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Testing time for IIMs with Joshi

Calcutta, Nov. 9: Three of the country’s top business schools sniff another attempt to extend government control on their functioning in Murli Manohar Joshi’s move to introduce a single national-level management entrance test.

Officially, the Indian Institutes of Management in Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Bangalore will not express their resistance to the directive Joshi’s human resources development ministry announced last month. But in private they place it in the same category as the memorandum of understanding (MoU) they have been asked to sign.

“We haven’t received any such order and can’t comment,” said Ishwar Murthy, chairman, admissions, IIM Bangalore.

In an October 10 communication, the ministry said it wants to put in place a single test from the 2005-2006 session for entrance into all registered management institutes in the country.

Now, the IIMs hold their own examination — the common admission test, or CAT. Other institutes have different tests.

“This has been done to relieve students of the mental and physical burden placed by the multiplicity of entrance tests,” said Pawan Kumar Agarwal, director, technical education, government of India.

Removing “malpractice” from the selection process and making it solely dependent on “merit” constitute the rest of the ministry’s motive.

In Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Bangalore, that is not the view. Neither of these IIMs has signed the MoU because they see it as a vehicle of surrendering their independence — decision-making as well as financial. “First, they wanted us to sign the MoU, which means sacrificing freedom. Now they want to replace CAT and this means compromising our standards. IIMs will lose their sheen without CAT,” pointed out a senior faculty member in Calcutta.

The Delhi diktat has grim revenue implications for the IIMs. Priced at Rs 1,000, CAT forms are a major source of income, which they will lose if there is a national test. This year, around 120,000 students will appear for the CAT scheduled on November 23.

“It will be difficult to develop a substitute for all management degree aspirants. Now, a section of students doesn’t take CAT because it’s too tough. How the single test addresses the issue of developing a test for everyone (read: the lowest common denominator) remains to be seen,” said a professor at IIM Calcutta.

The government has set up a national co-ordination council to evolve strategy and develop an action plan for the single test. Representatives from government and academia in the council will also recommend weightages to be allotted to test scores and academic record.

Intriguingly, the council has no representatives from the IIMs in Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Bangalore, which have closed ranks against Joshi’s MoU. Lucknow, from Joshi’s home state, has agreed to sign and found a place in the council.

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