Jan. 17: IIM Bangalore chairman Mukesh Ambani today seemed to endorse the government’s curb on the institute’s overseas plans by saying it was “more important” for the premier B-schools to meet the demand in India.
The man he appeared to back, Union human resource development (HRD) minister Arjun Singh, however, suggested the Bangalore institute could still hope to open a campus abroad at some unspecified date in the future.
“IIMs should first fulfil the aspirations of the Indian youth before looking to open campuses abroad,” Ambani said after dedicating the new campus of IIM Indore.
“It is not a case of either this or that, but the more important priority really is to build capacity in our own country,” the Reliance Industries chief, who also heads IIM Bangalore’s board, added.
Arjun, who had turned down the institute’s plans for a Singapore campus just on this ground, skipped the Indore function, fuelling buzz of a widening rift between the B-schools and the government.
But in Delhi, the minister ' apparently tied down with work related to the Congress’s Hyderabad plenary ' tried to wriggle out of the controversy by suggesting a way out for the Bangalore institute while balancing this by defending a degree of state control.
Arjun told a TV channel IIM Bangalore can’t open the overseas campus “as of now”, but may do so after its memorandum of association (MoA) with his ministry is amended. The present MoA has “no provision for establishing brick-and-mortar campuses abroad as of now. They can do so after they amend the MoA”.
Each of the six IIMs has its own three-way MoA with the Centre and the government of its home state. Any amendment must be decided by the IIM board, which has members from all three parties.
Arjun said: “IIMs were not companies that are floated by anyone. These have been set up by the state. As government bodies, the IIMs have to abide by rules.”
He said the Centre had spent hundreds of crores on the institutes. Some of the IIMs have started making money now; but this, Arjun underlined, didn’t make them “floating companies free to do what they like”.
The Prime Minister took the middle path, saying he wasn’t against the IIMs going abroad. But Manmohan Singh added that he thinks the “HRD ministry feels there are gaps in our internal education”.
The Indore campus was abuzz with speculation that some IIM boards are planning to amend the MoAs.
The controversy has brought the next quarterly meeting of all the six institutes, scheduled for early February in Calcutta, under focus.
IIM Ahmedabad director Bakul Dholakia said: “The decision to have a meeting was taken at least 10 days back, before any controversy arose. But if any director raises the overseas campus issue, there may be some sort of discussion; but the meeting has not been called for that purpose only.”