Managing somehow

Published on Jan 20, 2006 02:01 AM IST

Before moving overseas, the IIMs need to do more homework. Eminent faculty, path-breaking research and the pursuit of excellence is lacking in its campuses here in India

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None | ByPlatform | Premchand Palety

IIM, bangalore wants to go global but the government doesn’t want it to. On the face of it, this looks like another HRD Ministry roadblock to the autonomy of premier institutes. Well, this time the ministry may be justified in putting its foot down. It is true that the IIMs are not getting their priorities right. They have much to do in India before diverting their resources and attention abroad.

What are the concerns that IIMs should grant top priority to? To begin with, generating good quality faculty. Then setting up more campuses in India, especially in the business hubs. There has to be much greater industry-academia interaction and certainly more research to improve pedagogy. Creation of the knowledge, skills and practices suitable to Indian economy need immediate attention.

The main concern today in the field of management education in India is the skeletal faculty. There’s a famine of quality teachers. The IIMs, funded by taxpayers money, have failed miserably in responding to this need.

Every year about 70,000 students graduate from 1,000 odd B-schools in the country. Taking a 1:10 teacher-student ratio (the international standard), we need 7,000 trained teachers. But the most optimistic current estimate of the number of trained faculty is just about 2,000.

It’s private B-schools like ICFAI and MDI who have been proactive in generating faculty. ICFAI has set up an institute which offers a three-year programme to produce good faculty. How difficult is it for each IIM to set up such a centre and generate at least 50 quality faculty every year? The short duration faculty development programmes (FDPs) that some IIMs conduct are in no way a substitute for such centres.

The second concern is the demand-supply gap of quality programmes in India. There are over 1,000 B-schools in India but not even 50 of these deliver quality programmes. Hardly 20 management institutes can be called integrated B-schools — that is truly integrated with industry and not only disseminating existing knowledge but creating new knowledge, skills and practices that can have far reaching impact on Indian economy.

Even among those which are integrated, the level of interaction is low. For almost four decades the top IIMs have been stagnating in terms of intake and programmes offered. With superb infrastructure (each with about 100-acre campus and over 800,000 sq feet built-up area), they have been producing only about 600 graduates annually — far less than what our economy needs. Intake has been increased only in the past few years, but it is still much below international levels. This demand-supply gap has led to mushrooming of incompetent B-schools. Over 1.5 lakh students appear every year for the combined entrance test (CAT) but only over a thousand get into the IIMs. The admission is more of a process of rejection than selection.

As a result, a large number of high calibre students go to second and third-rung B-schools or go abroad. Like Harvard and Wharton, each of the IIMs should be taking in about 1,000 students. Location is a very important aspect of a B-school, as to do relevant research they need to be in proximity to industry. Thus the need for more IIMs in business hubs. Strangely, this important parameter was ignored in establishing IIMs in Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode which are suffering because of poor industry interaction. By now Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Chandigarh should have got one IIM each.

Recent surveys have also shown the big gap between industry expectations and B-school delivery. Many in industry feel that B-school products are too raw and lack the soft skills needed in current business environment. In fact, many recruiters whom we have interviewed admit that they go to the IIMs because they are assured of quality of intake more than the value-addition to the existing skills and knowledge of the students. The main idea behind setting up the IIMs was to create entrepreneurs. How many entrepreneurs can IIMs boast of? Our premier institutes need to focus more on research in pedagogy, curriculum and industry interaction.

Setting up a campus is not the only way of increasing faculty exposure to global practices. There is already a mechanism in place to address this need: the faculty exchange programmes where members teach abroad for a term and tutors from abroad come to teach and interact with faculties and students here. These kind of programmes need a fillip.

True, the IIMs need to generate more revenue to pay their teachers well but it is doubtful whether such campuses will have great return on investments. In fact, one negative outcome can be flight of talented faculty out of India. There are many untapped avenues to generate additional revenue for the IIMs in India. Besides increasing intake, IIMs can introduce innovative programmes for the corporate sector like the ISB (Indian School of Business) in Hyderabad is doing. There is also scope to enter into new areas like healthcare management.

None of the IIMs is ranked among top 50 in the world. The best IIMs have not produced any path- breaking research in over 40 years of their existence. The IIM brand that we hear so much about has more to do with the credibility of the admission process than the quality of faculty and research. Clearly, the IIMs need to do more homework before going abroad.

The writer is Director C fore, the organisation that conducts an annual ranking of B-schools in India

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