Management education needs to come out of its self-enclosed cocoon and embrace industry partnership in a bigger way, say academics.

As India is poised for an accelerated economic growth, there is a dire need for managers with a vision to take the country forward. Managerial talent is essential for organisational success but management education is still grappling with issues concerning administration, selection criteria and poor industry interface. And reform process lacks academic vigour.

“Our policy level recommendations for MBA education have always been focusing on admission, tuition fee, eligibility criteria and so on, but very little effort on curriculum and skill development,” says, S. Vaidhyasubramaniam, Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA university, Thanjavur.

Academics are unanimous in their view that the growth in management education in the country is quantitative, not qualitative. This quality gap needs to be addressed to acquire competitive edge.

“Management education itself has become ubiquitous,” says Professor P. T. Srinivasan, head, Department of Management Studies, University of Madras. With all the engineering colleges as well as the arts and science colleges offering MBA programme, the quality is diluted, he says.

“Since most of the arts and science colleges and universities consider MBA programme as an extension of existing programmes, there is a huge disconnect with the industry requirements. The approach is purely academic and the focus is on producing scholars rather than practitioners,” says S. Sriram, executive director, Great Lakes Institute of Management.

The lack of experience among students who take up the programme is also a major impediment. “Business management is recommended only for those with a minimum of two years of work experience. It is not a course for freshers,” he says.

“It is only those individuals soaked in a particular sector backed by long work experience who can make best use of management programmes,” says Prof. L.S. Ganesh, IIT-Madras.

Students with hands-on experience in the industry will better understand and leverage the concepts they learn in a classroom. They can also modify the knowledge depending on the situation, says Mr. Sriram.

With as many as 2000 B-schools, the biggest challenge seems to be faculty requirement. The best B-schools are increasingly inviting industry leaders to teach in classrooms. In most schools, the focus is on knowledge acquisition through curriculum-based education. “Industry involvement in curriculum development can be fruitful,” says Prof. Ganesh. He strongly recommends project management education as industrial progress relied mainly on successful management of projects.

Business model innovation and total quality management are other key areas. When it comes to management, operative efficiency, effectiveness and excellence are vital, and the curriculum should be oriented towards these three objectives. Experts reiterate that corporate governance, quality orientation, business ethics must be made core subjects in MBA. Some significant changes in the structure and content of management education already include teaching foreign languages, highlighting and creating awareness on social issues and integrating the importance of ethics, Mr. Sriram notes.

As management education grows by leaps and bounds, premier B-schools are offering niche and tailor-made courses to suit industry requirements.

“Logistics and supply chain management, retail management have great potential and requires great attention,” says Prof. Srinivasan.

Social network marketing is another area B-schools are tapping into. Managing urban India will be a complex task and will require thousands of managers in the sectors of construction, transport, telecom, education, and other sectors. Industries are looking for tie-ups with universities in producing managers with specific requirements.

As All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) concentrates mainly on technical education in the country, academics pitch for a National Management Council, a separate body exclusively for management education. With the B-schools poised to become more vibrant, academics expect generation of high quality content and increased use of technology and training. Not just to students but to working professionals as well.