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'Selection at IIM-A has never been based entirely on CAT'

Last updated on: September 28, 2012 11:22 IST

'Selection at IIM-A has never been based entirely on CAT'

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Lajwanti Dsouza

Dr Samir Barua, director, IIM Ahmedabad suggests that b-schools in our country must pool their resources and conduct placements collectively to ensure employability of its graduates.

As he prepares to end his stint as director of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, (IIM-A), Dr Samir Barua speaks about his achievements in the last five years, placement reporting standards and the school's selection criteria.

In this interview, Dr Barua also discusses the Common Admission Test (CAT) going online, a major step in standardising of testing in India and bringing it in line with global standards.

As you prepare to end your stint as director, what would you list as your top achievements?

Let me mention a few of the achievements that have ramification beyond IIM Ahmedabad:

1. Putting an Indian management school on global map: EQUIS accreditation -- the first institute in India, Top 100 ranking by The Economist, all the three post-graduate programmes of the IIM-A are ranked at the top globally for its Post Graduate Programmes (7) and Executive Post Graduate Programmes (11) by The Financial Times and for its PGP-Agri-business Management programme (1) by Eduniversal. This has set benchmarks for other schools to follow.

2. Prime mover in computerisation of the CAT: this has benefited the candidates as well as the schools that use the CAT for admission.

3. Initiated Placement Reporting Standards in India: so as to rid the information on placements of noise -- would be immensely beneficial for the candidates and prevent them from being misled.

4. Initiated meaningful dialogue with the government for greater autonomy for all the IIMs, the MoA and the rules governing the IIM-A have been modified accordingly.

5. Publishing (through collaboration with Randomhouse) easy to read and useful books on various topics in management, these books have become bestsellers.

6. Anchoring five conference in management education across India on issues that need to be addressed going forward to make management education more relevant for the emerging needs of India and the larger global society.

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Image: Dr Samir Barua, director, IIM Ahmedabad
Photographs: Courtesy Pagalguy.com

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'IIM-A is an excellent management school with a difference'

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If you had to single out one contribution that IIM-A has made to higher education in India what would it be?

IIM-A's contribution has been to set standards in management and governance of academic processes that other institutes can aspire to emulate.

One of the significant contributions of IIM-A has been to the pedagogy in management education. Over the years, it has trained over 650 faculty members from business schools in the country.

By way of pedagogy, how has IIM-A led the way for other IIMs to follow?

The case method was adopted and adapted by IIM-A. This pedagogy has spread to almost all business schools in the country. It is also the dominant pedagogy used in training and education programmes in management in organisations.

An objective view of how the IIMs are perceived globally?

IIM-A is perceived as an excellent management school with a difference. Its location in an emerging economy is increasingly being recognised as a major strength.

The world has realised that society will have to be far more inclusive going forward. Therefore, it is expected that institutions such as IIM-A would lead the challenge to management thinking that has been dominated thus far by Western experiences.

Do the newer IIMs dilute the brand of the older ones, especially in light of the recent uproar by the new IIMs that they are being sidelined?

I think any new institution should attempt to establish itself through its achievements over time than through similarity in name with established institutions with proven credentials.


Image: IIM-Ahmedabad
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Tags: IIM-A , India

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'CAT is only a filter to identify a smaller set for further scrutiny'

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Although the CAT went computer-based in line with global practices for tests, not everyone in India seems convinced of the psychometric model it uses. Any solutions?

Those who would like to debate the issue of relevance of CAT or similar examinations must provide an alternate process for shortlisting candidates (out of hundreds of thousands) for final selection for admission.

They ought to keep in mind that CAT is only a filter to identify a smaller set for further scrutiny for admission to the academic programmes.

What is the philosophy that is borne in mind when the IIMs select their students? These days CAT scores are being given lesser priority over 'non-academic' achievements.

The criterion for selection of a candidate for admission to the PGP at IIM-A has always been multi-dimensional. It has never been based entirely on CAT score.


Photographs: Rediff Archives
Tags: CAT , PGP , IIM-A , India

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'Collective placements will help measure employability of students'

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Suddenly diversity is the buzzword during admissions to the IIMs and other b-schools? Given the applicant pool that applies to the IIMs, is it really possible to have more non-engineers in a batch?

I think admission should be on the basis of well-defined measurable set of dimensions. Additional marks to any group identified on the basis of gender or academic background is indefensible not only legally but even ethically.

Given the premium attached to getting admitted to IIM-A, any such tinkering with the process would be discriminatory.

What is your opinion of the low uptake of the IIM-A driven placement reporting standards by other b-schools?

We are hoping that pressure would be put by candidates and by the likes of your organisation (which claim that they work for the benefit of students) so that more schools fall in line and adopt the standards.

Would you agree that b-schools today are being judged (by applicants) solely by their 'placements'? Is there a way to change this thinking, or do you think the wrong kind of applicants are applying?

Shall we collectively (all business schools) decide not to offer placement services individually and instead pool our resources together to create an agency that undertakes the activity as a service to all business schools?

The outcome of such a process would truly measure over a period of time the employability of students passing out from different business schools.

How do you envision the role of alumni at IIM-A?

Alumni are the only stakeholder that has an abiding interest their alma mater. Since they cannot stop being alumni of their institution, they would always like to ensure that their alma mater continues to command respect as an academic institution.

They should therefore play a much greater role in functioning of their alma mater. In addition to monetary contributions, other important contributions from alumni to their alma mater are in terms of their time (for institute work) and access of the institute to the organisations they work for.

Alumni in India are waking up to the need to make such contributions to enhance the glory of their alma mater.


Image: Image for representational purposes only
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Tags: IIM-A , India

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