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Out On A Limb

As a regulator, the AICTE is seen as a meaningless and irrelevant body with no quality control

Out On A Limb
Out On A Limb
For the session 2006-07, the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), as regulator, refused to give its approval to a well-known B-school on not-so-important technical issues. The institute has dragged the regulator to the courts. Last year, the AICTE derecognised other schools for not adhering to quality standards specified for management education. But these schools, including the one that’s taken AICTE to court, continue to operate and claim a good-to-excellent placement record.

At the same time, schools with bare minimum infrastructure and faculty have got approval. Many Indian B-schools have also refused to opt for AICTE accreditation. One of them, which ranks high in the Outlook-Cfore survey, feels the AICTE accreditation is meaningless and irrelevant as its regulations don’t allow market forces to decide which institutes are preferred by students, academicians and corporates.

Such examples establish three things. The council—the nodal body to approve all institutions offering management courses and responsible for monitoring their quality—has no teeth to regulate the mushrooming of unsavoury management institutes. Some of the better institutes consider it an obstacle rather than one creating a healthy environment for B-schools. Finally, rampant corruption and lack of expertise render the AICTE incapable of monitoring.

The fact is that management education in India is uncontrolled and fragmented. As per last count, nearly 1,400 institutes had AICTE’s approval. But less than 10 per cent of them were actually "accredited" and adhered to its standards. Worse, there are an equal number—or more—schools that are neither accredited nor approved. Despite having the second largest number of schools in the world after the US, majority of Indian B-schools lack quality curriculum, faculty and facilities. Many act as mere placement agencies.

All one needs to start a school is less than 1.5 acre land, 20,000 sq ft of built-up area, 20 computers, seven faculty members, 2,000 books and subscription to 30 journals. There are many licensed institutes whose infrastructure and faculty exist only on paper. Although approved, these institutes don’t even try for an AICTE accreditation. Anyway, an AICTE accreditation is voluntary. Agrees. R.A. Yadav, vice-chairman, AICTE: "We have the accreditation system but it isn’t mandatory. Even the ISI mark isn’t."

However, experts feel the AICTE has not delivered the desired results. Says management expert Gurcharan Das: "It’s an institution with a very bad odour. It has not succeeded in regulating education and is unlikely to do so as its approach is that of a licence raj regime." Harivansh Chaturvedi, director, Birla Institute of Management Technology, Greater Noida, is equally forthright: "AICTE has not played a developmental role in charting out a roadmap for management education. In the last 12 years, it played a regulatory role, issuing licences to private schools without caring much for quality."

MDI director Pritam Singh thinks AICTE doesn’t have the expertise to do its job. "AICTE is dominated by technical people, and has few who look at management education. With management education assuming such great importance in India, there is need for a separate council to exclusively govern this area." Recently, MDI was accredited by Britain’s Association of MBAs (AMBA), making it possibly the first Indian B-school to receive an international accreditation.

AICTE’s top bosses disagree. They contend that the regulatory body has tightened its noose on erring institutions. A system of disclosures on the internet has been made mandatory and an appraisal, based on compliance, is in place so that everyone can gauge the institutes’ credentials. Under the system, all institutions, irrespective of the number of years of existence, must submit a compliance report by August 31 each year, which is evaluated by an expert committee. AICTE also conducts regular and surprise checks to monitor the schools.

Explains Yadav, who earlier headed an AICTE-approved school, "The perception of the stakeholders is important. That is why we are involving the corporate sector—the end-users of these schools’ products—in our boards that have a free hand to formulate norms and standards for management education. No institution can run such programmes without our approval."

Educationists believe that there should be a separate body overseeing management education, as AICTE is responsible for monitoring all technical education. In most developed nations, management education is monitored by an industry-led, and/or, independent bodies. In the US, approvals, accreditations and monitoring is done by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and, in Europe, there is the European Quality Improvement System.

Says Chaturvedi: "Accreditation and quality checking should be done by an independent agency, like the AACSB, and backed by industry bodies like CII. AICTE’s role should be restricted to providing information and setting guidelines." Adds Singh: "If bodies like CII take up the task, they can influence corporates to refrain from employing students from non-accredited schools. That will address the problem to a great extent." They also think there’s no need to restrict the number of institutes. Says Das: "If you set benchmarks, the chances are the wrong ones will get in due to corruption. Let everyone in and let competition weed out the bad ones."

Only then can India hope to increase the enrolment rate in technical courses which, at 8 per cent, is abysmally low compared to US’ 80 per cent. Even China is better off.


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