The Indian Institute of Management Indore (IIMI) has 65% freshers in its 2012-2014 batch. This figure is the highest among all the Indian Institutes of Management and other top schools this year. What becomes incidental is that the number of work-ex is about 35%. While IIMI decided to go with a bigger ‘fresher’ group, some of the other IIMs consciously decided to keep the number down and increase the intake of work-ex students instead.
Is there a perfect ratio at all?
According to Prof Rohit Kapoor, who teaches Operations Management and Quantitative Techniques at IIMI and also looks after admissions, the institute did not go out of its way to get in more freshers this year. “It was unplanned. We stuck to the criteria and got this mix of students. We are extremely happy with this batch.”
IIM Rohtak on the other hand, decided to tactfully cut down on the number of freshers in its 2012-2014 batch. According to its director Dr P Rameshan, while last year the ratio of work-ex to newbies was 70:30, this year it is 90:10. “We had decided that we would get a bigger batch of work-ex students and worked towards it. We planned for a 90:10 ratio in favour of work-ex so made sure we got it.”
When asked why the change, Dr Rameshan said that a typical MBA class should be well-informed and knowledgeable about matters regarding work dynamics. “This only leads to a healthy discussion in class.” According to the IIM Rohtak director while the ideal composition of a class should be 2/3 work experience and 1/3 freshers, in worse case scenarios, work-ex should not go under 50%.
Most other institutes have more or less kept this rule in mind. While IIM Bangalore has 27% freshers in its current first year batch, IIM Calcutta has 23%. IIM Ranchi on the other has 32 freshers in its class of 117 while at IIM Kozhikode, 40% of the class does not have any work-ex. IIM Trichy comes close to IIM Kozhikode with 38% freshers. The Shailesh J Mehta School of Management at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay has 11 newbies from 115 students.
IIM Ahmedabad has 30% freshers and there were reports that this year IIMA had made it clear that those with work-ex would be definitely preferred to others. And to the extent that a slight dip in the CAT score would ignored in favour of work-ex aspirants.
The debate concerning freshers over work-ex is quite a recent one. In the last decade or so, most top schools flaunted huge chunks of freshers, except say for a school like the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad where work-ex has always been a clear requirement.
Another faculty who did not wish to be named said that the need to get in diversity can sometime skew ratios one way or the other. “Since the trend is to take in fewer engineers and more women, the ratio of freshers can always rise. Some of the older IIMs did have huge number of non-work-ex students earlier but the trend slowly shifted towards getting in more work-ex."
One viewpoint is that many of the newer IIMs for their first intake did take in a good portion of freshers, keeping in mind the availability in the source pool and being new at the admission game. The cut-offs for the Common Admission Test were and are also lower with the older IIMs. “But over time even the newer IIMs have been trying to increase the number of work-ex students to attract good companies for placements," said an admissions official from one of the new IIMs.
A faculty member from an IIM in the south said that he would love to see more students from the humanities and social sciences background applying to his school, and if he does get a healthy group of diverse students, he would not mind them not having anywork-ex. . It's ironic that the IIMs have such varied admission criteria in place. While, on one hand the institutes need to be appreciated for being able to retain a personal character, on the other hand, they are letting out confusing signals to the student community at large, more so since the IIMs admit from a common student pool.
Also, the fact cannot be ignored that if the IIMs want to speak to a more global audience, they will have to make work-ex a condition. Yes, most MBA programmes abroad are of a year's duration and often undertaken for a 'change of career path.' In India, the course being two years, it is usually taken to 'build' one's career.
Students themselves however find the contest between freshers and work-ex students baseless. Kavya Amarnath from the current first year batch of IIM Indore says that it does not work negatively to have so many freshers in the class. “There are some subjects that experienced students can add to like operations and marketing. But for subjects like HR etc it is good that s much fresh perspective comes from those without any work ex.
Mainak Bhowmik also from the same batch who has some work-ex says that for many subjects having a new perspective which is not discussed before, adds to the knowledge flow in the class. “Those with work-ex will know things the way they have experienced it but when there is no prior experience, there is no limit to the ideas.” Mainak adds that to really know the worth of work-ex, students should have completed a few years on a job, not just a year or two like what is mostly seen.
An alumnus from IIM Calcutta told PaGaLGuY that it was safer to have a bigger proportion of experienced students in the class because experience at a work place gets in uncommon and many views to a classroom. "While if there are too many freshers, the experiences to be shared are far fewer."