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‘MBAs not employable’: Academicians demand curriculum overhaul

The MBAs were once useful for the network they provided a student, but that is now available on the internet. Outdated curricula and limited emphasis on pedagogical training, especially in the tier-II management colleges is making many question the relevance of an MBA

Written by Shyna Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: February 27, 2021 11:20:57 am
iim degree, iim admission, best b school in india, mba from india, mba skills, skill graduate, skill gap management, education newsWhile the premium B-schools including older IIMs and ISBs are often ranked among top global schools, the issue is beyond the handful and is concentrated among tier-II and tier-III B-schools in India. (Image by Pixabay/ Representational)

According to the latest India Skill Report, having an MBA degree is no more the key to land jobs in India. Despite being ranked as the second most employable course, only less than half of students (46.59 per cent) with an MBA degree have enough skills to be hired. Several experts blame the mushrooming of MBA courses and colleges for a drop in quality and thereby, employability. Most of them recommend an overall overhaul of the curriculum as a solution.

Varun Mayya, founder, CEO, Avalon Meta, a digital university, claims that the MBA degree in its traditional form is no longer relevant. “The MBAs were once useful for the network they provided to a student, but that is now available on the internet. However, the IIMs are still high quality in the sense that you can still find a great network there. Other MBAs are fizzling out because alumni networks are predicated on the brand of the institution. If there isn’t a great brand, the college would not attract great students. If there are not great students in your university, then you have lost the most critical part of the MBA experience,” he said.

Dr Girdhari Lal Tayal, dean, academics, Indian School of Business and Finance (ISBF) believes that for MBA, it’s all about timing. “Timing an MBA is highly essential, with or without pandemic or economic slump. One should do it once one has developed the business and emotional maturity needed to lead teams,” he said.

Issues with the current MBA degrees

ISBF — which is affiliated with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University of London — highlighted that India also deals with deeper issues, including “outdated curricula which are not revised often enough, teaching methods are outmoded and there is little to no emphasis on pedagogical training and development at Indian institutions — both completely out of line with what the world’s best or highest-ranked institutions do”.

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While the premium B-schools including older IIMs and ISBs are often ranked among top global schools, the issue is beyond the handful and is concentrated among tier-II and tier-III B-schools in India.

One of the key reasons behind this could be that when one thinks of reskilling, it is more often than not linked with STEM-based courses but management skills and courses too have an ever-shrinking shelf life, explains Dr Jagdish Seth, Padma Bhushan awardee. Seth is also ‘Charles H. Kellstadt Professor’ of marketing at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University and chairperson of Jagdish Seth School of Management.

“We need to create specialised MBA programmes which teach not just general management but also specialised skills right from the starting of the course,” he said. He added that that technology and humanity both need to be part of MBA courses and undergraduate management courses (just like engineering) should be expanded to a four-year duration with dual-degree options of studying another extra year to gain postgraduation as an option. “The next generation MBAs do not need to have knowledge of economics but of coding, and data mining,” he said.

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Aim for the future MBAs

As a result of the popularity of STEM-related skills in business such as data analytics etc, several engineering colleges have also started to offer management degrees. BITS has recently opened an entire School of Management called BITS School of Management.

A spokesperson from the newly set-up institute said, “Business education needs to bring in technology as a key component of the curriculum. B-schools will play an important role in making non-engineering graduates comfortable with technology, and to be able to go on and leverage important trends in technology. Along with these hard skills, ‘softer’ aspects including social skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to think critically will play an important role.”

Beyond-boardroom-skills have been endorsed more because of the pandemic and its effect on the business landscape globally. Skills that will be needed for B-School graduates to succeed in this new normal are being adept with digital, cognitive skills, excellent social and communication skills, and resilience, he said.

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Tayal too said that “incorporation of elements of programming, business analytics, machine learning, digital innovation and such topics into the standard MBA is absolutely necessary.”

Sanjay Tiwari, co-founder, 21CC Education – training and e-learning provider in logistics said, “Recruiters commonly look for communication skills, leadership skills, problem-solving ability, analytical thinking and strategic thinking in a B-School graduate. These institutes must re-work the current curriculums to include courses on digital transformation, remote team management, business continuity, and building resilience. A more immediate solution towards remedial education would be to introduce skill-building in curriculums.”

Shortage of teachers

With the change in skill requirement, there will be a need to upgrade the teaching staff too. Dr R L Raina, Vice-Chancellor, JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur said, “These MBA programmes need to upgrade with more hands-on experience and equally focus on skill sets. These skills are not just business skills. Liberal arts and communication are also important disciplines that need to be merged with an MBA. This calls for more diverse faculty.”

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Tayal from ISBF said, “It is a vicious/virtuous cycle – without students who have undergone cutting-edge curricula, we won’t have researchers who can write and teachers who can teach such curricula, and without that the students will remain unemployable at large. It is an orbital shift that we need in this regard and the NEP seems to be taking us there, especially in terms of initiatives towards greater internationalisation.”

Dr Jagdish Seth said the issue of faculty shortage can be filled with online classes being taken by master teachers for students beyond their own universities. “We need to go beyond the boundaries of campuses, and nations. The next biggest thing is going to the digital nation or digital communities. We need to serve the courses on these platforms. Online degrees, accreditation systems, and collaborations between universities across the world can solve the problem of teacher shortage. It will also give more reputation to online courses,” he suggested.

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