IIM-A Breaking Laws, No Reservations in PhD Course: Prof’s Letter

A strongly-worded open letter addressed to the Director of IIM Ahmedabad questions why the business school has chosen to not implement SC/ST/OBC reservations in their PhD admissions, a move that the letter argues is in clear violation of the laws governing the institution.

The authors of the letter are Deepak Malghan, an Associate Professor at IIM Bangalore, and Siddharth Joshi, a Fellow of IIM Bangalore.

""We write this letter to you in distress, and in utter desperation. In clear violation of the IIM Act (2107), IIM-Ahmedabad has once again chosen to not implement reservations in its doctoral programme. IIM-A has a long history of wilfully skirting reservation provisions in the doctoral programme. We believe it is now time to make amends."" - Deepak Malghan and Siddharth Joshi’s letter to IIM-A Director Errol D’Souza

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IIM-A vs Quotas: What the Law States

In 2018, IIM Ahmedabad had opposed a PIL seeking reservation in the Fellow Programme in Management (FPM), which is the doctoral course of the institute.

In an affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court in March 2018, IIM-A Director Errol D’Souza had stated, “It may kindly be appreciated that neither the Constitution of India nor any law envisages reservation for courses/programme at high level of specialisation.”

But in their open letter, Malghan and Joshi argue that the IIM Act 2017 clearly states that all IIMs are Central Educational Institutions for the purposes of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006.

Section 3 of the Central Educational Institutions Act requires all such institutions (which includes IIM-A) to reserve seats in admissions in each branch of study for historically marginalised social groups.

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Key Argument: The Super-Specialisation Defence

IIM-A’s affidavit in court further argued, “Even the candidates from reserved category, by the time they reach the stage of applying for programme such as FPM, would have had the benefit of reservation policy in education at graduation and PG (specialisation) level courses. Therefore the law does not mandate any further reservation in high-level specialisation programmes.”

"The court eventually dismissed the PIL without passing any order to IIM Ahmedabad, accepting their argument regarding super-specialised courses."

But in their letter dated 18 September 2019, Malghan and Joshi counter the super-specialisation defence by saying, “The argument that IIMA's doctoral programme is a super-speciality program is just as fallacious. PhD programmes at sister IIMs that are at least as rigorous as the the one at IIMA (and some of them arguably more research intensive than IIMA) have implemented reservations in their respective doctoral programmes.”

As per IIM-A’s website, the following are the “areas of high levels of specialization”:

(1) Business Policy, (2) Economics, (3) Finance & Accounting, (4) Food & Agri-business, (5) Human Resource Management, (6) Information Systems, (7) Innovation and Management in Education, (8) Marketing, (9) Organizational Behaviour, (10) Production and Quantitative Methods, and (11) Public Systems.

The Need for Diversity "“Implementing reservation in IIMs’ Ph.D. programmes is a necessary condition to address the grave and unconscionable diversity deficit in the faculty composition of IIMs. The IIM faculty composition resembles apartheid era South Africa.”" - Malghan and Joshi’s letter to IIM-A Director Errol D’Souza

Director D'Souza has, in the past, argued against reservations by saying that for the programme, the IIM seeks candidates with outstanding academic background, intellectual curiosity and discipline needed to make scholarly contribution.

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Reservation at IIMs: Status Quo

The IIMs have reservations for admissions to their PG diploma or master’s courses. Till 2018 however, they did not have quotas for the doctoral fellowship programme.

A report by The Telegraph in January 2019 stated that other IIMs had relented and begun implementing reservations in their PhD programmes following a campaign by an alumni body called The Global IIM Alumni Network.

IIM Ahmedabad though is an exception to the new norm. IIM-A, which defended its stand before the Gujarat High Court, continues to staunchly oppose reservations in the doctoral course.

(Note: The Quint has reached out to the IIM-A administration seeking their response to the open letter. This article will be updated if and when they reply.)

The Open Letter: Full Text

The following is the full text of the open letter written by Prof Malghan and Siddharth Joshi.

We write this letter to you in distress, and in utter desperation. In clear violation of the IIM Act (2107) that granted unprecedented autonomy to IIMs, IIM-Ahmedabad has once again chosen to not implement reservations in its doctoral programme.

Your

Indeed, this is the Act that enables IIMA and other IIMs to grant degrees including the Ph.D. The IIM Act clearly states that all IIMs (including of course, IIMA) are "Central Educational Institution for the purposes of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006” [vide Section 8 of the 2017 IIMA Act]. Section 3 of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, requires all Central Educational Institutions (which now clearly includes IIMA) to reserve seats in admissions in each branch of study for historically marginalised social groups.

IIMA has a long history of wilfully skirting reservation provisions in the doctoral programme. We believe it is now time to make amends. IIMA is a public institution, and its actions in the Ph.D. program are in violation of the institute's implicit social compact.

As we had written to you earlier, the “null matrix argument” that an institution cannot implement reservation in a programme that does not have a fixed number of seats is no more than a smoke screen that betrays the impunity with which IIMA has historically neglected questions of diversity and inclusion in its doctoral programmes.

The argument that IIMA's doctoral programme is a super-speciality program is just as fallacious. PhD programmes at sister IIMs that are at least as rigorous as the the one at IIMA (and some of them arguably more research intensive than IIMA) have implemented reservations in their respective doctoral programmes.

As we had written to you earlier, implementing reservation in IIMs' Ph.D. programmes is a necessary condition to address the grave and unconscionable diversity deficit in the faculty composition of IIMs. The IIM faculty composition resembles apartheid era South Africa. At IIMs, we do not have the American "minority representation" problem as much as we have a "majority exclusion" problem.

As fellow members of the larger IIM community, we urge you to live up to the constitutional ideals of equality and fraternity. We implore you to immediately reissue the Ph.D. admissions advertisement that is fully compliant with constitutional mandates as well as statutory provisions of the very legislation that governs IIMA.

Sincerely,

Siddharth Joshi (Fellow of IIM Bangalore)

Deepak Malghan (Associate Professor, IIM Bangalore)

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