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B-schools combat siege within & without

Ahmedabad, Nov. 25: A hostile external environment (read: ministry of human resource development) and a divided house — the twin troubles of the Indian institutes of management are meat for one of those corporate case studies business schools teach students.

Some of the country’s best management heads have come together here to formulate strategies — first to overcome the immediate credibility crisis brought about by the cancellation of the common entrance test (CAT) after an alleged question-paper leak.

Beyond that lies the bigger question of what some of the IIMs see as a threat to their autonomy from Murli Manohar Joshi’s ministry that has split their own ranks with the ABC — Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta — on one side and Lucknow and Indore on the other. Kozhikode falls somewhere in between.

Joshi’s efforts to exert control and the ABC’s resistance have formed the background against which the leak drama has unfolded.

“The institutes are set up under the Societies Act. We also don’t depend on the government for funds. There is no basis for this control,” said an IIM Ahmedabad faculty member.

The ministry wants the IIMs to sign a memorandum of understanding that requires them to disclose all their plans in advance to the government. It also specifies that the IIMs cannot maintain a corpus of over Rs 25 crore.

Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode have signed and the ABC — all having corpus of more than Rs 100 crore each — have not.

“IIM ABC forwarded an alternative proposal to the ministry, which has been shot down,” the faculty member added.

The ministry then declared its decision in September to scrap CAT and replace it with a single nationwide entrance test for admission to management courses, but the ABC put their foot down.

Then came the October-end ministry directive to postpone this year’s CAT. “It was not possible and we said no,” said the faculty member.

But, in a way, it had to be postponed as the CBI revealed CAT question papers were being sold at prices ranging between Rs 3 and Rs 5 lakh.

While the IIMs have accepted the inevitability of a re-examination in the circumstances, the tussle will continue.

“The MoU talks about performance assessment and we are open to it, but not at the cost of our financial and administrative autonomy,” said another IIM Ahmedabad faculty member.

Turning their backs on the government, which is the promoter of these institutes, will not be easy, he admitted. “Though we aren’t dependent for funds, we are part of the system and enjoy benefits because of that. Besides, we also do a lot of government projects, which is a source of funds.”

Much as the IIMs would have wanted to present a united face in this battle, there are signs of an internal rift, said sources. Though no one is willing to go on record, some of the recent actions of two IIMs — known for their directors’ proximity to the ministry — have left the others wondering.

“We are aware that the next six to seven months will determine the institutes’ future. But we will try our best to maintain our autonomy, which forms the core of the IIMs’ excellence,” signed off a faculty member.

Maybe, they should look for advice on political environment management in corporate case studies that have not been written, but are well known.

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