(Photo credit: Aashish Mylapally)
After growing a franchise on the back of the two-year MBA format degree for 50 years, an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) has for the first time announced a foray into undergraduate education.
With the five-year Integrated Post Graduate Program (IPGP), IIM Indore seeks to deliver a BBA+MBA type cocktail to students directly after class XII. Although the institute hasn't gotten the IPGP recognized yet, the idea is to make it equivalent to holding a Bachelor's degree followed by the IIM PGP.
There is an exit option after 3 years too, but there lies a catch. Those who leave after 3 years will not get a full-fledged Bachelor's degree but an undergraduate diploma. IIM Indore Director Dr N Ravichandran says that the b-school will be transparent in informing applicants about this caveat. But that's a risk few will want to take, so whoever joins the course is likely to stay put for the entire five years. But at a tuition of Rs 9 lakhs, this shall probably be the most expensive undergraduate education in the country that doesn't result in a degree.
Dual-degree programs, conceptualised and popularised by American universities, are also offered by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Such degrees are typically structured such that the Bachelor's degree is in fundamental subjects (Science, Medicine, Social Sciences, Arts) and the Master's degree is a professional specialization or super-specialization.
The IIM Indore degree is different in that sense: it begins and ends with business management, a subject which the world is not yet fully done categorizing as a science or an art. According to the institute, 40% of the course content in the first three years will comprise multidisciplinary subjects ranging from literature, political science to biological science and soft skills. The intention is to provide deeper grounding in business management by placing it against multidisciplinary backgrounds.
Dr Ravichandran illustrates with an example. "When we teach courses in Business Law or Business History to our 2-year PGP, often the understanding of the subjects in social contexts is missing. What we want to do is teach such subjects along with history or political science so that their contextual understanding is better. Along with that we will teach the students important soft skills and leadership abilities at a young age."
Interdisciplinarity has been gaining currency at worldwide educational institutions in recent times. Even the IITs now sprinkle their engineering degrees with healthy doses of social science subjects with the similar objective of providing a worldly base to technological learning.
But is it prudent for an 18-year-old to devote the next 5 years of his/her life to learning what is essentially a super-specialization? Will these graduates survive the ups and downs of the job market and the accompanying fluctuating demand for management talent without having an alternative to fall back on? Would these graduates have the intellectual wherewithal to understand increasingly complex businesses and systems in sectors such as technology or manufacturing and compete with managers who have prior education in fundamental subjects? Time will tell.
Another 10% component of the first three years would make the students gain international exposure and intern in social organizations. The remaining 50% would teach functional areas of management such as Accounting, Finance, Organizational Behaviour, etc.
After completing the 'undergraduate' level, the students would join the standard 2-year PGP stream at IIM Indore. Would they have to study some management subjects all over again? The institute will work on those details in due course, says Dr Ravichandran.
The multidisciplinary content of the course would be taught by visiting or adjunct faculty drawn from central and state universities and top rank science and commerce colleges of India. Looking at the past track record of courses in India that rely very heavily on visiting faculty, they invariably regress into mismanaged shows wherein a 'course coordinator' constantly grapples with arranging some teacher to show up for class and often ends up settling for a sub-standard option more easily available, or classes happen only on weekends when the 'top faculty' has spare time from work at his/her home institute. This has already started to happen in some of the new IIMs started in the last couple of years and IIM Indore will have to avoid falling into this trap. On the upside, IIM faculty will for the first time teach a much younger set of students.
The lure of high pay packets and future-readiness after an IIM is so strong that even top ranking IIT graduates join one immediately after graduation without any work experience, clearly not because they want to be 'better managers'. It is easy to buy into the illusion that "if two years at an IIM can make you richer and future-ready, imagine what five years will do". Parents and students considering the IPGP should carefully weigh the course against the alternatives of first studying domain education in fundamentals (engineering, science, arts, commerce) followed by work experience before joining b-school and then decide.