Monday, July 28, 2008

IITs and IIMs are not Brands

I read the following piece from a new item on IIT meet at New York (IIT Bombay Golden Jubilee Conference 2008, held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel Times Square in New York City, July 18-20)

Touching upon the challenges, Roopa Gir (Director, Corporate Technology Watch, Schlumberger) pointed out that with the announcement of reservations for OBCs, the quotas have gone up from 22-and-half percent to almost 50 percent now for students; 30-40 percent faculty positions have fallen vacant and as more students get admissions under the quota, the faculty ratio of vacancies will go up to 50 percent.Gir said that students have cracked the IIT-JEE entrance examination and so nearly 90 percent students who qualify for admissions are not of high quality.

The IIT-JEE private coaching has emerged as a multi-billion dollar business in India, she further pointed out. "Just preparing students for the IIT entrance exam is a Rs. 20,000 crore (approx $4.5 billion) business."The other points she raised were of faculty development and diversification of IITs to include disciplines in medicine, law, arts and so on.Talking of capacity constraints in existing IITs, Victor Menezes (former Vice Chairman, Citigroup) said, "We take great pride that only one percent of students who qualify get admission to IITs.

That's a ridiculous statistic to be proud of. It's like being in a luxury liner vainly polishing the brass while sailing in a sea of icebergs."Menezes said that while a lot is being done to project the brand IIT, the brand itself is getting outstripped. "I don't believe it's about buildings or money, but it's about governance and accountability."With 90% of the funding coming from the government, IITs will never achieve independence.

Echoing Menezes' sentiments on brand IIT, Girish Reddy, Co-founder of Prisma Capital Partners said, "We are under significant threat of brand dilution because of various factors like growth, expansion, more students, lack of faculty, and so on. It was Reddy who mooted the idea of developing centers of excellence rather than go for multi-disciplinary IITs.Reddy also criticized the Indian government's rapid expansion plans. "The new expansion is based on the cookie-cutter model cast 50 years ago.

That won't work," he said.Touching on the issue of caste-based reservations, Rajat Gupta, Sr. Partner Emeritus, McKinsey & Company, said that along with quality of education and expansion, there has to be inclusiveness in education. "We can't say 'no' to reservations and need to change our attitude on that," he added.As for viability of the institutions, Gupta pointed out that world over institutions imparting higher education are by and large, not-for-profit institutions. "But that doesn't mean they cannot make profits," he adds.

"It should be profitable, but the profits should be ploughed back. In India, there are many higher educational institutions which run only for profit, and they are all of bad quality."The tripling of the IITs in 50 years since the first one was set up is just one percent growth and it's not enough, Gupta stressed.The panel felt that teaching and research needed to be integrated within the academic institution itself in order to retain faculty.

My opinion is that people should not look at IITs and IIMs as Brands, which are to be protected so that its past alumni enjoy brand benefits. They should be viewed as successful education institution models in India, and an effort has to be made to expand them both in their current locations and in new locations.

Expansion of high quality higher education institutes requires and whenever government feels it has the necessary resources it will expand.

Frequently, people talk of lack of faculty. The current faculty must be prepared to develop the existing resources rather than condemning the existing resources as not fit for development. Such elitist attitude "except we no body can" is not proper attitude. Teachers must have willingness to develop students who gather around them through some process. They should not reject any student provided they have a seat which can be offered to him. When society is willing to set up high quality institutions, the present faculty must come forward to upgrade the knowledge and skill levels of others who are willing to be faculty in the new institutes rather than declaring opposition to them with the argument that high quality faculty are not available in the country.

Come out with a processs to improve the faculty and potential faculty currently existing in the country are around. Brilliance of the existing faculty must be used to expand the faculty resources.

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