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To B Or Not To Be

Why do institutes opt out of B school surveys anyways? And does research output really matter? Rashmi Bansal finds out.

B school surveys are like Miss India contests – a good figure is a basic requirement. I mean in terms of certain academic parameters like full-time faculty.

Problem is, every institute does not believe in this academic model. The Symbiosis group of institutes, for example, employs just about 5-6 full time faculty in SIBM, SCMHRD and SIIB. Neither does the faculty have any pressure to conduct research, publish papers, attend conferences or do consulting – factors which are important in B school surveys.

At Symbi, visiting professors manage the bulk of the coursework. And as far as students are concerned, they do the job quite competently. From the student’s point of view the visiting vs full time debate does not really matter. As long as the institute’s reputation and past performance generates good placements, their objective is met.

At this point it’s important to understand the difference between a B school and a Management Institute.

A management institute imparts business education, but also seeks to add onto the body of knowledge that exists in the subject as a whole.
A b school on the other hand has a single point objective: teaching the subject of business management.

The trouble with the surveys is th at it lumps both categories together. Not all b schools seek to be management institutes – they simply wish to churn out competent graduates. And these graduates join the B school in quest of enhanced job prospects ie placements.

A survey titled ‘India’s top B schools’ must take this dichotomy into account. Maybe the survey should gave two parts:
a) For the students, who have a short term view: Will X or Y b school benefit me?
b) For the academics/ thinktanks who take a longer term view: Are we getting closer to making an impact in management thinking and practice on a national/ global scale?

Yes, traditionally, management institutes have tended to also be the best B schools. But in the last decade the ‘pure B school’ model has also come up and needs to be evaluated simply for what it is.

‘Sectoral schools’
Another issue I have with the Outlook rankings is the separate table on ‘Sectoral B schools’ ie the ones which offer specialised courses, not general management degrees.

The Outlook ranking of top sectoral schools:
01. NITIE
02. IRMA
03. DMS, IIT Delhi
04. VGSOM, IIT KGP
05. MICA
06. IIFM Bhopal
07. NIAEM, Hyd
08. IHMR, Jaipur
09. Delhi School of Economics
10. DMS, NIT Trichy

One glaring omission is Shailesh J Mehta SOM, IIT Bombay. But besides that – why separate these schools from the mainstream? It’s not like students decide “I will join only NITIE or IIT-D DMS”. They give CAT, XAT etc and then see which is the ‘best b school’ in the prevailing pecking order they can get into.

At MICA, for example, only a small percentage would have applied only to MICA. Most MICAns were aiming for an IIM but didn’t get in and decided MICA was a better option than say NMIMS.

Yes, some of these schools like the IITs and NITIE take only engineers. But then all IIMs comprise (at least) 70% engineers anyways.

The fact that B school rankings produce a lot of hoo-ha every year has been tackled head on by Outlook in a 3 page article titled ‘The Bitter Truth’.
The magazine’s assertions:
– The rankings are not subjective but objective
– They are transparent – detailed scores are posted at their website
– There is no linkage between the ads you see in the issue and the ranking of B schools (a claim which many still refuse to accept 🙂
– And lastly, that B school rankings do ‘make a difference’.

For example, several Mumbai based institutes which earlier managed fine with visiting faculty are recruiting permanent staff because that improves their rankings. An example provided is that of SIES – its faculty strength has shot up from 8 to 30.

In an era of outsourcing one does not know if this is necessarily the best management practice. You can’t attract the best in the business because teaching pays less (and practitioners can add a different kind of value to the classroom!). So the emphasis on ‘full time faculty’ may need to be debated at some point…

But honestly the least mags can do is avoid statements like this one by Outlook: The IIM citadel may be under threat. New schools have a lesson or two to teach.

Yeah right. And I’m not saying that’s ridiculous just because IIM A is my alma mater. You can make ‘trend statements’ if your surveys are published once every 5 years. Nothing really changes on a year to year basis.

Yes, it does get boring for the magazine and its editors to tom-tom the ‘IIMs’ year after year but if that’s reality – we’ll live with the boredom.

Rashmi Bansal is an IIM Ahmedabad graduate and editor of JAM.
You can send your feedback to this article at rashmi@jammag.com


The Outlook B school Rankings 2005 – Rashmi Bansal
The Outlook-C Fore B school rankings are out. Should you believe the reams of data and tables that have been printed? Well, it’s what has NOT been printed that has me more worried…

Outlook’s list of Top 10 Indian B schools
01. IIM, Ahmedabad
02. IIM, Bangalore
03. IIM, Calcutta
04. MDI, Gurgaon
05. S P, Jain
06. IIFT, New Delhi
07. NMIMS, Mumbai
08. XIM, Bhubaneshwar
08. IMT, Ghaziabad
09. ICFAI, Hyderabad
10. IMI, Delhi

The long and the short of it is that several key institutes are absent from the survey:

* XLRI, IIM Lucknow – absolutely glaring omissions
* FMS Delhi, JBIMS Mumbai – still top choices, very high brand value
* IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore – the institutes any student would prefer over an ICFAI / IMI/ IMT!
* Symbiosis – SIBM, SCMHRD

That’s 8 whole institutes which should have been ranked somewhere between 4-15 not accounted for at all. And by glossing over this fact the credibility of the survey gets severely dented. Furthermore, the methodology section of the survey explains: Invitations were sent out to 950 b schools, of which 234 responded. However, “information on some institutes which did not participate directly was obtained from secondary sources available to us”

I’m guessing this means IIM A, B and C – as the IIMs had refused to participate in all B school surveys. Well then why not do the same for the other missing B schools?

The smart thing to do is include box which at least gives a qualitative opinion on “B schools which have opted out of rankings but remain popular with students”. And perhaps assign a letter grade to these schools.

It appears to be a clash of egos. Some B schools, unhappy with their ranking in previous years, refuse to participate. The magazine, in turn, says “fine – hum bhi dekh lenge. We’ll blank you out”.

So there is no mention at all of the institutes which opted out of the survey – as if they don’t exist on the planet! As for IIM A, B, C – again, because they did not officially participate in the survey none of their initiatives are featured.

The news from IIM A, for example, is that a new course called PGP X has been started – a 1 year MBA for executives with 8-15 years experience. This is the institute’s response to ISB Hyderabad.

Oh, by the way ISB is completely missing too!

If the point of a B school survey is to help students make better, more informed choices – this one does not quite make the grade. If the idea is simply to sell more copies of the magazine – well then, I guess it’s worked.

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