A case fit for study

E. Kumar Sharma        Print Edition: September 4, 2011

Roshee Lamichhane is disappointed. "When I came here from Nepal through a scholarship programme of the Indian government, I had a lot of expectations," says the 24-year-old student of business management at Osmania University, which houses one of the leading B-schools in Hyderabad. "But while we have some bright teachers here, I haven't found what I expected." Foremost among the reasons for her disappointment is the curriculum.

True, the syllabus is reviewed and revised every year or two, but Lamichhane says it is not updated sufficiently. Nor is it dynamic enough to keep pace with the market. Besides, she says, the pedagogy of many state university B-schools is inadequate. "It is focused largely on preparing students for exams, but an MBA course should be more practical, and should discuss real-life situations," she says. "We don't really analyse case studies." She adds that her friends at the country's premier B-schools have to work harder than students at her school.

Lamichhane is not alone in her concerns about state university B-schools. Aileni Vidyadhar Reddy, former dean of the Department of Business Management at Osmania University, while emphasising that his institution is still a coveted B-school brand, concedes that many university B-schools need to address curriculum issues. "Unfortunately, in many such schools, teachers are not trained in case analysis," he says. Partly, he says, it is because they do not update their knowledge, and hardly contribute to research.

What ails state B-schools

  • Curricula reviews and changes are largely cosmetic or pure nomenclature change
  • Case studies are not commonly used in class
  • Often, the faculty also has to take on administrative tasks such as recruiting teachers for affi liated colleges, leaving little time for research
  • There is little incentive for the faculty to undertake breakthrough research or publish papers
  • The focus is more on doing well in exams rather than learning from real-life experience
  • In some cases, guides take precedence over textbooks when preparing for exams
  • There is little engagement with visiting or guest faculty
  • Many schools have an India focus, and little interest in the international scene
From the perspective of recruiters, the problem arises because Indian B-schools do little to engage with industry. The human resources head of a leading Indian automobile company, who asked not to be identified, says not just state B-schools, but even private ones in India are behind the times, barring a handful of top-tier institutes.

He points out that most Indian faculty do not travel abroad to observe the changing international business context, which makes their perspective immediate rather than global. For example, cross-border deals are more comprehensively researched and taught overseas than in state or private schools here. "The range of experience is very different, and this percolates to the curricula and student output," he says.

However, some Indian B-schools cater to local market needs that may not have an international context. For instance, the bulk of Osmania's graduates join Indian banks, such as Andhra Bank, ICICI Bank and IDBI, and IT companies ranging from local outfits to giants such as TCS or multinationals.

"Business schools in India have a different focus. A few aspire to be globally relevant, while others concentrate on turning out graduates who get entry-level roles with a strong domestic focus," says Hetal Dalal, Head, Education Grading, at credit rating agency CRISIL. She says business schools are beginning to recognise the benefits of interaction with industry. "Foreign collaborations are currently limited to exchange programmes of short duration for both students and faculty, and inputs in curriculum design," she says. "While these do bring in a flavour of international markets, they are not sufficient to make a material difference."

Roshee Lamichhane, Osmania University
I had a lot of expectations. But while we have some bright teachers, I have not found what I expected: Roshee Lamichhane, Osmania University
Not all state universities are laggards. Take, for example, the Faculty of Management Studies, or FMS, at Delhi University, set up in 1954. "We have tied up with half a dozen leading international B-schools, such as Harvard, Stanford and Kellogg," says FMS Dean Raj S. Dhankar. But he says many state universities need to pull up their socks. "I have interacted with senior faculty and experts from state universities, and found they had constraints related to funding, lack of faculty positions and lack of industry interface," he says.

Dhankar adds that goodwill and reputation are not built overnight. He points out that FMS is 50 years old and has emphasised industry interface from the beginning.

India has some 3,000 B-schools, says V. Raghunathan, former professor of finance at IIM Ahmedabad. Some estimates put this number at over 4,000. Raghunathan says 60 to 70 per cent of schools are affiliated to state universities, and most have a functional orientation - a focus on, say, production management, marketing, statistics or economics - rather than on industry-oriented courses that focus on sectors such as infrastructure, health care or education.

How are topics made current? In international B-schools, if social media were discussed last year in a course on marketing or consumer behaviour in terms of how they connect customers, they are now discussed as a platform for loyalty programmes and brandbuilding. Another example: last year, some students at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, used Chetan Bhagat's novel Two States, which discusses intercaste marriages, to make a film for a class on negotiation analysis. Contrast this with most state B-school curricula, in which business communication is not even a subject

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