MNC inroads in academia winners all!
Sudipta Dev/ Mumbai
between the industry and academia is poised at an interesting turning point
with foreign IT majors aggressively making inroads into the Indian academic
world. With organisations like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft making concerted
efforts to enhance industry-based learning, tie-ups with Indian varsities
and other academic institutions have become a common phenomenon. For the
students, the company and the institution, this is seen as a win-win
situationthe target being the countrys large talent pool who are being
trained to bridge the skills gap and consequently increase the user base
of the products.
For the institution, the advantages are obviousthey want to
make their students saleable in the job market and be known as attractive
academic destinations. Furthermore, the alliance helps them get
closer to the industry. Frank Luksic, country manager for software and
developer relations at IBM India, candidly states the objective of his
organisation: Our aim is to bridge the gap between the demand and supply
for our technology. The IBM University Programme (which was initiated in
India in July 2001), is a strategic initiative between the organisation and
academic institutions to increase the availability of skills on IBM
Under this programme, education programmes are incorporated
on the companys software technologies within the framework of the
university syllabus. IBM provides licensed versions of software (DB2,
Websphere application server family and Visual Age for Java), along with
training to the institution staff and facilities for courseware
development. MoUs have already been signed with 97 colleges, with plans to
increase the number extensively. These include institutions like IIT
Roorkee and the IIMs (Ahmedabad, Lucknow, New Delhi), etc. Five competency
centres have also been set up across the country, as a part of this
programme. While institutions have to make sizeable investment in the
process, the students get the additional benefit of getting trained on IBM
software without paying any
additional fee. IBM has also been organising competitions like the Great
Minds Challenge and Linux Scholar Challenge, apart from events like
University Day and Certification Day.
While similar programmes exist in countries like the US and
China, according to Luksic, in India this has been a highly successful
initiative. The last 12 months have seen almost 5,500 students being
certified under this programme, the target for next year is to double the
number of certifications and increase coverage. Additional units
will also be added in the curriculum (e.g. Rational). For IBM India, the
University Programme is not a revenue model but an investment programme,
acknowledges Luksic. The target is singularcertifying the maximum number
Cisco has been partnering with technical colleges since the
year 2000 to impart networking education to students under the Cisco
Networking Academy Programme. This is a worldwide philanthropic programme
aimed at creating a trained manpower that can address the growing
need of networking professionals resulting from the way the Internet is
changing every sphere of life, says Manoj Chugh, Cisco Systems president
for India and SAARC. There are more than 10,450 such academies across 149
countries, including India and other SAARC countries, namely Bangladesh,
Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Chugh reminds that when the
companys CEO John Chambers visited India in January 2001, he promised to
set up a Cisco Networking Academy in every state and union territory. The
success of the programme can be judged from the fact that the company
currently has 84 networking academies across 20 states in India, while
there are 20 more in other SAARC countries.
The Networking Academy Programme has four semesters based on
the principles and practice of design, building and maintaining networks
capable of supporting national and global organisations. In a lab
setting that closely corresponds to the real world, students get
their hands on the building blocks of todays global information networks,
learning by doing as they design local and wide-area networks, says Chugh.
The company has also introduced sponsored curriculum initiatives by
Hewlett-Packard, Panduit Corp and Sun Microsystems. Additional courses on
security, wireless and VoIP will be launched in the academies by the end of
The investment factor
Cisco believes that Indias global advantage is its manpower
and is consequently investing $8.6 million in setting up the networking
academies (one each in every state and union territory) in India.
The names of a few education institutions with which the company has tied
up include Anna University (Chennai), Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha
University (Delhi), and MS University (Baroda). As per IDC, the global
shortage of networking professionals by 2003 will be 1.4 million
approximately. Gartner Group states
that through 2004, a shortage of networking professionals
will mean that 30 percent of enterprises will be unable to support the
onslaught of new applications they are building, states Chugh, adding
that the companys proficient networking education programme
presents India and SAARC with a unique opportunity to leverage its manpower
and address the local and global demand for networking professionals.
Empowering the academia
In the ever-changing world of information technology, it is
not only significant to train students in the latest technologies but the
instructors must also be well-versed and certified in the technologies.
This is where Microsoft fits in. The academic community plays a
critical role in the software ecosystem as the launching pad for the next
generation of developers, and Microsoft is committed to the development of
the same, says Sanjiv Mathur, head of marketing at Microsoft Corporation
India. He adds, We support the teaching environment and experience by
providing departments with curriculum assistance, classroom training
materials, and cutting edge technology. We also undertake activities like
assistance in setting-up teaching laboratories and other computation
providing software development tools, documentation and hardware. In
addition, we support individual faculty members through training, financial
support, software grants and documentations and also special events like
the Faculty Summit which is held every year at Redmond.
Microsoft has been working very closely with the academic
community worldwide, primarily under two initiatives-the University
Relations Programme and the Academic Developer Programme. Mathur informs
that the University Relations Programme is for institutions with interest
and experience in research and links Microsoft research with Indian
researchers. The Academic Developer Programme is a reiteration of our
commitment to developing the academic community in India, and extends the
work being done through the University Relations Programme in India.
It is targeted at the technical and engineering colleges, and is
aimed at building skills in the future developer community.
Under this initiative, a .Net Centre of Excellence was set up
at Anna University Chennai. An MoU was also signed with the Visveswaraiah
Technology University in Karnataka, under which Microsoft will provide
the 102 colleges affiliated to the varsity with access to .Net
development tools and technologies. Microsofts .Net Campus
Challenge is aimed at discovering the worlds youngest developers, while
the Student Champ Programme identifies a student champion in every
varsity who is responsible for Microsoft-led activities.
Microsoft has also committed to spending $20 million (Rs 96
crore) as a part of its Project Shiksha initiative in India, in the next
five years. Under this programme, the company will partner with state
governments to build state-of-the-art IT academies in the country. It aims
to provide IT literacy and skills development to more than 80,000 teachers
and 35 lakh students in the next five years. The project includes
a student as well as a teacher scholarship programme. An online
community of teachers is being set up for sharing practices and experiences
with their peers worldwide.
At the heart of Microsofts vision for the future of
education is the Connected Learning Community, an environment that builds
connections, removes limitations and creates opportunities for the
21st century learners to achieve their goals. New computing devices,
powerful software and explosion of Web services will continue to evolve,
enabling learning a learning anytime, anywhere, on any device, says
While students and institutions in India are evidently a
happy lot with the new alliances, Indian industrial houses evidently have
many lessons to learn for their own benefit.
The industry : Bridging of skills gap.
Companies : Increase in user-base of their products;
Students : Better job prospects, in India and
Institutions : Make students sale-able in the job
market; be known as attractive academic destination for future students.
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