I must confess I had to pinch myself in disbelief when I read some of the analysis and the prescriptions. Ranganathan concedes that the IITs and IIMs lag in research. He concedes that the IIMs have leaned too heavily towards executive training (which helps faculty make easy money) at the expense of research. How do we address these?
The government can solve this problem by pouring money on the IIMs but keeping their hands off after that.Indeed! The government should keep their hands off so that faculty can keep ignoring research and focus on making more money for themselves?
A plausible inference, going by Ranganathan's diagnosis, would be that the present governance structure is inadequate. Indeed, it is in many ways. The IIMs have large, unwieldy boards. Most members fail to show up for meetings. This is not a situation that is conducive to effective monitoring and it may account for the problems Ranganathan mentions.
On a broader note, we do know from the corporate governance literature that boards are effective where there is a dominant shareholder who takes active interest. They are ineffective where there is dispersed shareholding and there is no major shareholder who is willing to take the trouble of watching over management. The governance revolution worldwide is about dispersed shareholding giving way to dominant, institutional shareholders who exercise effective oversight.
In the IIMs, the dominant shareholder is the government. It follows that governance would be more effective if the government took more interest, not less. If the IIMs do not want this to happen, they must propose alternative governance mechanisms that could be as effective. Ranganathan is not inclined to do so. His solution is one that every body of professionals - managers, doctors, lawyers, judges- would love to have: leave it to us faculty, we know best. (In a system where board monitoring is weak, 'leave it to the board' means 'leave it to faculty' or, worse, 'leave it to the director').
Mohandas Pai gives us the usual rubbish about government dominance of education affecting quality. He thinks all problems will be solved if government should get off the backs of IITs and IIMs and education in general. Readers of this blog at least should not buy this. I have repeatedly posed this question: out of the hundreds of engineering, medical and management institutions in the private sector, how come none measures up to the IITs, AIIMS and IIMs? Who has stopped private institutions from beating the hell out of the top government ones? The constraint, I daresay, is motivation: where the motive is to maximise profit, you are not going to get great quality of education.
Pankaj Jalote also advocates a hands-off approach but one linked to a vision outlined by IITs and IIMs for their future- the kind of objectives they could achieve over different time-frames. Subject to this, the government should keep off.
That is nearly what we have now through the MoUs! The government has indeed kept off in most respects except one- salary levels. I have argued elsewhere in my blog that increases in salary, while necessary, will not by themselves propel the IITs and IIMs into a different league.
Nature abhors a governance vacuum. The unpalatable truth is that since there appears to be one at the IIMs, the government is moving to fill it.