The crisis of governance in Indian B-schools

The crisis of governance in Indian B-schools
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First Published: Sun, May 04 2008. 11 16 PM IST
Updated: Sun, May 04 2008. 11 16 PM IST
Governance is a serious issue of concern in our business schools. It is perhaps the reason why most of our schools are doing so badly in terms of delivery of quality education.
Having observed the growth and decline of many B-schools and having interacted with their board members, directors, faculty and students over the past nine years, I have my own views on good governance. In schools that are governed well, there is a continuous flow of communication between all stakeholders, especially between the board and the faculty. They are dynamic in the sense that they respond fast to the needs of the stakeholders. The quality of governance in an institute is to a great extent dependent on the competence of the director or the chief executive officer. The successful among them are the ones who have a clear vision, who see to it that every faculty member internalizes it and works as a team. Besides managing resources properly, they excel in assimilating new ideas, technology and practices. More importantly, they can as easily abandon those that are not yielding results. But some of the directors I have interacted with don’t seem trained enough to handle the job. Many times it is also seen that a good faculty member is promoted as a director. This sudden transition is not always good. A good teacher is not necessarily a good team player. In the process, sometimes, the institute loses a good faculty member and gets a bad director. There needs to be a special programme to train directors, especially for those faculty who take the assignment for the first time. Maybe government or a body such as the All India Council for Technical Education should take the initiative to offer such a programme.
In many institutes, it is seen that the director is not empowered to try new ideas or given enough space and resources to facilitate growth of the institute. This applies to both government-aided and private B-schools. The freedom of the director in a way is also linked to composition of the governing board. If it is dominated by the main promoter and his close relatives whose prime objective is to make money, then they would prefer a rubber stamp who is used in all kind of malpractices from back-door admissions to siphoning off of funds. A person of self-respect and integrity can hardly work in such a place.
Who constitutes the governing council/board and how often the board meets is a measure of quality of governance in an institute. Unfortunately, most governing boards are decorative and hardly have a positive impact on the growth of the institute. In most of our B-schools, the faculty has no representation on the governing board. In many private
B-schools, the governing board consists of close relatives of the main promoter. For decorative value, there are retired bureaucrats or former senior-level corporate executives, generally above 70 years of age. The board meeting is held once a year in a location away from the campus. It’s more of a formality. Disconnect between the board and the institute is one of the principal reasons of bad governance in our B-schools.
Ideally, the governing board should be represented by all the stakeholders, that is, the corporate world, faculty, students/alumni, and members of the surrounding community. This gives a sense of ownership to the stakeholders. This way, each of them can also contribute in evolving the vision and growth strategy of the institute. Corporate representation is necessary not only in the governing board, but also in every area/specialization of the institute. The representative should be active in day-to-day activities of his/her organization and not some retired official/chief executive officer looking for a pastime. Their feedback in designing curriculum and shaping the students is very important.
The board should meet four times a year and all the meetings should take place on the campus. After every meeting, the board should also have a meeting with faculty so that whatever is discussed at the board meeting is also communicated to the faculty and their feedback is taken. At least four times a year, there should also be an open house meeting of students, faculty and the director so that students give feedback to the faculty and the director.
Bad governance has its impact on the attrition rate of faculty and directors. In the national capital region, for example, the average tenure of a director would be less than two years. The overall environment in such institutes is such that it is not conducive to the growth of faculty or students.
Our B-schools, in the process of teaching management, have somehow lost focus on managing themselves. As many things in life, good management perhaps is easy to understand and preach but difficult to give priority to.
Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting & Research (C-fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at businesscase@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, May 04 2008. 11 16 PM IST