One leading public university recently announced a research project to understand the falling enrolments for the MBA programme. There are a number of factors as to why this is happening, with ‘poor employability’ being the leading cause. “What is employability? Are the higher education institutions and individual faculty members clear about what the required skills are? How can they transfered?’ are moot questions.
Private independent B-schools are getting more professional in their enrolment marketing using a variety of media like social media, rankings, print, call centres, and the now inevitable ‘agent’ who does the personal selling. In private independent B-schools and those that are affiliated to public universities, faculty spend considerable effort and time in marketing their school.
Employability is more about getting actionable skills and potential employees be job ready right from day one. Public universities are constrained to conduct assessments that are verifiable, fair, transparent and designed to avoid all the nepotism, corruption and fraud associated with university examinations in India. Independent B-schools, on the other hand, have the freedom to design their own curriculum and evaluation systems.
Most independent B-schools are able to offer many more subjects usually of shorter duration thanks to the trimester system. The evaluation systems in independent B schools is surely not standardized and is far from perfect with enough meat for another article. Any amount of reform will not be able to reorient the examination and other systems in public universities to the extent required in view of the essential need to standardise across thousands of students.
In the present circumstances, despite a more durable degree offered by a public universities, management programmes that affiliated to public universities are dying with poor enrolments, while many independent schools that have combined adapting themselves by investing in brand building and are doing relatively better in a difficult market. Adding cutting edge curriculum is important in a dynamic domain such as business and that is not easy in a university system. Independent schools have been able to offer a plethora of courses even if they are only short introductions with wide brush. When it comes to employability skills, beyond life skills like communication, analysis, computer literacy and some team working skills, even many of the independent schools are yet to provide for building domain skills or real leadership skills.
With many seeking the MBA degree, it has motivated a mushrooming of colleges offering the MBA/PGDM program with little or no regard for quality with only a few exceptions.
It was easy to get approvals, new MBA graduates who did not want to work in the corporate world were available as faculty at a low cost, there was no need for specialist equipment or labs, and one could charge three times what they did for other programs with lesser costs.
In recent times, with recruiters preferring to employ more grounded undergraduates than MBAs with low employability skills and high expectations, the MBA program has lost its sheen save the exceptions.
Who is responsible for this unfortunate situation in university affiliated MBA programmes? Is it the university with faculty that is no business management experience? Is it the universities with their usually redundant and theoretical syllabi? Is it the affiliated colleges with poor faculty blaming the universities for poor syllabi? Or is it the delays and a host of evaluation related complaints?
For improved faculty
Considering industry requirements and how the public university system works, affiliated colleges seem to have created the cesspool of unemployable graduates and the resultant crisis. The university degree is a qualification, whereas other skills are required for making the graduate employable. Having never focused on investing in a good faculty, additional programmes to enhance skills, or building an industry network, affiliated colleges are in a tight spot. There is a squeeze on the margins, coupled with a reluctance to invest in additional programmes that will help students find jobs or prepare them better. A spiral that leads to the bottom. Affiliated colleges need to invest in a faculty that is both good and strong, bring in more industry practitioners as guest faculty, find suitable additional skill based programmes based on industry requirements and the profile of students they have.
The quality of students is a real matter of concern as the MBA programme is
designed for two years only with some knowledge and skills assumed to be had among the incoming students. Over the years, the results of the common admission tests held by state governments indicates that most students are in the 40-45 just pass percentage. Even among those who write the admission test, a large percentage does not even attend the counseling sessions or seek actual admission. Having created a large number of graduates who are not employable immediately, university affiliated colleges are having a problem of slowing enrolments and a greater problem of quality of input.
There is a large requirement of managers all over the world with skills to work in teams and get things done in professional organisations within every industry. There is a clear understanding of what skills are needed among employers. A large number of colleges affiliated to public universities need to identify skill gaps, invest in faculty, additional training for their students, and create a new model where the university degree is only one component of the students development. Will private affiliated colleges bite the bullet or will the trend of such colleges giving up on the MBA continue? The real intent of educational institutions will soon become more obvious!
The kind and amount of transformation possible in a B school is a function of a combination of factors including quality of students admitted, the teaching learning process, the learning environment, quality of and flexibility available to faculty. There are schools who have got this mix right, while most have not understood what creating manager’s entails. The future is one of consolidation, with the market deciding that schools which offer specific skills as part of their curriculum survive.
(The author is director of the MBA programme at Surana College, Bengaluru)