Friday, June 26, 2015

IIMs divided over NDA government's new draft bill

IIM (Indian Institute of Management) is a divided parivar over the new draft bill moved by the government with some saying it will turn the institutes into "mere operating centres" with no autonomy while others have welcomed the provisions on grant of degrees instead of diplomas and the focus on research.

On Thursday, A M Naik, chairperson of the board of governors of IIM-Ahmedabad joined the institute's director Ashish Nanda and IIM-Bangalore director Sushil Vachani in protesting against the draft IIM bill. Naik, also chairperson of engineering giant Larsen & Toubro, said the proposed bill will curtail "autonomy", reduce IIMs to "mere operating centres" and give the Centre "sweeping powers". He said the earlier draft agreed upon by IIMs and the HRD ministry was completely changed. Naik said the bill was floated suddenly and IIMs got to see it only now.

However, not everyone agreed with Naik. IIM-Raipur director B S Sahay fully supported the bill. "Without an Act of Parliament, we will not be able to grant degrees and conduct PhD programmes," he told TOI, adding that the fear of losing autonomy was misplaced.

Naik pointed out that as per the bill, each IIM will have to take "prior permission of the government in matters related to admissions, courses, fee structure, new building and regulating powers of the academic council". "Further, we will be required to take the government's permission if we want to form a new department in the interest of the institution, as if expertise for this is available elsewhere rather than with the institute," Naik said.

On his part, Sahay argued, "What is wrong in being accountable? If we spend public money, we better be answerable." At the helm of one of the new IIMs, Sahay said he had faced no interference from the HRD ministry. For Sahay, a far more pressing reason for having a legislation was that it would help IIMs give proper degrees and expand further. "The flagship post-graduate programme is a diploma programme. It should be a degree programme so that IIM degree is accepted uniformly," he said. Sahay also said IIMs should have a strong PhD programme like many prestigious international management institutes. "In IIMs, students do Fellow in Management Programme (FMP). So what? When you do PhD, it is different," he added.

The HRD ministry is closely watching the protest by IIM directors. An official said, "It is the change in the bill that has created problems. The earlier version had near-approval of the IIM establishment." He agreed that the bill, first proposed during Arjun Singh's tenure in UPA-1, emanated as a tool to control IIMs which were not toeing the ministry's line on the fee issue. "The threat worked and IIMs fell in line. During UPA-2, the bill was put in cold storage but it has resurfaced now," he said, adding that the key reason for the legislation was to give more teeth to IIMs so that they could award degrees and PhD.

The official gave the example of Institutes of Technology Act which governs IITs. "How has their autonomy been compromised? IIMs should give their views to the ministry. It has not been finalized yet. We are seeking public opinion and are open to change," he said.

Source: The Times of India, July 26, 2015

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