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BW Businessworld

Renew, Recharge On The Go

For the ultimate multi-tasking executive, flexible MBA programmes are a godsend. However, picking the right one is crucial

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For 26-year-old Ruhani Srivastava, striking the right balance between her academic workload and professional life was challenging. As a working IT professional, she wanted to take out time to pursue a flexi MBA programme where she could work, study and, at the same time, attend to different priorities in life. That’s when she was introduced to an MBA programme, which allowed her to do all of the above.

Today, flexibility is the buzzword when it comes to professional career choices. Looking at the current scenario of jobs, a dynamic B-school-run or approved business programme is now becoming a dire necessity for young and experienced professionals as more industry specific and multifaceted individuals are expected to perform across different sectors.

The flexibility in the MBA programmes comes to the aid of mostly working professionals, as it provides them with the convenience of completing the course requirements while they continue with their professional commitments. Opting to update yourself in a competitive world through a management programme, which doesn’t slow down your career momentum or hinder your ability to continue to earn and does not leave you deserted in the changing job market, is the need of the hour for millennials.

“With India inc. well on its way to becoming a global economic power, the field of executive education once limited to the regular MBA/MMS programmes has diversified into  full-time long-duration fast-track/ customised General Management programmes, e-learning programmes, part-time three-year degree and eMBAs, distance learning programmes and short-term MDPs aimed at developing specific skills,” says Uday Salunkhe, Group Director of Mumbai-based LN Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research.

The most popular among the lot — distance programmes continue to evolve in India. Seeing the current scenario, half of the top 20 B-schools today have their distance MBA programmes with the much provided flexibility. According to the KPMG report released in May, ‘Online education India 2021’, online MBA is the most popular course in the category of online higher education and is anticipated to rise by 41 per cent CAGR by 2021.

Technology has played its role well. Distance MBA education synonymous to executive-MBA, either in the form of online or hybrid, has gained popularity with even reputed international B-schools offering these programmes. Going the e-mode for the first time, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad launched a two-year Postgraduate Programme in Management (e-PGP) this year, through distance learning using satellite-based education technology, which involves real time interactive onsite learning (IOL) including live, interactive, realtime, two-way video, voice and data classes.

A Balancing Act

Enrolled in a distant MBA programme, Tanvie Ahuja balances between her full-time job and classes on a regular basis. Equipped with the power of ‘SMS alert’ of the live classrooms, students like Ahuja have a plethora of options ranging from sample assignments, choosing date of exams and centre to having acces to faculty and mentors 24x7.

A word of caution though: If you are not good at time management, the advantages offered by a flexible programme could easily turn into becoming more of a ‘self-taught’ programme.

Flexibility does not necessarily restrict to distance, time and speed. The part-time MBA programmes today have upped a level to not just provide flexibility in choosing how to study but also modify what you study.

The on-campus or off-campus part-time MBA programmes may be accelerated and streamlined. That means you may only have exposure to core, fundamental business management training without the options to specialise in fields like healthcare, operations, information technology, finance, or marketing or visa versa.

Till now, ‘English’ as a language has been, by default, the only mode of communication for imparting the teachings of MBA. However now, for the very first time, efforts are being  made to bridge this gap. Recently a regional institution in Kerela announced its plan to make learning MBA possible in Malayalam.

The Poor Cousin?
Despite a huge following for flexi MBA programmes in India, there are a few who question the quality and employability factor of such MBA programmes. Sunil Varughese, Chief Brand & Sustainability Officer at XLRI Jamshedpur, says that though the flexible MBA programmes ranging from distant to weekend learning has gained traction among the students, there is a strong case of quality and standards. “There is a strict mandate of AICTE for the MBA programmes with respect to number of hours and modules. The whole point of doing an MBA is lost, the moment flexibility comes in. The students lose out on networking, faculty interaction and other on campus components, which give you an edge and make you future ready,” says Varughese, who also mentions how, in a two-year flagship MBA, the institution is obliged to ensure good placements unlike distance or online MBAs.

Taking cue from the recent Supreme Court’s ban on deemed universities providing online engineering courses in distance mode, Varughese elaborates on the strict guidelines of the authorities on the MBA flexible programmes, which makes it tougher for universities to provide for the same.

Therefore, will India ever be able to replicate the global model of doing an MBA in a true flexible manner where the choice of duration or course work lies with the pursuer — popularly known as ‘self placed MBA programmes’?

“A feasible case can be drawn, given it is done in a calibrated manner in India,” says Varughese.

“There are a large number of institutions in India and regulation in these types of programmes is vital and tough at the same time. There will always be a risk of substandard degrees and, of course, the scams. I would give it another 10-15 years for such flexibility to kick in, given it is done in the most calibrated manner,” says Varughese.