Ideas

Never Mind The Accreditation: Why Indian Business Schools Must Evolve Into Centres Of Excellence

IIM Ahmedabad campus (Shailesh Raval/The India Today Group/Getty Images)  
Snapshot
  • Can Indian B-schools combine teaching the best of Indic traditions and vedic education along with management principles?

Over the last one decade, there has been a trend among premier management institutes in India to get accreditations from international agencies. Starting with Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) in 2008, getting an EQUIS certification, the process has gone on to include several B-schools across the country.

Indian School of Business (ISB) opted for the AASCB accreditation in 2011; AASCB now recognises several schools including TAPMI and XLRI. The latest to enter this league were new IIM IIM Udaipur and SPJMIR Mumbai just a few months ago.

For the new IIMs, it has been a struggle beginning operations in an infrastructure-deficient condition. Sources lament that the government really should have waited and let them have their faculty, infrastructure and human resource personnel in place before classes began. Even though they are each mentored by the old IIMs, the premises are mostly apologetic, with many operating from make-shift buildings. Reportedly, not all of them still have full-time directors.

With the plethora came the doubt whether the `IIM brand’ had been diluted. One needed to set oneself apart and hence, the process of acquiring ‘distinguishing factors’ began.

International accreditations are seen as a certification of quality and assumed to give a certain global visibility. New IIM directors have been talking about accreditation helping in bringing international practices into the country and also in attracting good-quality faculty and students from across the globe.

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Of course, recruiters from industry differ in their opinion, maintaining that only Tier-4 institutes need go for accreditations; that the credentials of most educational institutions are well known in the country even without accreditation.

The argument about attracting international students into the country through accreditations also may not hold much water, as the recent FT Global MBA Rankings seem to suggest.

For instance, all these management schools from India that featured in the FT rankings ISB, IIM-B, IIM-C and IIM-A have accreditations for long, and yet the `international’ figures are dismal.

IIM-C is the most curious case: despite the `triple-crown’ advantage, of being accredited by three agencies supposedly, a rare feat demonstrated by only 90 schools worldwide, it has no international students.

Accreditations, apparently, are not a sufficient condition to draw international exposure. However, and importantly, accreditation is a necessary condition to participate in such rankings as the FT Global MBA rankings. Of course, the visibility through accreditation does help collaborations for students exchange programmes, even if it does not draw admissions.

Meanwhile, the costs of accreditation are high and unnecessary. AASCB fees, as per its website, are in the range of $35,000 and then there is the annual fee and reaccreditation fee. The high fees and campus-maintenance costs will necessarily be passed on to students. And those will be Indian students.

In the light of this, professors at IIM Kozhikode questioned, in this article, the need for premier institutions like IIMs going for accreditations, especially when they had turned their nose at similar domestic attempts to get them certified, citing their ‘way beyond’ standards. The authors argue that accreditations neither help increase job opportunities, nor does “going global” help in any way; also that international collaborations would happen irrespective of accreditations, on the institutes’ own strengths.

When IIM Udaipur became the first new IIM to actually get the accreditation, that too within a short span of starting operations, that certainly gave the fledgling institute the confidence and infused it with the energy to go ahead. Likely that the ‘demonstration effect’ will keep all others going in the same direction.

Costs apart, the greater danger is that of adopting a cookie-cutter model of education premises, processes, interactions, et al imposed by these foreign agencies. This, the IIMs and other premier institutes must guard against, and strive to develop their own strengths instead. One criticism of the process is that some of these, AASCB for instance, diverts faculty time towards research rather than towards teaching. This means that faculty-student interactions suffer. Research articles also suggest that these international accreditations tend to focus on processes rather than on persons.

In the changing world, perhaps, it is time to re-evaluate what an MBA is required for. An interesting paper in the Journal of Management and Strategy ‘An Effective MBA: Perspectives of Students, Faculty, and Employers’ offered some suggestions for success and satisfaction. The authors Sunil J Ramlall and Dhanmati Padma Ramlall, management consultant and faculty in the US, argued that though an MBA degree helps get good jobs and salaries and ensures performance, the fact is that B-schools throughout the world are reinventing themselves to remain relevant.

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With the world getting more complex, “responsible leadership and sustainable commerce” are needed. More than “knowing”, “doing” skills will be needed, and the latter need to be sustained by self-awareness and reflection on values which come from developing the “being”.

It then becomes important to keep the focus firmly on the person, the individual, and turn him into a leader. The “doer” has to work on his entire being and summon his inner strengths.

The Indian system, educational and otherwise, had since ancient times, enabled man to lead a wholesome existence through assimilation of the right diet and other impressions, through practice of different forms of yoga, strengthening the inner man through worship, and even study of various scriptures like the vedas for better understanding of the world.

Instead of Americanising or internationalising our B-schools, can we look at adapting the inherent strengths of our culture and using them to impart management skills? Like a mentor told us: “Why should we worry about IIMs not having proper infrastructure? Really, how much do you need to teach it can be done under the trees also, if you have good faculty and sincere students!”

Can Indian B-schools combine teaching the best of Indic traditions and vedic education along with management principles? India’s long-standing rishi culture, a culture that is still alive in its villages, could provide the framework for study it is the source of individual excellence the world needs, and is looking for.

Our B-schools can “set themselves apart” in this manner. Each state could help develop its IIM into something like an ‘Institute of Eminence’. Once established in this tradition of fusion where the best of the east meets the best of the west it would begin yielding dividends within a few years. The accreditation may not even need to be renewed then.

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