Business Today

AICTE - time to revamp

The statutory body, which is supposed to regulate higher education in the country, is a sclerotic, bureaucratic organisation that is, instead, vitiating the atmosphere of technical education in India. In the past, it has been often accused of approving institutions with questionable credentials even as some of India's premier institutes have found it difficult to gain recognition. Rishi Joshi reports.

Rishi Joshi        Print Edition: May 4, 2008

The Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) recently added another feather to its already crowded cap: it was ranked #20 in a list of Top 100 business schools in the world by London’s Financial Times.

A Chinese business school was at #11; four European schools were among the top 10, and the rest were from the United States. No other Indian business school, not even the iconic Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), made it to this elite list.

Ironically, ISB is not recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the statutory body in charge of planning and regulating the coordinated development of management and technical education in the country.

In fact, ISB has not even sought AICTE approval. In a guarded response, ISB Dean M. Rammohan Rao says: “We did not approach AICTE for approval as it doesn’t have rules to recognise short-duration programmes, which we offer.”

AICTE - Refurbishing required
AICTE - Refurbishing required
Management consultant Gurcharan Das is more blunt, and puts the issue in perspective. “ISB doesn’t want accreditation from AICTE because it (AICTE) will then start interfering in its course content, batch sizes, student intake, and even the sizes of their buildings. I spoke to a top AICTE official, who scornfully dismissed ISB, saying its fees were too high and that it doesn’t even have a permanent faculty.”

Cut to Mumbai’s S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), another business school that is ranked among India’s best. The institute has had a tough time convincing AICTE officials about its expansion plans over the years. It took eight years for it to get AICTE approval for its proposal to increase student intake from 120 to 180 for its regular two-year MBA programme.

 AICTE’S DNA

The Council is a statutory body...

  • It is a division of the Ministry of Human Resource Development

  • It is in charge of approving private institutes in technical and business education

  • Established in 1945, it became a statutory body in 1988

  • Responsible for regulation and planning of technical education in the country

  • Accreditation done by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) constituted by AICTE

     ...and its mandate is to regulate education in

  • Engineering

  • Management

  • Technology

  • Agriculture

  • Pharmacy

  • Hotel Management and Catering

Then, AICTE has refused to recognise its dual-degree programme, which it launched in 2004 in collaboration with Virginia Tech, a leading US university. In a novel experiment, Virginia Tech agreed to offer a Master’s degree in information technology (IT) by bringing its faculty to India. The two-year programme is already a success. The first batch of 29 students, which graduated in 2006, recorded 100 per cent placements. This year, the average salary of the graduating batch of 63 students was Rs 11 lakh per annum, and recruiters included big names like IBM, Wipro, TCS and Infosys Technologies.

The institute had applied for approval for this programme in June 2005, but the AICTE Executive Council refused to recognise it, despite the fact that an expert committee set up by it to study the proposal had recommended approval.

AICTE officials declined to comment, and Acting AICTE Chairman R.A. Yadav refused to respond to several phone calls, faxes and e-mails from Business Today on this, and various other questions. M.L. Shrikant, Chief Executive and Dean, SPJIMR, doesn’t pull his punches. “AICTE tried to arm twist and coerce us into seeking its approval for the course. We were told that our existing programmes would be derecognised unless we did so.”

A law unto itself

These are not isolated incidents. The whimsical and arbitrary functioning of AICTE has increasingly come under the scanner. In the past, it has been often accused, with good reason, of approving institutions with questionable credentials even as some of India’s premier institutes have found it difficult to gain recognition.

Stung by the public outcry against the functioning of this premier body, the HRD ministry, under which AICTE functions, has belatedly woken up to the crisis on its hands, and has set up a high-powered committee headed by Professor Yash Pal to review the functioning of AICTE.

The 22-member committee will critically assess its role “keeping in view the emerging demands of access, equity, relevance and quality of higher technical and university education.” Says Ashish Rajpal, CEO, iDiscoveri, a social enterprise dedicated to reviving education in the country: “What we need is inspirational policies to promote management and technical education. AICTE has failed to evolve a broader vision to promote quality education.”

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