B-school faculty needs international exposure

livemint.com | Premchand Palety

As in my last two columns, in this column, too, I am writing about an important process of a business school (B-school) that helps in faculty growth: international exposure through exchange programmes.

Cross-cultural awareness and networking has become important for business professionals who have to regularly interact with foreign nationals or explore international markets. There are many instances where businesses have suffered setbacks because of a lack of cross-cultural sensitivity among their personnel. To bring a global orientation to the teaching-learning process in the classroom, it is essential to expose faculty to cultures and business practices in different countries. Exchange programmes with foreign institutes are meant for this .

Technically, under an exchange programme, students or faculty members are internationally exchanged so that they get to study or teach in a partner institute’s campus for at least a term, although a tradeoff is not mandatory. These programmes, besides broadening the horizon of students and faculty in terms of cultural sensitivity and knowledge of management practices, also help in their international networking.

In India, around 25 business schools have exchange programmes for faculty and students. However, a majority of them are active only in exchanging students as part of the programme. Curiously, very few Indian faculty are invited to teach in top-ranked business schools abroad.

In Indian Institutes of Management, the concept of faculty exchanges is almost non-existent. In lower rung business schools, faculty exchanges are mainly with lower-ranked foreign schools or with schools of developing countries. The possible reason for this is that in top-ranked foreign institutes, the value of faculty is measured primarily by research output. Only those with publications in reputed journals are invited to teach. Unfortunately, the number of such faculty in India is very small.

Mint-Centre for Forecasting and Research annual business school surveys have often found that some institutes include faculty sent to attend conferences or some short-term programmes and even those on foreign junkets as participants in exchange programmes. This kind of international exposure is grossly inadequate.

Limited Horizons, Rajkumar / Mint

It greatly helps in faculty growth if a professor teaches on a foreign campus for at least a term. B.V. Krishnamurthy of Alliance Business Academy in Bangalore is one of the country’s few faculty members who received an opportunity to teach a term abroad. A reputed professor of strategy, he taught in Rotterdam Business School in the Netherlands, Swiss Business School in Switzerland and University of Michigan School of Management as part of faculty exchange programmes that his institute had with these schools.

Krishnamurthy says, “The exchange programmes greatly helped in my growth. As students in reputed B-schools abroad have good work experience, the level of classroom discussions is very high. I probably gained as much from the students as they would have gained from my teaching. Besides gaining better insight into their psyche, I got to know about their business practices and this helps in my teaching at Alliance.”

Faculty can also get international exposure through fellowships. However, there are very few fellowships such as the Fulbright or the Commonwealth fellowships which can facilitate learning from foreign institutes and cultures.

Asha Bhandarker, the Raman Munjal chair professor for leadership studies at Management Development Institute in Gurgaon, spent a term each at the London Business School and the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, as part of the fellowship programme.

Bhandarkar says, “The fellowships greatly helped in my understanding of people from different cultures and geographies, but since the selection is only one or two out of about 1,000 applicants, the best way to ensure global exposure to a large number of faculty is through exchange programmes.”

However, it’s a challenge for our faculty to be accepted internationally. Maybe they need to focus much more on research and publications.

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.