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“Institutions That Offer PGDM Can Breathe Easy Now”

AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe is a man in a hurry. For long described as an obstructionist, corrupt body, AICTE is witnessing change at a rapid pace

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AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe is a man in a hurry. For long described as an obstructionist, corrupt body, AICTE is witnessing change at a rapid pace. Sahasrabudhe, in an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld’s Suman K Jha, says he is confident that he would be able to root out corruption from the organisation. Sahasrabudhe is upbeat about the startup policy in technical institutions that the President is set to inaugurate soon. In this conversation, he also talks about grooming future teachers, and withdrawing the 2010 order that had caused a lot of discontent among business schools.

Excerpts

We interviewed you last year too. What is the distance that you have travelled in the last one year?
There have been major changes including that in management education.

One, the Supreme Court has categorically stated that AICTE will continue to regulate technical education including management education.

Two, there was a faculty shortage in all technical institutions. We said, they need to hire 80 per cent of the regular faculty. The balance 20 per cent faculty can be had from the industry, or adjunct faculty.

We said well performing good institutions should hand hold and support other 10 institutes in their neighbourhood so that we improve the overall quality of the education.

Three, we have something called the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan Scheme, under which we support some funding, Rs 5-6 lakh per institution. Their students will go to villages, find out what the problems are and can solve them as a part of their projects.

Four, we have decided to groom good undergraduate students to join back as faculty members. Why not identify bright undergraduate and post-graduate students; ask them to go for higher education; and come back to continue in teaching. So you give them advance appointment letters. Along with normal scholarships available, AICTE is willing to provide around Rs 5000 for each of such students. They can sign a bond and can come back and serve for about 2-3 years so that we start improving the quality of education in our country.

What other initiatives have you launched?
The most important initiative we took recently is about the start-up policy. The Union government announced the start-up India policy in Jan 2016, so we had our own committee and we decided to focus on the development of start-ups innovation in all technical institutions. There will be a series of courses which one can take along with their normal courses. The President will launch the AICTE start-up policy on the 16th of this month.

What makes you so confident about your startup initiative?
Management schools are very powerful tools for fostering the start-up culture in the country. One is engineering schools for tech start-ups, but there are other types of start-ups. Most of the management students are coming from engineering stream, so they can make the best use of both. They will thus, do much better in entrepreneurship.

Under the startup policy, all management schools and technical schools would have incubation centres, right?
They can have incubation centres, innovation centres. Several other possibilities exist. Also, what type of courses they can float in addition to the normal ones can be explored. So, if one is doing MBA finance, administration or HR, along with that a series of courses on angel funding, IP protection etc. These can also be added to that so that can get empowered in terms of setting up a startup.

There are apprehensions on the AICTE’s role as a regulatory authority, especially among PGDM institutions…
The court gave us a directive that management education will also be taken care of by AICTE. We had a dialogue (with the institutes) in the presence of former minister Smriti Irani. We are coming out with a revised regulation which will come with solutions to our and their concerns. So there were some issues on which we were not in agreement, we have tried to iron them out.

Would that mean that you would withdraw the 2010 order?
Yes. We will withdraw that and issue a revised order and in the process we want them to do certain things. It’s a revision.

So would that make all the stakeholders happy?
Yes.

When is this order likely to come?
It is likely to come when the new approved process begins.

A crisis-like situation seems to be developing — top notch recruiters want more of automation, machine learning, artificial learning... But it appears that IIMs and business schools are struggling to keep pace with the demand. What role can you play?

When industry personnel start coming to the institutions to take a class, naturally they talk about what is happening in the industry. So the industry requirements are indirectly already being told to the students.

You have come up with CMAT (One common test for B-schools). Now questions are raised why can’t students take just CAT for B-schools?
We think there should be as less number of tests as possible. That is why CMAT was started. SC gave a directive that six entrance tests are valid and one can use any one of those test. As you rightly said if you reduce from 6 tests to 3 tests, we would be happy. But it is not possible due to the SC order.

Last year also you had said that you were coming out with proposals where there would be less bureaucracy, all the institutions would be encouraged to put data online etc. But they say that while you are encouraging them to put all the data online, they are also required to submit 300 page reports to the regional AICTE offices.

No. This is not true. It’s the other way round. They keep depositing, we are saying don’t give it. You either give the entire data in a CD drive or a pen drive, but please upload it and the only thing we want is one single affidavit stating that all what we have uploaded is true and correct and if not you may take action.

We have had in the past Rao committee, Kaw committee etc. So have the reports been implemented. If yes, then to what extent?

As per the Kaw committee, there are 10 major recommendations out of which 3-4 have been implemented and the others are in the pipeline. Two-three will not be implemented because they say AICTE should become a constitutional authority. That’s a High Court order that the government has to take a call on. But many of them are in the pipeline and the ministry is also very particular about it. Like you said single entry test, rankings, exit test, all these suggestions which are there, some of them have already been implemented. Since last year, the ranking system has come into place.

You are an academician, and you are said to be open, accessible. The private sector also feels there has been a remarkable change since the time you came over. On the flip side, however, people also talk about corruption at the lower levels. So how do you check that?
That is a very difficult task and AICTE has time and again informed everyone that don’t even think of going in that direction. Suppose a team comes, and if there is even an iota of doubt that someone is trying to demand money directly or indirectly, immediately report it to us. That team will be cancelled and a new team would be appointed. To that extent we have given assurances. We have taken steps to take off some of the experts about whom we have received negative reports.

Have you received negative reports about such experts?
Yes, a couple of architects. We received their reports and removed them from the panel and this will be very stringently done. We will not allow any corrupt practice to happen at any level. But what doesn’t come to our notice is a problem. So we have been trying to identify people who are of the right character and if anything within is found amiss, or even one person is found to be indulging in any wrong practice, we will immediately remove him, because we have any number of experts available in the country. Even if there is a doubt, we do not want to continue with such a person who brings a bad name to the country.

[email protected]; @skjsumankjha;