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Do the IIMs measure up to global benchmarks?
October 11, 2006
The leadership positions assumed by IIMs' alumni and global recognition in a competitive world are evidence of their impact.
The top 100 universities of the world recently rated for excellence by the London Times include India's IIMs, a distinction that speaks for itself. The world-class status of the IIMs reflects the cumulative impact of a mix of factors.
A proven model of management education that combines rigorous postgraduate and executive education, carefully selected and highly motivated students and faculty, field research and work with industry that keep faculty updated, and a well focused, competitive and disciplined approach to training, are the key ingredients of their success. Though individual IIMs vary somewhat in regard to these factors, they have all benefited from the modest measure of autonomy bestowed on them by government.
In fact, the three older IIMs are no longer dependent on government funds. Over a reasonable period, others also will reach this level, thus laying the foundation for greater effective autonomy. This may well help them to respond better to both domestic and global challenges in education and research. There is a risk that increased market demands could turn the IIMs into elite teaching shops at the cost of research and generation of new knowledge. And global pulls may make the IIMs less sensitive to the country's needs. These risks need to be addressed head on. Easing the supply side by creating three more IIMs as suggested by the Moily Committee will help.
The IIMs cannot afford to rest on their laurels. First, attracting and retaining suitable faculty who contribute to excellence is an essential step. A mix of faculty that are good in teaching, research and advisory work is a pre-requisite for success. The Fellow Programme (PhD) should be expanded so that adequate numbers of qualified faculty are produced not only for the IIMs, but also for other business schools.
This in turn is linked to faculty compensation and incentives. Second, the existing IIMs that do not have adequate land and infrastructure must find new ways to expand by building other campuses and using new technologies. Third, they need to tap into the resources of their alumni networks not only for funds, but also for new ideas and experiments. All these point to the need to make the IIMs more autonomous while ensuring their accountability for improved performance.
The new OBC quota policy will result in a major expansion of the existing IIMs. It offers a unique opportunity for the IIMs to broadbase their contribution to society. Their faculty and infrastructure, of course, may face an overload that needs to be managed with care. The challenge is to ensure that expansion and inclusion do not dilute the pursuit of excellence and quality. Their boards and management need to be alert to the risks involved.
The author is former director of IIM, Ahmedabad and has recently headed the group on IIMs of the oversight committee on implementation of the OBC quota.
IIM-A admits just 250 students a year, but Wharton and Harvard admit about 900 each; intake can rise 10 times if classes are held 12 hours a day
India's premier management institutes have failed to keep pace with the country's growth. IIM admissions have been stagnant during the last 36 years, with annual admission to an IIM increasing from around 200 students in the 1970s to about 250 in recent years.
For every 600 students that aspire to an IIM, Ahmedabad seat, only one is selected. Naturally, these are among the best and brightest in the world. But what is the contribution of the IIM faculty and administration in maintaining world-class standards?
Let us compare the IIMs with their US counterparts. The faculty-student ratio at IIM-A is only 1:8, while it is 1:19 at Wharton and 1:14 at Harvard Business School (HBS). While IIM-A admits just 250 students a year, its two American counterparts admit about 900 each. IIM-A annually enrolls just 1,620 students in its executive MBA programme, against over 8,000 by both HBS and Wharton.
Educational institutions are known not only for their student capabilities, but also their academic research and quality of faculty. While an HBS professor publishes at least one article each year in a renowned international journal, the IIM-A faculty publishes one in five years and not necessarily in world standard journals. While HBS trains 200 PhDs at any point in time, the IIM-A enrolment is just 10.
Many IIMs have sprawling campuses and spacious classrooms which are underutilised. While the US B-schools run their classes almost 12 hours a day, the IIMs run them predominantly in the mornings. Brickwork's calculation shows that if IIM-A runs all its 25 classrooms for 12 hours per day, over 7,000 students can be enrolled at any given moment, against the current 750-odd. The IIMs complain of a shortage of accommodation for their students and faculty. In contrast, US schools seldom provide 100 per cent housing.
A fundamental issue is the governance of the IIMs. While the IIM boards have been somewhat reformed over the years, they still do not inspire enough confidence. Many of them have far too many government nominees and faculty members. There are not enough CEOs from the private sector on the boards. Board members seldom contribute monetarily to their institutes. In sharp contrast, over 95 per cent of Wharton board members are from private firms and contribute generously to the school. The chairman of the Wharton board has contributed over $50 million for his school.
Compared to US B-schools, the IIMs' fund-raising efforts have been abysmal. Although their alumni are among the highest paid in the country, the historical low intake has kept their number small. While the HBS corpus is over $2.1 billion, IIM-A struggles to raise half a million. The IIMs can improve this by raising their intake (better capacity utilisation), particularly of executive MBA students who are high paying, and undertaking more robust fund raising.