Competence of faculty is a matter of serious concern | Premchand Palety

To complete education in one go and then work till retirement has been the culture for many years for Indian professionals. Not any more. Increasingly, working professionals are seeking formal education to update themselves with the fast-changing pace of knowledge and for mid-career change. One can do so while continuing in one’s job through a part-time MBA programme. There are options such as distance education through correspondence or interactive education through satellite or through management development programmes, or MDPs. One can also take a break from work and opt for an executive MBA, or E-MBA, which is also used as a synonym for an executive postgraduate diploma or programme in management. It is technically a 12-15 months’ programme for graduates with at least two years’ work experience. Of all the modes, E-MBA is perhaps the most effective way of updating oneself as the student is fully engaged in academics and is not bothered by work responsibilities. Moreover, a quantum leap in career is best ensured with an E-MBA.

It is part-time MBA, of course, that has the longest history in India. The Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi, started a three-year part-time programme for senior- and mid-level executives in 1954. Many B-schools later followed suit.

As for E-MBA, the Delhi-based International Management Institute, or IMI, is possibly the oldest B-school to start a one-year programme for executives in 1986. Since then, it has been training executives from industry and also government-sponsored professionals from underdeveloped countries such as Afghanistan.

A serious effort to develop a programme to train executives of public sector enterprises and bureaucrats was made by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi when he approached the Hyderabad-based Administrative Staff College of India, or ASCI. ASCI, which was set up in 1956, became a pioneer on this front in the country with its MDPs. But it was Gurgaon-based Management Development Institute, or MDI, which took up Gandhi’s challenge and started a 15-month programme in 1988, then called the National Management Programme. It had the support of the Union government’s department of personnel and training, and was led by N.C.B Nath and S.L. Rao, both faculty members of IIM Ahmedabad. This programme has been reasonably successful.

However, a truly international-standard E-MBA was started by the Indian School of Business, or ISB, in 2001. Following its success, the Indian Institutes of Management, or IIMs, did likewise. IIM Indore, was the first to start an 18-month programme, primarily in the distance mode, in 2002. The IIMs at Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Bangalore then introduced E-MBA. Other premier private B-schools such as XLRI and SP Jain Institute also?joined the bandwagon. Now, there are about a dozen. All of them are far behind ISB in terms of course content and pedagogy but they charge similar fees.

I have come across some executives enrolled in E-MBA in some top-branded Indian B-schools who are very dissatisfied with their programmes. Apart from coursework that has not kept pace with the evolving industry, there is often a compromise in the quality of student intake. Students who otherwise don’t get into full-time programmes and with no managerial work experience are also admitted to these programmes in some private B-schools. When some B-schools don’t get a sufficient number of genuine students, to avoid revenue loss they take freshers. In the process, genuine candidates are cheated as the class profile doesn’t help in their learning. One executive who, after doing E-MBA in India, did a similar programme at Stanford University, told me how different the experience was—both in terms of curriculum and pedagogy. He doubts if the programme he did in India could even be called E-MBA.

Of course, the current economic downturn has had an impact. Even in ISB, just about 50% of the class has been placed. In others, the situation is even worse with placement figures below 30%. Some who left their jobs and joined E-MBA with the hope of going up their industry hierarchies are now facing a situation where jobs on offer are less paying than their previous jobs. Some have gone back to their earlier organizations with no increment or promotion.

Though bad placements could be a temporary phenomenon, in many Indian B-schools offering E-MBA the competence of faculty is a serious matter of concern. If an institute can’t motivate and enable its faculty to update itself with the latest developments in the industry, then it should not run such a programme.

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.