The Union Cabinet’s clearance of a bill to grant complete autonomy to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management and to allow them to award degrees and not diplomas in management as they do now is a long-overdue welcome move. The IIMs which are among the few centres of excellence in the country’s education field will have freedom in terms of administration, recruitment and daily functioning. After the obstructionist attitude towards IIMs and IITs of the erstwhile UPA regime, this is a whiff of fresh air which would enhance their ability to deliver. After the bill becomes law, the management of IIMs would be board-driven as it should have been all these years. That their accounts would be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) under Parliament’s supervision is a move that would ensure that functional autonomy would be accompanied by accountability as a safeguard against reckless spending. There would also be a periodic independent review of the performance of the IIMs.
Significantly, the chairperson and director will be selected by the independent board so neither the human resource development ministry nor the President of India will have a say in the selection of these top executives at these B-schools. Currently, the boards largely make recommendations and the government either accepts or rejects their proposals. This includes subjects like the appointment of directors and the chairman of the board of governors. The IIM bill is silent on reservations in teaching staff recruitment or the so-called faculty reservations. The issue had garnered attention after HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar in September touched on the need for such reservations. But the HRD ministry has not issued any formal directive to IIMs to implement faculty reservations yet.
The bill contains a provision for a “Coordination Forum of IIMs”. The forum was a contentious issue as the IIMs were concerned that this would allow the HRD ministry to control the B-schools, considered a nursery for future corporate leaders. The coordination forum, in its final shape, will have limited power and the HRD minister will not be its convener. It will be an advisory body, consisting of 33 members, and its chairman will be selected by a search-cum-selection committee. Likewise, the governing board of an IIM will have 15 members including three women members and five from the alumni community.