IIM classrooms: Engineers still rule, but women are scarce

  • Apoorva Puranik, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 09, 2015 01:59 IST

Engineers continue to dominate the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) this year, despite a sincere effort by the country’s B-schools to break the homogeneity.

Case in point: The country’s top IIM in Ahmedabad — engineers make up 87% of its 2015-17 batch, which is quite a jump from the 80% it had last year. Others like IIM-Calcutta have more than 90% engineering students, which is the same as last year.

At IIM-Indore, 376 candidates are engineers out of a total batch size of 453 — nine more than last year. At IIM-Kozhikode, from the current batch of 122 students, 93 are engineers — there were 90 of them last year.

What is worse is that gender diversity has also failed to take off.

Despite awarding extra marks to those with non-engineering degrees as well as women candidates, the trend has continued, surprising academicians.

IIM-Calcutta and Lucknow awarded 5% extra marks to all non-engineering candidates during the interviews, while IIM-Rohtak and Kashipur awarded 20 and 15 marks respectively to candidates from other disciplines as well as women. However, this has made no difference.

According to Anindya Sen, dean of academics at IIM-Calcutta, engineers dominating B-schools is natural since the brightest students in the country choose engineering for a graduate degree.

“Science is the hero in all schools in India, be it any board. And with this focus, the brightest students end up with good science marks and take up engineering. The best candidates who clear the test turn out to be engineers because they find it easier to crack quantitative and logic-based questions in the entrance test,” said Sen.

IIM-Kashipur has enrolled 122 students for the 2015 batch — 93 are engineers. “Engineering students tend to do well in the entrance exam compared to others,” Rajesh Mishra, external relations officer at IIM Kashipur said.

In the West, however, this is not the case. Top B-schools like Wharton and Harvard admit only 30% to 40% students from engineering disciplines.

“Despite what the government is doing, India’s manufacturing sector cannot be compared to China’s and this is driving engineers into B-schools,” said Sen.

A few IIMs, however, are showing signs of breaking the rut. Case in point: IIM-Bangalore, which seems to have made a breakthrough.

The institute has managed to enrol 16% students from other academic backgrounds compared to only 9.45% last year. It has 354 engineers this year out of a batch size of 411. It is the only IIM to have registered an increase in the number of women students this year.

A team from the institute went on tours of the top colleges in the country (barring engineering) to encourage students to give the Common Admission Test (CAT).

“Academic diversity contributes greatly towards inclusive education and a B-school cannot be limited to the perspectives gained from a homogeneous classroom. It is exceedingly important to take efforts to push for diversity to make better managers,” said Devnath Tirupathi, dean of academics, IIM-Bangalore.

The lack gender diversity is a graver concern for the IIMs, said P Rameshan, director, IIM Rohtak said.

It was in 2013 that IIM-Kozhikode created history with 53% of the 2013-15 batches comprising of women. Since then, however, the numbers are dwindling and this year, the institute has admitted only 88 women students in a class of 346 this year taking the numbers down to 25.4%

“However, this remains one of the highest ratios across any of the IIMs. Though several efforts have been made by the IIMs for more gender neutral campuses, this year the numbers are very much skewed in favour of the men, which is a big issue,” said Rameshan.

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