Treating business as an academic discipline is a mistake.
Business schools need to be designed, viewed and felt like business
Every now and then we hear of business schools shutting shop but they were meant to develop managers who would take businesses to the next level. Paradoxical it may seem, business schools across the world and particularly in India are at crossroads necessitating debate on the why and how.
The fault lines are not as simple and straight. Treating business as an academic discipline could be one of the biggest drawbacks. According to RelishMBA’s 2019 Candidate Survey Report, 46% of the B-School respondents—reported lower satisfaction in every facet of the recruitment process. Lack of options, financial pressure, debt and societal pressure are reasons cited for taking up jobs at a low salary.
A similar dissatisfaction was reported by Crisil (Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited) a few years ago where most MBA students, except students of IIMs and few top B Schools report to be unhappy with their pay-checks. The average salary in 40% of Indian B Schools is less than Rs 3 lakh per annum. The situation has not changed much in 2019. The salaries compared with the cost of obtaining a B-School degree, Rs 8-lakh-plus at a premier institute, and Rs 2-4 lakh at Tier II and Tier III B-schools over-weights the net outcome.
On the closure of B-Schools, R. Subrahmanyam, Higher Education Secretary in HRD Ministry said that the Ministry did not see this as a problem as it was natural for the unsustainable organisations to close down. At the same time, he emphasised on having taken strong measures such as mentorship for accreditation, curriculum reform, teacher training, induction programme for students and industry associations to perk up the quality.
But, despite the ‘so-called’ measures, the practical situation doesn’t seem to change much. The image of Tier II and Tier III schools is still tarnished with less employability. As per a study conducted by ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) in 2018, “Amidst the tens of thousands of management graduates churned out by B schools every year, only 7 per cent turn out to be employable.” While IIMs and few top institutions continue to bask in glory, this implies that rest of the 93% of MBA Graduates do not get jobs.
The number of management colleges declined from 3,609 in 2014-15 to 3,264 in 2017-18, as per AICTE (All India Council of Technical Education). In the year 2018 alone, about 101 management institutions asked permission from AICTE to voluntarily shut down their management courses. As reported, the maximum ones to request-for-closure were 37 from UP and 10 each from Maharashtra and Karnataka.
If a candidate from a B-School who ought to have managerial skills, leadership and the ability to take up critical challenges is unable to sell his or her candidature to bag a job, reflects the state of affairs. What is the real value of a B-School? What is the business of a Business School? Why are these schools not able to churn out professionals? The way one views B-Schools say experts is a reason. Treating business as an academic discipline is a mistake. Business schools need to be designed, viewed and felt like business.
The long felt need for an academia-industry interface is far from satisfactory. Academicians play an important role in MBA curriculum with little or no inputs from industry experts. The value of Business Schools is felt only when the institutions churn out men and women who are ready to solve critical problems at ground zero and possess leadership qualities.
There are also several debates on the sole purpose of a B-School as espoused by Milton Friedman who said it was only to maximise profits as opposed to the inclusion of a fine balance by including a compulsory course in Business Ethics and activities such as rural visits to help inculcate a sense of social responsibility.
What they need is the strength and knowledge to use analytical skills to drive sound business insights — that also are in-line with the hidden strategic, economic, competitive, human, and political complexities. This is where an effective business prowess lies.
But, this ability is not easy. It has to be nurtured and developed day-by-day to think globally, practically and most importantly feasibly. Such skills take root out of the best classroom experiences where professors having multi-disciplinary, cross-connection thinking abilities take the class to next level where one solves a real business problem – while keeping an eye open for imagination.
Dwelling on the importance of imaginative power, the great philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once said in his address to American Association of the Collegiate Schools of Business, “Imagination is not to be divorced from the facts. It is a way of illuminating the facts. The irony of the world is that those who are imaginative have less experience, and experienced ones have feeble imagination.”
The B-School curriculum should fulfil this need — of offering space to imagination — by giving an introduction and amalgamation of humanities in technical aspects of B school education. Because studies indicate that business executives who fail — both financially and morally — rarely lack subject knowledge. What they are short of, are interpersonal skills, prudence and practical wisdom.
A balance between theory and practice and business education that prepares one for the challenges in the market is the need of the hour. What happens on the ground ought to form the core of business education.
India is the world’s second largest populous country and provider of management education. Touted to become a world leader in the coming years, India, if at all has to claim a place needs to relook at the management education.
Incorporating international strategy and field experience is the only way forward. Sending students to other countries, partnering with other business schools, embracing international mindset, in-short embracing multiplicity and a global view could go a long way.