Can IIM A close FOOD and Agro program on its own ? Autonomy of Indian premier higher education institutes under lenses !


The country is blessed to have institutes like the IITs and the IIMs which are also termed as premier institutes. These institutes are also conferred Autonomy by a special act of Indian parliament. A Central Statute, the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 declared the IITs to be ‘Institutes of National Importance’. This Act created a unique framework for the funding, administration and academic development of the IITs as privileged institutions, confers a high degree of autonomy on the system and protects it from extra-academic pressures. The Central Government provides grants of each IIT, after due appropriation made by the Parliament.


Each IIT is governed by its Board of Governors . The Board of Governors of each Institute is responsible for the general superintendence, direction and control of the affairs of the Institute and exercises all the powers of the Institute. Besides the Board of Governors, each IITs also have the Senate , the Finance Committee and the Building & Works Committee . The Senate of the Institute is responsible for maintenance of standard of education and examination in the Institute. The Finance Committee is responsible to examine and scrutinize the annual budget and give its views and recommendations on any financial question affecting the Institute. The Building & Works Committee is responsible under the direction of the Board for construction of all major capital works of the Institutes.
Something similar applies to the IIMs and were granted greater autonomy by the Modi govt in 2017 when the then HRD  minister tabled the “The Indian Institute of Management Bill 2017” That provided more autonomy to the 20 IIMs of the country. 
The Bill declares 20 existing Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as.   institutions of national importance and confers on them the power to grant degrees. .   The Board of Governors will be the executive body of each IIM, comprising upto 19 members.  The Board of Governors will appoint the Director of each IIM. And more importantly,   The Academic Council of each IIM will determine the: (i) academic  content; (ii) criteria and process for admission to courses; and (iii)  guidelines for conduct of examinations.. 
However there were controversies after that for one reason or other. First the government was considering a proposal to give itself the power to initiate an inquiry against the Board of Governors of an institute ‘if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act’. The supposed trigger is a confrontation between the ministry and the IIMs over the latter’s decision to grant one-year MBA degree for working professionals. The government calls it a violation of UGC regulations, while the institutes cite similar degree programmes across the globe.
It has to be also kept in mind that presently according to the latest QS Global MBA rankings, only three IIMs — based in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata — made it to the top 100. 
The backdrop to this move is the turf-war between the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the IIMs, over some of the IIMs deciding to convert their one-year executive management diploma into a one-year MBA. The UGC, which says postgraduate degrees must be of a two-year duration, had immediately challenged this, and the ministry of education had written to the IIMs saying that they must act in “conformity with the UGC Act 1956”.
Besides, the IIMs are also trying to change or drop courses that are financially unviable. In a latest development IIM A is planning to drop PGP Food and Agri business course which has not gone well with many. The FASM programme focuses on training professionals in managerial aspects in the field of agriculture , food and other socially significant sectors. This program has been running since 1974. The institute director Prof Errol D’Souza tried to be elusive answering it and merely said that the proposal has been just discussed. 
At a time when the govt is trying to revamp the agro , MSME sector this proposal has come up for sharp criticism from industry and institute veterans.The former dep Director of  NABARD H R DAVE , GCMMF MD  R S SODHI also raised concerns over the development hailing the FASM programme and its contribution to the industry.  

Like IIM A, there are protests at IIM C too. A simmering discontent among teachers about the functioning of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C) has come out into the open with the premier institute’s faculty association writing a letter to the Union ministry of education citing their ‘grave concerns about the current state of affairs’ that have led to a ‘decline in overall academic and research environment’. 


At a time when the country needs to rise in the higher education sector there are controversies being created. While all IITs and IIMs still get funded from govt they try to juggle out from govts scrutiny and accountability in the name of international standards and autonomy.  ON its side the government also need good experts to guide the higher education system. Both UGC, AICTE and many IITs , IIMs directors are useless to say the least and don’t have any vision, a point we have raised many times. 

If the country has to develop it must allow it to grow on pure merit, avoid bad selections and promote free discussion. Like IIM A , IIM C is also going under the cloud. The NEP ( New education policy)  envisaged by PM Modi is a landmark event but will fail unless we try to address the root issues amongst which we think that the premier objective should be to  promote MERIT  at every level, something which the Modi govt has also failed to do so. 

IIMA must realise that while we try to emulate western countries and international standards we as a developing nation are also responsible for looking after our own needs . WE cannot blindly copy the US or the European nations. Every nation must try to develop international standards but must also look after national interests. The proposal to lose the FASM programme is rather a cruel joke and looks to be promoted by vested interests and can be an outcome of local faculty politics. Such issues must be avoided if the IIMS want to come to top 10 institutes of the world. Autonomy is an instrument that can work both ways and it is recommended that both gvt and institutes should work in coordination so that the nation does not have to suffer. 

 Dr Asheesh Shah


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