The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arjun rushes to undo IIM damage

New Delhi, Jan. 19: Arjun Singh has launched a “damage control” mission following the outcry over his refu- sal last week to allow IIM Bangalore to set up a campus in Singapore.

The human resource development minister has convened a meeting of IIM directors in Delhi on February 1 to discuss matters relating to autonomy and strengthening of the premier B-schools.

“The meeting will deliberate issues of autonomy and the measures needed to further strengthen the institutions,” the ministry has said.

The notice for the meeting makes it clear Arjun does not want to be perceived as trampling upon the autonomy of institutes of higher education. “The meeting will discuss how to strengthen autonomy and whether it is perceived to have been diminished in the recent controversy,” it says.

The meeting would also discuss the assistance expected from the ministry.

It is ironic that Arjun has to clarify the Centre’s position twice on autonomy after taking over from his predecessor, the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi. The first time he spoke to the IIM directors ' soon after taking charge as HRD minister ' was to assure them he would not go the Joshi way and that the UPA government was committed to safeguarding their autonomy.

One of the primary objectives of next month’s meeting is to allay the fear that has resurfaced among IIMs following the HRD ministry’s denial of permission to IIM Bangalore to open the campus abroad. The IIMs fear a repeat of Joshi’s policies.

During his tenure as HRD minister, Joshi issued a fiat drastically slashing tuition fees charged by the IIMs. A defiant IIM Ahmedabad went to court and the confrontation between the HRD ministry and the business schools turned into a nasty spat.

After assuming charge, Arjun cancelled Joshi’s fee-slash order and called a meeting of IIM directors to refurbish the ministry’s image.

At the forthcoming meeting, the question looming large before the IIM heads will be: does the HRD ministry’s denial of permission to IIM Bangalore reflect a policy decision or is it a simple matter of amending the B-school’s memorandum of association (MoA) with the ministry'

Each of the six IIMs has its own three-way MoA with the Centre and the government of its home state.

The other issue on the plate is strengthening the IIM faculties that do not have enough members. IIMs have been complaining that their salaries ' the ministry decides the salary structure for them ' are not at par with the salaries of private institutions ' a reason for faculty members to move to the private sector.

For instance, a professor’s pay package in the IIM can range from Rs 33,000 to Rs 40,000, depending on seniority. Private business schools like the Indian School of Business and Nirma Institute of Management pay much better salaries.

Experts, however, point out that IIM faculty members make up by engaging in consultation work.

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