Prakash Javadekar to make one last push for consensus on IIM bill

Human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar will meet IIM directors and chairmen in Shillong today to iron out remaining differences

Reservation for underprivileged sections of society in teaching jobs at the IIMs will be one of the key issues that will be discussed at the meeting. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Reservation for underprivileged sections of society in teaching jobs at the IIMs will be one of the key issues that will be discussed at the meeting. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

New Delhi: The human resource development (HRD) ministry will make one final attempt to take all the Indian Institutes of Management on board before the controversial IIM bill is taken up by the cabinet, and persuade some of the older IIMs to be part of the government’s initiative to create 20 world-class institutions in India.

The bill will be among the items to be discussed at a meeting between HRD minister Prakash Javadekar and the directors and chairmen of all 19 IIMs in the hill town of Shillong on Tuesday, a ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

Javadekar, in his first such meeting, will also want to find out what the IIMs think about introducing reservation for underprivileged sections of society in teaching jobs at the institutes.

“The directors and chairmen of the IIMs along with Javadekar will discuss the finer contours of the bill in Shillong on Tuesday,” the official said, without giving details.

An IIM administrator, who declined to be identified, said, “There are four key issues that the meeting is expected to debate and reach some conclusions on—the IIM bill, faculty reservation at IIMs, world-class institutions and how the new IIMs can expedite construction work to reduce cost escalation due to project overhang.”

The bill became controversial over fears that it would erode the autonomy of these premier business schools.

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However, following intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the HRD ministry diluted the IIM bill significantly, accommodating most of the demands from the elite schools.

Most of the disputed issues, such as the composition of IIM boards, selection of board chairmen and course fees will be decided by the IIMs with little say from the ministry, Mint reported on 18 August.

But the bill’s provision making the appointment of directors the sole preserve of the government remains an outstanding issue. Some of the older IIMs believe that the governing board should have a say in the directors’ appointment. For example, they say, IIM-A director Ashish Nanda, the first foreign faculty to head an IIM, is a find of the B-school board. “It will come up in the meeting,” said a second official of an older IIM, who also declined to be named.

Earlier this month, Javadekar had told Mint that he “does not have any differences” with any IIMs or the PMO over the IIM bill and that he will take “everyone along”.

On faculty quota, the first IIM official quoted above said that the issue has been on the table since 2009 and that it appears to be a political requirement. “The ministry expects us to go for faculty quota, but we will see what comes out during the meeting with the minister,” the second IIM official said.

On the issue of world-class institutions, the ministry will gauge the interest of some of the older IIMs. Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced in his budget speech that an “enabling regulatory architecture will be provided to 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions”.

No public institution has yet expressed its desire for that coveted tag that will entitle them to extra funds of Rs5,000 crore.

“The reason could be two—the rules of such universities are yet to be finalized and institutions are sceptical about how just a tag by itself will benefit without reaching the stature,” the HRD ministry official said.

While the existing public institution will be eligible to apply, greenfield private institutions can also apply for the tag.

“The IIM bill has two divergent views—one whether the older IIMs with their reputations need the degree-granting power of the bill. And the second, the new IIMs need that power to bring an element of equivalence between their courses and the ones offered outside India. The government must settle this internal debate first before the bill gets a final shape. Also, with IIMs being allowed to grant degrees through the bill, what about the other leading B-schools who are offering PGDM (postgraduate diploma in management) like IIMs? The HRD ministry should also give a serious look at this as the bill will disadvantage many top schools,” said Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president of the Education Promotion Society of India, a federation of private professional education providers.

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