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Amongst The Best In Meeting Students’ Aspirations

The SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) is walking in step with the NEP by incorporating courses in history, ethics, spirituality, critical thinking, systems thinking, etc. into its business school curriculum. Varun Nagaraj, Dean, SPJIMR, talks about the institute’s competitiveness and the values it inculcates in students through the courses it offers

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The NEP highlights the importance of a rounded and inter-disciplinary approach to education. This approach is consistent with what the West refers to as a Liberal Arts-based education. Done right, Liberal Arts education is really about acquiring a starting set of broad and foundational knowledge, knowing how to expand that knowledge base throughout one's life, and being able to apply a critical and integrative perspective to that knowledge base in order to validate and apply it in context. 

At the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), this approach is reflected in our emphasis on incorporating courses in history, ethics, spirituality, critical thinking, systems thinking, etc. into our curriculum, and in our insistence that all SPJIMR students develop reflective capabilities. Regarding online instruction, of course, SPJIMR is as committed to this mode of delivery as other schools in India. In addition to pure online delivery, several of our modular programmes that cater to working professionals now involve some 'contacts' that are in person and some that are online. 

However, I think there are still some policy issues to resolve at the national level regarding the pros and cons of sync versus async (sync refers to streaming lectures online as was done during Covid while async refers to designing courses to be primarily self-paced). Regarding entrepreneurship, it is imperative that every student should develop an entrepreneurial mindset – which is defined as being proactive, being comfortable with ambiguity and risk, and having a sense of urgency. However, my concern is that an entrepreneurial mindset, which should be universally inculcated, is being conflated with being an entrepreneur, which is only appropriate for some people at the right time.

Post the economic downturn of 2008-2012 and now Covid, is the B-School education viable and affordable for average Indian families? 

The ROI for B-School education from top schools in India is very attractive. At most top schools, the annual salary that the participant will make on completing the programme is greater than the total tuition amount for a two-year programme. Leading banks and lenders understand this calculus and are therefore, very happy making favourable loans to participants who need them. Participants are able to pay off the loan in a few years. 

There is a growing trend among Indian students to seek master's degrees across disciplines from overseas campuses, but for management education, students still think Indian campuses are good enough. How have B-Schools retained that value? 

You should look at two factors. Firstly, you need to look at the student's aspirations – are they interested in working or doing their doctoral studies overseas after their post-graduation or are they interested in working in India? I would contend that most students pursuing Masters programmes abroad (including MBA) are looking at working overseas and therefore, it makes sense that they pursue that degree abroad. If a student is interested in an India-based career, the ROI is much better if that student pursues their post graduate education in India. The second factor is about comparing the calibre of education regardless of the students' work aspirations. I believe that the quality of management education in India is comparable to that available overseas. On the other hand, overseas universities have a higher variety and possibly a better quality of Masters programmes in the sciences, arts and engineering than what is available in India.

Diversity and inclusion are major planks of the corporate world. How is the institute sensitising students for future corporate roles when they will have to rise above biases while taking important decisions as honchos? 

We should first note that many students come in with a pretty good appreciation of certain kinds of diversity. So as educators, we get to build on a pretty solid base of goodness and fairness that our students already have. We try to place these concepts in a business context – looking at not just the inherent rightness of diversity and inclusion practices, but the benefits they bring, such as enhancing organisational morale and creativity. We do so in our classroom discussions and by incorporating industry speakers. A unique way in which we strive to make our students even more broad minded is by exposing them to as many diverse perspectives as possible, including those from lesser-privileged sections of rural and urban India.

How can we move towards more quality placement that better meets student aspirations? 

This may sound immodest. I believe that we are amongst the best in the country in terms of meeting student aspirations regarding placements. But aspirations are continuously evolving. At this time, joining a management consulting firm is a popular aspiration as are evergreen options such as brand management in FMCG companies. However, as India continues its transition towards developing home- grown technology products and technology-enabled services, product management and product marketing are becoming aspirational roles. We are responding to such aspirations by expanding the pool of companies we bring on campus and by preparing our students through course work and through extracurricular activities.

What new courses have you introduced? How has the response been so far? 

We introduce nearly a half dozen new courses every year and additionally tune a dozen other courses every year based on feedback from internal and external stakeholders. New or significantly modified courses over the last year or two include Management and Capitalism, Design and Innovation, Digital Product Management, Product Innovation Lab, Systems Thinking and Dynamics, Gamification, User Generated Content Analysis, etc. 

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bschools Magazine 19 Nov 2022 spjimr