Fine-tune your B-school radar

Fine-tune your B-school radar

MORE THAN Management

Fine-tune your B-school radar

Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a choice for those who look for meaning and impact in a chosen field. If you are prepared to discard the comfort zone, no other course has the flexibility offered by it. The hype of salary, aspirational lifestyle and fun of the course are bad reasons for selecting an MBA. Assess your priorities by asking what do you want to do with your life and what personal profile you want to create. For those looking for quality business education, the search need not end with Common Admission Test (CAT). Quality is a relative term and is loosely connoted as the reputation associated with the name of a B-school, which is difficult to measure objectively. However, its specifics and details can provide a fair picture of what is in store for B-school aspirants.

Peer group
A lot can happen between you and your classmates. Fellow students are one of the crucial factors affecting learning. A peep into the profile of current batch of students will reveal how diverse the student body in a B-school is. The diversity of background, experience and location will facilitate better peer learning.

Curriculum
Curriculum determines what to teach and learn. At an ideal level, we need a live curriculum instead of the one which thrives on occasional update cycles. At the basic level, the curriculum should have three parts — conceptual framework of each domain, specific tools used in each domain along with its specific information and communication technology (ICT) tools and general tools like advanced spreadsheets.
Many students ponder on the electives to opt for in MBA before joining. Electives are meant to deepen the skill base in a specialised area. But, in a two-year programme where the later part of the second year is largely occupied by placement efforts, many do not find adequate time for any deeper learning in any area of functional electives. Getting the fundamentals of all functional areas right is important than brooding over specialisation. A general MBA gives mobility across functions and sectors, while perceived competence of the school, quality of curriculum and sector trends are extremely important selecting a sector-specific programme like MBA in healthcare, telecom or banking.

Faculty & educational methods
Faculty team is the gateway to learning. It is more than being qualified and experienced. Inspiring faculty members with equal footing in relevant industry and academia can provide better learning. There may be good practicing managers as adjunct professors who may vouch that ‘there is nothing as practical as a good theory’ because theory gives a lens to see the reality.

Good management courses are known for their experiential learning approaches. It may vary from classroom projects to full-time internships. However, many projects and internships end up as mere academic assignments. Emphasis shall be to train the candidate to address messy situations with imperfect information, as in real world. A good instructional method will involve quantitative processes, such as decision sciences balanced with a qualitative approach.

Many corporates point out that most business school graduates are not employable. Professors blame poor background knowledge of students. As a combined effect, it becomes difficult to suitably place the candidates. Initial salary and placement statistics need not be a correct indicator of career success. Look for career graph of alumni members for an extended period. Placement choices across companies, functional areas, sectors and job profiles of recent recruits are better informers for decision making for parents and students.

Corporate collaborations
There is a spectrum of methods for engaging with companies. It ranges from jointly developing the curriculum to sharing facilities. For a progressive institution, industry interactions will not be limited to guest lectures, internships, and a few Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs). One of the primary advantages of premier B-schools is their access to top professionals, which serves as a good industry interface platform for students. However, such an advantage gets diminished in long-term career cycle. So, a good student can always look for information on industry collaborations of the target institute. If the institutional arrangements do not meet the personal career plan, s/he needs to create her/his own interface plans through networking, external projects and value-added programmes.

Anticipated changes & new roles
Management education is conventionally oriented to serve large private corporates’ gravitates to new areas. Frugal innovation, engaging social sectors, making more relevant curriculum, breaking disciplinary silos, bringing out sustainable practices are some of these changes.

Institutions are increasingly recognising that MBA is no more just communication skills and creating institutional visibility through events. Business graduates need core skills and deep know-how to sustain in the long run. No one can tell in advance what each B-school aspirant should do for career success in a volatile environment. But it is apparent that students, who work effectively with a personalised learning plan using institutional as well as outside resources, do better than their counterparts in most B-schools.

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