What next for PGDM institutions?

In the light of the recent IIM Bill being cleared by the government, the institutions offering Post-Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) programmes are faced with a significant challenge of holding on to their position and reputation in the domain of management education.

With the IIMs becoming degree-granting institutions, the prospective students would be subject to an obvious pull towards them, although barring the few older and established IIMs, only some of them are in shape to be even at par with private institutions as all that they have is a commitment of resources by the government to ramp up quickly. With makeshift infrastructure, borrowed faculty and an infant brand, it doesn’t look like the new IIMs will come even close to the older IIMs for a long time.

At the same time, the PGDM-granting institutions have been facing significant challenges in student recruitment, infrastructure, quality faculty, etc. The most obvious challenge that they are going to face is to be able to recruit students and provide them with matching placements.

The quest to get the best students is obviously going to stay. What needs to be seen is whether the academic rigour that the student is put through really adds value to him or is it merely that because the institution has admitted students from among the best, they seem to benefit in the placement process.

To put things in perspective, more than the return on investment (ROI) that a student would be worried about, it is going to be the value-add that he gets in a business school that would matter the most. For anyone thinking long-term, the value-add criterion would be of utmost importance, although most aspirants today get swayed by the brand of an IIM, not realising that eventually it is one’s own competence that is rewarded the most.

The winners among the PGDM institutions will be those that can identify and craft a niche for themselves and become known for the value-add that they provide by way of a unique academic programme with high levels of rigour, practice-oriented inputs and student engagement activities, thereby creating professionals who are fully equipped with the essential competences and are ready to be employed.

The programmes need practice-oriented inputs and engagement activities with a high level of corporate participation. It’s about involving the most important stakeholder in management education -- the corporate professionals.

This demands not only appropriate academic inputs but also a large dose of real-life inputs, built into the programme in the form of student engagement, that directly impact employability of the student. The time when the academic part of the programme would suffice as required inputs to a management qualification is long gone.

Need for varied skillsets

Today, given the way industry and the whole environment around us is changing, one must appreciate that while earlier the foundation for competence in business was definite and one could build his career on it, today the foundation has become so broadbased that a student needs to know more things at the foundation level and know them well and then build his career through acquiring necessary, varied skillsets so as to be able to understand and perform in the workplace which is more complex both in the context and content of work to be performed.

To succeed in these turbulent times with all kinds of challenges, there is a need for Indian business schools to go beyond their own boundaries and to create a partnership in the form of a consortium, a partnership with clear-cut objectives to collaborate and compete at the same time.

What applies to business organisations can also be applied to the domain of management education. Competing head-on has its own perils, to avoid which the best way is to collaborate – to leverage competences collectively. Such initiatives have been in place in other countries and they have succeeded in achieving the desired outcomes.

A consortium wherein like-minded business schools can boost student recruitment both in numbers and in quality, improve research output of faculty as they work together, and help offer better placements to students.

Even for recruiting students from other countries, a consortium approach would be appropriate. It is just a matter of who takes the initiative and moves forward.

(The writer is Director, IFIM Business School, Bengaluru)

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