Interview with AICTE Chairman- Dr SS Mantha

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In the three years of your tenure as vice chairman and now six months into chairmanship that lasts for a further period of 3 years, what do you list as your major contributions?
One major contribution, I believe which has made a difference, is the transparency and the accountability that we have been able to build into a system that was essentially manual and prone to incongruities. The e – governance project that we have developed is in effect a content and knowledge management portal. The portal is developed on ORACLE-SIEBEL CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform. It works as AICTE website providing the public interface for information, provides the intranet transactions for the AICTE internal workflow applications, and also allows internet transactions for the stake holders to access the live database for making online aplications for setting up new institutions. It also allows AICTE to monitor and regulate the existing institutions online. Business Intelligence tools (BI) allow various statistics and MIS (management information systems) reports to be generated for decision making. The Web portal is a unique experiment to bring in some of the best practices of business and computing to a live application thereby providing utmost transparency and accountability.
Response of the stake holders has been very encouraging with many appreciating the new system that has eliminated the drudgery of approaching the regional offices for finding the status of their applications. The entire status of applications, their workflow vis-a-vis the applicants can be tracked on a daily basis on the portal. This has brought in confidence in the system. We have received online more than 3500 applications in the last three years for setting up new technical institutions in the country in addition to more than 12000 applications each year from existing institutions for various approvals that they seek. This also shows the faith that the people have reposed in the new system. The revenue accrued to AICTE has also seen a 3 fold increase because of better financial management.
It has been observed that you have made use of technology to improve efficiency of your departments. Could you please elaborate?
We have introduced e – governance in all approval processes. Various schemes for funding are also automated. Currently the workflow, the accounts and the legal case tracking are being automated. We are also introducing mail servers, video conferencing that connects all our regional offices and security systems. Further we are in the process of digitization of records. We have also created a research portal, a placement portal, and social networking portal for all stake holders.
In order to enhance exchanges among students of our and country and other countries, we have created a ‘India Education Portal’. Further, the entire database of institutions and their details are also available in the public domain.
I believe all these initiatives are steps in restoring credibility and furthering the cause of higher and technical education in the country.
In the history of AICTE, you are the only chairman who has dared to challenge the existing systems to implement a transparency agenda. However it is observed that infrastructure of some of the institutions are badly maintained; Comment?
AICTE regulates 8200 Institutes in the UG/PG sector where 13500 programmes at 16700 levels are conducted besides 3700 polytechnics that award diplomas.
All these institutes go through a yearly process of approval where information is collected and processed within a 3 month period.  Besides, several surprise visits are conducted to ensure compliance to norms and standards.  It is indeed a challenge to maintain standards in all these institutes but for the support of the Ministry and of course my family and friends.
There are rumors that you are the HRD minister’s man. Would you like to comment?
It is said that speaking truth helps in propagating ideals and ideologies. Further you do not have to remember what you have said. I believe every one of us needs to be on the side of truth and that is what I do. My Minister happens to support me on this since he too believes in the same adage.
What are your future plans for the AICTE?
AICTE has an extremely important course to plan, promote and monitor technical education in this country. The vision should really be that every child who desires to acquire technical education should have a means to do so. The mission of AICTE is to see that this vision is realised. Quality will be the cornerstone of such education and by implementing an outcome based education and measurement metrics based on global standrads, AICTE would ensure that the education meets those requirements. AICTE is also a provisional member of the Washington accord which also helps in this endeavour.
What are the Key initiatives you have introduced in AICTE
•        5 per cent of intake seats in all courses and all programmes under Tuition Fee Waiver scheme. These are supernumerary seats compulsory in all AICTE approved Institutes. This scheme benefits more than 1 lakh students every year whose family income is less than Rs. 4.5 laks / annum
•        Visits removed for many categories and based only on self disclosure. Surprise visits are conducted based on complaints.
•        Institutions allowed to be setup under Section 25 of the Companies Act.
•        Polytechnics processing at AICTE to facilitate uniform and enhanced growth
•        All schemes of funding by AICTE extended to Polytechnics for quality improvement in Polytechnics.
•        New institutes can now start with enhanced intake capacity for more economical viability.
•        Allow part time programmes for  working professionals
•        Technical Campus to share facilities
•        Land requirement for engineering institutions in mega cities reduced from 3 to 2.5 acres and in metro cities from 5 to 4 acres.
•        Promotional schemes on creation of research facilities for PG education
•        Prominence to E-Subscription at library and digital library facilities
•        More emphasis on PG and doctoral education, research publications, IPRs and patents
•        PG courses in second shift to help take up PG education with jobs.
•        Approval for second shift to increase utilization of infrastructure at the Institutes.
•        Additional division (60 seats) for lateral entry in engineering/technology institutions to cater to large demand for degree education after diploma to provide more opportunities for students to meet increasing demand for technically skilled personnel.
•        No of seats of about nine lakhs and 2000 institutes in the last 3 years have been added for larger access
•        Institutes can conduct modular courses in the evening time to optimise resources
•        PPP models for setting up polytechnics
•        Internet banking facility with more than 25 banks
•        Introduction of new QIP centres. (20 more added in the last year)
•        Retired high court judges part of appeal committees.
•        Conduct of National Test for Pharmacy (GPAT)
•        Provision of M Tech / M Pharm scholarships for all GATE / GPAT candidates.
Further we have created capitol assets for AICTE where at JNU Campus a new permanent Campus is being built. A new camp office has started in Guwahati, Assam at Assam Engineering College. New camp offices are being setup in Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram and Baroda also.
What are your initiatives for Management Education
•        Common Management Admission Test successfully conducted in 2012 and from 2013 the CMAT shall be conducted twice.
•        Common admissions calendar to Institutes as a quality measure.
•        Model curriculum given or various disciplines
•        Integrated Management programmes with professional programmes started from 2012
•        Dual degree programs started from 2012
What is the status of regulation on creating an Ombudsman in Institutions
All India Council for Technical Education Establishment of Mechanism for Grievance Redressal Regulations 2012 has been notified. This will allow the students to air their grievances and seek justice.
What are the Research initiatives undertaken to improve quality?
We have started a scheme to set up 35 research parks; one in each State /UT where a funding of upto Rs. One crore will be given by AICTE on a matching grant by the industry. A survey we are conducting with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to identify the institutes with good industry initiatives is also a case in point.
We have also implemented an innovation promotion scheme to encourage students and faculty to develop innovative projects that can be funded by AICTE. We believe that eventually the quality of our institutions will change for the better.
How do you see AICTE’s developments in the next decade?
AICTE is also actively engaged in the skills development which is an extremely important activity for a growing economy such as ours. Every student who goes through higher education will be well served if they have additional skills acquired along with their studies. It enhances their employability. On the other hand, skills acquired by a student who does not go through a formal education would provide a means of self employment and also a chance for employment in the formal sector. Focused skill development, with employability as the maxim is the need of the day.
AICTE has developed a scheme for vocational education where a student can learn competency based skills along with general education in seven certificate levels starting from ninth class going all the way up to graduate level. Bachelors in Vocational Education is now duly constituted by UGC.A student in this mode will be able to study for a Diploma or a Degree in Vocational education along with acquiring skills. The most important feature is that the student can also avail of multi point entry and exit between Formal or vocational education or the Job market. Setting up Community Colleges new or in our existing polytechnics also needs to be pushed aggressively so that competency based skills with basic life skills is imparted to enhance the employment potential of our youth.
What is AICTE doing to increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education?
Private, public and governmental participation has been steadily increasing in the education sector. Forecasts suggest that, if current patterns of participation continue, more than 30 per cent of today’s school leavers will experience higher education in 10 years from now. A GER of 15 per cent would certainly need to be revisited and the government’s endeavour to push it as high as 30 per cent is indeed noble. I wish, we attain a figure of 50 per cent in probably the next 20 odd years. Higher education will shape individual lives, the economy and society. Such an activity must be the subject of broad and informed consideration and debate. We need to create a knowledge society. Knowledge is all pervasive.
AICTE this year has also allowed institutions to be set up and conducted in a PPP mode to enhance participation by two very important players in mobilising economic growth.
New viable models for growth of higher education need to be explored if we are to come out of the low GER syndrome. AICTE allows credible foreign players for collaborations, to set up good collaborative programs with local partners in order to promote excellence in technical education.

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