When I came to know of the new IIMs in 2009, like most of the others IIM alumni, I too was unhappy with the government’s enthusiasm for opening up new institutions and hoping that sticking an ‘IIM’ or ‘IIT’ brand on it will take care of institution building. Since then, I have heard a lot of people ridiculing the new IIMs, uncharitably calling them ‘Timbuktu’ IIMs or ‘Baby’ IIMs.
In 2012, when I was planning on changing my job, I decided to apply to IIM Raipur and I hoped to contribute to the institution building at this new place. I was accepted and I joined in February 2013. I spent a year and then quit in February 2014. In that year I was very disturbed by the way the institute fed off the goodwill generated by older IIMs and made a mockery of management education.
I must add that I speak only about the wrong-doings at IIM Raipur, which I witnessed, and I do not speak of other new IIMs. I have heard very encouraging news about the great things being done at Kashipur, Udaipur and Trichy.
Faculty and staff
When I quit after a year in the institute, I was the 8th faculty member to leave in the space of 12 months. The total strength of the faculty body had fluctuated between 9 and 14 during this period.
Administrative officers in important positions like placements and admissions have also quit. The majority of administrative assistants are being contracted for 3 months or less at a time. This lack of job security affects their abilities. Also, due to the inability of the institute to retain administrative staff, a large part of the administrative burden is passed on to faculty. This obviously leads to deterioration of quality in teaching and research.
Last year, the management asked two faculty members to sign a bond before allowing them to use their faculty development fund to attend a workshop. To the best of my knowledge, it is an unprecedented move in any of the IIMs.
In 2013, four faculty members and one senior staff member complained to the Board regarding the highhandedness of the Director. The Board decided to back the Director and four of the five left the institute in a few months’ time.
At the end of his probation, one faculty member was denied a permanent position and ‘bad attitude and lack of research’ were cited. In spite of no additional research, he was confirmed when his ‘attitude’ improved. I did not see anything wrong in his previous attitude. The only thing could have been was his being part of the four faculty members who complained about the Director to the Board.
By February 2014, there were only 11 faculty members (the Director does not teach) for a total of 320 students. This gives a student: faculty ratio of 29:1, which is very bad for an institution of higher learning. Not even comparing to other IIMs, some of which have over 100 faculty members (IIMA for example has a student: faculty ratio of around 8), even institutes like TAPMI, Symbiosis, XIMB, IMI have student: faculty ratios of less than 12.
To counter the growing criticism, the management has gone on a hiring spree. Every six months or so, the institute invites applications for faculty positions and receives about 300 applications. They select about two or three and one or two decide to join. This year, from a reduced applicant pool, the institute has made a huge number of offers and about 10 have agreed to join. Obviously, this lowering of hiring standards will harm the long term outlook for the institute.
While taking admission, approximately half the batch is at par or almost at par with students of the best management schools in the country. Unfortunately, for some of the reserved categories, the cut-offs can fall to 60 percentile or lower.
It is difficult for a teacher to do justice in a masters programme which has students of such diverse abilities. For an intense, accelerated programme like the PGDM, it is difficult to teach a 50 percentile student and a 99 percentile student in the same class and do justice to both.
IIM Raipur faced the same problem and as a result, educational inputs were hampered and 23 students in a batch of 110 were going to fail at the end of their first year in 2013. Instead of addressing the real issues, the grading criteria were revised and all but one student passed the first year. This led to the complete breakdown of academic processes in the institute.
The primary performance metric in the institute seemed to be the lack of audit comments on activities undertaken. As a result, a lot of work gets slowed down for no reason whatsoever.
When I visited the campus in December 2012, I was informed that a lift is sanctioned and will be ready in a few months. In March 2014, there had been absolutely no progress on the matter. It took eight months to lay the flooring of the badminton court in the courtyard. The tennis and basketball courts were sanctioned in March 2013 and work is yet to start on those.
A good barometer of tardiness is that the common bathrooms got a mirror in September 2013, three years after operations commenced.
While other management institutes house their students in single or double bedded rooms, IIM Raipur puts most of its students in 16 bedded dormitories with board partitions between every couple of beds. The living conditions in IIM Raipur certainly leave a lot to be desired.
Of course, my overriding concern is the culture of fear and the power distance that is developing in the institute, while management education takes a backseat.