There has been a significant drop in the number of aspirants for CAT this year.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is perhaps the most awaited test for graduates in the country given the brand name of IIMs across the globe. Almost every graduate wants to take a shot at CAT to get into IIMs. But the drop in the number of aspirants for CAT this year has shocked everyone. More so, when CAT has turned into a glamour test too with perennial media focus and awareness levels increasing among parents.

This year only 1.95 lakh candidates have purchased vouchers before CAT registration date was extended while the number was 2.4 lakhs last year. There is clearly a huge drop. This obviously led to speculation IIMs are no more the dream destinations for management course aspirants. The emergence of several private players and their attractive placements and growing image in the corporate sector is now playing on the minds of students. Of course, there are arguments that only serious candidates are now attempting the test.

Academics feel students perhaps have become smarter. Instead of testing luck in CAT they might be concentrating on other management tests conducted for entry to some of the top institutes that are not covered under CAT. “Students are now thinking realistically and they understand that non-IIM management institutes are equally good in terms of academics and placements.” Moreover, this generation knows that degree alone is not important and they have options in India and abroad too.

In India there are hundreds of management schools, more popularly known as B-schools, across the country. For starters, there are the regular B-schools, the ones that offer a general MBA (masters or diploma). These include the state-level MATs, AIMA (the All-India Management Association), JMET (for admission to Indian Institutes of Technology – the Indian Institute of Science has reportedly scrapped its management course) and entrances to Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Sciences (NMIMS), Indian School of Business, entrance conducted by the Faculty of Management Studies at Delhi University, SNAP (the Symbiosis National Aptitude Test) and the XAT (conducted by Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur), to name a few.

Each of these is a brand by itself. The more specialised courses include the postgraduate management programmes offered at the Institute of Rural Management, (offering rural management in Anand), IIFT (the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade offers International Business) or MICA (Mudra Institute of Communica- tion-Ahmedabad).

Ajay Arora, Regional Director at the Triumphant Institute of Management Education, however, cautions the aspirants that not all B-Schools are good.

He says out of 1,500-odd B-schools in the country, only 90 to 100 management courses are worth

Among these, the top 50 or 35 institutes are well-established and can be trusted, like MICA or NMIMS, for instance.

These places are, needless to say, a safe bet, he says. However, if you are looking outside these “known” colleges then it requires some thought and students should try to match these colleges to their profiles and their aspirations.

Management education is an expensive affair, colleges charge anywhere between Rs. 2-10 lakh for a two-year MBA. Many of these are diploma courses (including the IIMs), and may be restrictive because unlike a degree course it will not allow you the opportunity to continue with academic pursuits (for instance, an IIM-B graduate will have to look for another PG degree if he/she wants to enrol in a Ph.D. programme). Similarly, those interested in communication-related courses, or say rural management and similar specialised career fields should look for MBAs that allow you to specialise in that field.

With inputs from in Bengaluru

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