TOI reports: 'AICTE warns b schools running from rented buildings'.
In fact, AICTE has threatened to 'close down' all b schools and engineering colleges which are functioning out of rented buildings or sheds if they do not shift to approved permanent sites with 'full facilities' by March 31 2007.
Which is less than 60 days away.
Wonderful, you might say. The question is, what are 'full facilities'? And is physical infrastructure the only indicator of institutional excellence??
Let me tackle the first question first. There was a time when one could pinpoint the necessary 'facilities' a good techincal institute must have. Chief among these would be a well equipped computer centre with a conducive student: PC ratio. And a well stocked library.
Additionally, engineering colleges need laboratories. B schools do not have any such requirement.
Cut to the present. A large number of b schools now ask students to purchase a laptop when joining the course and simply provide wifi access. Libraries still exist, but I see fewer and fewer students accessing them or using them even to study. 'Google research' appears to suffice for most projects.
Theoretically, a college could simply subscribe to online databases and ensure its students access to a wide enough knowledge base.
Bacha kya? College building. Sure, that's important. But does a fancy building necessarily equal to excellent college? Aisa zaroori nahin hai. Physical infrastructure is the easiest thing to put up for any Mr Moneybags who wishes to set up a college. Besides, in a couple of student intake cycles the money spent on land and construction would pretty much get recovered.
In any case many excellent institutes including the likes of IIM Lucknow and IIM Indore initially operated from cramped, rented premises. In time, they built full-fledged campuses.
Now we come to faculty. AICTE has certain norms regarding the number of faculty a bschool must have. And the kind of qualifications they must possess. Ah, you might nod. An institute with numerous PhDs on its rolls must be a good one. But this too is no longer necessarily true.
ISB and Great Lakes have shown that one can operate institutes of merit with visiting faculty of high calibre and little permanent teaching staff. Many other decent management institutes are also operating primarily on a 'visiting faculty' basis.
A fact that AICTE does not seem to take into account when it includes criteria such as 'Recruitment, Strategies for Attracting and Retention of Faculty Personnel for Excellence, Promotional Avenues, Career Ladder' etc in its list of deliverables for schools seeking accreditation.
Any attempt to shut down hole-in-the-wall institutes is no doubt laudable. Certain 'minimum' standards must be met for an establishment to be an accredited b school or tschool. But it is equally true that the world is changing and AICTE should take this into account. Instead of getting obsessive about built up area per student being '11.7 sq m'.
I think two separate bodies should be set up to deal with engineering and management education. Engineering colleges need more infrastructure - laboratories, for example. And a 'visiting faculty' model may not be as viable as it is for bschools. So two different sets of norms would work much better.
Secondly, instead of a flat accreditation, AICTE should grade institutes. And lastly, when they need to stop threatening to act and actually act against those institutes which completely flunk out.
Revoking accreditation for a single high profile institute like Amity Business School is fine. But there are hundreds of bschools in similar or far worse condition. If AICTE truly has the interest of students at heart, they too should face the music.
The final irony is that even after losing accreditation Amity Business School continues to function - and is in fact attracting more students, as well as offering more courses and more seats. While AICTE calls itself ‘a statutory body’ accreditation is hardly statutory. It is desirable, but optional.
And there are territorial tussles with deemed universities asserting they need not get AICTE approval in the first place.
In the end, the free market appears to be the only real ‘regulator’. Word of mouth is what makes or breaks the reputation of a bschool or tschool. Not the word of AICTE.
Case Study: Keeping brand value alive
TOI reports: The venerable UVCE – one of Bangalore’s oldest and most reputed colleges – currently has a teacher:student ratio of 1:800!
The lone faculty in the nearly 100-year-old institution is K R Venugopal, chairman, department of computer science and engineering, who sits in the college premises from 9 am to 9 pm!
For the record, as per the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) guidelines, the college with its present student strength should have minimum 50 teachers.
Things are unlikely to change as a recent Bangalore University advertisement for 30 posts — 20 fulltime faculty and 10 posts on an hourly basis has not received a single application. No wonder - full time faculty is being offered merely Rs 10,000 in a city where a fresh B Tech can easily get a job paying twice that per month.
Not only AICTE, but everyone related to education needs to start thinking… differently. If we are to meet the aspirations of the millions of young Indians dreaming of a management or engineering education.