If other IIMs follow suit, the new ones needing handholding and mentoring will be hard hit

The recent decision of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), banning faculty members from going on lien to other IIMs — including as Directors — is giving sleepless nights to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

For the Ministry, the job of an IIM director falls under the category of ‘assignments of national importance.' But on March 27, the institute decided against allowing its professors to serve in other institutes on deputation — a practice started five years ago when one of its faculty members, Professor Shekhar Chaudhury, was allowed to go on a five-year deputation to IIM Calcutta as director, a post he is currently holding.

Informed sources told The Hindu that the IIM-A amended its rules once again at a March 27 meeting and ruled that none of its faculty would be allowed to go outside the institution in future. Nevertheless, the faculty can quit and take up new assignments.

The decision has taken the Ministry by surprise because it was not even informed about it and because it comes at a time when there is an acute shortage of faculty, including directors, following the addition of six new IIMs.

What is more worrying for the government is the fact that if a similar decision is taken by the other IIMs, there would be a crisis of sorts for the new institutes which will start functioning in the coming academic session. The decision will deprive other IIMs of drawing on the experience of professors from Ahmedabad. Worse, if all older IIMs do so, the new ones will be hit hard as they need handholding and mentoring.

The concept behind allowing experienced professors to take up assignments at other IIMs as a national obligation was to give senior faculty members a chance to manage institutions as it would also result in cross-fertilisation of ideas.

The IIM-A had allowed faculty members to go on lien to other IIMs earlier. Professor Ravichandran is now Director at IIM-Indore, and Professor Pankaj Chandra at Bangalore. Even among the younger IIMs, faculty members are allowed to go to other institutions. For example, professor Debasish Chatterjee who is from IIM Lucknow, is now serving as director of IIM-Kozhikode.

If IIM-A's reluctance to loan its faculty to fraternal institutes is symptomatic of the shortage of professors, the problem is likely to get worse with the Centre pushing for the Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010. For once foreign education providers set up institutions in India, there is every possibility that senior faculty members would move over to foreign institutions, lured by the better financial prospects the latter are likely to be able to afford.

More importantly, if the universities also decide on the same lines, the entire university system would collapse. Also, there would be real threat of inbreeding if faculty mobility is denied.

The Indian Institutes of Management at Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta are among the three first such institutes set up in the country while the ones at Kozhikode, Lucknow and Indore are defined as the younger IIMs. The IIM at Shillong has already completed one academic session and those at Tiruchirapalli , Ranchi, Raipur and Rohtak will start their academic session this year. Two more IIMs are to come up in Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

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