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MBA students: copy, paste masters!

All the dazzling young people -- 'academic role models' -- may not be working as hard as you imagine, reports Snehal Rebello.
Hindustan Times | By Snehal Rebello, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2008 01:43 AM IST

All the dazzling young people whom parents cite as academic role models and who walk out of business schools with fancy salaries may not be working as hard as you imagine.

Many management students have started ‘outsourcing’ their project work. A new breed of faceless entrepreneurs who have caught the pulse of a growing demand in India’s rapidly proliferating management institutes — which mass-produce managers for the burgeoning Indian economy — are providing students with readymade classroom projects for a fee.

Just place an order for a project over the phone. When this Hindustan Times reporter posed as a student and called up Mahasagar Publications, a young woman who identified herself as Mahalakshmi said: “You can send us an e-mail on the project topic, mention the number of pages needed and send a scanned copy of the guidelines framed by your college. A 50-page project will take 10 days and cost Rs 4,000.”

Veena Ravishankar of Mahasagar Publications said they get 150-200 calls a month from students. There is a shortcut for students who do not believe in exclusivity of project matter or do not want to shell out money. They simply get on to the Internet and download projects. It may be the one a senior in college has posted.

The trick, however, is that students must be willing to share their own work and first upload their projects.

Rima Sharma (name changed) had to first “contribute” her work on insurance on before downloading a project on stock markets. The website has a ‘project helpline’ where students put forth their request and a ‘project hub’ from which projects can be downloaded.

“There is no time to pore over big fat books. I don’t mind downloading and sharing projects as long as I get in-depth information, one that I can copy-paste and submit in class,” said Sharma, who is pursuing financial management from NMIMS University.

But the vice-chancellor of the university, NM Kondap, termed it “outright unethical”. He said: “The purpose of the project is a value-addition to the existing knowledge and it is a learning process. These students are damaging their own careers in the long term. Even during campus placements, companies will seriously interrogate students about the projects.”

He said his college had not encountered such practices. “Every college must take action according to its own guidelines,” he added. With 1,136 registered members, (STP) launched in November 2007, seems to be another hit with people downloading research projects and case studies to even dissertations and theses. A project on mutual funds was downloaded 11 times while a dissertation on ‘customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and profitability’ saw 72 downloads.

Stating that the site aims to provide a “single platform” for information sharing and helping one another make projects, STP’s global moderator Anurag Mehta, in an e-mail interview, told Hindustan Times: “Students are a little inclined towards referring to other’s projects because they provide actual practical facts and secondary data, which books can’t. Mostly, books limit students to only theoretical knowledge.” Mehta said he did not feel it was unethical to use these kinds of websites. “A student should utilise all the resources he/she can refer to make his/her projects. Calling information-sharing websites unethical is like calling Wikipedia unethical,” he said.

Juggling with work during the day and a part-time MBA in the evening, Nagesh Patil (name changed) was introduced to when he began to feel the deadline pressure for project submission. “You get project material according to your requirement. It saves a lot of time. On search engines, one has to sift through a lot of irrelevant information. The website is like a good friend,” said the marketing student of KJ Somaiya College of Management.

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