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'Govt must let IIMs do their job'

February 10, 2004

Sumeet Arora, a first-year student at IIM Calcutta, speaks about the IIM fee-cut controversy.

The Indian Institute of Management is an 'elitist' institution. It's a premier institution and definitely not easy to get into.

Last year when I was applying to the IIMs, I heard that 1.2 lakh students had filled the common entrance test form. Of that about 1,200 students actually got into the institution. So 1 out of 100 gets into the IIMs.

Nowhere in the world is such a ratio seen. I have taken the GMAT and looked at US universities and found that the selectivity varies from 10 percent to 70 percent. But here at the IIMs it is just 1 percent.

IIM is an 'elitist' institution. But I don't know if that is a bad thing in itself.

We get access to the latest in business education, we get perspectives on the industry, we are taught what we should be doing in the future and where we should be going. We give a view of not just the Indian economy, but of the world.

Our faculty is among the best. They have worked as economists. They have worked as consultants to the biggest companies in the industry and they are able to give us a perspective that comes out of industry interaction and experience.

At IIM Calcutta, the faculty encourages us to debate. They ask us to argue with them. They say they are the happiest if students can prove them wrong on some topic. We have Asia's largest library.

Maybe all this makes us 'elitist.' I don't know how this can be made available to others, but you have to realize that this infrastructure was not built overnight. It has grown over the years.

'Elitism' is not a bad thing in itself. True, if you graduate from the IIMs, you have an edge over students from other institutes, but it is up to you as an individual to capture this edge.

Murli Manohar Joshi has slashed the IIM fees. You would think as students we would be happy with the move. But we are not.

Mr Joshi also wants the IIMs to double the number of existing seats. Yes, that is a good idea. But the success will depend on what why you want to do it or what will you achieve from it.

If you want to produce more world class managers, then yes, it is a good idea. But the key thing is you need to keep the sanctity of the IIMs intact.

There is a rigorous selection process for the IIMs. It is two-step, with a written test and a group discussion. You need to keep the process intact and ensure autonomy to the IIMs over this process.

If doubling the number of seats means that there is a chance that the existing autonomy in the selection process might be sacrificed then the purpose of increasing the batch size is lost.

Also, if an increased batch size leads to a fall in the student-teacher ratio with the result that the infrastructure for supporting this large batch size is not in place, then the quality of the institution will dip. Less fees mean less funds for the institute to spend.

Then the purpose of producing more students from the IIMs will be lost as they will not be the high quality managers that we want out of the IIMs.

A management degree is a higher education degree. The government should not be subsidizing it. Instead of trying to bring the fees down and bearing the additional burden the government should be spending on primary education where we are lacking.

The IIMs are doing excellently and the government should let them do their work.

As told to Priya Ganapati

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