Showing posts from March, 2013

The Illusive Innovation: Technology of Education

The technology revolution in education is one of those things: Forever so promising, the kind of thing consultants cling on but something that persistently under-delivers. Despite the promises that technology will change the world, only a minority of the students who are brave enough to try out technology-led education actually completes the course of study. Despite the predictions that technology will dramatically improve educational access, technology-led education helps supplement lifelong learning for college graduates, but do very little in shifting the landscape in terms of access. And, despite the expanding power of technology and improving infrastructure, technology-led courses remain a poor distant cousin to campus-based education. In fact, if anything, most educators wrote off technology as one of those fads. They still do, despite the buzz around the MOOCs. Some of this is about lazy comfort of somethings never change, or at least may only change slowly, such as people&

A Game of Mirrors

I try again to start. Life moves in circles as usual, and these are moments when I say - stop! These are strange moments when the past comes back to me, and as with a circular life, I see future at the same time.  I am not off the mark if I say I feel like standing in a hall of mirrors, where I feel like being in an endless passage, a passage to the future, built entirely of stories of the past. Once I start believing it, indeed, I feel weightless. All the baggage that I accumulated over the time, all the fears, all the emotions, fall away. I feel like staring firmly, solely, solemnly into possibilities. Just that, and nothing else - I feel creative. I am too restless to be anything. I am too much of a dreamer to make money. Or even stay. Or love or be loved. In this life of mirrors, illusions, dreams and words, my emotions are that of a constant journey, of movement and not of anchoring. And, this may reflexive, as people I loved and those who were my anchors, left. Since the

The Minimal University

The universities are grand things, or so they have come to be. The image of an university is constructed not just of manicured lawns and grand buildings, but also of an unhurried lifestyle and leisurely pursuit of sports or intellect or romantic interests. They embody, typically, privilege and power, and getting through the university and earning the credentials have been, and remains, the rite of passage into socially privileged realms. However, universities have been changing. They were changing as the societies change and knowledge work becomes more common: Suddenly, it was not just the diplomats and the bridge-building engineers who needed Higher Learning, but even a person who merely programmes a desktop computer and lives in a rented flat needed to attend university. The rhetoric of opportunity society, that one will have a fair shot at life's pleasures no matter where s/he comes from, also made universities central to democratic governance and public conversation: This

U-Aspire: Educating Global Managers

At the core of what we do at U-Aspire is about preparing Global Managers. 'Intensely Global' is what we want our graduates to be, so that their ambition, vision and practises are aligned to the possibilities and challenges of globalisation.  The term, globalisation, is indeed laden with value judgements. At one end, activists may see this an inexorable expansion of global capital, steamrolling the diversity and flattening the communities across the world. On the other end of the spectrum, there are flat world celebrators, people who see the undoing the curse of the Babel, the world unifying around the English language, and democracy with centrist parties who are hard to tell from each other. Either in its demonic conception or the dragon-slayer one, Globalisation evokes strong sentiments: It needs explanation if we are to put this down as the key graduate attribute of the U-Aspire education. The rise of 'Global' in our lexicon is somewhat curious, tied closely

Education Marketing: The Case for Change

Education Marketing is less about education and more about marketing. It stands almost external to the process of education, a discipline that seeks to import 'best practices' from famed marketers such as P&G, the guerrilla tricks of the trade, the manufactured love of relationship marketing, from consumer goods to education. The underlying belief is that educators don't market well and they need to take lessons from the more 'sophisticated' product and service companies, which have been marketing for scores of years. On the educators' side, some people are revolted by the practise of marketing. Particularly the people who studied or worked at the top institutions, which sit with centuries of well-earned reputation, can't really see the point: For them, education marketing is something for gate-crashers, the For-Profit pretenders. It is indeed true that For-Profits spend an unusual amount of money on sales and marketing: However, this is not just becaus

U-Aspire: A Report Card

It is always great to see something that one long imagined come together step by step, as if by magic. This is what is happening to UAspire: We talked about this for almost five years, but in last six weeks, of which the three weeks since my return from India were most dramatic, all the elements started coming together. Initially, when we were exploring raising money from private equity, we drew up a time line for this business. The plan was to raise significant investment by end of November 2012, and we projected to complete accreditation and all the elements to start delivering courses by end of March 2013: We were hoping to sign our first college partners by April 2013, and get our first students through the door by end of May.  The first part of this equation did not happen: After initial interest, private equity houses that we spoke to decided to hold back till we are a fully functional entity. This did indeed sap our spirits for a moment, but eventually we decided to boo

The Crest of Change: My Life in A Private College (Part 2)

The re-validation by the university, the event I signed off at in my last post, was a make or break event for the college. The university was rightly concerned about the lack of control mechanisms at the college, and the implications of the unfettered expansion. This gave me the opportunity to step in, primarily because the Owner needed someone who was outside the various power groups, to mediate between different groups: However, this was my opportunity to try to instill some discipline and create a small scale model. In the end, the re-validation was successful and the college was saved: This was primarily achieved through building of a new team of professionals and demonstrating to the university team that the college is serious and it has committed the resources to set things right. It was rather significant for me because it gave me a constituency in the college, a defined area of responsibility, which I did not have previously. It also allowed me to shape policy, at least at a bu

The Crest of Change: My Life in A Private College (Part I)

Between May 2010 and September 2012, that's little more than two years, I took on a job which was unlike anything I did before, or will ever again do: I chose to work for a mid-sized private college, offering professional and higher education in the City of London. This was unlike anything I have done before because, at the time I joined, the college was going through massive, even traumatic, change: I was brought in as a part of that change, and spent rest of my time trying to take advantage of the change to drive more change. I shall possibly never have to do the same things again, because, private colleges in Britain, at the time, was mostly proprietary, and small businesses in terms of sophistication and strategy, but was suddenly exposed to a massive market expansion due to the growth in demand in emerging markets: This was a combination of a rather immature enterprise into a fast-growing market, not a rare event, but one that usually occurs once in a while for a given indust

Dr Sugata Mitra at TED 2013

About Start Up Higher Education

These are lean times. Gone are those days when capital was plenty and start-up was glamorous: More so, when people believed in the ideas of an world constantly getting better. The start-up revolution has muddied the waters so that changing the world has become so commonplace that no one believes in it anymore. Besides, there is simply less to go around, with one funding cycle coming to an end and everyone has to do with a little bit less. So, lean is the buzzword: Getting started through bootstrapping is glamorous, even heroic. Getting paying customers from day one, rather than the fantastic business plans predicated on losing money for a decade, is more in vogue. Start-ups, therefore, are what they should be - a struggle for existence to prove that they fall in the fittest category. However, it is not as bad as it sounds. Because opportunities of disruption keep coming. Big incumbents keep getting sloppier and sloppier. Technologies change quickly, opening up opportunities that w

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