Learn, don’t lead; listen, don’t lecture, Mr Minister!

There are a few institutions which have brought more honour and pride to India than IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, Law schools, IISc, BARC, TiFR,  etc. These are the real jewels in Indian crown. Several central universities are equally distinguished. Should a system which works well be the concern of policy makers? Ironically, Previous government started the task of ‘taming’ autonomous IIMs particularly IIM-A, B,C and the current government is taking it to absurd length by putting the word ‘regulation’ in almost every major clause of operations.

Why does MHRD feel that it has a comparative advantage in guiding, regulating and overseeing the decision making system in elite institutions. Why should it not self-critically look at the quality of governance and delivery in institutions which are already in complete control of MHRD.
Let us understand that autonomy of outstanding academic institution is essentially an aggregation of individual autonomy of the faculty and other stakeholders. Once you take away autonomy of faculty, the sense of responsibility for challenging  students in different domains gets diluted. Ownership of the system shifts, thus eroding the spirit of taking Initiatives. Why would MHRD like to induce such debilitating process. How will it help these Institutions achieve global excellence. Is there any argument, theory or available knowledge which justifies such interference with the autonomy of elite academic institutions.

Inter-institutional forum is a good idea so long as the desire is to learn, but not lead, listen but not lecture. India needs tremendous institution building support for new institutions being set up in technology, management and other fields.  Why not discuss the collaboration in that mission, devise strategies so that new institutions can build healthy, nurturant, horizontal culture. Older institutions have to help in this task. But we are not discussing these more urgent and challenging issues. We are obsessed with how to ‘ regulate’ the decision making systems of Institutions which are working rather well.

The DNA of these institutions is built upon self-regulation. It is true that sometimes aberration may occur. But the system is robust enough to apply the correctives. It is also true that public policy impact of these institutions may not be as high as it ought to be in different sectors. There are a lot of other areas in which existing elite institutions need to improve and they may need support from government. Idea is not to avoid interface with government, But to make this interface more mutually responsible, respectful and accountable.
IIM  bill in its present firmly fails to pass the test. can the dialogue take place with faculty of leading IIMs which are not dependent upon government and the senior ministers and other policy makers to think together how to work on improving global ranking of our Institutions. To give government its due, all the top institutions in India in various disciplines are public institutions. Let us amplify the historical positive synergy and get out of narrow control oriented tendencies. Excellence creates its own responsibility toward lesser endowed institutions. Let us tap this sense of responsibility and not curb the urge to excel.


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