The government’s attempt to give itself the power to initiate an inquiry against an IIM Board goes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public stand on the autonomy of educational institutions, and challenges the wisdom of the new National Education Policy (NEP), directors of several of India’s showpiece management institutes told The Indian Express.
The institute heads, who spoke on condition of anonymity, pointed out that concerns over the one-year MBA degree were not serious enough to merit a response of this kind from the Ministry of Education (MoE).
The IIM directors were reacting to a report in The Sunday Express (December 6) that the MoE was exploring options that could, in effect, erode the autonomy of the institutes.
The MoE recently shared a draft executive order with the Law Ministry that proposes to empower the government to initiate an inquiry against the Board of Governors (BoG) of an institute if it is found to be acting, according to the government, in contravention of the IIM Act, 2017. The proposal comes amid an ongoing standoff between the IIMs and the government over the one-year MBA degree.
“I think the one-year degree issue is being used as an excuse to get the Law Ministry involved and push this proposal [to allow the government to investigate the IIM BoG] through. The world over MBA programmes for working professionals are of one-year duration. This proposal probably has more to do with the bureaucracy not being able to come to terms with the fact that the IIMs are now entirely free of government control,” the chairperson of an IIM Board said.
The MoE had said in July that the one-year executive MBA degree was “not in accordance with the UGC Regulations”.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) mandates that a Master’s degree should be of two years, and the IIMs, in the government’s view, had violated that provision. The government had directed the IIMs to “act in conformity with the UGC Act 1956”.
“This is in bad taste,” the director of a second-generation IIM said on the government’s attempt to give itself powers to move against an IIM Board. “The one-year degree is not a substantive issue based on which the government should take such a step. I suspect this is more of an ego issue. As far as checks and balances are concerned, our alumni, who have a decent representation on the BoG, will never allow the institute to do something that will hurt the IIM brand. This (government’s proposal) goes against the grain of the NEP.”
The director of an older IIM said “whoever has initiated this in the government has perhaps not read the Prime Minister’s stand on educational institutions’ autonomy”.
“The Prime Minister’s Office has thwarted attempts in the past to insert provisions to introduce government control. Whoever is doing this is negating what the PM has said and challenging the NEP’s wisdom,” this IIM director said.
The IIM Act, which came into effect on January 31, 2018, gives sweeping powers to all 20 business schools, including the power to appoint directors, chairpersons, and Board members.
In September 2018, referring to the passage of the new law, Modi had said, “Sarkar kahin nahi aayegi, koi babu aakar nahi baithega (Government will not interfere, no officer will have any role).”
“If you have ceded control to the Board (of Governors) then why would you want to pull back now? Just as how the risk of being summoned and investigated had prompted many independent directors to resign their posts from the Boards of companies, no one would want to be part of an IIM Board if the government starts initiating inquiries against the BoG at will. The government is not the only responsible agency in the country. They will have to trust the Board members. This is an unnecessary attempt at centralisation and will destroy the institutes,” the director of another older IIM said.
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