The Indian Placement Reporting Standards (IPRS), Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad's medication to cure the mucky world of b-school placement reportage is over a year old now and up for review at the end of this month. As many as 25 b-schools were supposed to have adopted it to report their placements in a clean and credible manner, but as of today, only five have.
Even as an assortment of b-school placement committee representatives, journalists and auditors meet at IIM Ahmedabad on September 29 to weigh how IPRS has performed, here is a list of loopholes in the standard, that could be fixed and improvements that we think should be made.
First, the loopholes.
1. Neither the IPRS nor the audit process stops b-schools from hiding inconvenient information. For example, the lowest salary at a b-school might have been Rs 5 lakh, but it can simply choose to hide it from the auditors and instead report a higher figure as the lowest salary. Similarly, if a b-school wishes to show itself off as strong at finance jobs, it can selectively report fewer marketing and IT jobs in order to jack up the percentage of students with finance jobs in the graduating batch.
Saral Mukherjee, the IIM-A professor spearheading the IPRS agreed that b-schools could get away with reporting data selectively. In a telephonic conversation with PaGaLGuY, he said, "One way of ensuring that it does not happen is by checking the sector-wise classification. If there are very few data points for one sector, you can spot the area where the trouble is brewing from. To be fair to b-schools, some recruiters are still apprehensive about sharing data. We are still talking to companies to come on board. These are early days for the IPRS and the benefit of doubt needs to be given to the b-schools. We are trying to achieve as much transparency as possible and b-schools should be supported in this endeavour."
Each of the five b-schools that have reported their placements under the IPRS have had the reports audited by CRISIL. CRISIL's senior director of SME ratings, Sachin Nigam told PaGaLGuY, "As on date, IPRS guidelines do not mandate the minimum number of disclosures required for the audit. The auditor's role is to ensure that there is accuracy and transparency in the data made available to it by the institute. However, as per the IPRS guidelines, each salary head in the audited report is clearly accompanied by the number of data points for which auditable data with proof was made available to the auditor. The ‘deviation from the standards' section is a measure of enhanced transparency to clearly highlight the deviations that have taken place with the reason for the same. However, greater number of disclosures by the institute is always welcome as it enhances the credibility of the audit."
2. Nothing in the IPRS stops b-schools from showing unplaced students as having opted-out. The IPRS mandates b-schools to account for the placement status of each of the students in the graduating batch. One category, ‘Students not seeking placements for other reasons' can be conveniently used to hive-off unplaced students. Garnering signed opt-out letters from unplaced students using various persuasion and threat tactics isn't something that is unheard of at b-schools. Since auditors rely on written communication from students to establish opt-outs, they too will not suspect anything amiss.
Apart from plugging these loopholes, the IPRS could also do with a huge design and content makeover that is more user-friendly for MBA applicants and for others reading it.
1. The IPRS placement report format and design places honesty and transparency above easy consumability of information. Each of the IPRS reports released until now are scans of a wad of paper containing a large amount of data in tables. While there is immense scope for combining various data points to mine interesting insights about that year's job market from the tables, we are not sure if MBA applicants, the biggest consumers of the reports, are making or can be expected to make anything out of the coldly presented data for reaching admissions-related decisions.
We suggest that the IPRS placement reports incorporate a fresh user-friendly design abundant with graphical interpretations that is easy on the eyes for two reasons. First, MBA applicants will be able to easily interpret it and, thereby, learn meaningful information about a b-school's placements. Second, all b-schools following this same format will make easy comparisons possible. The data tables can continue to exist in the appendices of the report for the use of journalists and industry-watchers.
2. Applicants should be informed about the nature of jobs being offered at a b-school. In its current format, an IPRS report lays out separately the industry sectors and roles offered at a b-school. But it leaves out two important details. First, it does not report the names of the organisations that recruited from a campus. Second, it does not inform what roles were offered by these companies.
These are vital pieces of information for MBA applicants with prior work experience --- a steadily increasing creed at top b-schools --- who would like to learn what profiles were offered by a certain company in order to know if that b-school will help them make their desired career switch. For example, did a consultancy company hire consultants or analysts? Did that IT company hire for IT roles or for business roles?
During the last IPRS conference in June 2011, it was agreed that these details will not be incorporated into the IPRS report but instead be left to every b-school's individual discretion. However, this has not helped. Except for IIM Ahmedabad's placement report which contains a page that briefly describes the companies and roles, neither SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, nor Symbiosis Center for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune, --- both of which feature among the top 30 of PaGaLGuY's B-school Rankings --- say anything in their IPRS placement reports about the companies and roles offered.
We hope that such and other sound recommendations that the readers add to the comments below will be considered at the IPRS conference on September 29.