ISB Hyderabad is on AICTE’s list of unapproved colleges. Really?

The Indian School of Business, Hyderabad is on the list of unapproved colleges again, put out by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) two days ago. It shares the list with 42 other colleges, some having notorious reputations.

That ISB is on the list is not surprising but that fact that the bi-annual list makes little difference to both the ISB and the AICTE and also the MBA-aspirant community at large, is where the biting wit is.

The brass tacks are clear. ISB runs a one-year programme and the AICTE does not approve of one-year MBA programmes, hence the name on the list. ISB’s senior director, Admissions and Career Advancement, Mr VK Menon put it simply, “There is nothing more to our name being on the list. It is not as big an issue. We run a one-year programme which the AICTE does not approve of.”

AICTE Chairman Mr SS Mantha was as direct. “ISB never came to us for approval. We dont agree to one-year programmes.”

To which answered Mr Menon, “Since AICTE does not approve of the one-year programme, we did not seek approval.”

The matter should ideally end there but for the fact that as per AICTE rules, those on the ‘unapproved’ list can be debarred from conducting fresh admissions next year. Nothing of that sort will happen for sure, in the case of ISB which is one of the few non-IIM (Indian Institute of Management) b-schools in the country to have stood out.

But why this stigma towards one-year MBA programmes? “Simple, it is not as per the UGC rules and AICTE follows the guidelines set by the UGC. Since UGC does not permit one-year MBA programmes, we don’t as well,” answered Dr Mantha.

And why would the UGC not approve of it? An AICTE official who spoke off the record attempted to answer. “Given the fact that there are many who decide to do the MBA soon after graduation, two years makes better sense. Even a two-year programme is not really two years if you count the time spent on internships, holidays, etc. Which is why if a one-year programme is allowed, the actual time spent in tin the programme may be just six to seven or eight months which is really sorry for the kind of fees charged these days.”

According to AICTE guidelines, a b-school offering an MBA course of two years has to provide a minimum of 1,050 to 1,200 hours of classroom teaching; it is half (600 hours) for colleges offering the year-long programme with a minimum of 100 hours spent on project work or an industry-based assignment.

But then the one-year programmes run by the XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur and the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai did get an AICTE stamp. XLRI got the approval after it extended its 12 month-programme to 15 months and Great Lakes got only a ‘certificate’ level approval, and not a full-fledged diploma level approval, from the AICTE for its 12-month course.

The AICTE official further added that a 15-month programme is allowed since it can guarantee at least 10-12 months of study. AICTE began taking a fancy to the one-year programme and amended the AICTE Act sometime in 2009 to make way for it. Apparently, big industrial houses, many of whom support the bigger b-schools, pushed for this change.

But does this AICTE stamp really matter? PaGaLGuY had spoken to ISB students on this subject a while ago and they all said that it did not once bother them. “We have the same companies coming on campus for placements like the AICTE-approved colleges and the IIMs and we also have as good faculty teaching us here. Besides, our infrastructure is possibly the best, so why will an AICTE tag make a difference,” was the general response.

To add to this is the fact that ISB got the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation last year, considered a benchmark of high quality internationally among b-schools.

In India, everything that has a government stamp, for some reason, holds an almost sacrosanct position. Government jobs need the MBA institute to be AICTE approved and education loans come faster for AICTE approved programmes too. Fr E Abraham, director of XLRI says, “We went for the AICTE approval because it would make a difference to our students who want to apply to government companies. The sector is opening up and so we went ahead. Our two-year programme is already AICTE-affiliated.”

So this really becomes a case of programmes being made for the rules instead of rules being made for the programmes.

“Rules are not made for nothing at all. With so many third-grade MBA institutes in every corner of the country, some semblance of rules makes sense especially for those seeking admission in two-tier schools. You are only talking about the schools that are doing well, look at the majority of them lower in the order. If you see what they have to offer, its shocking and over that they charge huge fees,” asserted the AICTE official.

PaGaLGuY also spoke to a faculty member of one of the institutes who was instrumental in getting approval to a one-year programme. “Sometimes, you have to make minor adjustments. Either be prepared to get a certificate-level stamp for a 12-month course or extend the 12 months to 15. If the school has the infrastructure and the logistics to accommodate these changes, then what is the harm in going to the AICTE. The Indian mentality that a government stamp is a good sign exists even today.”

Said another faculty. “Rules framed by the AICTE are generally for the larger good. They aim for those fly-by-night operators who are in the business only to make some quick cash. In the bargain however, big institutes also fall prey. But AICTE cannot make two sets of rules so till some more amendments are made to the AICTE Act, nothing much will change.”

It is unlikely that there those who seek admission to the top ranking MBA colleges in India bother to check whether they are government-approved or not. Finally, the faculty, infrastructure, pedagogy, exam scores and of course placements are the deciding factors.

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