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No Value Addition Is Evident In B-School Postgraduate Students: Manoj Pant, Director, IIFT

He is not someone who believes Indian B-schools should be thinking about competing at the global level at present, as there is excess demand for B-school education in the country at the moment.

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An economist by training, Manoj Pant, Director, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, has taught at University of Delhi and later at Jawaharlal Nehru University as a professor at its Centre for International Trade and Development. He is not someone who believes Indian B-schools should be thinking about competing at the global level at present, as there is excess demand for B-school education in the country at the moment.  

Excerpts of interaction with BW Businessworld:

How do you look at the postgraduate management education / B-school ecosystem in the country today?
As regards the B-school ecosystem, it is clearly still evolving and the main feature is an enormous growth of private sector B-schools while almost all public sector schools are now under a self-financing scheme regime. As more and more new schools open up some equilibrium is still to be reached.

Are we creating enough potential leaders or mere job seekers in this market?
If a B-school has to be a standalone institution and not part of any university system, it has no other option but to look forward. However, in general, business schools are high-cost affairs because they cater to a demanding private sector and need high-tech facilities for students. So, in particular, newer schools are looking mainly at job seekers as that is the immediate demand of the day and source of income.

Even after reforms, why have Indian B-schools failed to be counted among the world’s best?
The answer to this question is contained in the previous answer. With so much demand (for the moment) for business education in India, there is no need to compete at the global level.

Do B-schools regularly update and overhaul their curriculum in keeping with the industry needs?
Most B-schools review their curriculum as and when they find placement in the private sector difficult. As far as I am aware, all business schools do tend to interact on a continuous basis with industry. I think it is for the alumni to write to the institutions and tell them how changing industry needs a change in curriculum. In addition, unless the private sector gears up to meet external competition the demand for specialised postgraduate programmes will not come up. I think we are now seeing this happening with newer and newer areas of business study opening up. 

How do you make sure that the faculty is equally at home in theory and in practice?
The answer to this question is quite easy. Unless faculty is interested in conducting research and publications they will never keep up with newer theoretical developments. When they are not aware of this they will not be familiar with the latest industry practices. So the answer here is a need for the development of a strong research division within management schools.

Technology is evolving so fast that it’s difficult to predict what happens one year down the line. How do the B-schools cope with such a scenario?
Like in industry, it is only the business schools which look 10 years ahead will survive the technological churning. I think the answer lies in faculty being aware of developments, continuous industry interactions and diversification of training programmes.

In India, with the exception of the IIMs and a few other top institutions, most B-schools churn out graduates who are hardly employable. What’s the way out?
Most business schools are merely filtering out the best students at the undergraduate level and there is no value addition evident in postgraduate students. Since employability of students is a function of different salary levels, all B-schools are filtering out students suitable to a particular salary/niche market. It is, however, not clear given the quality of students, how much relative value addition individual institutions are doing. There is not enough competition yet.

How often do you inspire your alumni to come back and teach in their alma mater? How often do you inspire them to contribute funds to their alma mater?
We, at IIFT, have a separate alumni section which interacts with the alumni on a regular basis and encourages as many of them as possible to work out their schedules to take a few classes as guest faculty in the management division. I have now taken up the issue of the alumni contributing funds to their alma mater and hope to progress in this direction in the near future.

What more do you expect from the regulator AICTE and the government?
Let us be clear that with the kind of excess demand that there is for business education, a regulator is critical to ensure that students are not taken for a ride by business schools. Many of the newer business schools have been quite unscrupulous in their claim. However, given the quickly changing needs of the industry to which business schools must respond, once a recognition of a certain level is given to a school it must have the freedom to decide on courses/operational details, etc. It would seem that the current policy trends are in this direction but still greater operational autonomy to B-schools is needed.

How has the role of B-school director evolved and how crucial it is to turn a B-school into a global institution?
The role of a business school director is to give direction in terms of some of the areas that I have listed out above where business schools could see some improvement. There is no difference between a local institution and a global institution once the market becomes competitive. 

It is my view that the head of any management institution must make his or her institution prepare for the challenges over the next few years. Again from my point of view two things are critical: periodic curriculum review and developing a strong research focus. I believe this what will differentiate one management institution from another in the future.

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