WHEN Jairam Ramesh, Union Environment Minister, opined that the quality of research and faculty of IITs and IIMs is not world class, he was only pointing to some bare facts. The reasons for the quality not being up to mark are many, and the government which is the chief promoter of these institutions is solely responsible for the state of affairs.
Jairam Ramesh is Johnny-come-lately in the debate over quality of research and faculty of IITs and IIMs. Jairam’s contention that government cannot run research institutes successfully has several connotations. Such institutions are perfect guinea pigs in government hands because of the policies and political games which take precedence over quality.
In 2008 when the reservation policy was extended to IITs and IIMs, the argument put forth by industry was that such institutions of higher learning should not exempted from policies that could tell on their output quality.
When the IIT students themselves sparred with the government over the reservation policy for the lower caste, the government made it clear that reservation politics is more important than merit and quality. Jairam Ramesh has only got to turn around and ask his boss why such policies have been made at the cost of quality of IIT and IIM faculty and research.
Many IIT students aver that the mark of IIT on their certificates does not necessarily mean that they will land jobs with fat pay packets. There are scores of students passing out of IIT and IIMs who are sub-six pointers who face the same grind if not the ignominy of fighting for jobs in the competitive marketplace.
The most popular myth that students of IITs and IIMs have to be break is that the curriculum of these institutes is outdated. Much of the study material in the engineering as well as management course is over 20 years old. As a popular foreign news clipping on youtube says it succinctly – the lack of infrastructure and the hammer and tongs equipment used in the IIT-Mumbai laboratories are a sign of what needs to be done.
Many of the IIT professors would cavil at the lack of corporate support for research and development. Research and development is a costly proposition. Every investment in R&D does not result in huge profits. The corporates by far the world over support R&D when the investment can be made good by earning from the results. It cannot be gainsaid that IIT and IIM research is often far removed from the real world of economics and bottomline.
If the government itself has a policy of undermining the quality of the output of these hallowed institutions by introducing new measures that can only result in worsening the situation brought about by lack of funds, it is a double whammy for all the stakeholders.
Most of the foreign companies which want to enter the Indian market prefer to employ IIT and IIM graduates because it has been proven that the Indian market is quite inexplicable to the developed world. And you need people who understand the marketplace dynamics and ethos to turn enterprises profitable. There have been so many instances of foreign firms closing shop in India because they did not employ local managers to look after the day-to-day affairs of the enterprise.
Jairam Ramesh’s new found enlightenment on IITs and IIMs probably was to smart ploy to skirt the issue of a joint venture with Reliance Group to set up a marine diversity research facility in Jamnagar. But the fact remains that his government will have to take responsibility for the gradual reduction in quality of output of premier educational institutions in India which are owned by the government themselves. And if the government is also serious about opening up the educational sector to foreign players it has to find ways to improve the existing players in the sector rather than complain publicly about inconsistent research and low quality faculty of these institutions.