Pre-meeting media speculation quoting unnamed government officials and sources suggested that the HRD Minister was ''upset'' over the announced tripling of the fees. But as IIM-A spokesmen put it, there was no reason why students should not pay higher fees, considering the 'excellent' jobs they get with Rs 25 lakh annual packages or more. They announced a multifold raise in scholarship-- from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 8.5 crore. Neither HRD Minister Singh not officials were immediately available for comment.
But critics, including former HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, questioned the rationale of such hikes in a nation with per capita incomes that are a small fraction of the fees sought to be charged.
''It is a decision of the elite, by the elite and for the elite,'' Dr Joshi remarked, adding ''it will put a damper on Indian middle class dreams of good management education.'' Dr Joshi called for an audit of educational institutions built with taxpayer funds. ''It is high time there is an academic and financial audit of institutions built on public money and government mandate.''
Last week, Dr Joshi called a fee hike announced by IIM, Bangalore ''mind-boggling,'' saying ''these fees are already extraordinarily high without any rationale.'' As HRD Minister four years ago, Dr Joshi fought an IIM fee hike to Rs 150,000 a year, ordering it cut to Rs 30,000-- as charged by Indian Institutes of Technology.
Unlike the IIMs, the IITs have to spend on expensive scientific equipment and labs, Dr Joshi pointed out. India's six IIMs between them were estimated then to enrol 1,400 students.
But this week, the IITs were also reportedly seeking to raise their fees, albeit to a far less extent. Even between the IIMs the hike reportedly vary.
Dr Joshi said a study the Ministry commissioned at the time showed that United States government-sponsored business schools charged about 8,000 dollars a year when American per capita income was US$ 24,000 a year.
The fees in India should also relate to ''our per capita income, which is about Rs 24,000 a year,'' Dr Joshi said.
''This new move is mind-boggling and without logic,'' Dr Joshi said, pointing out that as it is the IIMs hardly ''attend to India's management needs-- look at any sector, water, power, railways, airports, transport, education and cooperatives.'' He said, for most part, the IIM graduates appear to cater to the needs of the corporate sector, especially transnational corporations-- not mainstream India.
The latest fee hike was announced by the IIM in Bangalore for Postgraduate courses from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs five lakh.
Until the early 1990s, the IIMs charged students some Rs 20,000 a year in fees. In a decade, their fees rose to about Rs 150,000 a year, the hikes largely fuelling IIMs' growing corpus funds.
An IIM-Ahmedabad study in March 2004 argued that the HRD Ministry's fee reduction order ''violates the time honoured process of the fee being decided by the Board of Governors''.
It held that ''it is not necessary to reduce fees to (make) management education more affordable to the less well-to-do.'' But India's former Comptroller and Accountant General V K Shunglu, hired to study 'Financial Requirements and other Related Issues of IIMs (April-2004),' questioned several IIM financial practices and called for accountability.
Shunglu's study raised questions of accountability of various autonomous institutions.
''In many of the autonomous institutions, reduced accountability and non-reporting appeared to have been construed as essential elements of autonomy.'' Shunglu held that ''in the present situation, any schemes based on grant of scholarships to encourage and thereby enable poorer students in joining IIMs are unlikely to succeed.'' He cited how a leading American school had decided to reduce fees, although ''the most successful student loan assistance programme is available in USA, not only for MBA but for all other programmes.
''Taking into account the experience of this programme, it has been decided by Harvard -- a private University -- to reduce the fees.''