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The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was established in 1945 to promote and manage the development of technical education services across India. AICTE promotes quality technical education by coordinating the development of a nationwide technical education system, setting and accrediting educational standards, providing funding for institutes, and maintaining quality control. The council develops technical education programs and conducts research in engineering, technology, architecture, and management.
AICTE manages around 13,000 institutes across India. It receives an average of 6,000 applications to establish a new institute or extend funding for an existing institute each year. In the past, applicants would have to visit an AICTE office to submit their requests. The applications would then be processed manually, a time-consuming and error-prone task. There was a lack of transparency into the status of applications. Processing fees were often not received on time, so the council missed out on revenue. Furthermore, as information was on paper in 10 different offices across the country, rather than in a central database, so there was no easy way to generate reports quickly and accurately.
In October 2009, AICTE engaged Oracle Partner L&T Infotech to build an e-governance system, comprised of a portal developed using Oracle’s Siebel Partner Portal and Siebel Public Sector, an analysis system based on Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, a payment gateway, and an identity management system incorporating biometric technology.
The result completely transformed the organization. Applications (including online forms and videos) are now submitted through the portal and fees are paid using the online payment gateway. Since the gateway was implemented, the number of approvals for new and existing institutes has increased by 20% to 25%, while fee payments have risen by 200%. In addition, the council can generate up-to-date reports on the status of applications, institute courses, payments, and other activities instantly, which assists strategic planning.
“Implementing this project has helped AICTE improve the quality of education at a much faster pace,” said Dr. S.S. Mantha, acting chairman, All India Council for Technical Education. “The e-governance system provides instantaneous information and status updates to all stakeholders on setting up new institutes, monitoring and accrediting existing institutes, and processing the release of funds under various schemes. It also makes it easier for new and existing institutes to apply for and receive approvals, accreditation, and funding. We appreciate the effort put in by Oracle Partner L&T Infotech in implementing this project successfully in record time.”
AICTE is responsible for administering the delivery of technical education programs across India. Educational institutes must submit a formal application to the council to receive approvals to set up new institutes and obtain accreditation and funding. The council reviews each application and conducts a site visit to ensure the institute meets mandated criteria. Once an application is approved, AICTE monitors and evaluates the institute on a regular basis to ensure it delivers quality educational services.
Prior to 2010, AICTE was relying on manual processes to administer applications for the establishment of new institutes or courses, obtain registration payments, conduct due diligence on new institute applications prior to approval, extend accreditation and funding for existing institutes, and address grievances.
“The approval process was taking too long and consuming too many resources,” said Mantha. “It was difficult to keep track of the status of applications due to the manual format. The council was also missing out on processing fees because we found it difficult to keep track of payments.”
In addition to being inefficient and error-prone, the use of paper forms meant there was no central data repository, making it extremely difficult for the council to have a complete picture of approvals for new and existing institutes, accreditation for existing institutes, registration payments, and institute performance.
In October 2009, AICTE instigated a project to build an e-governance system to bring efficiency, transparency, and accountability to the organization. The project involved developing a portal that enabled institutes to submit applications online and provided a payment gateway and automated the approval process for setting up new institutes. The project also helped existing institutes with accreditation and business processes in addition to introducing reporting capabilities, improving identity management, and revamping the AICTE Web site to make it more user-friendly.
L&T Infotech used Siebel Partner Portal and Siebel Public Sector to develop a portal that is accessed by more than 13,000 institutes. Using this portal, applications can be submitted for the establishment of new institutes, including accreditation, integrating existing or adding new campuses, providing extensions or existing approvals, introducing new courses or programs of study, accommodating variations in student intakes. and meeting funding requirements. The portal is also used to collect data on faculties, students, trustees, administrative staff, infrastructure, and courses.
Before the portal was established, a representative from the applying institute had to visit an AICTE office to collect and submit application forms and pay processing fees. Now, institutes can apply online for approvals, accreditations, or funding and attach materials, such as supplementary documents and videos. Instead of filling in eight paper forms, institutes only have to fill in one online form. In addition, AICTE can track an application as it moves through the evaluation cycle, ensuring the council is aware of its status and can provide applicants with an update, if required.
This significantly improved efficiency. The previous approach was tedious and open to errors as each application had to be manually processed. If the applicant did not provide the required information or supporting documentation, the AICTE assessor had to contact the applicant, which delayed decisions, such as funding approvals for new courses or teacher training. Now, the system automatically checks the application to ensure all necessary data is included, and the system alerts the applicant immediately if information is missing.
Due to the e-governance system, the approval process has become more structured and much faster than the earlier manual process. The streamlined application and evaluation process has enabled AICTE to increase the number of approvals for the establishment of new institutes and extending approvals for existing institutes by 20% to 25%.
System automation has brought greater transparency to the application process. To ensure fair and consistent evaluation of applications, AICTE has standardized application requirements, assessment criteria, and mandatory disclosures for institutes, as well as internal assessment and approval workflows.
For example, as part of the approval process AICTE panel members must visit institutes to verify a list of criteria. The
e-governance system provides panel members with a standard compliance list, which is generated online, thus making the evaluation process clearer and more objective. The council estimates that panel members save between eight to ten hours per visit now that they have a set checklist.
In the past, AICTE had limited procedures in place to track fee payments from institutes. As a result, the council was losing valuable revenue. With the e-governance system offering a secure online payment gateway, institutes can pay processing fees and annual extension fees, at the time they submit their application forms. This has led to a 200% increase in revenue from fee payments since the system was implemented.
Previously, there were no readily available resources to answer questions about the application process. AICTE staff at branch and regional offices spent many hours each day addressing queries from institutes, which distracted them from processing applications.
The e-governance system contains process flow handbooks and answers to frequently asked questions to assist institutes with their applications. Issues or queries can also be submitted through the portal. The ability to submit applications, pay fees, and address queries online has greatly reduced the average number of visits to AICTE offices.
“In the first year of operation, we had a team of three people to answer queries, but as processes were streamlined over time, we now only have one person on our helpdesk,” said Mantha.
Automating processing and evaluation procedures has minimized manual intervention, creating greater efficiency and accuracy in workflows and releasing staff for more strategic work.
“Deploying the e-governance system has reduced the need to recruit new staff to manage our expanding operations,” said Mantha. “The number of applications we process has increased each year, but we have not had to hire more staff to manage the additional workload.”
For example, AICTE processed 8,000 approval extensions for existing institutes and 2,176 new institute applications in 2010-2011, without the need to recruit additional staff. In 2011-2012, it expects to process 13,000 approval extensions for existing institutes and more than 1,000 applications for new institutes in 2011-2012, again without the need to hire additional staff.
“The system has reduced workloads with regard to application collection, evaluation, and approval, so we were able to redeploy people to more challenging, higher-level work,” added Mantha. “Our people are more motivated and excited by their responsibilities, which has improved our ability to retain talented staff.”
Around 500 institutes apply for accreditation each year, and all 13,000 institutes must apply for approval extensions. In the past, each institute would have to fill in up to eight multiple-page paper forms.
The use of a single online form has eliminated the need for paper forms. AICTE estimates that it saves up to 500 sheets of paper per application, or around 3 million sheets in total. Moving to an online environment also delivers green benefits, and the reduction in paper use means fewer trees are cut down.
Prior to implementing Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, AICTE had no way to generate reports quickly.
Information was contained on paper forms or standalone spreadsheets. A report could take up to a day to manually compile as staff had to search for the relevant information. Without reporting capabilities, the council did not have a clear, accurate, and up-to-date picture of its operations. Using Oracle Business Intelligence, AICTE can now generate reports instantly.
“We can now produce reports on a variety of things,” said Mantha. “We can find out the number and type of applications we are receiving, such as institute establishment, extension, expansion, and closure, in addition to the programs of study or courses offered, fee payments, and other financial data. It is possible to drill down to a specific institute or get a statewide report on a particular area of interest.
“These reports enable us to find out vital statistics regarding the state of technical education across India, so we can make strategic plans that are in the best interests of students.”
When applying for establishment, extension, or additional funding, institutes must supply AICTE with information that will help the council determine if the institute has the resources and capabilities to provide a quality education. For example, they must provide: a video of the premises; the number of books and journals in its library; the names of faculty and their educational qualifications; the number of teaching rooms, computers, and laboratory equipment; and certificates from authorities indicating that the institute is a safe environment for imparting education. This data is stored in a central repository for analysis using Oracle Business Intelligence.
“The analysis is to ensure that students have access to well-equipped laboratories and libraries; that they are in safe, spacious premises suitable for study; and that there are enough books, computers, and qualified lecturers,” said Mantha. “We can then meet our aim of providing quality technical education to Indian students.”
AICTE evaluated products from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, selecting Oracle for its powerful functionality, user-friendly features, ease of integration, and short implementation timeframe.
“When Oracle Partner L&T Infotech proposed Oracle, we were impressed by Oracle's built-in process automation features, including workflow notifications and escalation procedures,” said Mantha. “These would enable us to improve efficiency and governance at AICTE.
“The Oracle CRM and business intelligence solutions also had the robustness, flexibility, and scalability to support our expanding operations,” he added. “Oracle Database, in particular, has the proven capacity to handle large data and transaction volumes.”
In addition, Mantha praised the applications’ ease of use. “We wanted our staff to begin using the systems straight away, so we were pleased that both the CRM and business intelligence applications offered intuitive, user-friendly interfaces,” he said. “Oracle Business Intelligence also allowed users to build interactive dashboards, create ad hoc queries, and set intelligence alerts. This gave them the freedom to seek out the information they needed to process applications and check fee payments.”
AICTE engaged L&T Infotech to design, build, and manage the implementation of the e-governance system. Beginning in November 2009, L&T Infotech developed the portal and configured it with more than 20 screens to capture faculty, student, course, and payment data. The portal was also integrated with the payment gateway and the e-mail, text messaging, and interactive voice response and telephone systems. L&T Infotech also redesigned the AICTE Web site with links to the e-governance applications, and it implemented Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition to provide AICTE with reporting and analytics capabilities. In addition, the systems integrator provided a helpdesk service to respond to user queries via e-mail, the Web, and phone.
The e-governance system was completed in six weeks, enabling AICTE to go live in January 2010 and enjoy the benefits of greater efficiency and more vigilant governance. L&T Infotech will maintain the hardware and applications for three years.