It appears B-schools have created more confusion for students claiming tall achievements.

Graduates are searching for the best pathway to reach their goal and it's the time for the institutions to lure them towards management courses. And as the entrance season approaches the dilemma for the management aspirants continues – its MBA or PGDM? The confusion is further enhanced by the numerous business schools that have sprung up claiming tall achievements and the expanding MBA colleges in the university system.

What's the difference, qualitatively as well as in terms of recognition? A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is a degree course offered by the colleges affiliated to the universities while the Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) is a diploma course offered by the institutes that are recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Even the prestigious IIMs offer PGDM and not MBA as they are not part of any university.

Colleges offering the MBA course have to follow an academic curriculum prescribed by the University while the PGDM institutes like the XLRI, IPE, IIFT, SP Jain, NMIMS at the national level and Siva Sivani and Dhruva at the state level have the flexibility to design their own courses within the parameters prescribed by the AICTE. They can change the syllabi and introduce new courses depending on the market demands while the MBA colleges have to strictly follow their respective University's curriculum.

Which is the best? Well, teachers say the course value depends on the institutes than the degree it self. An MBA from a Central University or an established management department in the State University definitely has an advantage given its experienced faculty and infrastructure. At the same time, a PGDM from institutes like ISB, IPE, XLRI or such top institutes has a brand value and are readily accepted by the industry.

“An MBA is for those who seek a university programme to get a holistic view of the programme while the PGDM is for those who seek specialisation in the area of their interest,” feels V. Venkataramana, Dean, School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad.“Top varsity colleges are trusted as they have experienced faculty and established curriculum while PGDM has an element of flexibility as the institutes are independent, but they have to be chosen carefully.”

“As far as industry is concerned they recognise talent from the institutes of repute than bothering whether it's an MBA or PGDM,” says B. Srinivasa Rao, Associate Professor at OU College of Commerce and Business Management. Content wise there is not much difference but MBA will not have recognition problems for those going abroad while PGDM students have to be doubly sure of taking the equivalence certificates.

Earlier, a PGDM was not recognised for higher studies like M.Phil or Ph.D that seek a degree as a pre-requisite. But now PGDM certificates of some top institutes are also being considered equivalent to MBA for higher studies.

For example, the PGDM offered by Siva Sivani Institute of Management is recognised by the Association of Indian Universities for higher studies. “Such facility is not extended to all institutes and students should verify if they plan to join PGDM but are also interested in higher education,” Dr. Rao says.

But the teachers believe that MBA is not an end in itself but a means. As senior management professor of OU, A. Vidhyadhar Reddy explains, an MBA degree helps students develop skills in various spheres like finance, operations, economics, teamwork, ethics and leadership. He says one should use the programme to develop network with alumni, business and community leaders that help in career growth.

While choosing the institution, teachers' advice that, aspirants should look for the brand of the business school. The brand signifies its established practices that provide better learning environment for personal growth and its networking help students reach its alumni and industry easily. A powerful brand is a tag that can be carried throughout the career.

But Prof. Reddy says some PGDM institutes are exploiting parents with attractive ratings given by different agencies. Not many are maintaining the minimum faculty-student ratio of 1:15 and subscribing to the mandatory 10 national and 10 international journals for every programme.

Moreover, the faculty is hardly trained and they should be encouraged to publish articles. He feels they are charging huge sums while university colleges are able to deliver quality with much less fee.