The government has sparked a controversy by breaking from academic traditions with an order that candidates for IIM director posts will have to clear group discussions, much like prospective students to the prestigious management institutes, a move that educationists dubbed “insulting”.
The step was introduced by a selection panel constituted by the union HRD ministry to pick the director for IIM Lucknow with 17 applicants in the fray who will appear for the discussion and interview on Saturday.
The new move has drawn sharp reactions from academics who have said a group discussion for aspiring IIM directors is unusual and uncalled for.
“I have tremendous reservation for this selection method. The director position at IIMs is equivalent to the post of a senior government officer and subjecting candidates applying for it to group discussions is a public insult to them. They are after all not MBA aspirants,” said Pritam Singh, former director of IIM Lucknow.
This is the latest row to have hit the ministry that has been rocked by a string of disagreements with top academics and bureaucrats over appointments to India’s leading institutions with the Opposition accusing minister Smriti Irani of destroying the educational establishments.
Nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar quit as the chairman of IIT Bombay’s governing body in March following reports of differences with Irani over the selection of three IIT directors.
So far, the IIM selection committee invited applications for vacant director posts, shortlisted eligible candidates, called them for interviews and then recommended a panel of names to the ministry which forwarded it to the President, the visitor of the institutes.
“I have never heard of this (the GD process) before. It looks like an entrance test for CAT/MBA,” said KRS Murthy, former director of IIM Bangalore.
Sources in the ministry said the new step is in line with the one applied during the selection of directors for three IITs—Ropar, Bhubaneswar and Patna—in February.
“The candidates called for the IIT director selection also had to go through GD and interview and it looks like it will be a norm for every selection,” an official said.
HRD minister Smriti Irani and higher education secretary SN Mohanty, who is a member of the selection panel, were not available for comment.