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Union HRD minister urged to increase chances for IIT aspirants

Higher Education


Times of India

PATNA: Encouraged by UPSC’s decision to provide additional chances to aspirants across all categories, mathematician Anand Kumar of Super 30 fame has urged the union HRD minister MM Pallam Raju, for a similar opportunity in examination for qualifying in IITs.

“I want to draw your attention towards the latest decision of the UPSC to increase the number of chances for the aspirants. This is a good move. In the same light, I would like to request you to kindly take the initiative to increase the number of chances for JEE aspirants also,” Anand Kumar said in a letter addressed to the union HRD minister.

Kumar has been demanding more chances in JEE for students from underprivileged sections in the rural areas, saying they don’t get the advantage of quality schooling and often start their preparations late.

“I have been raising this demand for the last four years. I had even met former HRD minister Kapil Sibal twice in 2010 and 2012. I had also discussed this during my meeting with the Prime Minister. I have not had the opportunity to meet you, but will surely like to do so whenever you have time,” he said in a letter.

He said, more opportunities will help reduce the urban-rural divide so that bright students from rural areas come forward.

“They are late starters due to dearth of opportunities. By the time they start seriously preparing for JEE – mostly by themselves – it is late. They cannot afford costly coaching. Despite having talent, they fail to reach the level required for IIT. With little more time, they will also be able to raise their bar and contribute in making IIT more inclusive”, he said.

“Now that Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has raised number of chances to six for general category students, nine for OBC candidates and unlimited for SC/ST candidates, it is important for the JEE board to think on similar lines,” he said.

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Media-education groups link up in Alliance of Asian Media Schools

Global news, Higher Education

February 17, 2014

NATION UNIVERSITY’S Faculty of Communication Arts has forged an alliance with leading media academic institutions from four other Asian countries for a regional collaboration on media education that will prepare Asia for a new era.

The four are the Konrad Adenauer Asian Centre for Journalism (ACFJ) at the Philippines’ Ateneo de Manila University, the Statesman Print Journalism School from India, Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Department of Media and Communication (DMC) from Cambodia, and the National Management College in Yangon, Myanmar.

They will work together to synergise their media courses so as to allow students to study in the five countries, exchange teachers, and introduce a new pan-Asian knowledge curriculum.

The network members have founded what is to be known as the “Alliance of Asian Media Schools (AMS)”.

“AMS should be able to bring about good synergy and development in Asian journalism education. Nation University’s Faculty of Communication Arts wants to be an active partner in this alliance, whose members share the goal of ethical and responsible journalism. It is the key concept which we have prioritised for our students,” said Dr Duangporn Arbhasil, senior executive vice president of Nation University.

Academics and heads of the five met at the Asian J-School Summit in Phnom Penh last week organised by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Media Programme Asia. Asian News Network, an alliance of 22 media organisations from 19 Asian countries and the Rural Media Network from Pakistan also participated.

“Any of the five journalism schools is the best in the country it represents”, said the director of KAS Media Programme Asia, Torben Stephan. “The time has come to join and work on a new regional perspective of journalism education.”

The academic and course synergy will be put together under direction of Dr Violet Valdez, associate professor and executive director of ACFJ.

Valdez said, “The AMS is envisioned as a platform for sharing experiences and resources, and forging a journalism curriculum that is relevant to the culture and aspirations of Asian societies.”

The senior representatives from the five academies together came up with the principles of journalism education in Asia in which they will work together on core courses to enhance ethical and responsible journalism in the context of specific Asian societies.

AMS will also strive to provide practical experience in innovative ways of effective story telling – extending the responsible role of journalism from print, to broadcasting, social media and other technological-led outlets.

The alliance is keen on providing an understanding the appreciation of the role of journalism has in culturally-diverse democracies in Asia which is also undergoing rapid social change.

Last but not least, AMS want to together produce next generations of journalists, broadcasters and multimedia media personnel who work for public interest so as to create informed citizens and societies.

The aspiration and action plans of AMS will be presented to the Asia News Network’s annual Board of Editors’ meeting in Singapore on April 7-8.

Valdez represented ACFJ at the meeting, while Ratana Som led DMC as its acting director. Dr Duangporn Arbhasil represented Nation University in her capacity as senior executive vice president, while Ravindra Kumar is trustee of the Statesman Print Journalism School.

Prof Dr Than Win represented National Management College as its Principal. NMC operate Myanmar’s only journalism programme. NMC itself will be upgraded to a university status shortly.

Rural Media Network was represented by its president, Ehsan Ahmed Sehar; and Pana Janviroj participated on behalf of Asia News Network as its executive director.

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Promote practical education; diversify work culture for a better India: Modi

Curriculum Development, Higher Education

Business Standard


Kick starting his ‘chai pe charcha’ nation-wide campaign from Ahmedabad, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Wednesday said traditional Indian education has always laid a special emphasis on practical education.

“If a school teacher tries to instill civic sense in children, and implements a ‘safai abhiyaan’ programme, the media will start saying the teacher is making children work,” he said.

He said in ancient times, a king’s son and a common man’s son studied in the same gurukul, but today, those structures don’t exist anymore.

“You can’t live by degrees alone; every nation is stressing on skill development. In our whole education system, if we stress on skill development, we will have the manufacturing sector come in; there will be growth. Even in agriculture, we need skilled manpower,” Modi said.

“We should encourage research in our universities. No society can go forward without research and innovation. We should encourage research and innovation. We should have a national platform for innovations that aren’t confined to the university system only. In most developed countries, universities play a major role in policy formulation,” the Gujarat Chief Minister said.

Commenting on the Chief Minister’s fellowship programme, Modi said that for 12 to 15 jobs, the government received between 1200-1500 applications.

“The government must ensure that the programmes it devises reach the intended beneficiaries

They must also see that it benefits the target groups and the money is spent properly in the time allotted. The government should find beneficiaries of a project, and people shouldn’t have to search for projects that benefit them,” he added.

On the issue of government jobs, he said that it was a lamentable fact that fewer highly talented people were opting for civil service institutions such as the Indian Administrative Service or the Indian Police Service, as there is wide disparity in terms of income earned and responsibility when compared to jobs in the more lucrative private sector.

“There is also a gap between the work culture of the governments and that of the corporate world

We need to make the work culture in the government more professional. The government and the society should work together. For instance, if there is a sports event, we can ask corporates to contribute their managerial skills and work with the government.  We must learn to work together – the government and the corporate,” Modi said.

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Top economists speak against Hatekar’s suspension

Higher Education

Times of India


MUMBAI: Thirty eminent economists, including  Jagdish Bhagwati, MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee and others from around the globe, have raised their voice against suspension of  econometric professor Neeraj Hatekar. Meanwhile, Hatekar has decided to hold lectures for his students on the street outside the Mumbai University campus to contain their academic loss.
Hatekar taught Microeconomics-II, a compulsory subject, to second semester students of MA Economics, and multiple linear regression and its extension, an elective, to Semester IV students. A total of 118 students were taught these two courses by him.
“MA Economics is a credit-based course. A minimum of 72 credits are required to clear it and exams are held every six weeks. The suspension has put the fate of students in serious doubt as the university administration has not charted out any plans to deal with the academic implications,” said a note issued jointly by the Save Mumbai University Campaign and University Community for Democracy and Equality.

Meanwhile, a battery of economists–Princeton University’s Dilip Abreu, MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee, University of California, Berkeley’s Pranab Bardhan, Columbia University’s Jagdish Bhagwati, Harvard University’s Rohini Pande, Sujoy Chakravarty from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Arvind Panagariya from Columbia University, Delhi School of Economics’ Mausumi Das, Ashwini Deshpande, Anirban Kar, Parikshit Ghosh, Deepti Goel and Rohini Somanathan, and several others have termed Hatekar’s suspension as disturbing.
“His suspension on the grounds of ‘spreading false propaganda’ and ‘moral turpitude’ looks like an attempt to muzzle dissent, intimidate critics and avoid scrutiny on the part of the university authorities,” they said in a note that was distributed among them all.
Other signatory include S Mahendra Dev (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research), Jean Dreze (Allahabad University), Bhaskar Dutta (University of Warwick), Maitreesh Ghatak (London School of Economics), Reetika Khera (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi), Dilip Mookherjee (Boston University) Karthik Muralidharan (University of California, San Diego), Arvind Panagariya (Columbia University), Bharat Ramaswami (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi), Debraj Ray (New York University) ArunavaSen (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi), Eswaran Somanathan (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi) and from the University of British Columbia- Sumeet Gulati, Milind Kandlikar, Ashok Kotwal, Amartya Lahiri and Nisha Malhotra.
“The university is meant to be a place for the fearless pursuit of truth. The actions taken against professor Hatekar are a threat to academic freedom and the integrity of our institutions of higher learning. We find this to be a disturbing trend and protest it in the strongest terms.”
These economists have demanded that Hatekar’s criticism of the administration deserves to be taken seriously and he should not face punitive action until the truth is verified by an independent committee or a court of law. “The vice-chancellor, in this instance, cannot credibly act as an impartial judge since he himself stands accused of serious wrongdoing,” they said in the note.

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Building better universities

Higher Education, Quality

The Hindu


 The regulatory mechanism for higher education should aim to ensure quality and accountability, rather than leave institutions constrained by rules
As the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex body regulating higher education in India, marks its 60th anniversary — it was inaugurated on December 28, 1953 — some introspection is in order. The democratisation of the higher education system and improved and expanded access and opportunities are some of the milestones of the last half-a-century. However, there are concerns expressed by all stakeholders that the current models of governance of universities do not inspire confidence about an appropriate framework to regulate them. Several issues need to be examined in the context of the existing framework for regulating universities.The existing model is based on deep and pervasive distrust among regulators over the possibility of universities doing things on their own, and doing it well. The current framework that require universities to be constantly regulated by laws, rules, regulations, guidelines and policies set by the government and the regulatory bodies have not produced the best results.There are at least five factors that increasingly govern such regulation. The first relates to Central laws and rules concerning universities and higher education. A second concerns laws and rules of State governments. A third relates to rules, regulations and guidelines formulated by the UGC. A fourth one concerns rules, regulations and guidelines formulated by regulatory bodies such as the Medical Council of India and the Bar Council of India. A fifth concerns orders and directions passed by courts.

If there is one lesson we can learn from the last 60 years of regulating universities, it is the need to reduce the burden. But regulation in general and the governance of universities in particular have certain important social objectives.

There are issues relating to quality and accountability that need to be ensured, and regulatory bodies should assume that role and responsibility. That role needs to significantly change from the existing model to a more progressive approach where universities are allowed to take greater responsibility on their own. There is a need to develop a framework of Earned Autonomy for universities where new forms of regulatory models are created. This model can have a system in which universities could be identified on the basis of indicators and assessment criteria so that a number of them, public and private, could be allowed to function more autonomously than others. This framework should allow upward mobility: universities should be able to fulfil a specific set of goals to develop and reach different stages of autonomy.

There is a case for changing the existing regulatory framework that has a disparaging attitude towards private universities. The model of distinguishing public and private universities in terms of the original source of funding — whether it was created by the state or through private initiatives — is archaic and has to be reexamined. They have to be assessed on the basis of their contribution, looking at what they are doing as opposed to who created them.

The regulatory model of governance needs to focus on empowering public and private universities with a view to achieving excellence. A large number of universities will have to cater to the growing demands and aspirations of Indian youth to be educated and, in that process, employed. However, the regulatory bodies have a critical responsibility to identify a select group of public and private universities to empower them to achieve global research excellence.

These objectives should go hand in hand; there is no need to trump one over the other. There is a need to promote non-profit private university education; philanthropy of private individuals and corporate philanthropy have to be encouraged. The question of accountability is relevant both for public and private Indian universities.

Not one Indian university figures today as one of the top 200 in any of the major rankings of universities in the world. In fact, the debate relating to global rankings of universities in India has matured into a constructive dialogue initiated by the UGC, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Government of India and the Planning Commission. Serious, transparent and candid discussions are being held about rankings and how to improve the quality of universities. There cannot be a better occasion than the 60th year of the UGC for it to work towards a specific set of targeted goals in a time-bound manner that will bring some Indian universities to the top 200 list.

It is worth examining the achievements in establishing and developing universities of global excellence in Asian countries, particularly in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. This will reveal that an extraordinary impetus to seek the transformation of universities has been undertaken in the last two decades for universities in Asia to be among the top 200. India will do well to draw inspiration from some of these experiences from Asian neighbours.

The heart of university education is research and knowledge-creation. But teaching informs research and research contributes to better teaching. India needs a lot more colleges, particularly undergraduate institutions that will fulfil the dreams and aspirations of young India.

India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is a matter of concern and the demographic dividend we hope to achieve will be possible only if we provide opportunities for quality education to young people. The regulatory framework ought to make an important distinction between the role of colleges in promoting access to higher education on the one hand and the larger focus of universities in India, which should be to create knowledge and promote research and scholarship leading to publications.

One of the reasons for Indian universities not figuring among the top 200 is that since Independence our focus on expanding the higher education sector to provide access has led to a situation where research and scholarship have been neglected. We need to strike a balance.

Over 60 per cent of the criteria used to assess the quality of universities are based on research, publications and citations. We can make amends for this by recognising that different universities are situated to achieve different sets of important educational goals and objectives. Not all universities need to be research-oriented. Nowhere in the world is that the case. A systematic, coherent, and transparent approach is needed to determine the suitability of universities to pursue objectives of excellence.

The way forward
If we accept the proposed theory of regulation, there should be a greater focus on the establishment of universities and the need to maintain higher standards and sharper scrutiny at the time of establishment.

Gradually, the scrutiny of universities before starting programmes or schools should come down, as they are expected to assume greater responsibility in having self-regulating mechanisms and internal quality assurance systems. The role of regulators should change, as the purpose after the establishment of the universities would be to empower and enable them to perform better. But for this to be effective, tools of assessment that are credible and internationally benchmarked should be developed.

The vision, nature, and scope of regulation of universities will determine the ability of higher education institutions to fulfil their goals of academic excellence and research achievements with a view to helping India establish a knowledge society.

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Poorly Taught Economics

Curriculum Development, Higher Education



Luis Miranda

A few weeks back I attended a talk by Prof Arvind Panagariya of Columbia  University, hosted by Gaja Capital. And I loved it. After a really long time I  heard someone in India talk about the role of markets in reducing poverty. Our  colleges are filled with socialist teachings on the subject and we seem to trap  our students in a time warp. So it was so refreshing to hear Prof Panagariya. He  talked about the need to grow the pie in order to redistribute wealth … if we  only have poverty then there is not much wealth to redistribute. He added that  the reduction of poverty is more important than the reduction of inequality.

A few days before that I had met a consultant who had recently majored in  Economics from one of the leading colleges in India. When she was still in  college she had attended a course taught by a think-tank that I am associated  with, Centre for Civil Society (CCS). CCS, was set up by Parth Shah 16 years  back to open the minds of young Indians … to teach them about public policy … to  give them an opportunity to connect classroom theory with practical work … to  highlight the importance of making decisions based on data. And this young lady  said that she enjoyed the iPolicy sessions of CCS because they discussed a very  different type of economics from what she was taught in college and the theory  was validated by experiential testing. I recalled my college days in  Mumbai.  I was taught that the father of economics was Adam Smith and that  John Maynard Keynes was God. That was it – no mention at all about economic  theory after Paul Samuelson.  I then went to the University of Chicago and  was exposed to a branch of economics that I had never heard about in Mumbai. I  was introduced to names like Milton Friedman and was taught by Nobel Prize  winners like George Stigler and Gene Fama. Thirty years later the situation is  the same in our colleges, with a small tweaking … maybe one part of one paper  over 4 years would talk about ‘fresh water’ economics. The developments in  Economics over the past 30 years seem to be irrelevant in India.

I recently participated in a discussion on philanthropy with Rohini Nilekani  and she talked about how we should use markets as a force of good in  philanthropy, especially since a lot of recent wealth was created by  entrepreneurs like Azim Premji and the team at Infosys, thanks to the role of  markets.

Unfortunately after 60 years of independence we are still brainwashing our  students that socialist policies will get our country out of poverty. So I asked  Prof Panagariya how can we get more Indians aware about the role of markets in  economic development and the reduction of poverty. He said that the problem lay  with the faculty in our colleges. Those who are market-inclined either don’t get  teaching positions because their ideology clashes with that of the rest of the  faculty or they decide to take up corporate jobs. As a result, we have the same  antiquated knowledge being taught over generations in our classrooms by  so-called development economists who fail to realise that the world has changed  around us. I have still to see the curriculum of a top college in India devote  sufficient attention to new concepts like the Chicago School of Economics, the  Public Choice School of Thought and Behavioural Economics. And this gets  compounded when the faculty invariably comes from former students of the same  college. This inbreeding has to stop so that students get exposed to new  concepts.

I am not arguing that one theory is better than the other – all I am saying  is that students need to be exposed to different schools of thought. And  students should be encouraged to debate these theories and get hands-on training  in economic policy. At Chicago Booth the faculty consists of people like Gene  Fama and Richard Thaler who are on opposite sides of the efficient markets  hypothesis. We need to see such intellectual tolerance in our campuses in India.  About a year back I spoke about the role of markets to a bunch of post-graduate  students at Manipal University. I felt like a slave in Roman times being fed to  the lions. We argued a lot and most of the students felt that I was a total  idiot to talk about crazy concepts like the importance of incentives and  competition. I ended by saying that I wasn’t there to brainwash them that  markets represented the Holy Grail, but to expose them to other ideas and let  them debate these ideas amongst themselves. Their professor, Sundar Sarukkai,  subsequently told me that there was fierce debate on my talk after I left.  Mission accomplished.

I remember attending a 2-day seminar in Delhi a couple of years back where  faculty of Delhi University, JNU and the University of Chicago got together to  discuss the future of the study of humanities. One particular session stood out  – a presentation by a professor from Delhi on research being currently done in  Indian universities. Nothing in her presentation was backed by data and we  instead discussed frivolous issues. It was a fascinating couple of days which  highlighted the lack of academic rigour amongst some of the leading faculty in  Delhi and the total disdain to look at what the data says. Which is why Bhagwati  and Panagariya’s recent book, ‘India’s Tryst With Destiny’, is great – they use  data to debunk common myths about India’s journey over the past two decades. For  example, after markets took over from the state in 1991 poverty has declined  even for scheduled castes and tribes, growth has gone up, jobs have been created  and health and education has improved … this is, of course, only if you want to  look at the data. Panagariya is also a supporter of education vouchers and cash  transfers.

I asked my former Chairman, Dr. Vijay Kelkar, why data is largely ignored in  public decision making and he paraphrased the sorry state of affairs with this  lovely quote of leaders in public policy – “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” Dr  Kelkar also reminded me of the famous quote of Prof Raj Krishna, of the Delhi  School of Economics – “India’s policy makers are knowledge proof.” So is the  media.

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‘Give autonomy to Raise edu Quality’

Higher Education, Quality

The New Indian Express


In order to promote quality of education, educational institutions must be accorded autonomy, opined VIT University chancellor G Viswanathan. While speaking at a function on Saturday organised by associations, NGOs and institutions to commemorate his 75th birthday celebrations, Viswanathan recalled that had he not met former chief minister of TN Annadurai, he would have ended up as an advocate and not an educationist. He said the educational institutions across the country were not being given adequate support by the government and wherever these institutions enjoyed freedom and autonomy, they were able to provide quality education. Quality education must be the goal for both the State and Centre, he added. Viswanathan also stressed on the importance of providing good tree cover to Vellore, which, in the next ten years would change the climate  of the city. He also offered to donate `50 lakh to renovate the Sangeetha Sabha building in the old bus stand area. Former union minister S R Balasubramaniam, termed Viswanathan as an open-minded person, who was a friend of all parties. The VIT University, founded by Viswanathan had become an additional landmark of the historical city of Vellore, he added. The organisers of the event conferred the ?Kalviko’ award  on Viswanathan. The diamond jubilee souvenir was released by the former vice-chancellor of  Anna University A Kalanidhi, on the occasion.

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UGC warns varsities to get accreditation by 2015

Higher Education

India Education Review


The University Grants Commission (UGC) has warned all the higher educational institutions across the country to get them accredited by June 1, 2015, failing which financial assistance to them would be frozen.

UGC’s word of caution is directed at hundreds of institutions which are yet to seek accreditation, which became mandatory after UGC came out with the notification earlier this year.

Till now, of the 650 universities across the country, only 179 have been accredited, along with 5,224 colleges. According to HRD Ministry officials, 133 universities are eligible for accreditation, of which 88 are state universities while seven are central ones.

As per the UGC, 22 deemed universities and 16 private universities are yet to apply for accreditation.

Scores of universities and colleges depend on UGC funds for their day-to-day functioning, including for paying staffers’ salaries.

The 2015 deadline was set at a full commission meeting after it emerged that several institutes still had to undergo the accreditation process as mandated under the regulation.

As per rules, all higher educational institutions should get accredited after the passing out of two batches of students or completion of six years, whichever was earlier.

Non-compliance with the rules could lead to withholding of all grants and declaration of such educational institutions as being ineligible for any aid under any of the general or special assistance programmes of UGC, reported Zee News.

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MHRD planning ‘significant’ role for AICTE on technical education

Higher Education

India Education Review


The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is looking at providing All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with a significant role in technical; education sector.

Though the final authority will rest with the University Grants Commission (UGC), AICTE will have a significant role to play in approval of new technical institutions and courses.

Reportedly, the MHRD wants that all the applications seeking approval of new technical institutions or programmes should first be examined by the AICTE and the UGC take a decision on them on the basis of the Council’s recommendations.

The ministry has sought opinion of the Law Ministry.

The UGC has already come up with draft regulations to take over charge of the AICTE to regulate technical colleges affiliated to varsities across the country, even as an Ordinance seeking to restore the powers of the AICTE, however, continues to remain pending with the Union Cabinet, reported Deccan Herald.

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Education needs to be re-invented, connected to industry: Gandhi

Higher Education

Business Standard

The Indian education system needs to be “re-invented” with a connect drawn between higher education and the needs of the industry, said Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi here Saturday.

Answering a query at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) here, a confident-sounding Gandhi said in India education and industry are thought of in two separate ways.

But on the other hand, modern university and modern education are “essentially a network that connects industry, connects government, NGOs, students with a connect point within the university”, he said.

Gandhi said some of the Indian universities, like the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), are exceptional, but India lacks the level of networking and modern knowledge systems required.

He said it is time to establish a connect between industry and higher education.

“What role does industry have in our higher education?  There is a deep connect, but there is a disconnect, so bring that together at the university level,” he stressed.

Gandhi also said that access to the education system needs to be increased.

“Just increase the access to education, we can do that with modern technology which is a very powerful tool. The IITs have a lot of value, but it is not being utilized in the right manner,” he said.

In primary education, while enrolment has gone up a lot needs to be done in terms of quality of the teacher and building connectivity, “but broadly speaking we have to completely re-invent the education system”, he stressed.

“We will not be able to do this by using the same old tools, it has to be done with opening up access, bringing people into it, ideas from the business into it,” Gandhi said

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