Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Subir Roy on an "alternative model" of governance at IITs

Subir Roy thinks he has figured out our academic system -- especially the IITs. He presents what he calls an "alternative model" for governance:

For every leading educational institution of excellence the government appoints a board of governors of eminent people who then supervise its running, including selecting its chief executive, according to a charter which comes with substantial public funds. There is a periodic charter review and it can be withdrawn for non-fulfilment but absolutely no micro-management. The charter contains guidelines on ceiling on tuition fee (these are leading institutions and so can charge a bomb and get away with it), norms for sharing the fruits of successfully commercialised research between government, institution and the relevant faculty, and provisions to ensure that successful consultants among the faculty have some time left to teach or guide researchers. The governors can pay the faculty the moon so long as the resources are there and certain outcomes, like number of patents secured and academic papers published, are met. The institution can make money out of executive development programmes and the governors can actively canvass philanthropists.

The government can replace governors as and when they reach 70 or 75, or better still, the board of governors can be self-perpetuating. They can find their replacements as vacancies occur. And public accountability can be maintained by keeping these institutions under the three Cs — CAG, CVC and CBI. Eminent people should engage Sibal in a public discourse and urge him to take a variation or improvement of the above to the cabinet for approval.

Wait a minute! Isn't this roughly what we have in the IITs (and IIXs in general)? Sure, they cannot "pay the moon" to their high fliers, but that restriction applies only to government money. They certainly can pay the moon to the high fliers from the money they generate through private sources -- alumni and other philanthropic donations, grants from industry, overheads on consultancy work, etc. This is also how IIT-K has established endowed chairs for some of their senior faculty.

Perhaps Subir Roy should really look at the governance structure at the IITs and tell us where he thinks it differs from his "alternative model," and why he thinks the IIT model falls short. I have written to him asking him precisely these questions. Let's see if we get a response.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Only difference seems to be that he thinks tenure track system should be introduced. However, a faculty, once he earns a tenure, is very difficult to remove anyway, unless there is massive professional misconduct (and not 'just' laziness).

    Nut sure if Subir Roy even bothered to look closer at the tenure track system.