Impact of Supreme Court ruling on AICTE and MBA programs in India

May 6, 2013

In 2004, several colleges in the State of Tamil Nadu affiliated to Bharathidasan University and Manonmaniam Sundaranar University filed a case questioning the role of All Indian Council of Technical Education (AICTE)--Indian regulatory body for technical education including engineering and management.

One of the core question they asked was--"Whether the colleges affiliated to University are obliged to take separate permission/approval from the AICTE to run classes in Technical Courses in which the affiliated university of the colleges is not required to obtain any permission/approval under the AICTE Act itself?" (p.6)

Nine years later, the Supreme Court of India answered "... that the colleges who have opened the courses in question are affiliated to the universities. They are the controlling authorities with regard to their intake capacity for each course, the standards to be followed for each course, the syllabus of the course, the examination process etc.... Thus, for all intents and purposes the courses are being run by the Universities." (p. 7). "Therefore, the control upon the affiliated colleges of the University is vested with the University itself and it cannot be said that for certain type of courses the control will be with the AICTE." (p.11)

Download full judgment of the Supreme Court of India on AICTE's purview of MBA programs in India.

Of course, the judgment has created a sense of euphoria and confusion at the same time with varying range of analysis and interpretations with specific reference to MBA programs.

According to one analysis the recent ruling is limited to MBA programs offered at universities. It "...has taken away MBA (not PGDM) and MCA courses in India away from the purview of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), deeming these courses to not be of 'technical' nature....[The ruling] effectively ends the stronghold of AICTE on government-run MBA courses after 13 years. Not needing approval from AICTE anymore, these universities can now take higher control of their MBA programs. Furthermore, AICTE’s role is now only of advisory nature and the council can only provide recommendations to the UGC."

While another analysis in The New Indian Express extends it implications to all affiliated colleges. It notes "The effect of such a sweeping Supreme Court order is not as simple as it was originally captured by various newspapers. Any of the over 30,000 affiliated colleges can start new courses or programmes that come under the purview of AICTE without seeking its approval. All that the affiliated college must ensure is that it has the approval of the affiliating university and follow or at least appear to follow the norms and standards prescribed by AICTE."

I recently co-presented a webinar "India – The Next Frontier" hosted by American Council on Education's (ACE) Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement in partnership with the Boston College Center for International Higher Education. In accompanying article entitled "Partnerships in India: Navigating the Policy and Legal Maze" I argued that one of the "roots of complexity of Indian higher education policy and law stem from the structure of higher education where hundreds of  'teaching' colleges—private or public— are 'affiliated' with one public university, which in turn could be funded by state or central (national) resources."

The recent case of court judgment on AICTE clarifies and complicates the situation of college affiliation system. My interpretation of the situation is two-fold. On the one hand, role and influence of University Grants Commission (UGC)--regulatory body responsible for promoting and coordinating university education--and universities themselves, in maintaining and enforcing quality assurance for MBA programs will increase at the expense of AICTE. This is positive factor as there had been lot of confusion about role and efficacy of AICTE.

On the other hand, business education in India is already in a state of crisis and hitting a slowdown in growth (see latest statistics on number of B-schools in India) and a regulatory vacuum will further aggravate the situation. UGC itself has been struggling in enforcing quality standards. For example, the case of IIPM has been constantly embarrassing powers and purview of UGC. Here is my earlier post "IIPM: Mocking at Quality of Indian Higher Education?"

Overall, next few months will be interesting to see how institutions, regulators and students react to the situation. However, one thing is clear--expect more confusion before clarity emerges.

Share your thoughts or comments about the implications of the judgment on future of MBA programs in India.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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