Management education in India has evolved considerably over the past 70 years. The economic liberalization era of 1990s and the consequent rapid economic development witnessed substantial demand for MBA education. This paved the entry of large number of public and private institutions to offer MBA programmes across the country. Thanks to MBA emerging as a preferred (read “glamourous”) qualification, it is widely perceived as a panacea to address all business challenges. However, the mushrooming of MBA schools has left their own structural weaknesses around resulting in a plethora of challenges. The current wave of turbulence caused by the twin influences of technology disruption and the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in our management education and the need for urgent remedial action to address them.
There are a bouquet of challenges, some isolated while most others inter connected. These can be broadly classified as skills and knowledge related with an over-arching influence of behavioural aspects. This is emerging out of a combination of shortage of high-quality faculty members and enrollment of poor quality students.in schools that are poorly equipped even otherwise. Teaching profession fails to attract top talent because it is not adequately valued and rewarded in India. This needs to be addressed with some fundamental reforms. Another very critical issue is the academia-industry disconnect. Programme curricula are often not updated and aligned with rapidly evolving industry requirements. Therefore, business graduates produced by a large number of institutes are not ‘battle-ready’ when they commence their jobs!
Consequently, we are experiencing a challenge of the ‘quantity versus quality’ conundrum. Standards of management programmes differ vastly across institutions. This is acute with lower-rung schools that lack well-trained faculty and required infrastructure. Large recruiters are mainly interested to hire the best talent for which they prefer top-tier institutions such as the older IIMs and ISB. So, the present system creates a ‘dual citizenry’ of business managers, which leads to discontent.
Add to these major structural and behavioural problems, the challenge of maintaining the quality of programme delivery. Poor rate of technology adoption and archaic pedagogical tools employed by management institutions, coupled with regulatory constraints, are some of the other problems that continue to affect the development of this sector.
Imminent shift and way forward
Management education in India is all set to be revolutionize thanks to the rapid and drastic changes impacting the various constituents of the business environment. Naturally, industry is demanding managerial talent that is equipped with new-age capabilities and skills. This overhaul is likely to comprehensively reform the design, content, and delivery of management education in the country. We envisage the following dimensions of this impending transformation:
•Fading borders, Intensifying competition: The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalization of education. Since most programmes are now virtual, geographic boundaries do not matter. Students can enroll in virtual courses offered by universities abroad. Many renowned foreign universities have already established their satellite offices in India. Several others have collaborated with Indian institutions to offer joint degree programmes. This competition is likely to grow, forcing Indian institutions to quickly improve and evolve their programme design and delivery.
•More industry-oriented specialized programmes: Increasingly, recruiters will demand better alignment between b-school curriculum and their job requirements. Super-specialized management qualifications will progressively become more crucial! Hence, industry-specific specialized programmes will increase, for instance in areas such as, insurance and mutual funds, healthcare management, business analytics etc. New programmes and courses will emerge, especially at the interfaces of traditional management functions (viz., behavioural finance and marketing analytics) and that of different industry sectors (namely, fintech, edge computing-based retail management, cloud-based logistics management). Therefore, business schools would have to gear up to meet these industry requirements.
•Programme design to be driven by ‘money value of time’: There is already a decisive shift towards shorter duration and modular programmes delivering specific capabilities. This is likely to accelerate going forward, as students would like to compress their learning duration. Two-year MBAs will give way to modular 15-month or one-year programmes. Market demand is likely to increase for even shorter duration programmes that provide super-specialized certifications. The challenge here would be to retain the richness of programme content and quality of delivery, even as duration is squeezed.
•Technovate - Improve or perish: B-schools will be forced to use technology in innovative ways. Adapting to virtual modes of programme delivery, re-skilling of faculty and staff for the digital medium, usage of modern pedagogical tools such as, computer simulations, big data analytics, virtual reality and flipped classrooms will have to be adopted proactively. There will be increasing pressure on B-schools to shape-up or ship-out, both from the recruiters and students! This will be felt across all the rungs. The top-rung schools will be required to benchmark with the best international b-schools. Whereas the large number of middle and lower-rung b-schools will be forced to improve the quality of their infrastructure, content, faculty pool, and engagements with students and recruiters.
•International accreditation: Modern-day b-school graduates are world citizens who look for employment opportunities across the globe. Their acceptance improves if their degree awarding institution holds an internationally accepted accreditation. Therefore, we foresee that Indian b-schools will increasingly strive for international accreditation such as, the AACSB, Equis and EMBA.
This will not only improve their global recognition but also the quality of placements. This will be well-complemented if Indian regulatory bodies allow novel experiments and innovations in management education, such as, international alliances, freedom to launch joint degrees with foreign b-schools, and modular choice for selecting courses across multiple streams/ locations/ institutions.
The success of Indian business schools will depend on how quickly they pre-empt the change and adapt to the evolving requirements. The ones that proactively assess the changing industry needs, collaborate with other institutions, and devise innovative programmes, will emerge as the winners. This transformation will be a welcome change that will benefit the students, recruiters, the institutions, and above all, our nation!
Dr. Navneet Bhatnagar is Senior Researcher and Professor Kavil Ramachandran is Executive Director, Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business.