The IIM Bill of 2015 that the Ministry of HRD proposes to introduce in the winter session of the Parliament seeks to give degree-granting status to IIMs. This has sent fear waves among the private business schools that award PGDM. I have a different take.
1. The need for converting IIMs into degree-granting institutions is best known to HRD Ministry. It is not clearly spelt out and hence I am unable to comment on it. From what I heard from various sources of hearsay, the motive is to dispel the doubts in the minds of Universities abroad where (in almost all other countries) PG-Diploma in Management is regarded inferior to MBA. The Ministry, in its considered wisdom, presumably after many deliberations with the officials within, experts outside and officials of IIMs, has decided to dispel this doubt by enabling them to grant MBA and other degrees.
2. If we look back a few decades ago when IIMs were started, we may well understand why the IIMs chose not to go under any University and decided to stay autonomous, though it meant the lack of degree-granting status: it was to gain autonomy that would give them academic, administrative and financial independence. These three are essential for active experimentation and innovation in the sphere of management education, which is clearly focused on practice. Therefore, the HRD Ministry's move to introduce this Bill is in the right direction, whereby the autonomy of IIMs is maintained while they will be allowed to grant MBA degree and PhD. It will also pave the way later for IIMs to introduce their own undergraduate courses in management that can ensure high quality BBAs, if they choose to.
3. The private autonomous business schools seem to be unnerved by the IIM Bill 2015. The apprehension is articulated as "What will happen to the PGDM awarded by the private business schools?" Evidently, this is indeed beyond the intended scope of the IIM Bill. It is not the duty of the Ministry of HRD to worry on behalf of the private autonomous business schools that award PGDM; rather, it is for the latter to place before the Ministry the need for--if any--a Bill that safeguards their interests within the framework of law. So much so, I have the following remarks to offer:
3.a. Not all private business schools will be affected by IIMs awarding MBA degree. Clearly, there is a pecking order in the minds of (i) the recruiters and (ii) the potential students, about the quality of various schools. Thus, irrespective of the nature of the certificate awarded--Degree or Diploma--XLRI will be rated above and preferred to many of the IIMs. TAPMI is rated above and preferred to some of the new IIMs by the recruiters. This preference is unlikely to be affected because recruiters consider not the nature of the certificate while recruiting but the quality of the school, the facilities, the quality of the programme and so forth. And as long as recruiters are not affected by the IIM Bill, these highly ranked business schools need not be worried about their PGDM being undermined.
3.b. The middle order and lower order business schools will have something to bother irrespective of the Bill. WHAT THE MINISTRY OF HRD IS AIMING AT IS TO ENABLE A CLEAR DISCRIMINATION BETWEEN THE GOOD SCHOOLS AND THE NOT SO-GOOD SCHOOLS WITH A VIEW TO ENSURING HIGH QUALITY OF MANAGEMENT EDUCATION. This is indeed the right time to rise up to the quality expectations and improve the process of designing and offering programmes that are commensurate with the needs of the industry.
4. There is a fear among the private autonomous business schools that the Ministry of HRD is likely to abolish AICTE and UGC and create a single Council for Higher Education that will regulate all institutions of higher education through a uniform pattern of University. This fear is based on the experience during last few years when the Supreme Court took management education out of the regulatory framework of AICTE after which the UGC stepped in hurriedly to take control of the PGDM business schools. Thus this fear is not unfounded, notwithstanding the fact that the decision did not emanate from the Ministry. It is not clear whether the Ministry will insist that these schools either close down the PGDM programme or convert it to MBA with the support of a university. If it turns out to be true, then the private autonomous PGDM business schools have to either be affiliated to a university of central state governments or become a part of a private university. Evidently, the tardiness and bureaucracy that is witnessed in most of the non-private universities is not palatable to the PGDM business schools, which are highly nimble-footed to management the fiercely competitive scenario. It is hoped that the Ministry is aware of this apprehension. If the Ministry is not insistent upon compulsive homogeneity in higher education (heterogeneity is a must for innovation and experimentation in higher education) and allows the status quo of these schools to continue, then what is stated in 3.b alone stands to reason.
In nutshell, this is a true wake up call for all private PGDM business schools in India. It is time to think of quality and not quantity.