No one would deny that a designated ‘institute of national importance’ will flourish if government interference in its affairs are kept to the minimum.
No one would deny that a designated ‘institute of national importance’ will flourish if government interference in its affairs are kept to the minimum. Functional and academic autonomy has helped top-class private centres of learning emerge in the last few decades. Thus, in principle, the prime minister’s office (PMO) has done well to bat for enhanced autonomy for the 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) that were set up through Public Private Partnership. The PMO, as per a report in The Economic Times, is in favour of the government giving up all capacity to dictate or propose appointments to the posts of director and chair at the IIITs while the human resource development ministry, that is looking to table the IIIT(PPP) Bill, 2016, is sceptical of such a complete laissez faire approach even though it has agreed to trim the powers of the IIIT Council, making it an advisory body, unlike the IIT Council whose decisions are binding.
While the HRD ministry must steer clear of the kind of unwarranted intervention it made under its last head, the government, via the IIT Council, appointing IIT directors and chairs doesn’t seem to have caused any noticeable impairment of quality at the IITs. To the contrary, the IITs, as also the IIMs, remain top-notch institutions with some of them ranked amongst the best in Asia by international agencies. Enjoying considerable academic and functional autonomy, the institutes remain preferred by top recruiters, and are still preferred over marquee private institutes. Perhaps, then, it is not so much about the government yoke than it is about what the government does with the yoke.