Review panel says existing IIMs have to mentor new ones

Review panel says existing IIMs have to mentor new ones

New Delhi: The six new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) planned by the government will have to be mentored by the existing IIMs, which need to devise ways to do so, says a government panel reviewing the institutes.

The IIMs have been reluctant to take on this role, citing the newcomers’ inadequate infrastructure and faculty pool, especially after implementation of reservations for students from the other backward classes, or OBCs.

But there is no choice, says R.C. Bhargava, former chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd who headed the panel, that included Ajit Balakrishnan, chief executive of online firm, and Anusua Basu, retired deputy comptroller and auditor general.

Their recommendations went to the ministry of human resource development (HRD) last week. The new IIMs are part of the 12th plan — a five-year government blueprint — that ends on March 2012. “The new IIMs will need to be mentored by the existing IIMs. In fact, they have to," Bhargava said in a telephone interview from Mumbai. “We have made recommendations with respect to the new IIMs and each existing IIM would have to see how they are going to go about them."

Declining to reveal specific recommendations, Bhargava said reservations aren’t a long-term solution to uplift society.

“Quotas aren’t the long-term solution unless they are backed by ample opportunities to provide access to education. Each IIM board must see that such opportunities are adequate."

The IIMs, which sought Rs500 crore for expansion and even quarrelled with the HRD ministry earlier over quotas, are struggling with a shortage of faculty and the pangs of a sudden expansion in the wake of OBC quotas this year.

For the IIMs, the quota order came just a couple of months before they were to begin session. IIM Bangalore, for example, sought Rs114 crore to build new infrastructure, but the central government sanctioned the premier business school just Rs33 crore.

The institute currently stands on 100 acres and needs an additional 15-20 acres and about 110 faculty members.

With the funding expected only in phases over five years, it is feared the existing IIMs’ plans to build more classrooms and hostels, and upgrade information technology may be affected, said an IIM director on condition of anonymity.

Just this year, the government launched six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), many on temporary campuses under the mentorship of the seven existing IITs. The new technology institutes currently share faculty and infrastructure.

“We have already seen the experience of the Indian Institutes of Technology this year and the way they are suffering because of the new IITs. The teachers are being shared and classes are on at temporary campuses," said another IIM director requesting anonymity. “How can one expect us to compromise the quality of education like this?"

The new IIMs are planned over the next four years in Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Haryana. Each new IIM will offer 120 seats to start with. The six existing IIMs together admit 1,600 students now. The government will spend Rs250 crore for every new IIM.

The panel has also recommended a pan-IIM board be created with increased representation from the government — an unwelcome move in IIM circles. The other major suggestions of the panel include reconstitution of all existing boards at the IIMs and creation of a special committee headed by the human resource secretary for initial selections to the IIM boards of governors, which are being seen as measures aimed at curbing the autonomy of the IIMs. “A pan-IIM board with increased government representation means all our decisions will be taken by the government," said a senior official from IIM Ahmedabad. “Worse, it would mean constant interference in our day-to-day functioning."

Earlier this year, the National Knowledge Commission, a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister on education, had warned against any interference in IIMs’ functioning, arguing that this could lead to “unfortunate situations."

In a letter to Manmohan Singh, commission chairman Sam Pitroda had argued for separation of governance mechanisms from the day-to-day operations of ministries in order to protect functional autonomy of the institutes.

The Bhargava panel, however, says course fees can be fixed by the IIMs alone. It also recommends more scholarships for needy students of IIMs.