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IIM arms itself for trip abroad
- 6 directors to meet before Arjun talks

Jan. 20: The first formal move of IIMs towards getting the green signal to set up campuses abroad was made by the Bangalore institute today ahead of the February 1 meeting with human resource development minister Arjun Singh.

At a meeting, the Bangalore board decided to approach the HRD ministry for permission with a changed memorandum of association enabling the institute to venture abroad.

Arjun had discouraged IIM Bangalore from going to Singapore by suggesting that the institutes should take care of domestic requirements. He had also pointed out that in order to venture abroad, IIMs would have to amend their charter.

Led by chairman Mukesh Ambani, the IIMB board sat today to discuss a three-page agenda note that included initiatives to be taken to meet global aspirations.

“At the next meeting, actual changes will be made as the board has given approval to amend the articles of association,’’ sources said.

It also emerged today that the directors of the six IIMs will meet on January 31, a day before their talks with Arjun, to discuss amendment of their memoranda of association.

The three older IIMs ' Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta ' are expected to prepare a prototype memorandum that reflects their current concerns with autonomy and global plans. The memorandum was drawn up in the sixties. The amended memorandum has to be approved by the ministry.

Sources in IIM Ahmedabad said the new memorandum would have a defined provision for setting up campuses abroad. It would also contain a clause giving the IIMs freedom to fix fees without interference from the ministry.

Although apprehensions were voiced about Arjun’s intentions after he objected to IIMB’s plan, his decision to sit with the directors has allayed fears of meddling leading to a confrontation of the kind that took place when Murli Manohar Joshi was the minister.

“There is no comparison between the two ' Arjun is certainly more receptive than his predecessor. He has taken the right step. The fact that he has shown the willingness to hold dialogue is a big step forward,” said an IIMA professor.

It is unlikely, however, that the minister would readily agree to allow IIMs to go abroad just by amending the charter, which is a technical change.

“Let them first amend the MoA. Let the process first begin and then we shall see,” Arjun has said.

While he does not wish to be seen as riding roughshod over the IIMs’ ambitions, Arjun is holding on to his position that they should meet domestic requirements first.

The meeting on February 1 is likely to indicate the government’s mind once the issue is discussed.

Although there was an almighty furore over the subject, Bangalore sources explained that no commitment had been made on the Singapore plan. “There was only an intention to start short-term and part-time courses.”

Some of the other IIMs want to follow in Bangalore’s footsteps, but firm plans are not in place yet. Devi Singh, the director of IIM Lucknow, said: “We are not in a hurry to push the go-global agenda. But then we have to be a partner in the global competition, too.”

A source in the Calcutta institute said: “It would not be correct to say we have no such plans, but we will play it by the ear.”

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