When IIMs started proliferating in 2010-11 despite an over-supply of Grossly Overpaid MBAs, I was prompted to term this as ‘McDonaldisation of MBAs’. This mushrooming of B-schools also spread across the nation resulting in over 3,500 MBA institutes today.
A very fragmented MBA education system is, however, united by a Utopian objective to create global managers. If all MBA institutes prepare global managers, how can regional, national, local problems be solved? While this double-barrelled gunshot to management education is still nursing its wounds, came another management education policy bomb from the Supreme Court (SC).
The SC recently held that MBA doesn’t come under the definition of technical education as defined in Section 2(g) of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Act, 1987.
The issue of approval from the AICTE by universities has been dealt in the cases of Bharathidasan University, Association of Management of Private Colleges, Army Welfare Education Society, Orissa Technical Colleges Association and IIPM. Finally, the regulatory pendulum, which was swinging on either side from 2002, has settled at its present extreme side.
As it stands today—in the absence of any review and status-quo restoration by SC—any institution can offer an MBA education without the approval of the AICTE. This shall not only result in an academic frenzy but also raises fundamental questions on approval and degree-granting powers.
The worst-affected will be the standalone institutes offering Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management (PGDBM, equivalent to MBA).
Though IIMs also offer these programmes, they have the umbrella protection of being institutes of national importance and hence no questions on their nomenclature, fee structure, extra-territorial campuses, etc.
The non-IIMs are in a ‘Trishanku’ state and so are students—both unaware of the approval authority for MBA education in India.
A review application before the SC or amendment in the AICTE Act may be a solution, but appears distant realities. The issue was decided by the First Bench of the SC and hence hopes of review depend on the extent of constitutional issues involved.
Secondly, when there is a policy move to merge University Grants Commission (UGC) and AICTE through a separate statutory enactment, would an amendment to AICTE Act be necessary? The problem at hand has three possible interim solutions:
All UGC-recognised universities can offer MBA programmes without the approval of the AICTE.
All colleges affiliated to universities recognised by the UGC can offer MBA programmes without the approval of the AICTE as long as they are affiliated with a university.
All standalone institutes currently offering the AICTE-approved PGDBMs be approved by the UGC.
However, in exercise of their statutory powers to prescribe norms and standards and to keep a check on quality, the UGC or the AICTE or both together may frame a regulatory mechanism to monitor management education with provisions for strict action on deviants till a final policy decision is taken.
Since, admission announcement for 2020-21 is around the corner, a policy clarity shall prevent McDonaldised MBA getting nationalised.