Investing in faculty crucial for B-schools | Premchand Palety

For almost a decade, as part of the annual survey of professional colleges we do, I have visited various campuses—347, to be precise—in different parts of the country. Most of them, unfortunately, don’t have the environment that motivates the faculty to do research. Unless the quality of research and knowledge created is of a high order, a paper can’t be published in a top-ranking journal or get good citations. To write such a paper, faculty members will have to update themselves by reading about new developments in their area and interacting with the industry. This ensures they don’t teach outdated stuff.

Institutes have a responsibility to create new knowledge. For this, they need to invest in faculty. This means providing them with supporting infrastructure and having a sufficient faculty development budget. The former includes independent cabins, a well-managed library, technology-aided classrooms, computers, software and Internet connectivity. The latter should take care of spending on attending conferences, travelling for research, purchasing books and journals, taking memberships in societies, and attending faculty development programmes. Monetary incentives for publication in reputed journals is important. They should also not be overloaded with teaching and should be granted paid leave for research.

Most of the top B-schools, including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), have good supporting infrastructure and budget for faculty development. They also offer incentives to faculty members to author books and publish papers in refereed journals. At the Management Development Institute (MDI), for example, the reward for publishing in a reputed international journal is Rs75,000. In the academic year 2007-08, MDI sent 41 faculty members to attend international conferences. It also spent Rs16.9 crore for faculty development.

The adjoining table gives the number of papers published by the faculty members of some India’s top B-schools. But numbers can be misleading. The quality of refereed global journals varies drastically. In our annual ranking surveys, we use the Thomson Reuters ranking of journals to give weightage to publications. Thomson Scientific Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Web of Knowledge is also an important tool for getting information on publications and their citation index. Among Indian B-schools, IIM Ahmedabad is No. 1 in terms of quality of publications and cases developed. Icfai Foundation for Higher Education’s B-school in Hyderabad scores in quantity but not in quality. It has its own press and churns out a large number of publications annually with wide variance in quality.

Despite a steady increase in Indian publications in the past few years, their quality is a matter of concern. About a decade back, only about 20 B-schools had their own journals. Now, over 250 have one, but not more than 10 of them are of international standard. Beyond the top 25 B-schools, faculty publication in refereed international journals is almost non-existent. China, which entered the field of management education a few years back, has already surpassed India in terms of publications in reputed international journals.

Even some of the institutes that otherwise have a good track record of publications siphon off students’ fees in unrelated areas.

Among Indian B-schools, IIM Ahmedabad is No. 1 in terms of quality of publications and cases developed. Icfai Foundation for Higher Education’s B-school in Hyderabad scores in quantity but not in quality. Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint

One prominent B-school in Hyderabad, with several branches in the country, is said to have “invested” several crores in Maytas and, faced with a severe cash crunch, has fired about 500 of its employees in different branches. But some schools have not even taken off. At one such B-school on the outskirts of Hyderabad that I visited, not a single paper, book or case had been authored by its permanent faculty. The faculty members were clubbed in a dingy common room. The library didn’t seem to have even 1,000 books, there was no electronic database and no international journal subscribed to. The school’s owner moved around in a BMW and seemed content with the All India Council for Technical Education approval that gave him the licence to sell degrees. This may be the case of many Indian B-schools.

It is only a matter of time before good foreign universities are allowed to enter the Indian market. Institutes that are complacent and unconcerned about the research output of their faculty are going to be left behind unless they start investing in faculty.

Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting and Research (C-fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools.