MHRD’s PPP Model, a bitter bedfellow for IIITs

Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) – a brand that enjoyed a decade  plus legacy with only 4 institutes under its roof. But only until 2012. With the advent of the Government of India’s PPP model, the IIIT brand was revamped into a business venture. 2013 brought in the introduction of 20 new IIITs under the PPP model with several objectives in mind. How many of these objectives have been achieved in the past 4 years, and how well has this initiative bode with students, is still to be analysed. 

For those who still wonder what the PPP(Public Private Partnership) model is, it is a monetary partnership between a government organisation and a private organisation to set up and implement certain projects. It was started by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India in 2011. Now the MHRD had some substantial motives behind inaugurating IIITs using such a policy, like                   a) establishing globally competitive institutes, b) facilitating research oriented institutes, c) banking on the brand name of IIITs, etc. Gaurav Chainani, Senior Economics Officer, Reserve Bank of India, says, “The government usually makes such schemes considering the expected transitions in the Indian economy in the next 10 years. They walk with the  presumption that they will still be the ruling party in those 10 years.” If one were to explore the IIITs established in 2013, one would understand that the MHRD’s objectives would easily take at least 8-10 years to show signs of success. According to Chainini,”In a decade, the PPP institutes may bear the required results, provided the next ruling government does not abolish or alter the policy as per their discretion.”

As per the MHRD scheme document, the IIITs are set up to be autonomous, non-profit, self-sustaining and research-led educational institutes. However, all of these institutes were started without any permanent campus or appointment of a Director or Dean. Some of them still do not have any campus allocation, and those who do, will take at least 3-4 years to complete construction of facilities with global standards.

One would wonder how does an institute of national importance function within a rented campus with only basic educational facilities and without a Board of Governors. Well, the MHRD has set up a State Steering Committee for each IIIT consisting of all the investment partners of the institute that take decisions regarding such provisions and appointments. This means the private firms like JSW Steel, TCS, etc.; the mentor institute like DAIICT, NIT Jaipur; the MHRD; the state government in which the IIIT is hosted; and the IIIT itself will have their representatives in the committee. 

However, C.P. Joglekar, Registrar of IIIT Vadodara, says, “Since the institute itself has no monetary investment in the partnership, their say during any committee meetings is usually of negligible importance.” Besides, in the past 4 years, no BoG or Director has been appointed by the MHRD in any of these IIITs. This effectively means the investing partners also known as the ‘Council of IIIT’ can play an act of God with the institute. It makes the idea of conferring a title of autonomous and self-sustaining to the institute moot. The institute can independently create its own academic syllabus and pedagogy, but all budgets, purchases, faculty and operational expenditure for the same has to be approved by the Council of IIIT first. Not just that, but according to this model, the Council of IIIT has also been declared as a custodian of the IIIT brand. 

Now the MHRD has passed an Act to set up 4 more IIITs in 2016, all of them on the same lines of the 2013 set. A first year student from IIIT Kota is of the view that, “They keep establishing newer IITs and IIITs and allocate huge budgets for all, but the process of implementation is very bureaucratic and slow. We friends usually joke that when we return as alumni 10 years from now, then we will provide our funds for faster and better progress in facilities here. Besides, many of us did not even wish to take admission in this IIIT, but were allotted a seat in the JoSAA process and had no other option left.”  

Is this what happens when educational institutions are commercialised? Should there be less haste in starting newer IIITs and focus more resources on advancement of the ones already existent? The success of PPP model can only be realised when the institute achieves all the objectives laid out in the MHRD scheme document. Simply increasing the number of institutes under the policy may not add to its success. 

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