Declining Autonomy of Indian Institute of Management (IIM)

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education 


The recent attempts of intervention in the functioning of IIMs raise concerns with respect to the degree of autonomy enjoyed by them. The powers of government and board of governors to intervene in the institute’s functioning needs re-examination.


  • Recently a challenge to institutional autonomy was posed in IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Calcutta.
  • In IIM Ahmedabad, the institute’s director pressured by the government to re-examine a controversial Ph.D. thesis on electoral democracy. The director although refused to comply with the government’s order.
  • Similarly, in IIM Calcutta, the director was stripped of its power of making appointments and taking disciplinary actions, by the board of governors.

Autonomy Prior to IIM Act 2017:

  • The IIMs functioned as societies and enjoyed significant autonomy in academic matters including fee determination.
  • The independence of fixing the fees in older IIMs (Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore) ensured they are not dependent on government funds.
  • However, the appointment of the director and board of governors was done by the government that reduced IIM’s autonomy. This gave them sufficient scope to intervene.
  • Friction was observed in some instances, like in 2003-04, the government’s order to reduce fees in six IIMs was opposed by the IIMs. 

Autonomy Post IIM act 2017:

  • The act converted autonomy based on the convention to autonomy derived from legislation.
  • The government needs to follow the provisions of the act and any alteration to curtail the autonomy can only be done by the legislature.
  • The act reduced the power of government but enhanced the powers of the Board of Governors over the institute. Due to this, a tussle is seen between the board and the director of the institute. (IIM Calcutta Scenario)

Impact of Declining Autonomy:

  • The creativity of institutes will decrease. It would in turn reduce the quality of education.
  • This further culminates into lowered reputation thereby impacting the overall higher education framework in India.

Way Forward:

  • The government should avoid unnecessary intervention. In the case of IIM Ahmedabad issue, a more prudent way is to go through the appropriate academic forums within the Institute to flag complaints.
  • The government should support higher education institutes in multiple ways (including funding) as is done across the globe. However, the support shouldn’t be converted into intervention.
    • For instance, funding gives more controlling power to the government. This happens because Parliament and the CAG have the right to know the fate of the funds approved by the government.

The Indian Institute of Management has remained the brightest jewel in the country’s higher education set-up. Maintenance of this position would definitely require a significant degree of autonomy.

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