Institution building in higher education: IIMK & AU experiences.

AuthorKalro, A.H.


India has been the cradle of civilization and its early contributions to Science, Mathematics, Astronomy, Economics, Political Science and Governance have been legendary. The first known universities for higher education such as Nalanda and Takshashila were established in India more than 2500 years ago. These universities attracted attention of scholars from all over the world till they were destroyed by invasions. Their decline was followed by the emergence of universities in Europe over 800 years ago and they became the new centers of higher education. Excellence in higher education in American universities is a more recent phenomenon of the 20th century.

The decline of Indian universities has continued in the post independence era and there is an urgent need to revive the past glory of our institutions of higher education and to contribute to the wellbeing of society and development of the nation. Nevertheless, there are some educational institutions which stand out as islands of excellence in an ocean of mediocrity. Even though there is no unanimity on the notion of excellence in higher education, the moot question is: why do some institutions succeed and sustain their excellence, while others rapidly approach institutional menopause and then enter a stage of decline and oblivion? After all, as stated by Ravi J. Mathai, the first director of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and also one of its principal architects, "The building of an educational institution is often an act of faith and the expression of that faith is in a philosophy on the basis of which those who build such institutions act" (Kalro, 1999).

Institution Building

The concept of institution building emerged historically in the 1950s and 1960s when the emphasis on international social development began to focus on technical assistance (Eaton, 1972; United Nations, 1983).Later, within academic institutions a select group of persons who had experience in foreign assistance programs and who also had an interest in the training of developmental specialists, began a more systematic study of institution building. The eventual result of this systematic focus on the study of institution building was the establishment of a consortium, the Inter-University Research Program in Institution Building. It was within this consortium that the basic elements of the institution building conceptual framework were formulated (Eaton, 1972)

Institution building is about creating sustainable organizations which overtime continue to be guided by the mission and vision and have an abiding value system. Institutions are neither brick and mortar nor rules and regulations nor systems and procedures. They are organic systems; they evolve their identity, their personality and their traditions and values over time. The values are usually encapsulated in the vision and mission statement of the institution.

Institution building, is defined as "planful establishment of new organizations to serve purposes which are judged by those in power to require autonomous administrative intervention and special linkages to the larger social system, different from those which can be provided by already existing administrative units" (Eaton, 1972:13). Hill, Haynes and Baumgartel (1971) state that institution building means to identify the process involved in deliberately forming a new institution or reforming an existing one. The idea of institution building is to fabricate organizations in environments needing and perhaps desiring change. Through accumulating necessary resources, persisting over time, and most importantly impacting its environment, these organizations are to be agents for change (Suttmeier, 1989). Blaise (1986) defines institution building as the planning, structuring, and guidance of new or reconstituted organizations which (i) embody changes in values, functions, physical and/or social technologies; (ii) establish, foster, and protect normative relationship and action patterns; and (iii) attain support and complementarity in the environment.

The role of leadership in institution building is instrumental. Ganesh and Joshi (1985) mentioned: "Institutions are social arenas where unique strategies are pursued for inducing and maintaining values which satisfy societal needs. Organizations are formal, social entities which facilitate constant transmission of values. Leaders are key actors in these arenas embodying the values. The process of institution building is the energizing of people so that not only do they internalize values that transcend narrow self-interests but they also become infused with a sense of mission in their total life. What distinguishes an economic organization from an institutional organization is the intensity and the depth with which individual members of an institutional organization hold the core values which seem to suffuse their total being."

The concept of institution building is an approach to the understanding of induced social change. It is also an effort to identify operational methods and action strategies. Institutions are social, political and economic structures with a culture of their own. They embody protocols of governance and varying degrees of control over their members. Institutions validate and impose norms, practices and beliefs. Various aspects of institution building combined in some manner, provide a measure of success in institution building which Esman and Blaise define as institutionality. The end state of institution building has been defined as "institutionality" by Esman (1967). He posits two conditions: (a) the establishment of a viable organization which incorporates innovations and (b) the acceptance and espousal of the organization and its innovations by relevant groups in the environment.

Journey of Institution Building

Institution building practices of higher educational institutions are different from the industry practices (Boyer & Crockett, 1973; Bennis, 1970). Bennis (1970), referring to the difference in the institution building of industry and higher education institutions, points out "Industries are self-contained, large, rich and where the product is identifiable and measurable whereas higher education institutions (universities) have more diverse goal structure, a much more pluralistic set of sub-systems, difficulty in measuring the quality of their products and are greatly influenced by, and in most cases, highly dependent upon external environment for survival". This article is drawn on the experience of the first author, with institution building at two institutions, the...

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