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Has the Pandemic Made Business Education Less Relevant?

Has the Pandemic Made Business Education Less Relevant?

Not really, but it has brought a lot of changes, some of which are temporary while others are transforming B-school education as we know it.

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We are witnessing perhaps the single-most defining event of our time—the coronavirus pandemic. It has affected almost everything, including businesses and business education. While the pandemic has changed a lot of things, some for the better and some for the worse, a lot remains the same. In a nutshell, business education is as lucrative as it was, at least for top B-schools. There have been some changes that are temporary, while some aspects of B-school education would be transformed forever.

The average domestic salary offered to passouts from the top 100 B-schools has gone up and the graph is similar to previous years. However, foreign placements have been badly impacted due to the pandemic-induced restrictions on international travel. Among the top 100 MBA colleges in India this year, students of only 25 colleges got foreign placements against 37 the preceding year.

Course fee in the top 100 B-schools has also witnessed a northward rise in line with previous years, though the slope has been less steep. However, analysis of separate data for government and private B-schools suggests that the average course fee of top government colleges has gone down marginally, while that of private colleges has gone up by about 6 per cent. The bonus for B-schools is that despite reduced expenses due to virtual classes and almost no offline events, the student-to-faculty ratio has gone up, indicating a higher number of students being taught by a lesser number of teachers. The average batch size has also gone up marginally in most top B-schools.

Some B-schools in key education hubs such as Pune and Bengaluru have indicated that they are not getting as many admission applications from aspirants as they used to in previous years. Admission application forms used to be big revenue generators for most B-schools, but top B-schools witnessed lesser application forms in 2020 compared to the preceding year, resulting in lower application-to-selection ratio, as well as reduced revenues from sale of application forms. Revenues through business consulting, government projects and other offerings have also dried up to a large extent. The number of MDPs (management development programmes) imparted by the top 10 MBA colleges has gone down by about 65 per cent.

Covid-19 has definitely taken a toll on the process of imparting business education—the pedagogy, delivery of learning, as well as evaluation of students. Classes are still being conducted online and even evaluations are happening through the online mode. Almost all B-schools have made investments in purchasing and implementing online proctoring examination platforms such as Moodle, Mercer-Mettl, etc., to conduct exams. Other critical pedagogical processes have been affected, too. For example, the number of live case studies by students has gone down significantly. Needless to say, foreign exchange programmes have been dealt a severe blow despite many of them being conducted through the online mode. The most sought after learning process, industry interactions (such as classes by visiting faculty with rich industry experience) have gone down across most top B-schools. Summer internship programmes (SIPs) have also taken place mostly through the online mode, both for the current batch and the last graduated one. The critical aspects of teamwork, interpersonal communication in an offline setup, etc., have been affected. Sporting revelry, too, has taken a hit due to the complete absence of any sports competitions and offline events.

The ‘Covid-19 batch’ would definitely remember the pandemic more than perhaps what others would remember it for. Despite paying full fees, it was devoid of all the on-campus fun. Nonetheless, the big breather is that business education remains as important as it was before the pandemic.

The writer is Executive Director, MDRA (Marketing & Development Research Associates), and an education enthusiast. He tweets at @twit2abhi.