Higher Education

India’s Business schools need an upgrade: Study

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Business education is booming in India, but the bulk of rank-and-file programmes in the country suffer from outdated textbooks, professors who don't keep up with economic trends, and narrow curriculums, according to a recently released report by an Indian business group.

The Business Barometer study was issued last month by the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (Assocham). It found that beyond the top 30 institutions, most business school professors and lecturers in India's business schools are ignorant of the world's major economic trends and key developments. Few read business publications.

The study's author, Jyoti Bhutani, called the findings “shocking,” adding that Indian businesses are finding it difficult to get top-quality graduates. She said there is “a huge gap” between the pay packages offered to grads of top Indian business schools and those provided to grads of the lesser institutions.

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Faculty Not Up to Par

The survey was done to assess the faculty's grasp on practical subject matter and general economic awareness at India's various MBA schools. The business school market in India has exploded in the past few years, with more than 1,600 business schools offering undergraduate business and MBA programs. But their academic standards remain uneven: No single, independent regulator oversees the universities and colleges. As a result, the quality of many faculty members falls short, leaving students with a degree that is 'devoid of any real value,' said Bhutani, assistant Director of Assocham's research bureau.

'While the top B-schools of India are increasingly getting recognised internationally, the remaining thousands of management institutes in the country have dismal standards of faculty,' Bhutani said via e-mail.

The study found that only 6% of the 258 faculty members she surveyed read any business newspaper on a regular basis, with steady readership of business magazines 'negligible.' As a result, teachers are often unaware of key economic developments in India and the world. For example, 89% of the teachers did not know what India's gross domestic product growth rate was in 2006-07. Almost 92% weren't aware that the country's foreign exchange reserves have surpassed US$300 billion. The study found that 91% of lecturers teaching a Business Environment class called did not know how to read financial documents, and 90% did not know that the U.S. might be in recession.

Additionally, most of the case studies or examples discussed in class are outdated because the library books used by lecturers are old. Many of the books are written by authors outside India, and teachers use case studies that lack Indian content.
A Patchwork of Certifying Agencies

'As the teachers themselves are ill-informed, even the students remain unaware of real-world developments,' Bhutani said. 'It has a direct bearing on the employability of the students.'

Adding to the problem is a patchwork of more than a dozen accreditation agencies in India. The National Knowledge Commission, which serves as an advisory group to India's Prime Minister, criticised existing Indian regulators and accreditation bodies in a 2006 report.

'There are several instances where an engineering college or a business school is approved, promptly, in a small house of a metropolitan suburb without the requisite teachers, infrastructure, or facilities, but established universities experience difficulties in obtaining similar approvals,' the commission wrote in the report.

M S Shyamsundar, deputy adviser for the government-run National Assessment & Accreditation Council, said his agency had accredited about 15 business schools, all of which adhered to his agency's strict criteria and guidelines. He acknowledged that the academic quality of business schools varies widely throughout the country. 'I think we have different shades of quality institutions, ranging from very mediocre to very good,' Shyamsundar said in a telephone interview.

Accreditation Must Be Improved

He said he hopes more business schools will come forward for accreditation in the next few years, a step that will go a long way to improve the reputation of these management institutions. 'Quality is one of the pressing concerns,' he said. 'This is why we are asking them to come forward for accreditation. Once they do this, the schools can know their strengths and weaknesses.'

John Fernandes, President of the US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), said his agency is working with four or five of the top Indian business schools that are seeking AACSB accreditation. Most are members of the “elite” business school cadre in India, known as India Institute of Managements. None of the top Indian business schools has accreditation from AACSB, one of the leading business school accrediting agencies.

Setting a high standard for Indian business schools by satisfying a quality accrediting agency is an important step for Indian business schools, said Assocham's Bhutani. An improved accreditation process would have a ripple effect on all Indian business schools, he continued, forcing them to improve the quality of teachers, materials, and professional development. 

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