The United States has started withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Europe, but they have mostly gone home. The American military may have the biggest budget in the world, but they may have been over-reaching, not in terms of technology or military prowess, but in terms of willingness to engage all over the world and to b

Freedom's Dusk: India at 65

This morning will bring unfurling of flags, marching troops, speeches, families sitting around television, Facebook messages announcing unending love for India by Indians living all over the world, special issues and new pledges: This is India's 65th Independence Day. Our relatively new country has now come of age, the freedom's generation has truly passed: The country has now been handed over to a generation who never had to toil to earn the freedom. For most of them, as for me, 15th August is a holiday, a day to celebrate and cheer for, but mostly to sit at home and do nothing, a reminder may be of great events but something I did not have to work for. This generation, therefore, will have to invent India all over again, one on their own image and imagination, as the nation we knew in the past is slowly fading away with the liberation generation. It is our turn, a responsibility - to define the country anew. To start with, we may have to recognise that India is an experi

Fear and Loathing in British Higher Education: Pearson Enters The Market

If one has to put markers to trace the rapid change in the British Higher Education space, some watershed events will stand out:  First, on 26th July 2010, it was announced that BPP University College of Professional Studies, a For Profit institution which was taken over by the US-based Apollo Group only a year earlier (August 2009), will be granted degree granting power, a first for private sector in nearly 30 years. This led to fierce criticism from the Public Sector Universities and Teachers' Unions alike, who criticised that this amounts to a foreign, albeit American, invasion of British Higher Education, which will lower standards and dumb down student experience. BPP came with a history of Professional Education, primarily in Law and Accounting, and there was resentment about blurring of boundaries between these disciplines and the walled garden of Higher Education, a preserve of the pure. Then, in June 2011, A C Grayling, a prominent philosopher and atheist, announc

Changing Face of the British For-Profit Higher Education

In the last 18 months, the structure of the British For-Profit Higher Education has changed completely, and there is more to come. First, the Government went about culling the British For-Profit Higher Education sector with a set of sweeping changes affecting their overseas student market; these changes have been largely successful in closing down most of these colleges, and only those which had very deep overseas connections, most commonly with the owner's country of origin, or well-cultivated relationships with their university partners, have survived. Next, the Government changed the funding regime for all British universities, making the funding follow the students rather than grants to the institutions, and this has opened up an opportunity of public funding for private For-Profit institutions, the same kinds which saw their overseas market disappear in 2011. And, finally, a set of new legislation allow even relatively small colleges, with only about 1000 students on roll, to

A College in India: My Next Steps

If there is one thing I truly want to do, it is to build a college in India offering access to global education to Indian school leavers. Having studied in India and in the UK, and having spent a few years trying to understand the systems of Higher Education in various countries, I am convinced about the need to develop Global/Local offerings for young people, who have to live and work in a world very different from our own. And, with 5 million more people going to college by 2015, India is the place where this demand will be most acute, and if it is not met, the human wastage most devastating. Writing about my future plans in December 2009, I wanted to do three things: Do something hands on, get knowledge and experience in Higher Education sector and go back to India by December 2012. I have done the first two things, and though I acknowledge that it is unlikely that I shall pack my bags and return to India in the next few months, this is something I truly want to do and may actu

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