By SHAILAJA NEELAKANTAN
The Indian government has rejected a proposal by the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore to set up a campus in Singapore, saying that the prestigious institution should first meet domestic demand before venturing abroad.
The decision, made in December but reported this month, has been widely criticized by many of India's top executives and academics, and even some members of the government, who felt that India would benefit by allowing one of the country's most elite higher-education institutions to expand overseas.
"We must realize that world-class educational institutions are created not through government mandate and control, but through academic freedom, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence," said Narayana Murthy, founder of the Indian company Infosys, in an address at Cochin University of Science and Technology last week.
Goh Chok Tong, a senior minister in the Singapore government, expressed disappointment in the decision. "Singapore is a hub for education, and the institute has a good reputation, so we are happy to welcome the institute," he said, according to local news reports in India. "They could have made some money as well."
The directors of all six of the country's Indian Institutes of Management, which have trained many of the country's top business leaders, are scheduled to meet in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) during the first week of February to decide their course of action. Three of the institutes — at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, and Kolkata — are likely to contest the decision, arguing that they are not dependent on government financing anymore. However, the three other institutes — at Indore, Kozhikode, and Lucknow — continue to receive money from the government.
Last week Arjun Singh, minister of human-resource development, whose ministry rejected the branch proposal, dismissed talk that the institutes are independent entities and noted that the government has pumped millions of dollars into them. "They are not independent companies, that they can do whatever they like," he said.
This is not the first time the institutes have clashed with the federal government. In 2004 the previous government imposed drastic tuition cuts, arguing that the institutes were becoming unaffordable. The institutes objected, saying they could not maintain high-quality programs otherwise. The decision was overturned by the current government.
(From the Chronicle of Higher Education, issue dated January 27, 2006)