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Rethink Curricula, Revenue Drivers

Rethinking & Reinventing the MBA curriculum, not depending on student fees for existence, encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to business management, are among the bold steps that have to be taken by B-schools

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An article in the Wall Street Journal in October 2019 reported a decline in applications to elite MBA programmes of the best American B-schools, including Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The fall in numbers was steep and these B-schools struggled to attract international students. While many will blame immigration policies, the global slowdown and the tension between the United States and China for the drop in applications, demands to emerge from the fourth industrial revolution to need to be analysed. Colossal changes are needed in B-school curricula and revenue-driving parameters to define the future of B-school education in India. 

In the recent past, the pressure to get good rankings made many B-schools focus on publications opposed to excellence in teaching, training and consulting. There is a rat race to publish papers to achieve better global rankings. The ever increasing fees for an MBA degree and a rather suicidal approach by some B-schools to treat their students as ‘customers’, has led to the customers demanding value for money and some of them expecting to ‘buy’ what they paid for (a good degree and a good job with a high pay package) by hook or by crook.  

Industry 4.0 trends have made subjects like artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, big data and internet of things sought after which have great potential for the future. For many B- schools none of these subjects are in the current provision of  the MBA syllabi. In fact, many B-school graduates consider these subjects suitable only for science and engineering graduates! For B-school education to excel and have its relevance, it needs to adapt and lead. Changes must be brought to the curriculum with subjects that have significant value, blended with management aspects. With tools of technology impacting every functional area, dealing with social and economic sustainability requires to focus on ethics and morality and this can come from philosophy. The influence of philosophy and epistemology have so far been minimal on business. To be a highly successful management graduate in future, one must have knowledge of the functional areas along with subjects like Ethics, Philosophy, Sociology and current trends in Information Technology. This demands that an MBA curriculum be created and offered from an interdisciplinary approach. Despite praise heaped by academicians and corporate houses on a multi and interdisciplinary approach, the reality is that it is not rewarded, incentivised or facilitated at B- schools. There are very few if any inter-disciplinary journals, conferences and accreditation bodies and hence expecting this from a B-school is a tall order.

Today many Indian B-schools don’t have professors in Marketing, the Liberal Arts, Philosophy, Finance, Economics, Sociology and Technology coming together to create an MBA curriculum, as B-school leaders and industry don’t feel the need for it. The knowledge and skills that would help manage today’s workplace may not be applicable in future. The skillset required for the future is different and the very nature of work expected from an MBA in future is undergoing rapid and significant change, partly because of automation and also due to the influence of industry 4.0. Hence Rethinking & Reinventing the MBA curriculum, not depending on student fees for existence, encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to business management, making subjects related to technology mandatory for students taking any specialisation, are the bold steps that have to be taken by B-schools to remain relevant in future.   

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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India's top b-schools 2019

Dr Ramakrishnan Raman

The author is Professor and Director, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Pune. His passion is working and interacting with the future corporate leaders.

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