Management education requires policy triage


By the time you read this article, the new Union government would have taken shape, ending one of the fiercest electoral battles during the festival of Indian democracy. Nevertheless, it is time to take action again to create a difference and I start my contribution with the need to differentiate Indian management education. The speed at which business has transformed the world and vice versa is creating a symbiotic disruption that is creating new organizational architecture, leadership paradigms, jobs, prosperity and, above all, a perpetual era of uncertainty driven by complexity. It is only during confusing complexity that new learning occurs, and not during similar prosperity.

The comparative analysis between the evolution of management education in the US (the mecca of MBA education) and India is the best way to start. In American management education, there was a three-phase policy path that made progress. The Pierson Report (1959) and the Gordon & Howell Report (1959), popularly known as the Foundation Reports, Porter & McKibbin Report (1988), and the case studies on various B-schools commissioned by Harvard Business School ( 2008), have one common thread that connects them. .

All of these reports were in response to growing criticism of American MBA education. MBA education in the US was scrutinized as if the nation was in danger, and regulations focused on the disease and not just the symptoms. In the US, between 1895 and 1956, there were a total of 125 institutions offering master’s degrees in business education. Of the 4,500 degrees awarded, nine schools accounted for more than half of the degrees. In the late 1950s, only six schools – Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Harvard and Stanford – limited themselves to business education exclusively at the university level.

The period from the early to late 1950s was characterized by rapid growth in the number of business schools, coupled with the emergence of new concentrations and business dynamics as a result of post-war economic development that put pressure on the academic community over the future direction of business education. The Foundation Reports provided a systemic roadmap that focused on the MBA academic curriculum.

While the Foundation Reports were being implemented, a lot was happening outside the B-school environment. The economic structure was dismantled and the US adopted the free market theory which led to globalization. There were also rapid changes in the functioning and practices of business organizations. There was a general level of complacency and a majority of deans and faculty members took the dangerous position that there was no need for curriculum change. Porter & McKibbin’s research was the result of visits to 60 B-schools, interviews with 200 business leaders and a survey of more than 9,000 faculty, students and alumni.

In this second phase, the growing importance of cross-functional expertise in the field of personality and skills development became visible. The outbreak of the global financial crisis has blown the whistle on the purpose of MBA education. Harvard Business School, as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, began to reinvent the level it invented. In the third phase, management was positioned as a new profession that needed the right attitude with an uncompromising set of ethics and values. The three phases together provided a framework of knowledge, skills and attitudes as an integral part of MBA education.

The Indian contrast offers an interesting perspective. The evolution of Indian management education can be characterized into three similar phases, with one difference: growth, more growth and unbridled growth. Starting modestly in 1948, there were only 120 management institutes until 1990. Today, there are more than 3,500 AICTE approved management institutions offering graduate degree programs with an approved student intake of 4.2 lakh, of which 2.8 lakh enroll and only 1.4 lakh graduate. The post-2010 period also saw the McDonaldization of IIMs, creating many highly overpaid MBAs (GoMBAs).

Be that as it may, between 1950 and 1990 there was only one study commissioned by the Indian government, the Nanda Committee (1980), which assessed the functioning of the three IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata. The Kurien Committee (1991), RP Aiyar Committee (1999), Iswar Dayal Committee (2001), Management Review Committee (2003) and Bhargava Committee (2008) were several policy committees that came later. The common thread that tied them all together was the stereotypical diagnosis that had to do with control, regulation, reimbursement, admissions, etc. and which was not much in line with the American evolution of management education.

Today, management education is a key input shaping the future of many economies and a long-term vision is needed to fill three gaps: policy, relevance and results. In short: Management Education requires policy triage.

S Vaidhyasubramaniam

Vice Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University

[email protected]