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Quantity or quality: What matters more?

Alokananda Chakraborty 

B-school survey

B-schools that put the onus on quality will continue to flourish since the demand for effective leaders will continue to rise

Business education in India stands at the crossroads. On the one hand, we read reports of global schools seriously looking at India as the destination for their next off-site campus, on the other we see debates raging about the quality of education imparted within the hallowed precincts of our business schools. On the one hand, we see human resource executives from our A-list corporations queueing up to whisk away their next batch of employees at salaries that set new benchmarks, on the other we hear murmurings at corporate corridors about how our education system is not geared to producing leaders.

Clearly, there is a disconnect. But one that can be easily addressed. Because India has size, we have talent and we have ambition. Among our biggest advantages is demography. By 2040 our country will have 65 per cent working population. No prizes for guessing India will become the hub for those searching for manpower.

Now that the stage is set, let us look at the things plaguing the industry and how best to overcome them.

Problem no.1, if you speak to industry insiders, is the proliferation of business schools across the country. One would have thought this would give rise to competition, which in turn, will automatically spur the Indian B-schools to innovate — introduce new course and new programmes, new methods of pedagogy, use of simulation techniques, increase the institute-industry interaction, facilitate research and so on.

Unfortunately, this increase in the number of schools has given rise to its own set of problems and the reasons are not too far to seek. For starters, the fees are exorbitant and the entry barriers low. No wonder there are questions about the quality of students they churn out year after year. Many of these students don’t get the kind of jobs they would have dreamt of while applying for that education loan. Questions have also been raised about the nature and expertise of the faculty as well which ultimately reflects on the kind of students that walk out of these institutes diploma in hand.

There is a very frustrating issue here. Since full-time faculty is currently not enough, schools have to depend on part-time faculty. As the dean of a Delhi-based business school points out, “My experience is that for the part-time faculty there is no commitment to the student community or to the

So what is the way forward? Business Standard had taken this question straight to its readers last month. As one of the respondents suggested, “All the premier B-schools are suffering from faculty crunch and this problem will be aggravated if they start to take over the newer ones. What older B-schools can do is to function as a mentor for the new ones so that the latter does not face the same problem which the older once had faced at the beginning. This will assist new B-schools to stand on their own foot and compete with the older ones, thus enhancing their quality and gradually becoming stronger.”

Well said, but students face some other basic hurdles. The lack of credible agencies to counsel students has certainly not helped the situation. “Feedback should be taken from the students on a periodically basis and this must be communicated to the faculty concerned. This helps in improving the quality of teaching. Students are looking at value added programmes and are not simply interested in reading books or working on the computers. The faculties have to take into account these challenges to retain the interest of the students,” says a professor with a Mumbai-based school.

The thing to remember here is that there is an increasing demand from the industry for pedagogical techniques that focus on real-life real-time problems rather than on elaborate theories that may be completely out of tune with what is happening on ground. Recruiters and their HR departments actually look for students who possess skills such as good communication, team-work, planning and organisation skills, self-skills. These are factors that can go a long way in improving employability of the pass-outs.

Many top notch B-schools, whether in India or abroad, take a holistic approach and encourage their faculty members to engage in high quality research and executive training programmes rather than focus only on delivering their lectures in the class. This is the only way professors can evolve into thought leaders, if not trailblazers, in their respective fields. As thought leaders they can in turn expose their students to cutting edge management concepts and ideas and that is what would set their MBA programme apart from the rest of the pack.

Next is the issue of collaboration. Collaboration with the industry; collaboration with other institutions. Collaboration within the borders of our country; collaboration beyond our borders. Then there is another issue that has as much bearing on management institutes in the country as on corporate India.

At a seminar on the state of management education of the country held last year, Dr Rajan Saxena, vice-chancellor, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, said, “Among several challenges that management schools today face is that of governance. Over a period of time several reports on management education in India have pointed to the lack of mere absence of governance in the institutions. Consequently the quality of education has suffered when we talk of the governance. One has to focus on not just the board’s autonomy to take the decision but equally on faculty-led governance. The question here is how to ensure autonomy and accountability simultaneously.”

All this is not to say management education in India has lost the plot. Many global institutions are looking to set up their campuses in the country and there in no let up in the demand for Indian professionals in corporations abroad. In other words, there is no denying the standards that India has set for itself. This opening debate is aimed simply to prod the reader into thinking of the possibilities ahead and the opportunity that remains untapped. B-schools that put the onus on quality will continue to flourish since the demand for quality management education will continue to rise. Developing curriculum that focuses on skills that enhance employability will be the mantra for success of B-schools in times to come.

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First Published: Sat, June 02 2012. 00:48 IST