Following the University Grants Commission’s communique to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) asking them to “align their courses and degrees with the ones recognised by the UGC”, members of the Anil Kakodkar committee that was set up to recommend autonomy measures for IITs have hit out at the UGC, demanding that the premier institutes be “left alone”.
“IITs are governed by an Act of Parliament. The intention was to give maximum autonomy to them. The IITs are the best educational institutes in the country at this point and they should just be left alone. It is entirely up to them to decide how they want to move forward. They are completely out of the ambit of the UGC and what is happening now isn’t right,” Anil Kakodkar, noted nuclear scientist who headed the committee, told The Indian Express.
The 11-member Kakodkar committee was constituted by the Union HRD Ministry in 2010 to “recommend autonomy measures to facilitate IITs to scale greater heights”.
“At that point, the committee’s main objective was to see how the autonomy of IITs can be enhanced. The sense of the committee was that IITs have complete academic autonomy. But what is happening now seems to be a counter-indication which we didn’t see then. To use a saying, why fix what isn’t broken,” Kakodkar said.
In its report, speaking of a strategy to take IITs to “greater level of excellence and relevance”, the Kakodkar committee had said, “Managing such a transition would naturally require complete autonomy so that IITs can adopt innovative and flexible management approaches to move forward on a promising new idea in a selective manner.”
The report said, “Towards enhancing autonomy that would provide the IITs the necessary flexibility to support and deal with a new idea or take a new initiative and lead them towards world-class excellence, it is proposed that each institute be fully governed by its Board of Governors (BoG), including aspects like financial planning and expenditure rules, faculty remuneration, fees and number of faculty and staff, within the overall policy guidelines of the IIT Council in terms of expectations from IITs as world-class institutions, affirmative actions, technology directions and human resource development.”
Another committee member, T V Mohandas Pai, also lashed out at the UGC for attempting to interfere with the functioning of IITs. “The UGC should just keep off IITs as well as other top 15 per cent of the higher educational institutes in the country. The track record of the UGC is hardly great, it isn’t as if it has the brightest minds to be able to tell others what to do. The IITs have done very well left to themselves, their management has been great. The IITs have to be left alone for them to develop and compete globally,” he said.
“What is happening now is perverse. It is time we stand up to such regulatory overreach and ensure full autonomy for the top 15 per cent of higher education institutes in the country. The UGC should only focus on state universities of low quality and help develop them,” said Pai.