`Australian universities depend on students from India, China'Foreign students, mainly from India and China, are injecting some $2 billion into Australian universities every year, a report said recently, amid concerns over the sustainability of overseas enrolments. According to figures provided to the opposition Labour Party, foreign students paid more than $1.9 billion in 2004, a massive increase from the $792 million five years ago, ABC News reported. The revenue from overseas students increased by 142 per cent between 1999 and 2004, Labour spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said. Six universities relied on foreign students' fees for more than 20 per cent of their total income in 2003, she said. She said universities would be under massive financial pressure if the number of international students declines. "We know that many of our universities are facing a decline in the growth in overseas students and this is going to put them in precarious financial position," she said. However, a spokesman for Education Minister Brendan Nelson said the fact that so many foreign students are joining Australian universities was a recognition of the reputation of Australia's institutions. The spokesman said universities would receive $ 36 billion in public funding over the next four years. While enrolments from countries like Indonesia were decreasing, they were on the rise from countries such as India. IGNOU to use DTH platformIndira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) said recently that it is making efforts to provide educational programmes to remote areas of the country through Direct to Home (DTH) facility. This was stated by university Vice-Chancellor H.P. Dikshit at a special teleconferencing session with regional centres, an IGNOU release said. Mr. Dikshit said various organisations have approached the university for a possible collaboration so as to expand their activities by using information and technology of distance education available with the university. The teleconference session had presentations by IGNOU's 32 regional centres, including Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Srinagar, the release saidCentral universities in North-EastTo give a boost to higher education in the distant North-East, Central Universities for Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Sikkim are on the anvil. While Sikkim will have a new Central University, in Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh the existing State Universities are likely to be converted into Central Universities, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh has said. He was addressing the second meeting of the High-Level Group for Education and Women and Child Development in the North-Eastern States. Mr. Singh said the Government would make all efforts to introduce legislations regarding these universities in the budget session of Parliament. Responding to the demand for timely release of funds for various projects, he assured the States that he would personally take up the matter of release of funds by the Department of North Eastern Region with the Minister concerned. The meeting was attended by Education and Social Welfare Ministers of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and senior officials from Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. Mr. Singh also appealed to the North Eastern States to exercise transparency, economy and efficiency in utilisation of resources available to them in the education and women and child development sectors. Quota in private institutesShould the private educational institutes make provision for reservation of seats for Schedule Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) students? The Union Government endorses this view on the ground that students from these communities need special attention as they lag behind their general counterparts. A Constitutional Amendment Bill has been passed in both the Houses of Parliament to this effect. However, the private institutes feel that it is an "encroachment" on their functioning, which may affect the "performance, quality of education and economic health of these centres." "Reservations will facilitate entry of many students, who are inferior to the students coming through selection process. This will affect the quality of intake and ultimately the performance," claims Ashok Ogra, Director Apeejay Institute of Mass Communications in New Delhi. He says that the reservation provision would discourage private organisations to open new institutions. Manohar Chellani, Secretary General, Education Promotion Society for India, a body working as an interface between Government, academia and industry on education issues, says that the new Bill would lead to economic crisis in the private institutes. "The private institutes have spent a lot of money on infrastructure. They may not be able to maintain those facilities, as reservation of seats would lead to squeezing of income of the institute," he claims. He says that Government has not taken the views of the private institutes before passing the amendment Bill. "Nobody says that the weaker sections should not get reservation. But the Government has to see that the private institutes do not head towards death due to the Bill," he opines. A senior official from All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the apex body to standardise technical education in the country, however, rubbishes these apprehensions. "If the standard of the SC/ST students is poor, the private institutes can give them special training to see that they are on the same footing as other students. This practice is followed in the IITs," the official says. Regarding the apprehension of possible financial crisis in the private institutes, the official says that it is a false campaign. "The private institutes will charge the fee as fixed by the state level committee on fee structure to all students including these SC/ST students. So how they will lose out," the official asks. The new Bill will enable Parliament as well as state legislatures to make appropriate laws to provide reservation for SC/ST candidates in unaided private institutes.