Debates are heating up over the proposed draft of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) Bill 2015. Issues in focus are the setting up of the proposed IIM Forum and provision for the ‘Visitor’ or the President of India. Many academic experts also say that the if passed, the new rules will put the future of postgraduate diploma in management (PGDM) institutions in jeopardy. Even if passed will this bill give complete autonomy to IIMs as promised?
The draft will go to the Cabinet before it is presented in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. It is aimed at giving IIMs the status of Institutes of National Importance and empowering them to grant degrees. As of now, the IIMs offer PGDMs.
Plans for an IIM Forum
A co-ordination forum of all IIMs is proposed to be set up with the HRD minister, ex-officio, as chairperson. Prof TV Mohandas Pai, senior vice president, All India Management Association, feels it is a good idea as it will create a “layer to insulate the IIMs from government control.”
The forum will also help IIMs leverage each other’s resources and give policy direction to these institutes. However, this should not matter much to the IIMs, says Ashok Thakur, former secretary to the government of India, department of higher education, HRD ministry. “Earlier, the HRD minister used to chair the IIM meetings round-the-year. But this was done informally. There was no Act binding them together. Meetings were held four times a year and these meetings were to coordinate and not interfere. It worked fairly okay. Such a forum was first proposed by an IIM review committee under RC Bhargava.”
There have been reports of IIMs opposing such a forum as such an overarching body would undermine their autonomy and that it is on the lines of the IIT Council. Thakur believes such fears are unfounded as it would help the B-schools have regular meetings with the ministry. “It is also different from the IIT Council. The IITs work as a team and there is not much difference in their approaches. Whereas in case of the IIMs, there is a very strong sense of competition among them, even between IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta. It is not a collaborative game.” The IIT Council, by virtue of the IIT Act, is a cooperative entity and not like the proposed forum as there are differences between IIMs - especially between the old and the new institutes. The forum will only give a broader focus to management education policies, he says.
It is a good idea to let the IIMs compete for innovation. Suggesting another way, Prof Pritam Singh, former director, IIM Lucknow, says, “Having a peer review system can be an option and will give the IIMs a platform to look within and also improve. It should comprise distinguished scholars with a good leader. A cue can be taken from Harvard University’s structure wherein the varsity has schools which are autonomous and an apex body that supervises them and does day-to-day control.”
‘Visitor’ not welcome?
Recent reports suggest that the IIM Bill will not have the provision for the Visitor as President of India in its final version. The draft says that the Visitor can appoint one or more persons to review the work and progress of any institute. IIMs have reportedly resisted the proposal saying it will put a question mark on their said autonomous powers, say experts. The Visitor makes top appointments in all IITs and Central varsities and also holds a probe in the functioning of an institute or its head.
“This is a major departure from the Institutes of National Importance model. Major appointments had to go through the Visitor. Who replaces him is the question - if it’s the MHRD then it is going to be a double-edged sword for the IIMs. In the long run, if there is indirect interference from the ministry then the buck stops with MHRD,” says Thakur.
Prof Pai, however, says, “Removal of the Visitor from the bill will positively impact the IIMs as it was a way for the government to exercise direct control.”