Policy Studies in India

by Anindya Chaudhuri

This review essay by Dr. Anindya Chaudhuri (Fellow Scientist, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi) is part of a study conducted in the area of “Policy Studies in India with special emphasis on heightening flow of information in society and what that entails to teaching policy analysis”. Dr. Chaudhuri undertook this study as an MPL Fellow of the Ford Foundation project titled “Mapping Media, Policy and Law in India” at the Centre for Culture Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia. He may be reached at ac1947@gmail.com

 

Abstract

Public Policy is far from being an academic discipline in India. Policy analysis is restricted mainly to research being conducted at institutions with leanings towards Economics, rather than the training of interdisciplinary scholars. At present only the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, has an established program in Public Policy, but it is geared towards administration and management. Completed interviews and ongoing interactions with faculty members of educational institutions hint towards ingrained apathy or hostility towards newer fields and broad-based scholastics.

Objectives and Methodology

The overall goal of this ongoing research is to assess Public Policy as an emergent academic field in India, driven by the increasing prominence of the phrase in popular and media usage. The goal is compartmentalized into three distinct but related objectives:

1.  Map the present status of Public Policy teaching and dissemination in India

2.  Understand the forces and undercurrents shaping the development of the field

3.  Assess the prospects of the field and make recommendations

A subsidiary objective is to discuss the use and value of the rising tide of information in the policy feedback loop.

The methodology, as has already been discussed in the background papers, is to locate existing academic outputs which may have already analyzed this topic and through primary interviews with people who have first-hand involvement with the issue.

Literature Review

A rich body of literature exists in Public Policy and its disciplinary cousin, Public Administration, for many developed countries. This is because these two closely related fields are well established in these countries in terms of integration with disciplinary subjects.(1) In fact, many of the countries surveyed have schools or departments which are considered to be highly prestigious within their respective academic systems.(2) The programs offered by them tend to be at the postgraduate level. The Masters’ graduates are typically understood to be practitioners with a good theoretical grounding and competence in the methodological tools of policy analysis, while doctoral graduates are regarded more in scholarly terms. The schools and departments need to be accredited by national associations (see Appendix A) in order to be allowed to award degrees in public policy or administration.(3)

Tracking down literature relating to Public Policy as an academic discipline as it applies to the Indian case has been the major hurdle of the project. This is presumably a function of the fact that policymaking in India has been exclusively a governmental prerogative. The actions normally associated with governance are internally decided upon with very little academic intervention or even scrutiny. In other words, the policy feedback loop of analysis, formulation, implementation and review has been an alien concept in Indian public policy and administration. This barrier between governance and academia has been instrumental behind the redundancy of policy teaching and hence policy schools. The net result is that “literature” as it is understood in academic terms does not exist for India. This is to be expected, since parsing a non-existent field which is intrinsically practical in nature is a pointless exercise. This researcher has been unable to locate any serious publication covering the teaching of the field in India. Though the last few years have seen several conferences been held domestically, none of the papers presented could be traced to a published finality.

There is, however, and interesting exception which may potentially prove to be a worthwhile lead. Unlike any of the disciplinary social sciences which may be said to be most closely related to Public Policy, the legal field in India has apparently had a long association

with the latter. In fact, the phrase “public policy” is explicitly mentioned in legal rulings going back to the earliest days of the Republic, and the definitions and conceptual ramifications tackled at least tangentially as the particular cases demanded.(4) Though methodologically far removed from the technical inclinations of modern policy analysis, the legal field has clearly been considering aspects of Public Policy far longer than any of the disciplinary social sciences. A systematic study of these may yield a rich trove of information for this study and for the field in general.

 Summary of Interviews & Discussions

A review of the academic institutions operating under the aegis of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has yielded only a tiny handful of institutions with programs in Public Policy. These are summarily described below:

1.  Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (5) has a fully fledged Centre for Public Policy offering a Masters level Post Graduate Programme on Public Policy and Management (PGPPM), and a doctoral level Fellow Programme in Management (FPM) in Public Policy. IIMB is an autonomous institution under the Central Government.

2.  Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta(6) has a Public Policy and Management Group (PPMG). PPMG has relatively modest size and operations in comparison to IIMB and does not offer any specialization in public policy explicitly. IIMC has the same status as IIMB in terms of ownership.

3.  Jindal School of Government and Public Policy has started operations from 2012.(7) This is a privately owned and managed institution.

4.  Indian School of Business is in the process of establishing an institute catering to policy teaching at Mohali, Punjab.(8)

5.  MDI Gurgaon, also a management school, offers a Post Graduate Programme In Public Policy & Management (PGP-PPM).(9)

6.  The University of Mumbai’s Department of Civics and Politics offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Policy (see Attachment A)

7.  The University of Delhi’s Department of Political Science has three faculty members who work broadly in Public Policy. However, there is no formal program being offered by the university.

8.  The Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, is internally discussing the possibilities of creating a Policy Studies program. As far as was understood by this researcher, the plans are at very preliminary stages with no guarantees of coming to fruition.

The Jindal Global School did not respond to requests for interviews or campus visits. This researchers was hence unable to gauge the antecedents or the ongoing operations of its program. Contact is in the process of being established with MDI Gurgaon and it is likely that a direct interaction with the faculty members can be undertaken in the near future. Interviews were conducted with personnel in the other programs.(10)

Some key points which came out of these conversations are summarized below:

1.         The persons interviewed from both the University of Mumbai and the University of Delhi emphasized ingrained resistance to emerging fields of which Public Policy is an example. Their hypothesis was that Indian academia is inherently hostile to newer ideas, especially if these are outside of immediate areas of expertise of the faculty involved. It should be noted that the faculty members interviewed were actively involved with the teaching of Public Policy on personal initiative.

2.  A related point, also stressed by the same set of people, was that disciplinary boundaries tend to act as comfort zones for most academic people. These increases their antipathy towards Public Policy, which is intrinsically cross-disciplinary.

3.  A key problem arising from the cross-disciplinary nature of Public Policy is a scarcity of people trained in multiple fields to act as nuclei of academic programs. Thus, even if institutions are willing to set up programs in Public Policy, they are hampered by a severe faculty shortage. At the present moment, all existing programs have to heavily depend on graduates of foreign programs to meet their faculty requirements.

4.  The newness of the field creates a “marketing” barrier for recruiting students. Indian students tend to be disciplinary by training, and it is not certain how Public Policy can be made appealing to students coming from a broad range of academic backgrounds.

5.  A key barrier to the growth of Public Policy as an academic discipline is the institutionally insulated nature of the policymaking process in India. The countries with robust traditions of academic Public Policy are also the ones with free exchanges of ideas between policymakers and academicians. Such free flow of ideas does not exist in India, reducing the demand for expert policy specialists.

6.  The programs being offered by Management Schools appear to be better placed in terms financial stability. However, these institutions typically charge sizable amounts for their Management degrees, which is acceptable for students planning on recouping the costs of education from private sector employment. Management schools are reluctant to lower the costs of education for Public Policy specifically, and the graduates of these programs cannot hope to make adequate returns on their investment by subsequent employment in the public sector. In essence, these programs have to remain subsidized for the time being.

7.  A faculty member associated with the nascent program at ISB Mohali specifically pointed out two essential ingredients: (a) leadership capable of envisioning future requirements of governance apparatus, and (b) financial wherewithal to support the programs during incubation stages.

It should be noted that the above findings should be taken as personal observations. The smallness of the sample prevents these conclusions to be taken as being representative to any extent.

Next Steps

As should be evident, a reasonable amount of background work has already been carried out for the project. The next steps are to expand upon them, conduct additional interviews, and to begin the process of producing an output catering to an academic audience.

REFERENCES

  1. See Appendix A for list of association in selected countries.
  2. As discussed in the next section, this creates a chicken-and-egg problem for the Indian case.
  3. The accreditation need not be restricted to national scope. For example, the European Association for Public Administration Accreditation (http://www.eapaa.org/) governs programs across the European Union.
  4. See, for example, Gherulal Parakh vs Mahadeodas Maiya And Others, 1959 AIR 781
  5. Homepage: http://hrm.iimb.ernet.in/cpp
  6. Homepage: http://facultylive.iimcal.ac.in/academic-groups/public-policy-and-management
  7. Homepage: http://www.jsgp.edu.in
  8. Bharti Institute of Public Policy. See: http://www.isb.edu/MohaliCampus/Overview.html
  9. http://www.mdi.ac.in/executive-post-graduate-programmes/post-graduate-programme-in-public-policy-and-management.html
  10. The names are being withheld for reasons of confidentiality.
This entry was published on February 25, 2013 at 12:19 pm and is filed under Media Policy. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Policy Studies in India

  1. Pingback: The impressions of a tourist who became a migrant in the academic hut | The Indian Medialogue

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