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‘We Are In Favour Of Giving More Autonomy To Institutes That Are Transparent’

In an interview with Naina Sood, Anil Sahasrabudhe outlines his priorities and also answers some controversial questions about AICTE

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Lately, the entire technical education space, especially B-school education, has become contentious because of the overbearing regulator  —  the AICTE. Critics say the AICTE has often played Big Brother and trampled on institutes’ autonomy. The controversy surrounding B-schools offering two-year diploma programme is a prime example of this, they argue. AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe, in his tenure, has done a lot to address such grievances as he tried to encourage meritocracy and democracy. In an interview with Naina Sood, he outlines his priorities and also answers some controversial questions about AICTE. 

Edited excerpts:

How are B-schools doing in general?
The B-schools in the country are doing well. Apart from the IIMs, there are state universities, management institutes, PGDM institutes such as the SPJIMR, IIFT and others are also doing well. So, there is one class of institutes that fall in the top class in terms of performance. Second is the middle category that is reasonably alright, but not as good as the others. Third is the very poor category that comprises institutes delivering poor performance that have now started to close down.
Why is there an issue of employability about a large number of MBA graduates in the country?
The logic is simple. The number of graduate students is more than the jobs in the country. The way forward is not to look for jobs, but to create jobs.
Is the AICTE in favour of more autonomy for B-schools?
We are talking about autonomy for almost all schools. We are in favour of giving more and more autonomy to institutes that are transparent, giving good quality education, and performing well. This includes all the categories whether architecture, engineering or management. The other category, as I mentioned earlier, the middle level institutes, will have some regulations with a reasonable amount of autonomy. But the third category, needs to be continuously monitored and improved to shift to second category at least.

Why are a large number of B-schools shutting down? How many have shut down in the past one year?
No student wants to pay high fees, get poor-quality education and risk his career by choosing a poorly reputed institute. Naturally, less number of students joining that institute will deem it economically unviable. Therefore, they are closing down. Sometimes we get complaints about them, and do not give them permission to continue further.  

What has the AICTE done to improve B-school education in the last one year?
We have been doing a lot of things, not  just limited to the poor institutes category, but also for the mid-level ones. We do not have to worry about the top category. But we still need to monitor them and let information flow from our side to theirs.

One of the major things is the curriculum. There are some institutes that are running the same curriculum they were 20 years ago. It is our responsibility to see if the curriculum is regularly updated according to the current trends in the market. We have a committee that has prepared a model curriculum. But the institutes do not have to mandatorily follow it as we want to allow them flexibility as well. But at least 70-80 per cent of the model must be adopted, especially by category B and C.

Second, we have started faculty training programmes to make the faculty aware of the latest technology used in teaching and learning. We have said that all the institutes must get accredited, so that leads to improvement of institutes’ quality as they filter in the criteria of accreditation.

Third is the exposure of students to the industry and market via internships that also allow them to focus on innovation and research, almost missing in category B and C. Rural area case studies are the best examples.

What challenges you are facing?
The challenges for us are the challenges that institutes face. For instance, competition is good, but the colleges need to create an atmosphere of co-operation and team work. We insist on orientation programmes as they bring in the students together, make them comfortable and do not make them feel isolated.
Recently, online education and distant learning have come under the scanner. What is your view on the same, especially in context to quality education?
Going entirely online has its own pitfalls when it comes to distance education. There are certain areas where hands-on training is required or laboratory training, which can never be given through distance mode. While knowledge can be imparted through the distance mode, but the practical aspect of it, which is more important, requires physical presence. Of course there are areas such as history, management and others that can be well comprehended via such modes, but not hardcore areas such as engineering or science.

How do you react to the charge that AICTE is an overbearing Big Brother?
People will say all kind of things. We do not agree with that at all. Our processes are very transparent. All institutions have to give information digitally on the portal for continuation of approvals. We also expect them to give an undertaking that whatever they are claiming is true and that if the information is found to be fudged or false, they are liable for penalties. Also, all our approvals go automatically. We have a transparent complaints portal for diligent inspection. Sometimes students are afraid to file complaints. As a result, we get a lot of anonymous cases. Because of limited bandwidth, it is difficult for us to address them all. Hence, we carry out a lot of random inspections and make sure that at least once in three to four years, the institutions are inspected.  

What people say, we do not care. We have a duty, we are performing and will continue to do so.