New Delhi: The big criticism of India’s open universities, especially the Indira Gandhi National Open University (or Ignou), the country’s largest university in terms of number of students, is that they merely distribute degrees and do not create job-ready human resources.
Ignou has now moved to correct that not-entirely-incorrect perception by taking the radical step of forming a partnership with Aspiring Minds, an assessment and recruitment company that will assess its three million students, ensure a match between students and jobs, and create a so-called employability benchmark for various jobs (essentially a primer of what it takes, at the least, to land a particular type of job).
Aspiring Minds has been set up by alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Yes, there is a perception problem and with this initiative that will go. Our curriculum is at par with top universities providing regular courses, but we don't get as much importance as they do because of placement situation. This effort will change the way people look at us and our students,” said Indu Uprety, deputy director, placement, Ignou.
Uprety added that students from north-east India would be the first to undergo the assessment because “they have limited opportunity”.
The assessment will be on the basis of a computer-aided test on aptitude, personality, and subject knowledge, explained Himanshu Aggarwal, co-founder and director of Aspiring Minds. Within two days of taking the test, students will receive a seven-page evaluation report. And based on their employability, Aspiring Minds will connect them to recruiters, added Aggarwal.
The company doesn’t plan to charge for the tests in the first year; next year onwards, it will charge students Rs400 to take the test. “Our revenue comes from student placement and if we manage to get 1,000 Ignou students placed in the first year, then we will earn” enough, Aggarwal said He expects around half a million students to sit for the test this year and said the company is equipped to handle this number.
While a preparatory note for the Five-year Plan that starts in 2012 says India is looking to make sure 10 million more students enrol in colleges, the human resources development ministry has an aggressive target of 25 million more students, which will take the gross enrolment ratio in colleges from 12.4% to 30%. Both the central and state governments say open and distance education will play a big role in this.
Established in 1985, Ignou imparts education through the open and distance learning mode. The people’s university, as it calls itself, offers 338 programmes of study and at least 3,500 courses, at every level from the certificate one to doctorates.
A student said the link to recruiters made the assessment a welcome initiative.
“It looks promising as it will connect students to corporate houses. Getting the interview call based on your strength will only benefit the students,” said Lalatendu Mahal, a student of a teachers training course from Ignou. Mahal, based in Hyderabad, said that he plans to sit for the test.