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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Academy or Aca-Dummy

Academy or Aca-Dummy

You are an Educational Institute alright, but…
Are you an Academy or an Aca-Dummy?
I feel, we have more of the latter…..

A few years back I had written an article, which was a comparative study between the two of the world’s most famous B-Schools in the world “Harvard Vs Wharton a comparative study”It is all about how an educational institution has to be, & the parameters and the metrics, against which the institutions have to be evaluated. 

United States, which has some of the best educational Institutions also has a swarm of pedestrian institutions, which survive on the revenue generated by the international students mostly from India. the closure of some of such institutions is putting the students who take huge student loans from Banks back home into a very unfortunate situation. There is no strong legislation in USA to severely punish the Bankrupt universities.

Even the State Universities are facing great strain on account of reduction of teaching staff due to heavy cuts in the funding by the Governments. The Florida State University's example is glaring, where it had to close down its computer science department due to drastic cut in funding by the Governor. Many other state Universities in more or less in similar situation. Quality teaching staff are  either moving towards greener pastures in Research projects partially or completely. The other fact that is discouraging the students from pursuing higher education is the steep rise in cost of education. According to the reliable stats. the cost of education has gone up by 550 % since 1985. this  has  not only resulted in the decline in admissions but has also contributed to heavy increase in dropout rates.

Furthermore, the leadership structure of the universities is ill-fitted for the pursuit of excellence and knowledge production. While talking on the higher education systems around the world, Prof. Stephen Heyneman made an excellent point explaining the difference between top ranking American universities and the universities in developing nations. The leadership structure in top ranking American university is very conducive for continuous pursuit of excellence. The board of visitors (mainly, donors and alumni) appoint the president of the university on contract-bases and pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars. In order to get that job, the highly-skilled candidates have to present institutional goals and action plans for the same – how the institution will achieve and maintain excellence, how will the resources be generated and how all stake-holders will be taken on board etc. Therefore, from the day one, the president has a mission and s/he is highly accountable. On the other hand, the appointment of Vice-Chancellors in most of the Indian universities is based on political loyalties and personal influences. There is no vision presented for the institutional growth; and there is hardly any accountability. As long as the system runs without much media outrage (possibly on corruption, lack of governance, or more serious criminal charges) and the political equations are in balance, the vice-chancellor can survive.
In total, neither the institution leaders nor the faculty members face any negative consequences for not contributing to the knowledge production.

(Bill Gates read and reviewed "That Used to Be Us", a new book on how to strengthen America's economic competitiveness. Bill sat down with co-author Thomas Friedman for a probing conversation about the vitally important issues raised by the book.) View the Video Here

On the brighter side of course is the joint venture by Harvard & MIT to impart Free Online education to students worldwide. The platform named Edx has received record number of registration from students worldwide.This project is expected to go a long way in addressing the education problem. The happy news is that they intend to invite other leading Universities in the world also to use their platform to impart online. And everything is absolutely free. View More Information Here

A look at India Scenario.

Of course we could also do the same comparison between the great institutions in India, unfortunately the data available is not sufficient for carrying out a full analysis on all the relevant parameters. Some rankings that are being carried by the highly respected magazines are honest no doubt, but they lack the in-depth analysis. Even that is viewed by a very few parents. Usually the parents fall for the high claims made by the institutions in their ads. Hardly any institution is asked to substantiate its claims with documents.

Don't we need a set of highly demanding parents to make the institutions more responsible in their thought and actions???

Parents, who spend huge amounts for their children’s Technical or management education, do not demand an equitable ROI (Return on Investment) on their precious investments. We feel highly blessed if the institution promises campus recruitment & keeps promise. Is a job, any job, with any salary, a solution? When there is an investment, there has to be a proportionate return. Even the jobs offered do not materialize for quite some time. Aspirants are indefinitely put on bench by the corporates.

Who is to be blamed?? Of course the Academic institutions.
How???  Let us analyze.

A recent report by  The National Employability Report of Engineering Graduates done by Aspiring Minds. presents a very deplorable picture.

While a dismal 3.51 per cent are appropriately trained to be directly deployed on projects. Only 2.68 per cent are employable in IT product companies, which require greater understanding of computer science and algorithms, according to the National Employability Report of Engineering Graduates done by Aspiring Minds. View the complete article Here

The Institutions feel secure the moment they are able to get some organizations for campus drive. This ensures for them the admissions in accordance with their capacity. This also makes them complacent, and the management is reluctant to invest money to improve the quality of content, imparting, quality of the faculty.

Let us analyze as to what is the % of PhDs among the faculty in the technical and management colleges???  Ideal   % in top B-Schools & under Grad Schools (Engineering colleges) in USA is 60%. This excludes of course the IVY League Institutions where the % is still higher.

In India 10 to 15 % is considered ideal in Management & Engineering. Rules are there of course; however contravention is more a practice than compliance. Here again of course there are exceptions as University campuses and some institutions of repute follow the norms religiously, judiciously, and zealously. Yeah, but they are not in majority.

However when it comes to qualifications in teaching, you hardly have faculty with qualifications in teaching or education. While in most of the schools, a degree or diploma in teaching is needed for selection as a teacher, no such requirement is needed for becoming a lecturer in a professional college.

You mostly have B.Techs teaching B.Techs or MBAs teaching MBAs in the majority of the Academic Institutions. The institutions have genuine financial constraints. Probably the funds generated cannot give the management the luxury of hiring more qualified teaching staff. These result in lower quality of imparting, lower caliber of the students, lower starting salaries, resulting in lower Brand Equity, lower revenue generation, lower bottom lines, and again a heap of constraints.

There is an urgent need for the Academic Institutions to come out of this vicious cycle. There is an urgent need for them to create a niche for themselves in the education scenario.

This is possible by working to increase the brand equity of the institutions. This is possible when there is an improvement in the quality of imparting, imparters, & the content. You need to make an investment for the future. The results will speak for  themselves. The institutions can reposition themselves, move to the next level & compete with the best.

What we have now is a lot of chaff with a very small quantity of grain. We need a quality winnowing process to separate the chaff from the grain. And a time bound process to transform the chaff into grain.

Now, as far as the job front is concerned, the situation is encouraging globally. It is sweet music to hear organizations speaking about recruitments and expansion. In India the situation was never bad even during the infamous global recession. According to Government sources, during the period 2000-2007, more than 200 million jobs were generated in India. Presently the government of India feels that annually 10 million jobs can be generated every year. Apart from this, government feels that an additional 20 million jobs can be created annually in the labor intensive sectors like agriculture, tourism and other segments.

In ranking an institution, what we need to consider is the return on the investment for the student .The essential parameters should be the Starting pay package. Career growth, the longevity of the job, and the % relevance of the knowledge gained in the institution in job application. There are large media houses with the capacity and resources to do this exercise. They should use the available technology to conduct research and surveys with healthy sample sizes and ensure that the report is available, accessible, and helpful for parents in selecting the best institutions suitable for their children.

We find it gratifying that my articles on education are getting very good and positive response from the Academia, the Industry, students and the people in general both on our CBD blog wikiHow.

Encouraged by this, we have decided a platform for knowledge sharing, where we will feature information regarding the Academia, the Industry,& people]s take on the  education. Apart from the articles written by Shyam on education, we will also feature article by famous management gurus. Case studies from the leading management libraries.

The rich resources we have access to, from many important organizations will be shared on social media platforms for the benefit of everyone.

Aptly christened   “Knowledge – Korridor”, The corridor will showcase the best from the best sources.The “Knowledge – Korridor” still in the early stages of evolution has already has interesting content from some of the best Institutions of the world.

Let us look forward to happy boding for the Institution, Industry, & more importantly for students

Best wishes,


My other well read and well accepted articles.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

About Education : Live Projects, Employment,Imparting,Curriculum, Whose responsible?? .... India Jai Ho

Any article on education draws considerable attention and even controversy.

Last year my article on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) drew so much attention, that it made it to the home page of WikiHow. Anything reaching any wiki home page is bound to become controversial. A substantiated statement that, US ranks 29th in the world in the math literacy, among the 15 year olds, brought huge protests from the Americans. The brickbats are still there for all to see in the discussions section of the article.

While I write this article, I have just received the highest honor the wiki community awards to its members. “The Barn Star” award for my contribution to the wikiHow community in the form 15 articles to “make the world better.”

Coming to education in India, you can discuss endlessly and still do little to correct the situation. A malaise afflicting the country for more than half a century cannot be cured overnight. In a country, where the majority of the educational institutions, are owned and used by the politicians, to create a mass base of support, and a viable avenue for revenue, the concern for education and its standards becomes secondary. But then we cannot also keep blaming the system and do nothing. A solution within the system with its inherent ills needs to be found. Employability credentials of the students have to be upgraded and enhanced to make them job ready. To that, we need to analyze the present malaise, in order decide where to make a beginning. 

Let us analyze

India is one of the leaders of the developing world today. In the times of global slowdown, the Indian economy is likely to grow by close to 6% in the year 2013-14. However, if India wants to grow rich and get into the league of the developed nations, it has to strengthen the pillars of scientific research. To understand this let’s take an example of I-Pod, a product developed by an American company, Apple. China, the manufacturer country of the I-Pod, gets only about $4 out of the sales price of $299. Most of the amount goes to various component suppliers and the product developers in USA.

It is clear – the country that holds patent-rights and develops global brands benefits the most. If India wants to become a developed nation, if it wants to compete with China and the United States, it has to develop global brands. And the first step in this direction is scientific research.

This is what is happening  in India 

The development in the field of science and research is rooted in university-level pure science courses (i.e., Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology). Unfortunately, the educational practices in an average Indian university can be described as follows:

·         This is the syllabus, and these many theories are to be memorized. Refer the test papers of last five years to get an idea of possible question-items.

·         Reading material can be obtained from the seniors (however, some ‘helpful’ faculty members would dictate notes to the students in classrooms).

·         Drill and practice are the keys for success, so practice writing theories ones, twice, thrice and so on. Once you are able to reproduce theories as in the “reading material”, your first-class is confirmed, possibly with a gold medal.

·         If you perform below expectations, consider that you failed to put sufficient laborious efforts, or wrongly played “the option” card. [Note: University examinations often give optional questions with instructions such as – “Answer any 3 out of 5 questions”. So, it is possible that a student has not studied the entire syllabus and still gets high score. Students often strategize what not to study and leave out subject-content in “option”.]

This method may efficiently produce trainers (who identify themselves as “teachers”), who can pass on their memorization techniques to the younger generation, but how can it produce scientists and researchers? [The reason of a few exceptions that can be seen in the society can be either student’s strong intrinsic motivation for learning or a presence of a dedicated faculty member]. Given this absence of research culture, it is not-at-all surprising that the Indian universities hardly ever appear in the list of top 500 universities of the world. As a consequence of such educational practice, India has not yet participated in the global competition in the field of science and research. 

According to the Science Report 2010 of UNESCO, India’s contribution to the world research publication is only 3.7%, whereas China’s contribution is 10.6% and the United States’ contribution is whooping 27.7%. In the category of global patents, India’s share is merely 0.5% (USPTO patents) and 0.2% (Triadic patents), whereas China’s share is 4.7% (USPTO) and 0.5% (Triadic) and the US’ share is massive 52.2% (USPTO) and 41.8% (Triadic). Though India has almost doubled its research publications between 2002 and 2008, this progress is overshadowed by glittering Chinese advancement.

Table 1: Scientific Publications in India and China.

Year 2002
Year 2008

Resource: UNESCO Science Report (2010)

Almost 16% of the world’s population resides in India. However, only 2.2% of scientific researchers of the world hold Indian citizenship. In addition, for every one million of population, India has only 137 scientific researchers; this is outnumbered by many times by all of the developed countries and many of the developing nations (for e.g., China -1070, US -4663 and Japan 5573). 

What needs to be done ???

Indian policymakers ought to finalize the aims of science education at the university level. If Indian students are expected to get absorbed into the research centres on completion of their graduate studies and to add value to research projects, then they must have had enough opportunities to develop required knowledge and skills during their course work at the universities. The graduate studies must nurture the thinking and working pattern of scientists in students.

Usually, a researcher follows the following steps:

1. Identify and define a problem

2. Literature review

3. Form hypothesis

4. Develop methods, conduct experiment and collect data 

5. Analyze data and produce results

6. Explain results and draw conclusions

7. Provide directions for further research

Now if a graduate programme requires students to reproduce already obtained solutions of given problems and theories, how will a student come up with newer research problems? And without training, what literature review will s/he pursue and what sort of hypothesis will s/he develop? Of course, in such a scenario, the expectation of methodology development is out of question. This is a grim picture of the pure science programme pass-outs. These graduate programmes are not aligned with their professional-aims.

According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER, 2005), out of total unemployed graduates, 22.3% are pure science graduates. The proportion of pure science pass outs is 62.8% among total unemployed post graduates. This may be a major reason why students avoid pure science programmes after completion of their high school studies (as suggested by NCAER, 2005). As per UNESCO’s Science Report 2010, one of the biggest challenges for India in the coming years will be to revolutionarily improve both quantity and quality of scientists and researchers. This gigantic task cannot be done without structural reforms in university education. In order to directly link pure science departments with research work, I present certain suggestions based on my observations of research universities in the USA.

·         Every university should have at least one world class library with a strong e-database of e-books and articles of national and international research journals. All of the students and faculty members should have access to this database through internet (e-network), irrespective of their physical location. E-copies of all of the master’s and doctoral theses/dissertations should be included in this database. In addition, various universities can be networked throughout India. Throughout the country, such e-network will facilitate a free flow of knowledge, which is a precondition for research.
..All of the research centres can be linked with this e-network. And experimental data/results and research articles/reports can be made available to each and every university student and faculty member.
.At the post graduate level a student must be educated for the following:

o   Critical analyses of research articles

o   Identifying and defining research problems and developing hypotheses

o   Understanding technical limitations

o   Preparing research and grant proposals

o   Working closely with faculty members on research projects and writing thesis

o   Publishing research academic articles/papers/thesis

In addition to the written examination, the above points should have significant weightage, while assessing a student’s academic abilities.

Curriculum & Imparting

Whatever perspective you take (Student, Institution or Industry).Everyone agrees that, the objective of the curriculum designing & imparting should identify itself closely with Industry need.

Is that happening???

The people I have interacted in the industry sector over the years feel that, it is not happening. They state that, the organizations have to spend substantial amount of time, money, and other mentoring resources to make the people job ready. Ideally the organizations would like to have a product that is ready to use and delivers from the first day. To this end some organizations have started an effort to interact and collaborate with the academia. However the scale of activity is still miniscule and in no way addresses the demand supply gap.

What are the ills, what is the remedy??

Designing of curriculum:

This is usually a lesser evil. Universities usually have an expert committee that contains elite personalities from the Academia and Industry. However it is time span that is taken to finalise it that makes it almost obsolete by the time it reaches the implementation stage. However it has an inbuilt industry familiarization mechanism by way of mandatory industrial projects of different duration depending on the domain. However there is no established ways to monitor and verify the authenticity of the projects.

Majority of the students of engineering and management that I interacted with had fictitious projects. Institutions also expressed their helplessness. Add to this are the mushrooming small time organizations which are minting money in the form of campus recruitment programs or job empowerment programs. Poor student have to dole out money for this. This is done with c the institutions acting as conduits.

How to overcome this??

In the area of medical sciences there is a mechanism by which student intake is directly proportional to the hospital facilities available and this is strictly monitored by the MCI (Medical Council of India), and any violation results in the permission being withdrawn.

This is not the case with Engineering and Management Institutions.

An institution should be accorded affiliation based on its ability to establish an industry interface. In United States, and some other western countries, institutions have an MOU with industries for the intake of fixed numbers of interns every year. Here also the intake of students, in an institution should be regulated by the universities based on the capacity to provide live projects to the students.

This of course is easier said than done. I accept.

However what is laudable and appreciable is the willingness of the industry to create an employment bridge in the form of projects and knowledge in order to make the students’ job ready. The number of the industries with such an attitude is growing by day. However it is for the Institutions to wake up and shoulder their part of the responsibility by responding to these offers positively. Institutions please note, there are no free lunches here. They need to invest their share in the costs. Definitely industry academia interface can be established for the welfare of the students.

However all is not lost, even in the education front. Some prestigious Universities have been delivering quality since decades; They will continue to do so. We can also see a small silver lining emerging in the form upcoming private Universities. These institutions are setting exemplary standards in the design of Industry specific curriculum, imparting, projects and the quality of the teaching staff. These are   the Harvard’s, Stanford’s, Wharton’s, and Ivy Leagues of India in making. As of now they are too few in number to create any meaningful impact. However the future will see these institutions in majority and they will take Indian Education and Imparting to the standards unheard of before, and India will lead the world in the education field.

In addition to this, we now have the industrial houses getting into the education. We have Azeem Premji foundations investing hugely in education. Their Global University which will start functioning shortly will set new standards in education. This should prompt other Industrial houses to invest hugely in education. This will automatically raise the bar in standards of educational institutions.

Once this happens, we will see the greedy politicians managed institutions driven to extinction. And that would be a red letter day in the annals of Indian education.

I would like to conclude by stating that a country with knowledge-based economy will take global leadership in the coming times. The heart of “Knowledge Economy” is progress in science and research. The USA, EU, and East Asia are far ahead and still firmly marching forward in that direction. 

Will India participate in the global competition and be a serious contender?

I am sure it will

Best Wishes,

Note : This article was originally written in April 2011 and modified on 28th October 2014

Elite Institutions & Eluding Parent Patronage 2011-04-20

Elite Institutions & Eluding Parent Patronage

                    Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library

This is an India specific article, but discussion is not, I invite views and insights from experts globally.

Elite Educational Institutions & Eluding Parental Patronage!!!!!

When I decided to write this article on February 22nd, all I had for content was the above sentence with the exclamation marks which kept on adding up. 

On 22nd February 2011, I announced that I would be writing an article on the above subject and invited discussions, dissents, opinions, advice from the people from various fraternities. The response that I got from people of all walks of life was tremendous, many times more than what I had anticipated. The participation was from both the parents and educationists. 

 Now on 20th of April 2011, when I sit to write this article, I have the benefit of valuable information which I am happy to share with you. More valuable than the feedback, was the desire and the intent of the people to interact and contribute.

The earnestness in the subject was demonstrated by more than 1029 views of my Linkedin profile by people from everywhere, which included, more than 300 views, from the Deans, Directors, & Principals.26 Heads of the Institutions have sent contact requests and now they are my contacts. Majority are from India and the United States. The credit for all this responses goes to the tremendous power of the internet and the social media. As someone rightly said, what you can convey to ten people with normal means, with the same effort and time internet can convey it ten million.

(Fortunately no one questioned my ability and expertise to write on this subject. 

Probably they had viewed my role as a CAO in Lead India 2020 Foundation where we 

had dealt thousands of Schools, DEOs, Education Ministry officials and the 

Government. Above all, of course my exclusive privilege of working under and for the 

greatest teacher in contemporary India, Bharat Ratna Dr. Abdul Kalam.) 

Now speaking of the power of internet, how many Institutions are leveraging the highly defined & much demonstrated power of Internet to promote their elite attributes to the elite prospects??

Not many, I think.

We will discuss the power of internet and inbound marketing a little later in this article, but as of now let us get back to the people, response and feedback.

The feedback confirmed among other things, the following

1.       The existence of this problem.

2.  The glaring fact that most of the promotional programs of the institutions didn’t extend beyond the rhetoric.

3.       Parents could not find anything elite, beyond the physical infrastructure in most of the elite institutions.

4.       The positioning and projecting of institutions was not accurate. In target shooting, you get the maximum impact when you hit the bull’s eye. The impact dilutes when it is in the outer circles. The same seems to be happening in case of the Educational Institutions.

Education and its quality is one factor that decides & impacts the quality of socio economic life, a person leads. Naturally every parent  aspires for the best in education for his children,especially in India where there is virtual hand holding till at least the graduate level. Now if you think, this is the trend only amongst the educated parents, you are in for surprise.

In a survey conducted in the Hyderabad slums, it was found out that 65% parents sent their children to private schools. This fact was more or less corroborated by my own experience, while interviewing post graduate students (MSc) in the prestigious Andhra University campus at Vizag. I found that a large number (almost majority) including girls hailed from small villages and whose parents were laborers surviving on daily wages. The grit, the determination, and the mindset of these uneducated parents make the thinking of pseudo intellectuals like us look pedestrian.

Now who is a real intellectual? The uneducated intellectuals more than deserve the few lines that I have dedicated to them.

This proves that the desire for education is universal among the parents irrespective of the socioeconomic status. However the craving for the elite institutions hugely depends on the social and economic status of the discerning parents.

This may sound a bit surprising again, considering that India which has 22% of world’s population has also 35% of world’s illiterates.94% of the children start primary education,76% proceed to secondary,46% make it to tertiary, and only 7% complete graduation. The figures for postgraduate and management education are not available with me, but it cannot be more than 3 to 3.5%. This more or less gives us the information about the total market size for various segments of education in India.

With all these diversities, India is still the third largest education market after China and the United States.

While the education process in USA and well talked about , the one in China is worth exploring about, as culture wise and population wise India is closer to China than Finland, Which has the best in the world education system. 

Everything about China including Education opened during the time of Deng Xiaoping in the late seventies.

How China reformed its education, how the process evolved, and how they maintained the standards where there are as many as Seven Universities in the top 200 global ranking is definitely a mention here and I am doing it.


In China the initiative has come from the Government. this in brief about the projects they have for the upliftment education standards in the      country. 

Project 211 was designed to raise the research standards of China’s top universities. Institutions that reach a certain standard are rewarded with significantly increased funds. Today there are 116 higher education institutions that are part of Project 211.

Project 985 was established three years later and uses a very similar strategy, although just 39 universities have received sponsorship as a result of this project and in 2011 it was announced that no new universities would be able to gain membership to this exclusive group.

The final and most selective group is the C9 League, a group of the country’s top nine elite universities who between them receive 10 per cent of China’s national research budget.

Certainly, the Indian government has a lot to learn from the policies and initiatives of the Chinese government, then blindly copying the Finnish thinking, which is much much ahead of us, unsuitable for our diversity and population, and impractical at present for us to implement..

The essentials of promoting an elite Institution:

Beyond the Rhetoric

Most of the Institutions talk of special methods of imparting, special personal care, individual attention. While this is what an institution is normally expected to do, this being projected as a 'Special Add On', is what irks the parents. And add to this is the fact that almost all the institutions parrot the same lines, reduces it to nothing more than a rhetoric. Institutions should be able to think beyond the normal and provide value to the paying customer. What constitutes value is different for different segments of education. It varies for schools, junior colleges, degree colleges, and the management colleges. For example for a management college, an affiliation with a business school is a value; a close interface with the industry is a value. Guest lectures by reputed academic and industry professional is again a value. You can read my article on the B- Schools titled 

Big fish eat little fish and so on ad infinitum. (About B-Schools and MBA)

A Third party conversation is always better than a monotonous 
& monosyllable self broadcast

Institutions advertise themselves through hoardings, banners, and other visual media and consider their job to be over. This only helps in being noticed but doesn’t help in decision making. The very loud statements made by the ads have often very poor marketing values and seldom generate leads or change opinions. Most of the time, they are an eyesore for the people.

Instead, the Institutions should work hard to generate values that can be fit to be a part of the third party conversation in meetings, seminars, general discussions and other conversation.

Right from the first person graduating from the Institution to the newly enrolled, there should be a chain built over the years of conversation regarding the values. Monosyllable monotonous broadcast will not impress a discerning parent who can easily distinguish between an elite and a pseudo elite.

Position yourself above the mushrooming neighborhood schools

There are neighborhood schools in all colonies and communities. Their advantage is their local influence in the locality and the proximity factor. Parents who do not like their children to travel usually patronize these institutions. These schools  have very little to offer other than the proximity aspect. You should position your Institutions a few rungs above these. It is ideal to hire a marketing expert, who can work on the positioning aspects and create USP’s that bring discerning parents.  

Leverage the tremendous potential of the online inbound marketing

The internet will take you to places unimaginable. There is significant segment of families who relocate every year. These include people from India and the NRIs who are returning to India in large numbers. These people search internet for the elite schools on internet. The marketing agencies you hire will create highly effective and vibrant inbound and outbound marketing plans. If you are a corporate entity with large number of Institutions in different segments, We can help you with long term inbound & outbound strategies.

There are of course many other strategies for marketing an institution or a group, but all that cannot be included in the scope of an article. 

Finally I wish to conclude by hoping that there would be sufficient evolution in the educational system in India, that  the education would become affordable for parents and sustainable for the institutions.

Best wishes,


You can  also view my Linkedin Profile