Bear in mind, the education ministry’s move comes at a time when the government has been patting itself on the back over the new national education policy, which recommends granting more autonomy to top institutes and has been very well-received by education sector experts.
The law ministry has done well to strike down the education ministry’s proposal to be empowered to initiate an inquiry under Article 38 of the IIM Act and dismiss the board of governors of an IIM if they are found acting in contravention of the Act. However, the fact that education ministry invoked such a rule is a red-flag; it signals that the government is loath to give up control of central institution. While the IIM Act was passed in 2017, and the government tom-tommed the provisions on autonomy, it would all be reduced to a sham if such orders are passed and given effect. Bear in mind, the education ministry’s move comes at a time when the government has been patting itself on the back over the new national education policy, which recommends granting more autonomy to top institutes and has been very well-received by education sector experts.
In this case, the background was the tiff between the government and a few IIMs over the grant of an MBA degree for a one-year course. While the UGC regulations require that any masters degree needs to be at least two years, the IIMs contended that they were not bound by UGC rules given they were autonomous. Although the IIMs have received a breather with the law ministry’s veto, other central institutions/universities will still be under the government’s shadow. Bureaucratic handling is, in part, a reason for India’s consistently poor showing in global university/higher education institution rankings. Last year, the government had written to all IIMs, IITs and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research to implement reservation in faculty appointments. While the prime minister has been categorical about ‘minimum government’, l’affaire IIM shows action needs to meet intent.