Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

January 23, 2010

Education Industry Investment Forum 2010, Phoenix AZ

Education sector in India is expanding and innovating new models and services related to education sector. For example, traditional learning companies like NIIT are reinventing themselves and at another level entrepreneurial companies like MeritTrac and GTT are gaining traction. One forum in the US, that celebrates and encourages entrepreneurialism and investment in education sector is - Education Industry Investment Forum (EIIF). This could be an interesting learning and engagement opportunity for Indian participants interested in education sector. Here is the interview with Douglas Crets, Conference Director, EIIF, Institute for International Research (IIR).
- Rahul Choudaha, PhD

Before joining Institute for International Research, Douglas Crets spent six years working as a journalist and as an independent researcher in Asia. He is a graduate of the University of Hong Kong, where he earned a Master's in Journalism. Douglas has experience developing unique qualitative analysis reports for media, education and technology in 17 countries across Asia. He often speaks and consults on digital media. He has run IIR's Education Industry Investment Forum for two years.

Rahul- Please share the background and focus on Education Industry Investment Forum?
Douglas- The Education Industry Investment Forum grew out of grassroots collaboration between operators of charter schools, online learning institutions, trade schools, for-profit colleges, private equity investors, investment banking professionals and the entrepreneurs and business executives that provide services to the for-profit education industry, from K-12 to higher ed. This annual forum brings together individuals who are focused on building value through mergers & acquisition, strategy-driven growth opportunities and investments from venture capital and private equity.

Rahul- What are the highlights of the upcoming conference in Phoenix, Arizona from March 1-3, 2010?
Douglas-The highlights are a spectrum of keynote speakers, including:
Josh Jarrett, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Tom Vander Ark, from Revolution Learning
Chris Whittle, Founder of Edison Schools
Dan Madzelan, from the United States Department of Education
Burck Smith, from StraighterLine
You will also have the benefit of talking with a real superintendent of school curriculum at a public school district in the United States, who is investing in e-book readers for their students.

Strong private equity-focused discussions, including:
Examining M & A, Capitalizations and Innovations in Business Performance that will Have a Measurable Impact on Funding
Moderated by:
Mark DeFusco, Managing Director, Berkery Noyes
John Bates, Managing Director, Arlington Capital Partners
Toby Chu, Chief Executive Officer, CIBT Education (Canada and China)
Sabrina Kay, Chairman and CEO, Fremont College
Sever Totia, Principal, Edison Ventures Fund
Economic Disparity and its Impact on Operations Strategy and Investor Strategy: Funding, Operations, Regulatory and Legal Challenges in For-Profit Education in 2010
Moderated by:
Peter Leyton, President /Shareholder, Ritzert & Leyton
Chris Masto, Senior Managing Director, Friedman Fleischer & Lowe
Joe Merrill, Senior Director – Business Planning, Apollo Group, Inc
Laura Palmer-Noone, Chief Executive Officer, Piccolo Educational Systems
Felix Park, Managing Director, Gryphon Investors
John Schnabel, Partner, Falcon Investment Advisors
Rahul- How could participants from India benefit by attending this conference?
Douglas- Private Equity investors and operators of for-profit schools are increasingly looking to India to help provide scale and to grow out a huge education system by making it more sustainable and increasing its devotion to technology. The world is looking to India. They also see a market in testing, assessment, outsourcing of tutoring, and the traditional small and medium-sized enterprises that are attractively valued for a private equity investment. In other words, India-based operators and entrepreneurs would learn what they need to do to attract these kinds of partners at the forum, and they would certainly find a willing and eager audience for their questions.
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January 14, 2010

Trends for Indian Education Sector in 2010

Indian education sector has gained significant attention from policymakers, investors, and media in the year 2009. It was filled with enthusiasm at one level and anxieties at another level. The year 2010 will continue to be an important year with increasing demand for education and corresponding new ways of meeting those demands. Given below are the top five trends I expect for 2010.

What are your expectations for Indian education sector in 2010? Please share your comments at the bottom.

#1: Internationalization would become more glamorous:
Internationalization as a strategy for building reputation will gain more prominence. This may range from establishing international collaborations for student/faculty exchange programs to joint research projects and offshore campuses. Increasingly, international collaborations will go beyond American universities as more European universities are expected to show interest in India. Innovation universities planned by the Indian government may also attract some big names. Both the Indian and foreign universities are eagerly awaiting policy clarifications on the foreign university bill, which would help in formal campus-based presence for foreign universities (not-for-profit will not be welcomed).

#2: Policy landscape will become tougher, wider spectrum of institutional quality:
Quality of Indian higher education system has lagged behind the growth in quantity. Given the unfortunate state of regulatory mechanism in India, there are several changes expected in the direction of transparency and stricter norms. Several institutions need to shape up to fulfill the norms. For example, UGC's mandate that all institutions should have NAAC accreditation and deemed universities process is being reviewed. Likewise, AICTE is planning for more information sharing and accountability from institutions.

Given the resource constraints, majority of the institutions will continue to offer mediocre quality of education. On the other hand, a handful of institutions like ISB, Manipal and SP Jain, will continue to strengthen/achieve global benchmarks. New age universities like the NIIT University, Vedanta University, Azim Premji University and Reliance University will also create new standards of quality.

#3: Growth of multicampus model, for-profit will not be welcomed:
Competition and opportunity would compel institutions with resources to gain scale, move beyond their traditional markets and innovate the educational offerings. Multicampus models led by institutions like Amity, IBS and IIPM will continue to thrive. Even reputed institutions will be expanding. For example, Symbiosis expanding and Narsee Moonjee entering Bangalore. 

Despite significant interest from the "for-profit" sector both in India and abroad, 2010 is unlikely to bring any change in the policy that would openly support for-profit sector. Even the foreign universities bill is not expected to provide any easier opportunities for "for-profit" universities. Having said that entrepreneurs/investors with "for-profit" models will have significant opportunities in the informal education sector (skill development, elearing) or support services (technology, test prep).

#4: Technology adoption will increase:
With the growth in scale of the institutions and multicampus models, there will be increasing need for streamlining and controlling processes. Technology solutions in the form of campus management software packages will gain ground. Even course management tools will become prominent among faculty for efficiently organizing their classes.

Companies like Educomp and Everonn at one level would continue to grow with the adoption of technology-enabled learning and support systems for educational institutions. One the other hand, elearning organizations, like Tata Interactive serving corporate training and development segment would also continue to grow. At the student level, test prep websites like and, which are leveraging social networking and technology platforms for improved assessment, information sharing and learning will also become popular.

#5: Demand of professional talent in education sector will increase:
Indian education sector is growing at a fast pace but the professionals including faculty and administrators are lagging behind both in quantity or quality. This will pose even more threatening scarcity about the availability of faculty. The expansion plans announced by the Indian government and entry of many more private players would require faculty members and given the shortage of faculty either the institutions would further start compromising on the quality of teaching or projects would delay/abort.

On the administrative front,  the issue is not only about the availability of education managers, but more so of the lack of recognition of the "profession of education management" in itself. More institutions, who are aiming for high quality offerings, would adopt and recognize that building world-class institutions requires world-class talent. Efforts of FICCI, EDGE and magazines like EDU would sensitize and advance the professionalization of higher education management.

Overall, I am optimistic about 2010 and expect many new players and innovative models in the sector that would attempt to disrupt the inefficiencies and quality concerns. Do you agree/disagree? Is there any other trend to look out for 2010 in Indian education sector? Share your comments below.

-Rahul Choudaha, PhD
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January 10, 2010

Guru Mantra: Andreas Blom, Education Economist, World Bank

Andreas Blom
Education Economist, Human Development
South Asia Region, The World Bank

Andreas Blom works as a Senior Education Economist in the World Bank’s department for Human Development in South Asia. He specializes in the economic policy analysis of human capital and creation of knowledge, and their efficient use in society.

Andreas works with the Governments of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve quality, access and financing of their higher education and training systems. In his previous position, Andreas worked seven years on higher education, training, labor markets and public spending in Latin America and the Caribbean. He was part of a team that supported student loan agencies in Latin America, in particular in Mexico and Colombia. He authored several global and regional studies on the financing of higher education, student loans, labor markets, quality of education, and science, technology and innovation.

He holds a master degree in development economics from the University of Aarhus. 

Rahul- Please share the objectives and highlights of Technical/Engineering Education Quality Improvement Project I & II (TEQIP).
Andreas- India has a phenomenal potential within Engineering and Technology. The fact that India’s best talent chooses the engineering discipline is a unique and tremendous factor for competitiveness for Indian IT and manufacturing firms. It is also essential for the continued development of key infrastructure for development, such as power, roads,  and water and sanitation.  And how will India overcome the challenges of climate change without qualified engineers and innovative Indian technologies to save energy? Nevertheless, failure to educate quality engineers and produce irrelevant engineering R&D is a possibility. The Government of India  -World Bank supported - Technical Education Quality Improvement Program helps convert India’s Engineering and Technology potential into reality.

The first phase of TEQIP started a reform process. Through investment of USD 250 million (Rs. 1340 crores), we supported 109 competitively-selected engineering education institutions in 13 states and 18 central institutions (mostly NITs).  The results are impressive:
•    Placement rates of graduates into jobs almost doubled from 40% to 83%, indicating improved relevance of programs and increased skill sets of graduates.
•    A 15 percent increase of students graduating with honors/distinction in both undergraduate and post-graduate courses.
•    Post-graduate enrollments rose sharply (up 50 percent in Masters and 69 percent in Ph.D programs).
•    Course offerings were restructured, modernized and vastly expanded in line with employer expectations. 91% of supported programs are either accredited or are under assessment for accreditation
•    The project initiated a reform process promoting autonomy and accountability that led to over 25 TEQIP-institutions becoming academically autonomous. For instance, 17 Regional Engineering Colleges became National Institutes of Technology with university status.
•    220,000 students from disadvantaged backgrounds were assisted through provision of remedial teaching, workshops and establishment of book banks.
•    30,000 faculty and 13,000 staff underwent training and professional development.
•    Sizeable increases in publications, patents and R&D products being commercialized.

The second phase of the program, which will be approved very soon, equally seeks to contribute to a nation-wide improvement in quality of engineering education. We will continue the core-concept from phase I; the competitive selection of institutions, the autonomy and accountability reform, and the bottom-up approach relying on proposals from the institutions. Faculty and Institutions need to drive their quest for excellence, be empowered to do so; and held accountable for producing employable engineers and quality research.
In addition, the second phase will respond to two major concerns: (i) the shortage of qualified faculty, and (ii) lack of R&D collaboration with industry.  Graduating more quality PhDs is the only way to sustainably overcome the faculty shortage, and TEQIP-II will finance the expansion of PhD and research programs in collaboration with industry.

Rahul- What are some of the implementation challenges you have faced while working with Indian institutions on TEQIP. What recommendations you have for the institutions for improving the project outcomes?

Andreas- Overall, we were very happy with implementation of the first phase. Nevertheless, Phase I revealed several challenges to implementation arrangements: Faculty and institutions need to be empowered and incentivized to undertake change. There is too much red tape, and too many administrators will not take initiative. We need to reward more those faculty and institutions that perform well. Linked to this is the need to further strengthen and disseminate the use of performance information. Through Phase 1, Govt. of India collected an unprecedented amount of performance information. For example, over 8,000 students and 1000 faculty members were surveyed each year on the satisfaction with their institutions. This is a very good practice that needs to continue. We also faced turn-over and slow appointment of teachers and administrators, which cripples quality of education. Too many colleges in India lack qualified teachers. This hiring process should be accelerated. Lastly, we need to work even more with the institutions and state governments to ensure sufficient and clear oversight of procurement and financial management. Together with the government and institutions, we work hard on ensuring every rupee is not only efficiently invested in books, equipment, training, renovation of education facilities, but also duly accounted for so that no funds are diverted or abused. 

You asked me about how to improve project outcomes. For us, Strong project outcomes mean strong Institutions, employable engineers, and at least a doubling of the number of PhD students! My main recommendations to institutions are: A strong institution foremost means a dedicated and bold institutional leadership that works with a group of well-qualified senior faculty members to draw-up both a strategic plan for the institution and a competitive investment proposal that TEQIP can fund. Second, the institution also needs to actively and seriously listen to shortcomings from students, employers, and faculty.  For example, employers consistently value pro-active and team-oriented graduates that can apply engineering techniques to solve real-life problems. The curriculum, teaching-methods and assessments need to foster such competences.  This requires major innovation and professional development within the existing teaching faculty. Third, increased collaboration with industry is critical-more internships to students, industry-sabbatical for faculty, design of electives around the needs of local economic clusters, and PhDs doing research within companies while earning their degree are required. Fourth, motivating faculty and giving them opportunities for R&D is not going to be easy in many institutions, this will require innovation on part of the directors. Lastly, the State government and affiliating universities will inevitably play an important role. They need to support the mature institutions to become academically autonomous. State governments should award more financial discretion to the institutions in return for greater transparency in use of funds and accountability for results.

Rahul- Recently, India's bid for full membership to Washington Accord was turned down. What are the top two recommendations you have for addressing the challenges of quality in engineering education in India? 
Andreas- According to my information, India’s bid was not turned down; its provisional membership of the Accord was extended at its request. It is important to keep in mind that membership of the Accord will take India into the premier league of global Engineering Education, so it is not going to be easy. Three actions are necessary:
(i)    Beef up the National Board of Accreditation – make it independent and invest in information systems, more staff, and the evaluators/peer reviews. Accrediting over 10,000 engineering, computer science, and technology programs is going to be a gigantic task.
(ii)    Incentivize accreditation. Accreditation should gradually be made mandatory for public funding – as it is in many countries --and perhaps mandatory for students to be eligible for financial aid, as in the US. 
(iii)    Invest in institutions to give them a fair chance to reach the new global standards. Many 100s Indian institutions, if not more, will not meet the Washington Accord standards. Immediately imposing the new standards without funding and availability of qualified faculty will produce a difficult situation. Programs, like TEQIP, are necessary for institutions to modernize curricula and teaching-learning methods, upgrade equipment, and invest in research. Further, a large number of Indian PhDs need to be formed and incentivized to become teaching researchers, and Institutions need to become more autonomous and accountable to compete at the global level.

Relevant links:
World Bank education in India
World Bank blog on South Asia
Learning Forum on Governance of Technical Education in India

Also see earlier my earlier interview with Dean Unnikrishnan of California State University, who was one of the mentors who reviewed India's bid for full membership to Washington Accord.
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January 06, 2010

David Comp, The University of Chicago

David Comp
Senior Adviser for International Initiatives
The College at The University of Chicago

David Comp currently works as the Senior Adviser for International Initiatives in The College at The University of Chicago.  He has also consulted on several international education related projects for a variety of institutions and organizations in higher education.  He serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Studies in International Education (JSIE) and edits and maintains International Higher Education Consulting Blog.  Additionally, he has co-authored several book chapters and reports on international education topics.  His research focuses on the use of international education for soft power and public diplomacy efforts; methodology of data collection on global student and scholar mobility and on the history of international education exchanges.  He currently serves on the Committee on Outcomes Assessment of the Forum on Education Abroad and has served on multiple task forces and committees for NAFSA including his current role as special adviser to the Research and Scholarship Subcommittee.  He received his B.A. in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, his M.S. in Family Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently at the dissertation proposal stage in Comparative and International Education at Loyola University Chicago.

Rahul- You founded one of the most popular blogs on international education--International Higher Education Consulting Blog.  Please share how you thought about starting it and what are some of its success factors?
David- Thank you for your generous comments about International Higher Education Consulting Blog (IHEC Blog for short).  Very much appreciated!  I can’t really remember why I started IHEC Blog back in February 2007.  Around that time I started a consulting business focusing on international education so I could occasionally work on small side projects and I had been reading many business/entrepreneurial magazines, web articles and blog posts and I learned more about the value and power that various new media tools can have so one night I just started IHEC Blog.  In a way, the content that I post to IHEC Blog has been a part of my practice and contribution to the field since I entered in 2000 but in the early days of my professional career I posted items of interest and discussion pieces to listservs instead.  IHEC Blog helps keep all of my content together in one location and serves as an archive.  I still post to the various listservs and related networks in the field but not as often.  My IHEC Blog activities tie in with other new media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Rahul- You have been actively engaged with the international educational exchanges. How would you describe your experiences with exchange programs with Indian institutions? What are some of the opportunities and challenges in establishing sustainable partnerships with Indian institutions?
David- While my experiences with Indian institutions is limited, the interactions I’ve had with colleagues and students from India have been wonderful.  All of the U.S. students that I have talked to about their study and/or research experiences in India have had nothing but positive things to say about the institutions where they studied and the regions of the country that they studied in.  India is such a large country with a significant population size and I think that both of these variables offer tremendous opportunities as well as challenges in establishing sustainable partnerships with Indian institutions.  What I mean is that with India being such a large country with so many young people who are eager to expand their educational horizons the opportunities for establishing partnerships with Indian institutions is ripe with possibilities.  Conversely, with so many opportunities for partnerships it takes much longer to sort through all of the possibilities to determine what partnerships will be most beneficial for both institutions.  I imagine the same goes for Indian institutions looking to establish partnerships in the United States as we also have a large student population and a significant number of higher education institutions and sorting through all of the options to find the appropriate fit is an important yet laborious process.

Rahul- What are the top two trends you are witnessing in campus internationalization strategies?
David- One trend over the past few years that has become quite interesting to me is the establishment of branch campuses across the globe.  It will be quite interesting to see how these branch campuses and collaborations such as Education City in Doha, Qatar develop and especially in the current economic climate.

Another development that has caught my attention over the past couple years is the focus on the economic impact of international education (primarily focusing on the inflow of international students).  The economic impact of international education is certainly a focus at the national level but we are now seeing states/provinces, counties and even cities paying close attention to this issue.  For example, the Aberdeen City Council (Scotland) issued a briefing paper in 2008 entitled “The economic impact of international students in Aberdeen City”.  The Aberdeen City briefing paper is just one example of this new and interesting trend in campus internationalization strategies and one I will continue to follow and post about to IHEC Blog about in the future.
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January 01, 2010

Indian Education Sector: Top 5 Newsmakers of 2009

In 2009, education sector in India gained significant attention from policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs. Several events and factors contributed to it and I thought of summarizing top five newsmakers for 2009. I am seeing it from the perspective of how these developments have interacted with and impacted the larger community of professionals who are interested in Indian education sector. Next week, I will cover top five education trends to watch for 2010.

I also invite you to comment at the bottom of the posting about your thoughts on the list for 2009. Do you agree or disagree with the list?

#1. Kapil Sibal - new optimism, new uncertainities:
Education sector in general and higher education sector in particular gained new found optimism of change and opportunity with Kapil Sibal taking charge of the ministry of HRD. His announcement of 100-day reform agenda gained significant attention. However, stakeholders are also uncertain and are keenly awaiting developments related to the introduction of foreign university bill, implementation of Yash Pal committee report, streamlining of regulatory process, review of deemed-universities and massive expansion plans.

#2. Online CAT fiasco - execution challenges:
The year ended with another case of how global organizations with years of expertise may falter when it comes to operationalizing in Indian market. This time it ws Prometric (a subsidiary of ETS) with experience of delivering more than nine million exams through a network of over 10,000 testing locations in more than 160 countries. Prometric's experience with the fiasco of online CAT would have presented new lessons about the scale, scope and surprises India may present.

#3. Attacks on Indian students in Australia - education and immigration:
Australia had been growing as a popular destination for Indian students for last few years. Enrollment of Indian students in Australia grew nearly nine times in eight years, from 11,370 in 2002 to 97,035 in 2008, clearly indicating aspirations of Indian students to study abroad and seek a route for settling abroad. However, the summer of 2009, had seen several unfortunate incidences of attacks on Indian students. It gained attention of a wide range of stakeholders involving media (international and Indian), educators, students, politicians, diplomats, families and even film celebrities.  It also highlighted the sensitivity of international education to the a country's sociopolitical enviornment.

#4. Educomp Solutions - rumors about role model shakes confidence:
Educomp is one of the stars for the new age education company. It symbolizes entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. However, confidence was shaken and Educomp was also in news for the wrong reasons. Early 2009, company was rumored to have fudged its books to boost share pricing. Educomp filed complaints against the rumor and continues to deliver strong results. This incidence highlighted that education sector is still fragile and it needs many more success stories to create a robust model for private/corporate sector.

#5. Vedanta University - vision and viability for corporate sector engagement
Although Vedanta University did not made a nation-wide news, its developments have serious implications and relevance for the engagement and success of corporate sector in higher education sector. Vedanta is a symbol of global vision, philanthropy and quest for excellence in higher education. However, this year, Vedanta had been entangled with political controversies and has recevied more negative news. This also highlights the unique nature of higher education sector which is deeply connected with sociopolitical enrviornment of the country .

Do you agree or disagree with this list? Which other important trends/events from 2009 you would add in this list?

-Rahul Choudaha, PhD
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