Not since Infosys co-founder and former Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) board chairman NR Narayana Murthy took on then Union minister of human resource development Murli Manohar Joshi over the latter's decision to slash fees have IIMs seen such a prolonged fight for autonomy.
In that sense, 2018 was a landmark year for the premier B-schools even as it ushered in a new era with the promulgation of the IIM Act. At first, IIMs welcomed the freedom to appoint chairpersons and directors in place of the earlier cumbersome process that required government approval. However, the year saw IIMs raising other issues that not only threatened their autonomy but also increased administrative woes for them.
For instance, under the Act, IIMs can offer PhD as against the previous fellow doctoral programmes. However, the government narrowed eligibility criteria by increasing the cut-off to 80 per cent from the 60 per cent for four-year undergraduate applicants. IIMs say this would reduce the available pool of candidates, apart from reducing course work in doctoral programmes from two years to six months.
Further, the one-year post graduate programmes for executives with prior work experience of at least 5-7 years are set to be converted into two-year MBAs under the Act. This too, IIMs believe, would lower standards and defeat the purpose of conducting one-year MBAs for working professionals.
The year ended with directors of all IIMs and the ministry discussing these issues via video conference in the second week of December 2018. The ball now rests in the ministry's court.