Harassment by AICTE: the saga continues

Harassment by AICTE: the saga continues

More than a month back, I wrote in this space on how the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has strangulated growth of good institutes and encouraged mushrooming of dubious schools.

Since then, I got number of calls from directors of various business schools narrating their tales of woe.

It seems the understaffed body has made many B-school directors dance around them to clear their application for approval or expansion. In some cases, they openly ask for money, say these directors.

Even government institutions delivering quality programme have not been spared by AICTE. The National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) is a top-rated agribusiness school which should have been encouraged to

For the past three years, they have been pleading with AICTE to grant them permission to increase their student intake.

Now AICTE is all set to seek the cooperation of state governments to shut down institutes that have not got approval from them. One of them is the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.

AICTE officials, many of them from obsolete university departments, are somehow inclined to believe that they know more about management education than top faculty from Kellogg and Wharton.

ISB, whose programme is supported by Kellogg, Wharton and firms like McKinsey and where investments of over $50 million (Rs203.5 crore) have been made, is listed as illegal on AICTE’s website.

If ISB is not keen on getting AICTE approval, it has a valid reason. It doesn’t want to lose the flexibility in running its programme.

If for every step - from student intake to fees charged to design of curriculum - they have to obtain AICTE approval, then instead of responding to industry needs they will be wasting their resources in clearing bureaucratic hurdles.

In an age when knowledge is getting fast outdated, it makes little sense to wait for a nod from a body which has no idea of the pace of change.

The prime objective of setting of AICTE was to facilitate the development of technical education and also to regulate it. But it has restricted itself to the easiest option, which is of control.

In the first place, management education can’t be labelled as technical to come under AICTE’s jurisdiction. It’s more like a social science and doesn’t require laboratories with precision equipment like engineering colleges do.

In any case, its performance as a controller is also a disaster which is mirrored in the poor standards maintained by most of approved institutes.

In fact, none of the top B-school directors that I spoke to credit this body for helping in their growth; rather, they all think it’s a menace which has made life difficult for them.

Many AICTE rules are irrelevant and counter-productive. It seems they blindly imposed the rules meant for engineering college on B-schools. Here’s an example.

For new engineering college, the student intake for each branch is restricted to 60.

Since most engineering colleges have five or more branches, the student intake overall is more than 300 and total student strength for a four-year programme is 1,200. The economics in such a case work for a college.

On the other hand, restricting student intake to only 60 for a newly established stand alone B-school is simply not viable if it has reasonably good physical and academic infrastructure. ISB could attain break even only after it increased its student intake to over 400.

One of AICTE’s requirements is that a B-school should have a certain number of Ph.d.s among the faculty. Now for a B-school, industry experience of the faculty is more relevant than a Phd.

In fact, some B-schools have hired Ph.d.s simply to fulfil the AICTE requirement and they are not given teaching assignments as students demand faculty with industry experience.

Similarly, there are other rules like the one which prohibits a B-school from running a programme from rented premises or not permitting two programmes to share the same building, which have escalated the cost of education, especially in metros.

For every development like foreign collaborations or adding new courses, B-schools have to wait for AICTE approval.

At the end of it all, industry doesn’t care for AICTE approval. If this were not the case, many non-approved institutions wouldn’t be performing so well on the placement front when compared to most of their approved counterparts.

It’s best if B-schools are left to market forces. If an institute is not good, if students don’t acquire proper knowledge, skills and attitude, then its principal customers, that is, industry and students, will reject it.

Let all B-schools have freedom to grow and let competition weed out the bad ones.

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