Monday, March 10, 2008

End this Killer Raj, February 10, 2008

For the first time an Indian institution of higher education has been ranked among the top twenty in the world. The Indian School of Business (ISB) was ranked 20th in a list of the top100 business schools by the prestigious Financial Times two weeks ago. A Chinese business school was No 11; four European schools came in the top 10, and the rest were from the United States.

But wait a minute. Isn’t the ISB illegal? ISB officials explain that they don’t want accreditation from India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) because then “they will decide our courses, our student intake, and even the size of our buildings”. I spoke to a top AICTE official, who scornfully dismissed the Indian School of Business--“its fees are too high and it doesn’t even have a permanent faculty”. I gently suggested that its faculty is world-class if not permanent. And why worry about fees when every student has a loan. They must be doing something right if students command a mean salary of Rs 16 lakhs a year at graduation.

ISB is India’s only school in the top-100 list. There might have been more but for AICTE. One of these is Mumbai’s premier SP Jain Institute, run by a no-nonsense Harvard graduate. It doesn’t bribe; nor does it succumb to politicians for admissions. Hence, it is punished. It applied to admit 120 students in 1992, but got approval for 45. In 2001, it applied for 180 but didn’t get approval for six years. In 2004, AICTE rejected its unique dual degree program with a reputed foreign university, whereby the latter would have flown its faculty to India. Its innovative program for family-run businesses was also rejected. Last year, it seriously contemplated closing down. Instead it has started campuses in Dubai and Singapore--far beyond AICTE’s reach.
What do you do when the keepers of the law become its oppressors? AICTE was set up to encourage higher education but it achieved the opposite. Honest officials have tried cleaning it up periodically, but they have always been removed by politicians, who happen to own many of our worst private institutions. The answer, of course, is to give autonomy to all education institutions. Regulators should only ensure that they provide mandatory disclosure on the Internet about their courses, faculty, fees, and facilities (with severe punishment for false claims). Professional rating services should evaluate colleges with the same credibility as CRISIL rates industrial companies. Competition will take care of the rest. Students will be able to make informed choices. Good institutions will thrive and poor ones will close.
In the India of my dreams the government will stop running universities and colleges. All institutions will be autonomous. The government will plough all the money saved into scholarships. The Government’s role will be limited to governance-- ensuring corruption free ratings and corruption-free exams (with the credibility of IIT-JEE) at various stages in a student’s career. The tombstone of the UGC/AICTE Raj will thus read: “For fifty years we promoted rote learning, incompetent faculty, and mediocrity. We punished original thinking and failed to create an employable graduate. We pushed students into a parallel universe of coaching classes, which ironically took their obligation to students far more seriously. We deserved to die.”

Building India is about building institutions. This Sunday let’s celebrate the emergence of a world class institution in India. The altruistic founders of ISB had a vision. They funded it privately and nurtured it in its early years. They persisted in difficult times, especially when they were under attack from AICTE. Now, his is how to build fine institutions.


Anonymous said...

I don't fully appreciate the very cause of ISb, Hyd.
It is good to know that one of the Indian institute has been able to make a place in Top 20, irrespctive of the fact that it is not recognized by any governing bodies, nor is it affliated to any university, for a Indian mindset it looks little weird where it is taught that go only to that school which is "approved" in some manner.
Anyway that is a different discussion about the governance of an institute.
The point is why is the institute charging so much and every year their fees is going North. It puts up a wrong trend in the education industry, and this brings a discrimination among people, those who can pay for it will go for it. There are loan options available but everyone can;t afford to take that route, and most people get de-motivated just by hearing the fees.
One another thing is that this wrong trend will encourage other institutes to hike their fees like anything. And I am observing this literaaly.
I will give one instance from my observations, there is a new B-School opened by the Name Proton B-School in Indore by one Sandip Manudhane Ex. IIT-D who also runs Professional Tutorials. The institute has ropped in their ex-students who made it to the IIM's, the most important thing is the fees, the fees is Rs. 5 lacs.
Which I think is way too much for a middle class person to afford for.
So is it true to say that the elite jobs are meant only for those who can win a seat by paying high fees, otherwise they just get a MBA degree from some local college and are suitable only for a marketing/tele-callers/accountant kind of jobs.

Arun' Blog said...

I agree that the institutions must charge according to the quality and worth they provide. They may pay relevant taxes to the government, and that is what the government must be interested in; that is all and nothing beyond this. In USA, I find the education system totally privatized, and even local community colleges are run so well, ably supported by the government in minimum areas, and there is no interference as we find in India.

Arun' Blog said...

I think we must stop this attitude of "support the poor" at the expense of quality of education. Let there be laissez faire and the government may monitor quality and grievances as done in the western world. Let the government collect taxes as per fees, and let the institutions run themselves autonomously, if we want to see a quality jump in our educational system.
It is sad to see the corruption levels in India. I see so much respect for Indian economic development in USA but am sad to see that for corruption levels, it is clubbed at No 92 (
It is more distressing to see the politicians trying to stifle education system in India. It is ironic that the some people condemn higher fees so that middle class may get benefited, and then the same people who take this cheap education will go abroad in the first chance. I fully support loan system. Let government help the poor in getting loans. We can ask the private enterprise to sponsor poor and bright students. But let there be no compromise on quality of education.

A_N_Nanda said...


After going through the post and the trailing comments, I came back to the question that often haunts me:

Which one is correct?

1. Good things cost more.
2. The things that cost more are good.

I've some exposure to the management education. After spending a good 15 months at that, I think it is my common sense that will help me always.

And fortunately I did not lose my common sense there, though I have seen people losing that by the time they finish their management education.

Finally, a point to ponder:
Management education helps us to create wealth; we create wealth destroying the environment.[People own more than one cars now]

Isn't it govt.'s duty to create roads and ours privilege [the consumer's privilege] to drive on it?



Arun' Blog said...

I think Nanda's first point is correct: Good things cost more. I also endorse the citizen's right to drive on good roads, and the government's duty to make the infrastructure.
However it is also the nature of a developing country not to have such infrastructure. India is taking off and I am sure whichever party comes into power, the issue of infrastructure can not be neglected. It is like a rolling snowball now.

People will own whatever they can afford. We can not expect the people to be sensitive about the environment, when the government is not conscious to the extent it must be. Regulations must be strict and implementation strong to see that balance between economic gains and ecological decay.