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B-schools may approach Supreme Court against AICTE

AICTE in the dock over notification
Big brother AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) has been given just eight days by b-schools to modify the notification it issued on December 28, 2010 (pushing for sweeping changes in business education) or else face legal action. The Association of Indian Management Schools (AIMS) has decided to march up the steps of the Supreme Court on February 11, 2011 if the AICTE does not take back most of the statutes in the notification.

Among other changes, this notification seeks to regularise the fees charged by b-schools and bring all b-schools" admission processes under one umbrella operated by the respective state government.

Speaking to PaGaLGuY.com, Dr Prabir Pal, the President of AIMS said that his association has been forced to take legal help to solve the matter. “We have had talks with the AICTE and the Human Resource Development minister Kapil Sibal but there is not much progress on the front. If nothing works to our advantage till next Thursday, we will file a petition in Supreme Court on Friday, February 11. We have already sought the services of eminent lawyer K Venugopal."

Sources however told PaGaLGuY that during one such meeting, Sibal said that he would 'look into" the issue of the state machinery handling the admission process since many b-schools conduct their group discussions and personal interviews (GDPI) at many cities across the country. "But he did not say that he would alter or modify the point. He only said he would look into it which may mean nothing," said the source.

AIMS has also dashed letters to both Sibal and AICTE but nothing has come out of it.

The controversial notification was issued bang in the middle of the MBA admission season and with the GDPI sessions of various b-schools having already started, it is sending admission processes haywire everywhere. B-school directors do not know whether to go ahead with the admissions or not. Strangely, though many b-schools are ganging up to file the legal suit, not many want to speak about it officially, fearing repercussions if the end-result does not go their way.

Suresh Ghai, Director, KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai one of the few who was willing to stick his neck out, said that he does not know what course of action to take for his institute"s GDPI. “I have no idea what to do. Do I conduct the GDPI or does the state government body do it? There is just no clarity."

A spokesman from another b-school said that the AICTE"s circular is as ambiguous as it is unfair.

“The circular does not state anything clearly. By saying that entrance exams such as CAT/MAT are allowed, is it saying that others are not allowed? If so, why use the word such as at all, just say it directly."

PaGaLGuY had earlier spoken to Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur Director Fr E Abraham about the fact that the notification excluded XAT from its list of permitted b-school entrance exams. Fr Abraham had quoted an older AICTE decision passed in 2007, which said that 'Admissions to MBA/PGDM (or equivalent) programmes, shall be through one of the five (5) All India Tests, namely - CAT (conducted by IIMs), JMET (conducted by IITs), MAT (conducted by AIMA), ATMA (conducted by AIMS) and XAT (conducted by XLRI). All institutions admitting students on all India basis will have to opt for one these All India Entrance Tests."

Apparently, the case to include XAT is being reviewed by AICTE.

Dr Prabhat Kumar Sahoo, Director and Regional Officer of AICTE, Western Region justified the notification. “These changes have been initiated to clean up the system. There are b-schools charging just about anything they want as fees and also offering sub-standard education. It is high time these institutes fall in line and quality comes into the system. This is being done to benefit students. Anything upto Rs 2 lakhs is fair enough to charge as fees," said Dr Sahoo.

However, it is this line of thought that has got the b-schools all worked up. Explains another Director of a b-school, “To punish those schools which are spoiling the system, why does every other b-school have to be put through this. Why can"t AICTE just tackle those b-schools which are slipping up on quality and let the rest of the schools do their own thing?"

The Director adds, “With paltry fees, one cannot attract good faculty and install qualitative systems and build up infrastructure in colleges.. The AICTE wants to regulate fees taken by b-schools when it does not regulate the fees taken by Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The IIMs are allowed to charge whatever they want and secure all the possible international partnerships, while other b-schools have to follow all rules."

Coming to the immediate issue of GDPIs which have begun in many b-schools, Dr Sahoo said that the b-schools can approach their state government"s Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) or the equivalent body directly and sort out the ambiguity. When asked what a b-school like KJ Somaiya should do, Dr Sahoo replied, “Somaiya can go ahead with its GDPI. We have no issue with it. Only that the b-school has to discuss its fees and other issues with Maharashtra"s DTE. Once these are discussed, the GDPIs can go on as usual."

More than anything, b-schools are irked with the timing of the notification since it asks for all the changes to be effective from the year 2011. The least that AICTE could have done is asked for these changes to be effective from next year so that the intervening months months could have been spent in discussion and analysing the notification. In the present context, if one were to take the notification at face value, this year"s XAT exam is not valid and the ongoing GDPIs of various other AICTE-affiliated schools stand null and void.

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