The government has announced new IIMs. But the challenge lies in raising their standard and making it at par with that of the existing IIMs. How do we do that?
To understand the role of the government in promoting the growth of business school education in the country, we need to first evaluate the current scenario. There are over 4,000 AICTE-approved business schools in India, but only about 10% of them provide adequate quality education, according to various studies. There is no dearth of infrastructure and capacity in this sector, but maintaining standards in these institutes is increasingly becoming a challenge.
Increasing the number of IIMs across the country could be one of the ways to resolve this issue and the government has even announced several new IIMs. But the challenge would be to provide quality education in these new IIMs, at par with the already established ones, which have established credibility especially over the last 10 years.
Let’s accept that attracting and retaining quality faculty and their ability to deliver contemporary and contextual curriculum is going to be a major hurdle for these new IIMs. The government must initiate faculty development programmes and involve the established B-schools (top five IIMs and even the premier private B-schools) in providing programmes for these new IIMs, which should be in line with the requirements of UGC, with exclusive focus on quality. The duration of such programmes can be 3-6 months and AICTE can allocate grants for the same. There could be a partnership model, wherein the sponsoring institution pays some part, AICTE gives grant and some part of it can be borne by the concerned faculty. The programmes should focus on content, pedagogy and delivery styles. Hiring competent and qualified faculty and focusing on training can be one of the easiest ways to improve the quality of management education in India.
In our country, faculty still lacks industry exposure. These new IIMs should tie-up with corporates and arrange to send their professors to spend 6-7 months in companies to gain industry exposure. It will be beneficial for both the parties—the professors will gain industry exposure and the corporates can utilise them in research-oriented and problem-solving assignments. Corporates, in fact, should involve faculty members in resolving actual industrial problems, which can result in authentic case studies. The idea is that contemporary practices of industries need to be brought into the classrooms. These new IIMs, and even the existing B-schools in the country, should sign MoUs with corporates to deliver specific topics in the classrooms through senior corporate executives.
Faculty appraisal can be linked to parameters of performance that address quality work—developing case studies, research output, development of new pedagogy, innovative methods of teaching, introducing new courses and new curriculum, and so on. These are time-consuming and arduous activities, so should be rewarded adequately.
To provide global exposure to the faculty, institutions should be encouraged to tie-up with international B-schools and proficient faculty should be sent out to spend some time in those campuses; in fact, the government can dedicate grants for international faculty development programmes—it will be very beneficial for the new IIMs.
According to the conservative AICTE norms, the student-teacher ratio, in a management school, should be 1:12; however, the time has come when this can be easily raised to 1:15, at least for the first-year foundation course. Diversity of subjects in the second year is huge so the institutes should have faculty from diverse specialisations, who can offer assortment of programmes.
AICTE should also seriously consider increasing the size of the class from 60 to 70 students (IIMs are working on the same model currently). This can save about 20% of faculty resources, which can help create diversity in the staff and provide more course options in the second year.
Accreditation should be mandatory for B-schools which are effectively functioning for more than five years and AICTE should provide incentives to the accredited institutes. At present, there is no difference in terms of approach from AICTE for accredited institutions.
Another important step is to increase the faculty retirement age from 65 to 68 or even 70 years—this can be in concurrence with the individual’s performance and health parameters. Colleges in some European countries and in the US don’t have any age bar for faculty retirement; individuals decide when they would like to retire. The government should also consider providing special grants for industry executives and corporates who want to switch to academics after, say, the age of 40-45 years. Both private and PSU sectors can do full time PHDs and serve the sector again for the next 15-odd years. These measures can largely fill the huge shortage of experienced faculty pool in management institutions.
Also, these new IIMs, over time, should be encouraged to start international student exchange programmes with universities in emerging markets. In fact, there should be a facilitating mechanism for the premier B-schools to enter into international student exchange programmes.
Remember that international universities providing good quality education are also looking for partners in India for dual-degree programmes, wherein they tie up with universities, and students get to study the first year in India and the second year in their own country. The government can think of facilitating the implementation of such common dual-degree programmes.
A major issue is that, of the 4,000-odd existing management institutes, about 3,000 do not maintain classroom education standards—again according to various studies. Now, instead of carrying on with the international standard curriculum for these second-rung institutes, a revised local prerequisite study structure can be implemented, catering to Indian and regional markets. This exercise can solve the crying need for qualified management professionals for the MSME sector.
These doable steps can be implemented by the government even for the current session, as no legislation or approvals are required for altering certain basics and, in the process, the management education system in India will get the required boost.
By Bakul Dholakia
The author is director general, International Management Institute, Delhi, and the ex-director of IIM Ahmedabad