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Updated: December 10, 2012 17:31 IST

Making IIMs inclusive

G. Krishnakumar
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Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM, Kozhikode, has been a member of the drafting committee of the IIM Bill.
Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM, Kozhikode, has been a member of the drafting committee of the IIM Bill.

The IIM Bill is set to be tabled in Parliament. Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM, Kozhikode, speaks about its provisions.

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development is all set to table the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bill in Parliament. Debashis Chatterjee, Director of IIM, Kozhikode, a key member of the drafting committee, says the new law will empower the IIMs to grant degrees. They will be declared institutions of national importance. In an interview with G. Krishnakumar in Kochi, Prof. Chatterjee shares a variety of thoughts ranging from the need to integrate business schools with other disciplines to autonomy of the IIMs and the proposed changes in the Common Admission Test to make it more inclusive.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the major objectives of the IIM Bill?

We have realised that a standalone management institute may not be the right idea for the future conceptually. Because the way the future of management education is shaping up, we are going to have management to be integrated with other disciplines. We are still going to be a management school but a management school that does not focus on an exclusive identity. We have to broadbase the offering of the school. Let us suppose tomorrow the IIMs were to start a medical school. We can look at the management aspect of the medical school. Business is responding to larger stakeholders. Just as businesses will have to integrate with the larger ecological forces, business schools will have to likewise integrate with the larger ecology of disciplines. Probably, we have to connect with let us say law, medicine, governance. We were a school that brought a whole cabinet for the first time. So for a business school to be relevant to the future, it has to be a broad range of disciplines with which you connect. So our going the university way makes a lot of sense. The IIM Bill that is coming up in Parliament will empower us to grant degrees and to create our own courses with core aspects of management. This puts on us serious responsibility and I think the IIM, Kozhikode, will be among the first IIMs to kind of experiment like I said we have experimented in the past. We had a course called “Social transformation of India,” one of the most popular courses in the IIM system. I have been teaching an executive education course based on the Indian classical text Bhagavad Gita and I just had 50 CEOs attending three days of management development programme [based on his book Timeless Leadership, 18 Leadership Sutras from The Bhagavad Gita]. There is a broad range of ideas. We have introduced for the first time among all IIMs an area called liberal arts and Humanities in management. As a great institution, I would still like to lead by knowledge and does not like to be driven by market demand. We want to create the relevant knowledge. This will go in a way in the direction in which the IIM-K wants to go. One of our new initiatives is to broaden the horizon of the IIM-K, make it more inclusive, make it more ecological to make it more responsible to other disciplines. You can see different subjects coming together to create a new field. This I feel might be very relevant to the world. The idea of the Bill was to formalise the fact that IIMs will give degrees. We now give diplomas. We can be empowered to grant degrees only by an Act of Parliament. We can collaborate with other degree granting institutions.

Many feel that parliamentary control could also compromise the autonomy of the institutions. What is your take on the apprehension that it is likely to bring changes in the administrative and financial powers of the institutes?

How will this play out, to be honest with you, in terms of our autonomy of institutions, I do not know yet. I am just a contributing member. My views were sought. I have given it. There is criticism from several quarters that there will be more government control. It is not for me to speculate. What I can say however is that in everything, there is a trade-off. But what will happen we don’t know yet. What kind of trade-offs it will go through, I do not know. It’s not just what is on the statute or in the legal provision that makes these apprehensions come alive. It’s how it is interpreted by the incumbents. As of now, the IIMs have done remarkably well with autonomy. I think the Bill should actually emphasise on this that we are an autonomous institution. I don’t think that there can be any greater value in an IIM than autonomy. It’s not for the IIMs alone but that every institution should be very clear of interference of leadership from non-education sectors, whether it is the government or the commercial houses. In my opinion, the critical aspect that makes IIMs is its autonomy, the freedom to chart their own courses. I think we have done very well with autonomy. We continue to do well. There is no reason why anybody should interfere. The IIM-K has taken a position and I have given those views. The question is to what extent it will be apolitical.

How do you plan to address the issue of low representation of aspirants from disciplines in the Humanities in the IIMs?

There is a large degree of consensus that students from multiple disciplinary angles enrich the classroom experience. I think very few people will argue against it. But what kind of tweaking we need to do with our exam to bring that change is a question that is being raised. So that real debate is not really whether or not there should be diversity. I don’t think many can argue against it. But one can say how do you bring about diversity through one test format, which is largely skewed towards one who can take the test well and it so happens that engineers and allied graduates make a dent much more than Humanities people are doing. It makes the question.

What would be the best method of getting diversity on board? On that methodological front, there have been differences among the IIMs. We were the first one to say we want more humanities and liberal arts students and therefore we will keep our lenses ready to detect talent from this and encourage them to join the IIM because they tend to add the enrichment variety that we really need in the classes. The debate is about the methodology and not about where or not they should come. Different IIMs have a different take on it. It depends on what the viewpoint of an IIM is. We have been a firm believer that we don’t want to miss out on the best students of Humanities. My views have been very clearly aired and it is very clear that we would like them to come. How things will therefore change in our admission process will depend on the admissions committee of IIM-K.

The admissions committee would look at how to encourage more liberal arts and Humanities students to come from next year’s admission itself.

We have not taken a concrete step towards it but it will happen. But there are plenty of challenges.

A very interesting interview. Mr. Chatterjee has been very articulate in his views and they make sense. Even as the sites of knowledge production multiply, it is of course important for institutions to draw on their internal strengths and be able to continually redefine both knowledge content and its distribution.

from:  luhar sen
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 16:18 IST
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