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IIPM dares to take on the regulators

The business school has declared war on anybody who raises a question about its credibility. Here is a look at the slugfest

M Saraswathy  |  Mumbai 

On February 15, Indian bloggers and cyber activists woke up to the news that 73 URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) which were critical of Indian Institute of Planning and (IIPM), including some of their own blogs, had been ordered to be blocked. This was the first incident of its kind wherein an educational institution had gone to court and secured an order to restrict certain content.

Consequently, the Department of Telecommunications directed the Internet Service Licensees to immediately block 73 URLs (not websites) containing anti-IIPM content. These included the University Grants Commission (UGC) page with guidelines on IIPM, links carrying such content on newspaper, consumer forum and satire websites, as well as online news portals. While the bodies, including UGC and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), are consulting their respective legal departments on taking action against IIPM, the URLs continue to remain blocked.

Founded in 1974, New Delhi-headquartered IIPM offers programmes in education. While it has 18 branches in India, including those in Mumbai, Noida, Pune, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Cochin, it is neither accredited by AICTE nor recognised by UGC. Hence, it cannot offer degrees or diplomas to students. AICTE, the country’s technical education regulator, has always put IIPM in the list of unapproved institutions in India. This list features other institutes too, like Indian School of Business (ISB). ISB had, however, earlier told Business Standard that it has not applied for approval to AICTE as its one-year post graduate programme does not fall under AICTE’s ambit. AICTE regulates B-schools which provides a two-year post graduate programme in Further, if an institute is not recognised by UGC, it cannot offer a degree programme in India.

The bone of contention between AICTE, UGC and IIPM is that the institute has continued with its operations in spite of not getting an accreditation. That’s not all. The institute has made it clear that it would not apply for accreditation to these bodies. AICTE Chairman Shankar S Mantha told Business Standard that AICTE has on its website declared that all IIPM branches are unapproved, which means that the institute cannot offer any degree to its students.

UGC has also issued guidelines advising students against joining the institute. In a notice on its website in July 2012, it reiterated that IIPM is not entitled to award degrees. “...IIPM is not a university within the meaning of the UGC Act. Further, as per section 22 of the Act, IIPM does not have the right of conferring or granting degrees as specified under the Act,” UGC said in a public notice.

Reacting to the UGC guidelines, IIPM said that it neither awards degrees nor calls itself a university. Arindam Chaudhuri, IIPM Think Tank’s honorary director, has accused UGC of deliberately spreading misleading information about the institute to hurt its business interests and falsely calling IIPM a fake university. “For that we did take them to court and the Delhi High Court had reprimanded UGC and given it a clear direction to remove the allegation because IIPM, like ISB, neither gives any degree of its own, has never claimed to do the same, nor has it ever called itself a university. UGC’s false campaign is utterly defamatory against which IIPM has also released public notices in newspapers,” he says. IIPM, he adds, is not looking at negotiating with the educational bodies on this issue. “IIPM,” he said, “is proud to have no affiliation with them [UGC and AICTE].”

Chaudhuri — his father, Malay Chaudhuri, is the founder and director of IIPM — is widely known as a management guru and gives management lectures across the country. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Indian magazine, has authored several books and produced Bollywood films like Rok Sako Toh Rok Lo and Do Dooni Chaar under the banner of Planman Motion Pictures. He is also the founder of Planman Consulting and Great Indian Dream Foundation, a civil society organisation. His advertisements say: dare to think beyond the IIMs.

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Though it is not affiliated to AICTE nor recognised by UGC, IIPM has partnered with other universities to offer degrees. Its website says that its post graduate students, apart from getting IIPM’s certification, also become eligible for IMI Europe’s post graduate degree in management. Undergraduate students, too, apart from getting IIPM’s certification, become eligible for IMI Europe’s Graduate Degree in Management.

IIPM students may also opt for the UGC-recognised Master in Business Administration (MBA) and Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) degrees which are awarded by Mahatma Gandhi University through the academic alliances the institute has with this university. IIPM has fostered an academic alliance with this university through which its campus in Kolkata has been granted recognition as a research centre of the University of Mysore for pursuing research leading to PhD studies in management. In the PhD programme, students don’t join IIPM. They join the Mysore University and get a PhD from there. IIPM faculty facilitates the research work as a partner institution. Further, IIPM has a technical collaboration with the M S University, Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu), as its onsite academic partner institution for the two-year, full-time MBA and three-year, full time BBA and Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA) courses. Students joining the institute’s two-year, full time programme in planning and entrepreneurship (with single specialisation) and the three-year, full time undergraduate programme in planning and entrepreneurship are eligible to get degrees from M S University after fulfilling the university’s academic requirements.

Students have expressed mixed opinions about this. While some are satisfied with the arrangement, some have said on social media and blogosphere that they were not aware that IIPM does not award degrees. However, the institute clearly mentions on its website that it is not a university and does not have the power to give degrees.

This is not the first time that the institute is involved in a controversy. Following an article that questioned the functioning of the institute and criticised it over alleged poor placement, a court case was filed against the magazine concerned. The article was subsequently pulled down from the website. Then, in 2012, one of the IIPM’s ‘channel partners’ (which helps the institute get students by way of marketing and promotions) filed a suit against Google. It submitted to various Internet Service Providers information on certain articles about IIPM that the partner considered defamatory and claimed was affecting its business. After hearing the suit, the court asked Google to remove those links. However, Google failed to comply with the order and subsequently, the court asked the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team to block those URLs till further orders. The court also issued a notice to IIPM to be one of the respondents. “We shall file our reply in court soon,” says Chaudhuri.

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While placement reports are not available on its website, the institute’s website claims that IIPM’s career management offices in New York, London, Dubai, Singapore and across India work closely with corporations around the world to identify opportunities for students. According to the website, IIPM’s Strategic Management Group-Career Cell found that more than 1,000 companies participated for placements last year.

Hum may recruit from IIPM for various positions, candidates for mid and senior management posts were usually recruited from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). A senior human resource official with a private sector bank says they do recruit from several institutes, including IIPM. But an IIM student would be chosen over an IIPM student, the official adds.

Cyber activists, meanwhile, are outraged over the URLs being blocked. Some have also raised questions about the credibility of education imparted by IIPM. The activists argue that blocking URLs is infringing on an individual's freedom of speech and expression and is not the appropriate way of dealing with criticism. But Chaudhuri says he would personally scrutinise the contents of the URLs and not contest those which are harmless satire and of a non-defamatory kind. “Anything that is a lie or is defamatory must be challenged in the courts and if the courts find merit, the lie and defamatory content must be removed — be it a single URL or multiple URLs,” he says.

Industry players have a different perspective on the issue. H Chaturvedi, director of Birla Institute of Management and Technology and alternate president of the Education Promotion Society of India, says that IIPM should come under the purview of the regulatory structure before making remarks against AICTE and UGC. He says he has urged academicians to send in a signed petition to the Prime Minister to resolve this issue.

Cyber law expert advocate Prashant Mali says the parties affected by this issue can appeal to the High Court of Madhya Pradesh for vacating the order passed by the Gwalior court or granting a stay on it. “If the appeal is honoured and stay granted on the order, the URLs can be reinstated,” says Mali.

According to the Madras High Court, entire URLs or websites cannot be blocked, he says adding that in other nations such instances have taken place. For example, he says, the website of Toronto Sun newspaper has been blocked by the government in Pakistan. Sudan has blocked the Hurriyat online newspaper. And Bloomberg’s website is blocked in China, said Mali.

IIPM is not perturbed by the current controversy. The institute will file its reply on the URL blocking case soon. Meanwhile, it continues to enroll students for its various programmes.

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First Published: Sat, February 23 2013. 20:30 IST