Fad or Future?


Management Education began in the early 19th century with the ESCP Business school in Paris producing professionals with specialised training to meet the demands of the rapidly industrialising societies of Europe and the U.S. The first full-fledged dedicated management programme — Masters of Business Administration (MBA) offered at Harvard Business School of Harvard University, in 1908 —  was testimony to the fact that ‘business administration’ had evolved into a separate discipline that used a holistic approach in developing structured and scientific methods to solve problems of business management. Since then thousands of B-schools have emerged across the world with a variety of programmes.

Today, around 12,000 B-schools are operating globally and a third are in India.Unfortunately, this explosive growth (including private, public and university affiliated) in India was not supported by commensurate policy measures to sustain quality, thus rendering a majority of the MBA programmes to be mere academic degrees.

The outlook

Deliberations at industry-academia forums brought forth lacunae such as disconnect between industry and academia, curricular inertia, insufficiency of programme delivery models, poor infrastructure, shortage of quality faculty members, and absence of relevant research. Adding to that, the rapid evolution of Industry 4.0 and the current economic crisis, triggered by COVID-19, have exposed the insufficiencies and ill-preparedness of B-schools. Further, statistics such as 5000+ B-schools and around 80-85% of the 3+ lakh MBA graduates being unemployable fuels the argument of MBA programmes being just a ‘fad’.

However, statistics listed by the BT MDRA rankings (over 81% of graduates placed clocking a 7.6% increase in average salary and a ROI at 1.24), suggest a different story. The increasing trend of pre-placement offers and sustained placement offers, even for the class of 2021, at top B-schools indicates that the MBA programme definitely remains the future of generations to come. Further, if registrations for competitive exams, such as CAT, are any indication, the 2.3 lakh registrations in this pandemic year, reflects a sustained interest among aspirants.

Arguably, the fundamental reasons for developing a full-fledged MBA programme a century ago are still relevant as the industry requires trained professionals to handle businesses in the VUCA world. Therefore, the challenge for B-schools today is to reimagine the mode, methods and models to design, develop and deliver quality MBA programmes and produce graduates who can cope with an industry characterised by rapid digitisation, and disruptions in every aspect of business.

Today, the B-school scene in India reflects two contradictions: at one end is an acute need for capacity building at the top level B-schools to accommodate at least the top 25% of MBA aspirants who otherwise look abroad for better options. On the other is a need for deep correction at B-schools in lower tiers. The argument, therefore, is not whether the MBA is a fad or not. Where a student pursues his/her programme has always made a difference and will continue to do so.

The writer is Director and Professor, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Hyderabad Campus

This article has been re-edited after publication.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 5:30:26 PM |

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