Directors split over govt move on statutory status to IIMs

Dateline

The pot is boiling once again. About six years after the government shelved the idea of bringing 13 premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) under the purview of Parliament, a fresh move initiated by the human resource development (HRD) ministry to give them a statutory status, is facing stiff resistance from a section of the institutes’ faculties.

The IIM-Ahmedabad is at the forefront in opposing the Institutes of Management Act, being formulated by the ministry on the lines of Institutes of Technology Act, 1961.

In 2007, the immediate provocation for bringing IIMs under Parliament’s purview was the reluctance of these institutes to implement the OBC quota in their admission process. Arjun Singh, who was then the HRD minister, wanted to make them ‘accountable’ to Parliament (so that he, as minister, too could play a role) but later, in the face of stiff opposition, he chose not to proceed with the proposed legislation.

 In the latest move the ministry has initiated the process of drafting a new Bill to give these premier B-schools statutory status following a demand from some of the IIMs themselves. During a review meeting at IIM-Lucknow last year, many directors of the institutes had requested the then HRD minister Kapil Sibal, to give them powers to issue degrees instead of post-graduate diplomas of their programmes, which they currently offer.

As of now, none of the 13 premier B-schools can grant degrees as they have been set up as societies under the Societies Registration Act. Only universities and institutes, equivalent to varsities established under a law by Parliament or legislatures or those which have been declared deemed-to-be-universities under the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, have the powers to grant degrees. The statutory status to IIMs will not only enable them to offer MBA courses but also post doctoral (PhD) programmes instead of fellowships. 

The IIMs are considered to be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal scenario of higher education in the country. There is little dispute over their claim to quality and excellence. They were created in the initial stages of nation building and kept out of the traditional university structure to give them a free play to be able to help the country have a pool of excellent managerial talent. To a fair extent, these institutions have succeeded too.

The PGDM (post graduate diploma in management) offered by the IIMs is considered equivalent to MBA (Masters in Business Administration) and their fellow programmes to PhD. Although, IIMs have their own brand name, many IIM faculties feel, change in the nomenclature of the courses offered by them will make them on par with international standards. They could have more foreign students opting for these programmes. Once IIMs start granting degrees, it will also help them open branches abroad.


Globally recognised

Samir Barua, director of The IIM-Ahmedabad, however, argues that there was no need to change the nomenclature as the diploma awarded by the institute was globally recognised as equivalent to an MBA degree. “We are the best B-school in the country. The government should give options to other IIMs,” a senior faculty member of the IIM-Ahmedabad said, requesting anonymity.

The newer IIMs, however, are very excited about getting statutory status to award degrees. They are also in favour of setting up of an overarching body as it will help them to be at par with older IIMs and get similar recognition worldwide.
“MBA is the most acceptable terminology even as our diploma has a brand name worldwide. Why should we not offer MBA instead of PGDM? It is a very good move,” IIM Raipur Director B S Sahay said.

Those supporting the Bill also feel that sooner or later, foreign varsities will come to India and set up their campuses as another Bill seeking to regulate their entry was pending before Parliament for passage. “If we have powers to grant degrees, it will help us in competing with the foreign institutes as they offer MBAs,” one of the directors said.

The IIM-Ahmedabad is particularly against the proposal in the Bill that seeks to set up a council of the premier B-schools like the one that IITs have. The institute’s faculty members feel that setting up of an overarching body will lead to unnecessary interference in the autonomy of the IIMs. Faculties of some other IIMs, including newer ones too share similar views and suggest that government should address the ‘concerns’ and formulate the Bill taking all the 13 institutes on board.

“IIM council will just be a coordinating body and a forum to meet, unlike IIT council (which is the highest decision making body of the premier technical institutes). It will not have powers to review or issue any directive to B-schools. IIMs will remain autonomous,” HRD minister M M Pallam Raju recently clarified as the voice of dissent against the proposal to set up overarching body of the institutes started growing.

The ministry is cautiously moving ahead with the Bill as it does not want to lose this opportunity of bringing all the IIMs under the purview of Parliament. “Unless a consensus among all the IIMs emerges, this can not be achieved. We have to bring all of them on board before finalising the Bill,” a ministry official said.

The HRD minister is planning to have another round of meeting with the IIM directors at IIM-Kozhikode this month to address their concerns.

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