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Good augury

August 11, 2012

Privately promoted B-schools countrywide offering postgraduate diplomas in management (PGDM — considered equivalent to an MBA degree programme which can be offered only by University Grants Commission-approved universities) inched a step closer to financial autonomy on July 10. Delivering an interim order in AICTE vs. Education Promotion Society for India, Association of Indian Management Schools  & Jaipuria Group of Institutions (Writ petition No. 219 of 2011), a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice P.M. Lodha and Anil R. Dave stayed a notification dated December 28, 2010 issued by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

In the impugned notification, AICTE, which licenses and regulates all institutions of technical education including 1,600 accredited B-schools, empowered state govern-ments to prescribe admission norms and adjudicate tuition fees of all AICTE-accredited B-schools within their geogr-aphical jurisdiction. The apex court’s stay order has evoked a collective sigh of relief from B-school managements. This is the fourth (interim) stay order obtained by B-schools which had obtained similar interim orders in March 2011, July 2011 and March 2012.

Following the latest order, private B-schools can admit students who perform upto their expectations in CAT (Common Admission Test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management); MAT (Management Aptitude Test of the All-India Management Association); XAT (Xavier Aptitude Test of the Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute, Jamsh-edpur), ATMA (test of the Manage-ment Association of Indian Management Schools), and CMAT (Common Manag-ement Admission Test conducted by AICTE).

The Supreme Court’s latest order has also raised the petitioners’ optimism about the final verdict (date undecided) completely restoring the autonomy of private B-schools which is currently under threat. “AICTE should focus on detecting and rooting out malpractices in technical and management education rather than infringing upon the right conferred upon private unaided professional colleges to devise their own transparent and merit-based admission systems and levy reasonable tuition fees commensurate to invest-ment, by the Supreme Court’s verdicts in the T.M.A Pai Foundation and P.A. Inamdar cases. Anyway all B-schools are required to renew their accreditation every year. Therefore if a B-school indulges in malpractice, AICTE can refuse to renew accreditation,” says Dr. J.D. Singh, director general, Jaipuria Institute of Management (estb.1995), which has four campuses in Jaipur, Lucknow, Indore and Noida with a total headcount of 1,300 students.

However Prof. S.S. Mantha, chairman of AICTE, justifies the council’s December 28, 2010 notification as being necessary in the public interest. “All institutes offering professional educ-ation programmes are subject to supervision by state governments, or the affiliating university or both. However, B-schools are not subject to supervision by either. This is a funda-mental error which AICTE attempted to correct by issuing the notification,” says Mantha.

But while acknowledging the supervision and regulation of AICTE, private B-school promoters argue that B-schools tend to be pan-India instit-utions with broad perspectives attra-cting students from across the country. Therefore, they should not be subject to interference by state governments.

Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI, a consortium of more than 300 B-schools, estb. 2005), another petitioner, is also upbeat about the interim order of the apex court. “The court accepted this argument and queried why a super-visory regulatory system which has been functioning smoothly for over two decades needs to be changed,” says Dr. Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president of EPSI.

Sushma Berlia, president of Apeejay Stya University (estb.2010) which is a member of EPSI, acknowledges AICTE’s supervisory role over accredited B-schools. “We welcome and respect all regulatory guidelines issued by the AICTE. But the right to determine our own fair and transparent admission system and levy reasonable tuition fees are fundamental rights confirmed by the Supreme Court. AICTE cannot delegate these fundamental rights to state governments,” says Berlia.

However while there is considerable jubilation within the ountry’s private B-schools, it is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court has issued another interim order, not the final word of the apex court. While the auguries are good, the best news is still to come.

Vimal Chander Joshi (Delhi)

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