The directors of several Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have expressed their disagreement towards the Centre's consideration of the proposal seeking greater control over the IIMs in the country.
The Ministry of Education's (MoE) is considering a proposal empowering the Government to initiate an inquiry against the Board of Governors (BoG) of an IIM when found to be ostensibly acting in contravention of the IIM Act, 2017, The Indian Express reported.
The media learnt that the Ministry has shared a draft executive order with the Law Ministry to this effect, seeking a meeting to discuss the same. If approved, the order will be issued under Section 38 of the IIM Act.
According to Section 38, "If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as may appear to it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty. The MoE has a three-year window act under this Section, and expires on January 31, 2021."
Speaking to the media, many of these institutes' heads pointed out that the Centre's move goes against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's public stand on the autonomy of educational institutions, and also challenges the new National Education Policy (NEP).
Three years after granting autonomy to the 20 premier business schools under the IIM Act, this current reversal erodes the autonomy of the institutes, heads added.
IIM Act 2017
IIM Bill 2017 was passed in the parliament unanimously by both the houses after being proposed by then HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar and the President's approval. The bill became IIM Act 2017 and took effect on January 31, 2018.
- The Act declares the 20 existing Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as institutions of national importance and confers on them the power to grant degrees to students.
- Under the Act, the Board of Governors (BoG) of these institutions is the executive body, comprising 19 members. The BoG has the power to nominate 17 members and alumni, while the other two are appointed by the Centre and state governments.
- Among other powers, the BoG appoints its Chairperson and the Director of each IIM, unlike in the cases of other institutions of higher education, including IIT and AIIMS, where the Centre appoints the Director.
- Under this, students are awarded the MBA degrees instead of Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) or PGPM.
The Ministry's proposal comes amid the ongoing clash between the IIMs and Government over the one-year MBA degree. Earlier in July, the Ministry had said that the one-year executive MBA degree is 'not following the UGC Regulations'.
UGC mandates a Master's degree of two years rather than one, and in the Government's view, IIMs have violated the provision. The Centre had issued a letter to the premier business schools, instructing them to 'act in conformity with the UGC Act 1956'.
A chairperson of one of the IIM boards told the media that the Centre was using the one-year degree issue to get the Law Ministry involved and consider the proposal.
"I think the one-year degree issue is being used as an excuse to get the Law Ministry involved and push this proposal [to allow the Government to investigate the IIM BoG] through. The world over MBA programmes for working professionals is of one-year duration. This proposal probably has more to do with the bureaucracy not being able to come to terms with the fact that the IIMs are now entirely free of government control," the media quoted the Chairperson as saying.
Director of another IIM said that this merely the Government's attempt to give itself more powers to move against the board.
"The one-year degree is not a substantive issue based on which the Government should take such a step. I suspect this is more of an ego issue. As far as checks and balances are concerned, our alumni, who have a decent representation on the BoG, will never allow the institute to do something that will hurt the IIM brand. This proposal goes against the grain of the NEP."
One of the directors said that whoever had initiated the proposal has not read the Prime Minister's stance on the autonomy of such educational institutions. The PMO has earlier, many times opposed the Government's control over the institutions.
The Director of another IIM questioned the Ministry's reason to reverse the powers provided to the BoG under the Act. "Just as how the risk of being summoned and investigated had prompted many independent directors to resign their posts from the Boards of companies, no one would want to be part of an IIM Board if the Government starts initiating inquiries against the BoG at their will.
The Government is not the only responsible agency in the country. They will have to trust the Board members. It is an unnecessary attempt at centralization and will destroy the institutes," the Director added.