Saturday, January 22, 2011

IITs propose to hike fees by five-fold

In a recent news by, there is a story that IITs have proposed to increase the fees for the UG degree course by five times. The proposal says that this will allow IITs to become independent of government funding and hence more autonomous. The committee headed by Dr. Kakodkar made this proposal to the government. The committee based its recommendations on the way IIMs charge fees in which, course-oriented degree programmes are financed completely by the students and research-oriented programmes are funded through various sources, like MHRD, DST, other government organisations and private industries.

But, how much justified is this? In another report, that appeared in the Times of India, the logic used was that one-third expenses should come from students, one-third from government and one-third generated through research projects. And there is a provision for extending low-interest loans to economically backward students. However, unlike foreign universities, where scholarships and tuition waiver are given to certain students, the committee doesn't make any mention of the same to students coming to IIT. Scholarships  in foreign universities are based on various criteria, ranging from academic excellence, sports excellence to ethnic origin. IITs already extend tuition waiver, free accommodation and free basic messing to students from the SC and ST category, irrespective of their economic status. Why don't they apply the economic backwardness criteria to these students?  If their parents are economically well to do, why should they be extended such privileges.  And there is nothing in store for meritorious students. Additionally, in foreign universities, the students have the opportunity to work on campus and earn some money to substitute their living expenses. The way IIT curriculum is designed today, it leaves the students with very less time to work and earn some money. Also, there exist no opportunities on IIT campuses, where students can be employed as part-timers. IITs, ironically, pride on the fact that their course structure is so intense that students have to over-work and under-sleep to stay on track.

Another point, the committee's report doesn't mention is the plan to increase revenues through research projects and technology licensing. Research projects, currently, are mainly available through government agencies like DST, DRDO, BRNS, etc. So, indirectly it is the government and tax-payer who are funding the research work. Contribution for research and consultancy projects through private industries is very low, when compared to the government sources. How do the IITs plan to change this scenario? Will there be an increase in contribution towards research from private firms and endowments? And, what about earning through technology licensing? How much do IITs currently earn through technology licensing? Will the committee set any reasonable revenue targets from technology licensing that IITs should aim to achieve?

And finally, IITs should reduce the stuff they dole out for free. Through its Centre for Distance Engineering Education Programme (CDEEP), IIT Bombay transmits its courses for free to institutes that are interested in beaming those to their students. Similarly, other IITs too have such distance education programmes. The question is, when IIT students pay fees to attend these courses, why should others view it for free? Why doesn't IIT charge them too for it? If financial autonomy is desired in running degree courses, then such free doling should be completely brought to a halt

To sum it up, costs of education have increased. But,the government has to play its role in keeping the cost incurred by students at a reasonable level. Schemes to bring in meritorious students should be there in place, in form on scholarships and not only low-interest loans. IITs can augment its earnings through other sources too, but there needs to be concrete planning to enhance those earnings. And finally, esteemed individuals and trusts in the Indian society should try and create endowments or chairs in IITs, rather than donating money to foreign universities. This would definitely attract some talent to the IITs.
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Awful terminologies used in IPL

IPL-4 is back with a bang. With the new rounds of "auctions" over, there is a need to ponder over the terms used to describe the transactions between the franchisees and players. In a previous post too, I have expressed concern over wrong or harsh terms being used to describe such transactions. In today's politically correct world, if I were to call an African-American a Negro I am bound to face the boos of the people. Coming closer to home, if I were to abuse a Dalit, I can be prosecuted. You cannot call people "disabled" but have to call them "differently abled". There would be a huge hue and cry in newspapers if the older terms are used.

And that is why I am surprised, about the continuing usage of inappropriate terms in the IPL. First of all, the formation of teams, is termed an "auction" and team owners have to "bid" for each player. The dictionary meaning of auction is "a public sale in which properties or items of merchandise are sold to the highest bidder". Now, are our revered players property or items of merchandise? In the olden days, when European colonialism was spreading its wings, they used to buy and sell slaves, especially native Africans in an auction, which used to be held in a public square. The winner of the auction used to then own these slaves who then had to behave as per their master's wishes. Do we want to project our players in this manner? That they are owned by the likes of Shilpa Shetty, Preity Zinta, Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, etc.!!

Now, look at the news that describes the outcomes of the "auction". Times of India reports:
Shah Rukh Khan was not present in person but his Kolkata Knight Riders, which had been reduced to an also-ran in the last two seasons, proved to be the big spender of the day by also buying hard-hitting all-rounders Yusuf Pathan (Rs 9.66 crore) and Jacques Kallis (Rs 5.06 crore) for the fourth edition of event to be held from April 8 to May 20.
Note those words in bold. Players were "bought" like pieces of artwork or antiques, to be displayed on the field and used to earn more money!! And, there were a few players "unsold" because none were interested in "buying" them.
But there were some surprise names in the unsold list with former India and KKR captain Sourav Ganguly, West Indies batting star Chris Gayle and the legendary Brian Lara failing to find a buyer. reports
Gautam Gambhir was sold for the highest price with Kolkata Knight Riders signing him for a massive $2.4 million.
And many more reports from the media might have reported the IPL "auctions" in a very similar manner. We continue to devour the IPL news without giving a second's thought to the terminology used. We, who worship Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Lakshman and many other cricketers, do not feel uncomfortable about them being "bought" or remaining "unsold". 

Softer terms can be used to describe the above transactions. Even the football leagues in Europe use such terminologies. E.g., a player is not bought but is signed on by a team. Similarly, a team doesn't sell a player, but he is transferred. And a player needn't be unsold but he can remain unsigned by any of the franchisees. This helps maintain the dignity of the profession and also stresses the fact that the players are anyone's slaves but have made available their talent to a particular franchisee at their own will. The auction itself needs to be redefined. Currently, I cannot find an appropriate word to replace it, but readers would be of great help, if they can help me find one.

These are finer nuances of the language, which if implemented convey a completely different meaning of the entire process. Remember Michaelangelo said, "Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle". That is how it is any language. But is there anybody listening? Are we concerned only about the sixers that will be rained in the IPL or also about whether the dignity of the cricket profession and the game is maintained?
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