Showing posts from 2023

Chronicles of a search: Reflecting on 2023

I have learnt a lot in 2023 and want to put that learning to use in 2024. Chiefly, I have tested and clarified some ideas I have had. I got involved in Higher Education somewhat accidentally. Mine did not follow the career paths of my colleagues - a graduate degree leading to a university job - but rather an unsual one: A technical job leading to a career in professional trainining, which in turn led to recruitment (I worked in healthcare and technology recruitment for almost four years), which, in turn, got me curious about what colleges do. Because of this background, I did not start in any academic role or even an administrative one, but was recruited for transforming an institution trying to figure out the linkage to employment. Everything else, including teaching and curriculum development work, came thereafter. Therefore, while I have now spent over twelve years dealing with details of academic planning and administration, my peculiar experience focused me on transformation of ac

Chronicles of a search: Finding my calling

As the year approaches its end, I am travelling around in Europe by train. The apparent pointlessness of my everyday life is pretty obvious from the distance. The usual vocabulary - revenue, valuation, strategy etc. - appears lame from this vantage point. Walking through cathedrals and works of art that stood for centuries, one can see the boardroom pretentions are empty, just speculators speaking to one another. I don't know how I got ensnared in this game, but it was surely a mistake. I never intended to be a 'founder' because I find the idea of founding something for the sake of exiting utterly contradictory and ridiculous. I have more respect for the shopkeeper who toils away her days to keep food on the table than the humbug to fuel a bubble economy with lies and bluster.  Fortunately for me, this party is coming to an end. It was never meant to be serious in this particular case: I didn't think anyone really believed in what we were trying to do and therefore, we

Chronicles of a search: Starting from Prague

New years are for new beginnings, and I am readying myself for one. I have lost my way. Comfort had me, somewhat. Despite all my fear of comfort zones, I became too comfortable with what I was doing. And I haven't moved forward in a while. Hence, a full reset is necessary. I have to break away from the slot I got onto. Part intentionally, because I lacked the energy, but partly because I am bored playing the small game. To sit and watch the world go by is painful. Being limited by the neocolonial international higher education more so.  I came to Prague to start the journey. The next chapter of my life would be a lot of Europe and a lot less India. I am looking to revive my pre-Covid project of moving to Spain, though I don't have a definitive project in hand. It could be anywhere now, anywhere in Europe, including Malta. In fact, Malta is a leading candidate for me as it speaks English and I am getting to know Education Malta well. And so will be Germany, though the news today

Chronicles of a search: What's moral?

I am lately in the question of morality. I almost know that it doesn't matter. History tells us clearly that the sense of morality is historical (what was right in one age, was wrong in another) and mostly relative (based on the person's station in society and context). Yet, a sense of morality is the bedrock on which our certainties about life stands: If there is no right or wrong, it is almost impossible to make the choices one has to make all day, everyday. My problem, therefore, is not that moral sense is pointless, but the unsettling question that I have the wrong sense of morals. I have always maintained a level of integrity at work, and a level of transparency in personal life. For example, I tried to be dutiful and consistent, respectful towards others, democratic in disposition and never greedy or envious. In personal life, I believed that the transparency of emotions will keep me honest: Even when I am making a mistake and don't know it, being open about what I am

Chronicles of a search: Becoming

We are the stories we tell about ourselves. I am one of those writers in search of a story. That story has not appeared, yet. But I am always crafting one. In this, it is not the start that confounds me. It has already begun - I am in it! The reason I have never written because I can not end it.  Because I lack courage. Around me, so many stories begin and end everyday. In fact, I also see beginnings are endings too. But I still can't write about it. Happily-ever-after is cliché, death or departure is beyond contemplation, something dramatic is too unreal! In that sense, I live in the precipice of the story, that kind of safe bourgeois existence where nothing really should happen. Therefore, I am just going from chapter to chapter. But the script is becoming quite predictable now. Characters seem to be desperate for something to happen now. The narrative is becoming one of those overextended TV series whose writers have run out of ideas. Something got to happen - and I am waiting.

Chronicles of a search: something got to change

I spend a lot of time speaking with educators. Most of these conversations are about two things: How the world is changing and how higher education does NOT need to change. The assumption is that there is an unmutable core of higher ed: Some type of transcendent purpose beyond the question of practical application and economic returns, beyond here and now, something that can not be or should not be measured. This is very hard to argue against. What kind of lowlife I would be to question an educator dedicated to building better lives?  But I usually leave with a question. If we want to improve lives, is getting the students to attend school and making them read textbooks the best way to do it? Besides, we don't even do it for free: We make them pay for the pleasure of becoming a better person and often their parents have to sell their land (or liquidate family savings) to be able to afford it.  For me, there is indeed an unchanging core of higher education - that to be able to take

Chronicles of a search: Building a model of enterprise education

I have been on the road for almost two months and now heading back to London. As I write this using the inflight wifi, I have a strange feeling: London is no longer home. It feels just like another stop in a much longer journey, the time for which may have come now. The last year was rather exceptional in my life. This time last year, two things happened. We were doing a little project, as consultants, preparing students for digital economy careers: We decided to showcase what we were doing at a conference in India. One thing led to another and suddenly, we were in the venture game, raising money etc. The project became a company and the goals fundamentally changed. I feel sad about that loss of innocence - there was once a time I could look forward to building things rather than being a part of the speculative world of venture finance! The other way my life fundamentally changed is that this time last year, we got to know that my father has pancreatic cancer and doesn't have long

Rethinking Higher Education: Five building blocks

It has been repeated so many times, it is now a cliché: Our next thirty years will not look like the last three decades! If anything, ever since the end of the Cold War, it was mostly peaceful, mostly prosperous for most of the world. However, One can clearly see that some of the building blocks of that world are shifting now and a new ideas environment is emerging. We don't have to be pessimists to know that the lives of our students would be very different from ours. If we are to design a higher education system today, many things must change. Particularly, there are five foundational assumptions behind how we think about Higher Education, which need rethinking. First, the idea of SMART - a version of the idea of general intelligence ('g')! We may talk about diversity and inclusion, but fundamentally, higher education and the idea of merit are closely linked. This comes from how we organise the school system, which attempts to separate students into academic and vocationa

The AI turn in education

  An AI turn In conversations about education these days, something about ChatGPT must be mentioned. Otherwise, the speaker appears out-of-date. Like the MOOCs a decade ago, everyone seems to have an opinion about it. Everyone thinks that this is going to change education beyond recognition. One can guess what happens next. This is what we saw with MOOCs; It was changing all education; shortly after that, it was not. Initially, everyone wanted to show off that they have heard about Coursera; in a few months, everyone wanted to sound smart by expressing concerns about the MOOC's low completion rates. There were even reasonable-sounding debates about whether completion is the right parameter to look at in the MOOC world. However, all this is ancient history. Today, if anyone brings up MOOCs, the eyes will roll and dropping pins will be heard. Its moment has come to pass! ChatGPT brings us to a similar moment, though it was adopted faster and therefore, opinions about it are more nume

Finding my calling

The last year was chaotic for me. My father passed away, and this resulted in a profound shift of perspective. For the first time in my life, I felt disconnected from India. I did not know before what India meant to me. Like other immigrants, I saw it as a source of nostalgia; and like others in International Education, I saw it as an economic opportunity. I wanted to go there once in a while, but did not want any of its dust and grime. My father's death made nostalgia a source of pain; the real life business engagements in India, which I am in the middle of, reminded me why I left the country in the first place. But, I forgot what India is really to me: My root! As I indulged in the mental drift away from India, a deep uprootedness took over.  I was oblivious to it, though. There were other things happening in my life. Somewhat contradictorily, I was discovering my romantic, twenty-something self all over again. I was able to write, first time in many years, and found beautiful fr

Private Higher Ed: The hidden sector

I switched my career to what I thought was Higher Ed (in reality, private training) about thirteen years ago and never stopped being fascinated about it. My fascination, however, is always about how little Higher Education sector knows about itself and wants to learn. A lot has changed in the last thirteen years though. About when I was getting started, a number of studies started coming out. This was also the time when private investor attention turned to Higher Ed and many 'ventures' were launched. Impacted by the global recession, public universities became more entrepreneurial. India started its rapid - and unplanned - expansion of the sector. New frontiers, Africa mainly, were opened and private Higher Ed moved in. Just predating it was the rapid expansion of International Education, which was driven by the growth of private sector. Soon, private Higher Ed, with its teaching focused, no-frills education, was out in the open.  Yet, when I defended my thesis on the sector se


It has been a while I blogged, but my life has completely changed during these couple of months. Overall, these changes have been positive. An idea that a colleague and I developed became a company by itself and received investment. We were pursuing this possibility for several months, but in the last twelve weeks or so, it actually happened.  The other change that happened is in my role. Given that we were working inside a larger business, I confined my role to innovation and product development, leaving the financial and revenue responsibilities to the owner of the business. However, this became untenable after the investment came through. There was a clear requirement of disconnecting from the other group businesses and necessity to have control of finance and operations aligned to the business goals of the entity itself. Therefore, when offered, I took on the CEO role, assuming, along with my thousand other things to do, the responsibility for money and investment.  In a way, this

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