SMS was the State’s first management school that attracted the best of students from across the country. Management experts recalled that getting an admission into the prestigious institution was then a herculean task.

Slipping from heights of excellence to mediocrity is seldom forgiven of a premier educational institution.

Is the School of Management Studies (SMS) at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) too, with its sliding reputation, bearing the brunt?

From being rated as one of the most sought-after B-schools for several years after it was launched in 1964, SMS seems to have lost its way slowly.

The once-prestigious institution’s name does not even figure among the top business schools in the country. Poor branding, bad marketing and continuing neglect by the university authorities have triggered the downslide of one of the oldest management institutes in the State.

Established in 1964 on the FACT premises here, SMS was the State’s first management school that attracted the best of students from across the country. Management experts recalled that getting an admission into the prestigious institution was then a herculean task. It was first affiliated to the Kerala University and later got integrated into Cusat after its formation in 1971.

The visionary in M.V. Pylee, founder director of the SMS and former Vice-Chancellor of Cusat, helped the business school to leap forward and emerge as a top-rated management institute in the country. The school was offering a part-time MBA programme initially and later added a full-time management course. The popularity of the MBA programme was so huge in the beginning that the authorities used to receive about 3,000 applications for 30 seats.

But the slump began almost 15 years ago, especially after private B-schools mushroomed across the country. M. Bhasi, Director of SMS, said that there were only a few management institutes in the country when the SMS was at its zenith of popularity. “But tell me, how am I supposed to ensure quality for a university department that lacks funding and is facing serious shortage of teachers? I have only 15 teachers for 220 students,” he said.

Pointing out that there are more than 4,000 business schools in the country right now, Sam Thomas, faculty member and co-ordinator of the placement cell, said that even central universities fail to figure in the list of top management schools in the country as per the rating by leading magazines.

Dr. Thomas, however, admitted that Faculty of Management Studies under Delhi University and the management department of Mumbai University were exceptions. Dr. Bhasi chipped in that the funding available for SMS can never be compared with the immensely-supported FMS of the Delhi University.

K.A. Zakkariya, faculty member and also of the university syndicate, agreed that poor marketing was the bane of SMS. “We don’t have the money, as a university department, to market our credentials. But its core strengths including faculty and infrastructure remain intact,” he said.

When pointed out that the school’s infrastructure remains almost the same as in the times of Dr. Pylee (almost five decades ago), Dr. Zakkariya agreed but pointed out that changes have been made in its interiors to accommodate more students.

However, Executive Director of South Indian Bank Abraham Thariyan, former student of the school (1983 batch of the part-time MBA programme), suggested that SMS should step up its quality and try to build up the professional standards to match the fierce competition in the sector.

“I feel that Cusat lost its focus on the management programme especially after it started offering many other courses,” he said.

Sheeba Joseph, and Veena Vijayakumar, students of the regular MBA programme said that the presence of qualified faculty members was the primary reason they opted for the business school despite getting admission in private institutions.

“We have lot of limitations as a university department. There is huge potential, which has not been explored,” they said.

Cusat Vice-Chancellor Ramachandran Thekkedath said that SMS could be allocated funds only similar to the help rendered to other university departments. “We have no separate revival plans but are trying to introduce innovative courses,” he said.