Indicating that an MBA degree is no longer as attractive in the backdrop of an economic slowdown and job insecurity, the number of applicants for CAT 2013 has dipped to atleast a five-year low.
While last year there were 2.14 lakh CAT registrations, this year the number fell to
1.94 lakh. That's 20,000 fewer registrations than in 2012 and the lowest since 2008 when the CAT - the premier MBA entrance test for admission to Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other top B-schools - drew 2.9 lakh applicants.
And while the number of applicants is decreasing, the number of IIMs has increased from 7 in 2008 to 13 this year offering 3,335 - plus another 7,000 seats in B-schools.
"I think 1.94 lakh is a huge number for around 10,000 seats in good MBA colleges including IIMs. Looking into the economic conditions, only those candidates who are really serious about an MBA education are applying," says Dr Rohit Kapoor, convenor CAT 2013.
So why is there a lack of interest in B-schools? experts blame the economic slowdown and a lack of jobs in the market due to the slump.
In tough economic conditions, people who already have jobs may decide to stick to them and those marginally interested may defer for a while, says IIM Ahmedabad director Dr Ashish Nanda.
IIM Lucknow director Devi Singh agrees: "MBA education in India has become static and some private universities are even closing down. This is directly related to the economic slowdown and market dynamics."
"We need to evaluate why CAT registrations have plateaued… it is a concern for management education in India," Nanda adds.
But though general interest in CAT seems to be waning the percentage of female CAT applicants has increased from 23% in 2009 to 29% in 2013.
Interestingly, Indians have shown a strong presence in global MBA schools and India stands second only to China in terms of the number of applications sent to global B-schools in 2012- 2013.
IIM directors and head of B-schools are quick to say that the decline in numbers will not affect the quality of education or candidates in India.
Dr Nanda says: "Less that 1% of applicants to our institute get selected. We get the best of the best candidates, so a small decline in overall number of CAT registrations should not affect the quality of candidates we select."
"This decline in applicants is a result of a conscious decision by students on whether to follow a career in management or not. However, CAT is still the best means of selecting the best students for entry into the best B-schools," says Sudipto Ghosh, a student of MDI Gurgaon.
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