'We lose 70 per cent of our bright students to the IITs'
Dr Nagesh Rao, President and Director of Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad tells us why the Indian education system needs a global outlook and how we are losing a good number of students to the IITs. Read on...
Dr Nagesh Rao took over as President and Director of Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad earlier this year.
Having earned a doctorate in Communications from Michigan State University in 1994, Dr Rao taught in various universities in the US for over two decades.
He earned the 'Teacher of the Year' tag in every university he taught and even bagged the 'University Professor' badge in 2002.
Dr Rao also served as visiting faculty in some universities in the Middle-East and in South-East Asia.
Back in India, Dr Rao worked as a consultant for various corporates besides working on research projects for government-related concerns. His written work has also been published in various global journals.
Dr Rao came to MICA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India where he taught Managerial Communications.
In a candid conversation, the rather soft-spoken Dr Rao told us that his job in hand was to first answer the perennial question that MICA has always known to attract -- is it a b-school or an advertising institute?
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Image: Dr Nagesh Rao, MICA director
Photographs: Courtesy Pagalguy.com
'MICA curriculum will go digital soon'
MICA, as an institute tends to confuse at times?
Yes, MICA, in some ways, is a well-kept secret and I don't want it to be one anymore.
I have a five-year plan to work this out. Yes, we are a niche b-school that specialises in communications and that message has to go out clear.
We have to clearly state what and who we are, our values and terms. We have to move away (and have done so to an extent) from being precieved as an 'advertising' institute to a communications management one.
This message is going loud and clear to our prospective recruiters too who know that our students are creative but also analytical logical and that we are a business school.
So what are the immediate plans?
Going digital definitely. The world has gone digital but in India we still employ a lot of old methods of communication be it in class or in the corporate world. That will be the big curriculum change as well from the next academic year.
I am looking at good faculty very urgently and seriously. That is critical if I have to take the institute to the next level.
Since we are niche, this will be my biggest task on hand.
You were a little surprised at the 'hierarchical' structure in the school?
Yes, when I first took over, I realised that the institute like other b-schools was very director-driven. The thought process was that nothing much should and will change unless there was a go-ahead from the director.
That only the director could take decisions on anything and everything. I have tried to change that. Tried to make everyone -- from faculty, students, the administrative staff and even the security to think on their own and do their jobs independently of me having to decide on every issue.
I try to be a hallway leader, if I become an office leader, I will never learn. I have to be able to meet and greet my staff and students without them having to look at me purely as their director.
Image: Students attend a digital presentation in class
Photographs: Courtesy MICA
'MICA students show a great deal of respect for the work they do'
May be it is your stint in the US that makes you think the Indian system is odd?
Not really, it is just that in India we have this maharaja attitude in us so naturally - to automatically bow down to the boss and take instructions from him or her.
I keep telling my faculty and students not to come back to me for everything. This is why the global outlook is needed. I even tell me faculty and students to call me Nagesh but that happens rarely.
What do you bring from the past to MICA?
I have done my PhD in communications and that makes me quite right for the job, considering that MICA is basically a communications-driven b-school.
Yes, having taught in universities abroad and here, I have a fair knowledge of teaching practices as well as dealing with students.
I must say, the students at MICA are outstanding, and show a great deal of respect for the work they do.
Image: Images for representational purposes only
Photographs: Courtesy MICA
'A good CAT score does not necessarily demonstrate any leadership abilities or thinking'
Why is MICA swaying between CAT and XAT?
CAT as an exam is skewed towards analytical abilities. A good CAT score does not necessarily demonstrate any leadership abilities or thinking.
XAT, since there is a need to widen the candidate pool and those who take XAT have a slightly different mindset than those who take only CAT. Finally, MICAT is what we look at to get in the kind of students who are fit for the course.
We have people from Corporate Human Resources also on our admissions panel and there is a conscious by us to get in the right mix of analytical and creative talent.
MICA does not have to try too hard with gender-diversity?
Yes, over 50 per cent of the student population is female which a good global sign is, but it is not my legacy, the people before me have managed this feat. And it is all purely on merit.
We need people who are task-oriented, be it from any gender. People who are creative and can also think logically. It is sad the way our education system is made and why our gender ratios are so poor.
We lose 70 per cent of our bright students to the IITs and these, after doing their engineering, and then do an MBA.
That's why there are fewer women going to b-schools.
You have been very strict about admissions and students' performance?
Yes, luckily my board has backed me at every point. At MICA, I keep getting requests to take in candidates who have not fulfilled the admission criteria but have 'contacts' in the right place. I refuse and that is the only way to make sure we keep a level of quality going.
We are strict about attendance and also performance. If students fare badly in the first year, they are either asked to repeat or leave.
What vision do you see for MICA?
One, that MICA will be the leader in its area of work. Second, we work with multiple thought partners and non-profit enterprises for a common goal to give back to society.
Also, we will have people who will create global leaders who are able to take on world challenges and not just those in the immediate vicinity.
Image: Image for representational purposes only
Photographs: Courtesy MICA