Indian students are certainly among the best in the world

Updated: Sep 30 2008, 04:59am hrs
John Vines, the chief executive of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia (Apesma) since 1984, holds qualifications in civil engineering, economics and is an MBA. He is also a fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2002 in recognition of his contribution to science and engineering and was also awarded a centenary of federation medal in 2003. He was in India recently and spoke to FEs Vikram Chaudhary on the Apesma MBA and on Apesmas journey in India. Excerpts:

Can you tell us about your association with Chifley Business School (CBS)

CBS is in fact our own school, it offers a management programme with Apesma. CBS is the leading privately-owned business school in Australia.

Which fields do your international students come from

About 70% of our students are engineers; 15-20% are scientists, and about 10% are doctors and lawyers. So our main student body is technically qualified. We have, therefore, specialised in developing programmes for this particular group and developing the programme around their work environment.

How did this unusual idea of distance education from Australia originate

There is a reason for this. Engineers have very good technical skills but not very good management skills. Some years ago, when privatisation and corporatisation was going on in Australia, there was a need for engineers to understand business processes. We looked around university programmes, which could fulfill that need and we thought of developing courses, which fulfil their needs and thus CBS was born.

How different is the Apesma MBA from a regular MBA

It is different, in the sense that in our programme there is a lot less emphasis on subjects, which are mathematics-based, as engineers are already strong in that field. We focus more on other areas. So in that way it is quite different from a regular MBA programmes. Engineers and scientists are generally busy and do not find much time to go to schools, not even to evening schools because there may be long projects, which last for days. So we wanted to deliver a programme that was easily available to them.

Have you been successful in India

We came here in mid-1990s and now we have close to a 1,000 graduates in India. Out of those over 70% are engineers and IT professionals. We are, therefore, successful. When we began our course here, we were already successful in Australia and thought if we could deliver our education anywhere in Australia, we should also be able to deliver it anywhere in the world. We are probably the largest foreign distance-learning MBA programme in India.

But arent the needs of Indian students different

Not exactly: because of the globalised labour market for these professionals, the needs are pretty much uniform around the world. Initially, we were using Indian academics for five years, but then the Indian students wanted a worldwide curriculum. And if you look around the world, in many, almost all major countries, all economies go through their ups and downs. Now let us say, a student is doing our programme in such a country, which is moving into that change in their economy, those students have an advantagethey have access to learning issues, which their local schools may not be able to teach.

How do you tap the student base

It is mainly done by the Internet, but about 70% of our students are recommended by peers, so thats a factor what motivates us hugely. It, actually, started when a number of Australian engineers who were working in India were doing a course with us too. Their Indian colleagues got to know about us from them, and we realised that there is a decent demand in India too and we moved in.

How do you find Indian students

Indian students are among the best in the world, particularly those coming out of Indias world class technical and management institutes. Our Indian students are very enthusiastic about the value of this course and how it helps them with their work too. Thats because of the applied nature of our course. Also, students can take up to 10 years to do our MBA. So they can undertake this MBA at a pace that is comfortable to them. The average student takes between 2.5 to 4 years to do the programme and one has the option to do it in two years as a full-time course.