Wednesday, May 30, 2007

T.T. Ram Mohan on governance at IITs and IIMs

From his vantage point at IIM-A, Ram Mohan comments on the debate in the ET's "Perspectives" section which we too looked at yesterday. His post deserves to be read in its entirety, but here's a quick snippet:

Mohandas Pai gives us the usual rubbish about government dominance of education affecting quality. He thinks all problems will be solved if government should get off the backs of IITs and IIMs and education in general. Readers of this blog at least should not buy this. I have repeatedly posed this question: out of the hundreds of engineering, medical and management institutions in the private sector, how come none measures up to the IITs, AIIMS and IIMs? Who has stopped private institutions from beating the hell out of the top government ones? The constraint, I daresay, is motivation: where the motive is to maximise profit, you are not going to get great quality of education.


  1. viswanath said...

    Absolutely true. This is why Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Caltech etc. are all such horrible institutions.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Try opening a new engineering college in India on your own. You will run into a tough licensing scenario. You have to be affiliated with a government approved (read government run) university to hand out degrees. You will have to buy land at high prices. In the absence of grants you will only be able to manage a one building school which will not be able to compete with existing schools. All the Ivy league schools in India started off small (except probably Stanford). Can a small school survive and grow in India today?

  3. chitta said...

    In one of Ram Mohan's earlier blog entries I pointed out that BITS Pilani used to be consider by many to be better than some IITs and similarly XLRI is considered better than many IIMs.

  4. juno_nyc said...

    I am afraid that TTR's blog posting obfuscates the issue. On why no private colleges measure up to the standards of the IITs or the IIMs, the answer should be fairly obvious. Clearly, organizations set up with only a profit motive are unlikely to achieve excellence - the run-of-the-mill private medical or tehnical colleges, mostly run by politicans, don't have 'excellence in education/research' as their objective function - so, there is no point harping on the fact that they do not outrank the IITs or AIIMS. The point that Ranganathan, Pai and Jalote are making is that there is an alternate governance model - one that is widely practiced and has been proven to be successful. Harvard or Yale do not have a "profit motive" but they are private in the sense that they are governed by independent boards. Wharton, widely acknowledged as one of the top 3-4 b-schools in the world notionally part of the Univ of Pennsylvania (a state university) but is independently governed and has its own corpus.

    Also, building a reputation in research/education is a long lead-time, chicken-and-egg game (you need to attract great faculty and great students, both these processes tend to be governed by virtuous cycles) - no institute which is only 5-10 years old can be realistically expected to topple incumbents like the IITs or the IIMs. There are some rumblings about the Sterlite group or the Ambanis or Naresh Trehan putting aside a big corpus for a private university in the American mould (e.g., Carngie Mellon Univ) or a teaching hospital (e.g., Johns Hopkins) - if this were to really happen i.e. a private university established with a corpus or with trust funds, and not a for-profit entity disguised as a trust in order to launder money and evade taxes (which is what most of our "private colleges" are today), 15-20 years after that, you would be justified in pointing fingers if those universities did not measure up to the IITs or AIIMS. In India, it is a matter of time before ISB or Great Lakes gives IIMA a run for its money.

    Also, see the rest of my comments on TTR's blog-posting over at his blog.

  5. Anonymous said...

    U Penn is a private university.

  6. daman kohli said...

    i certainly don't but the arguement of mohan das pai ,his company being the best in india makes people work as software coolies and not programmers and certainly difference between iit and private colleges are immense having done my bachelors form a private engg college where they teach u only to work for infy tcs and accenture and @iit's i ahve learnt that computer science is much more than designing those html pages and powerpoint presentations.

    so i have just one message for mr pai ,stop interfering in iit's beacuse none of us go there,bcoz we dont want to cool our heels sitting on benches first present a challenging environment to work so that more people qaulity people are attracted to ur organisation till then private colleges are ur best bet for mass recruiting