EDUCATION PLUS

The raging debate

DEEPA KURUP

IIM-B defends performance, differs with review panel report

The Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore recently submitted a report in reply to the IIM Review Committee Report (IRCR) submitted in September last to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This reply not only analyses in detail the IRCR but also provides a case-by-case rebuttal of many of the recommendations.

The report submitted by IIM-B argues its case while terming the IRCR vision as “heavy-handed regulation and control.” The IRCR panel chaired by R.C. Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki Ltd., reviewed the nature of management education provided by the IIMs in a report titled “Negotiating the big leap.” This is the seventh such committee in the history of the IIMs.

The IRCR had pulled up the IIMs for not being able to fulfil the following mandates: expanding capacity in MBA (post-graduate programme), attracting quality faculty in functional areas, producing research output and achieving “higher levels of excellence.” The report also rooted for a pan-IIM board as a primary recommendation. Academics, faculty and intellectuals at the IIMs have disagreed with these recommendations, the logic being stated in the IIM-B report made public in January.

The faculty body of IIM-B has disagreed with the “underlying tenor of this report and also has serious objections” to the recommendations.” The premise of the IRCR is “perception-driven” and is not substantiated by facts and figures, and hence lacks credibility, the IIM-B report alleges.

The ICRC has recommended capping sources of additional compensation for IIM faculty members who teach extra hours in courses other than the mainstream ones. The report rebuts this with the argument that the IIMs, given the existing low compensation structure, have found it difficult to retain faculty. “Also, notwithstanding the compensation structure, the IIMs have been able to leverage their reputation to attract expatriates, visiting faculty, as well as young faculty in some fields. Hence, when the IRCR recommends capping the sources of additional compensation, it clearly fails to recognise the related constraint faced by the IIMs and the high opportunity cost for management faculty.”

The ICRC alleges that the IIMs have been unable to increase intake adequately. Pointing out that the IIMs have been expanding infrastructure and faculty in the PGP programme over the years despite financial constraints and compensation issues respectively, the IIM-B report states that the three older IIMs have not received any government revenue grant in the last four years.

For sometime now, several academics at the IIMs have been talking of autonomy for the institutions. Contrary to what IRCR states, much of capital expenditure, especially at the older IIMs, in the recent past (including those for OBC expansion) has also been undertaken through their own funds.

“The few facts that IRC presents in its report are also incorrect and misleading,” the report states. For instance, the statement that IIMs were doing most of their executive programmes for junior- level PSUs is not entirely true. Of the executive programmes that IIMB conducted in 2007-2008, 77 per cent were for private enterprises, 11 per cent for public enterprises and government and 12 per cent for international organisations. Most of these programmes are for middle and senior managers/officers, the report argues.

Standardisation

Almost all the IIMs have opposed the IRCR recommendation for standardisation across the seven institutes. As every candidate who seeks admissions at these institutes knows, each IIM has its own USP, just as it has evolved its own parameters for admission and philosophy. The IIM-B report points out that the IIMs are not a single monolith structure. “IIMs collaborate with each other, compete with each other, experiment on pedagogy, learn from each other’s innovations, and develop their own distinctive academic direction. Differentiation rather than standardisation is important in an academic institution and world over, this is the norm.”

Autonomy

The issue of autonomy for these institutions has been debated for long. While the public institute accepts that there is need for regulation, it terms the IRCR report as a “mindset of over-regulation.” The IIM have sought academic and financial autonomy yet the institute points out in this report that this is not the same as seeking “independence”. The IIM-B report recognises the need for financial autonomy to raise and deploy their own funds and to manage their own activities including capital expenditure.

“The resources thus freed up could, in turn, be invested by the government in other institutions in the country for wider benefit.”



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