AICTE circular bars XAT and MICAT, binds affiliated b-schools to conduct admissions via state government

The latest All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) rules for PGDM programs in AICTE-approved b-schools has sent shock waves across the higher education canvas. The circular not only instructs doing away with important MBA entrance exams such as the XAT, ATMA or MICAT but ascertains that only CAT, MAT or any state government-conducted exams (such as the Maharashtra CET) can serve as entry points to AICTE-affiliated b-schools.

Fewer MBA entrance exams

The announcement which appeared in the December 28, 2010 edition of major national newspapers states clearly that Admission to all PGDM Courses shall be done through common entrance test such as CAT/MAT or Examinations conducted by the respective State Governments for all Institutions other than Minority Institutions.

When asked, Dr Prabhat Kumar Sahoo, Director and regional officer of AICTE, Western Region clarified that as per the circular, only CAT or MAT will be entertained as entrance exams to AICTE-approved b-schools. “Besides these two exams, those conducted by respective state governments will also be accepted as entrance exams, for instance in Maharashtra it would be the CET.”

On the larger implication that important exams such as the XAT have been knocked off the list, Dr Sahoo said that he was sending in his suggestion to include XAT so that along with CAT and MAT, even XAT can stay on as one of the entrance exams to b-schools.

Centralised admissions

Another point in the circular which has rubbed many b-schools the wrong way, instructs b-schools to admit students only through a state government operated process. The circular states: Admission to PGDM Programs shall be conducted by the respective State governments through their competent authority designated for such purpose. In most states, the competent authority would either be the Directorate of Technical Education, the dominant state technological university or a professional examination board such as Vyapam of Madhya Pradesh.

Explaining this, Dr Sahoo said that since only CAT, MAT and state CETs will be allowed as entrance exams (with the suggestion for XAT still in process) all b-schools with the exception of those affiliated to deemed universities will have to accept either of the three exam scores. So for schools offering autonomous AICTE-approved PGDM, the admissions will be handled by the authorities appointed by the state governments. Typical b-schools that fall under this category are SP Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJMR) in Mumbai, Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon, Goa Institute of Management (GIM), National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) in Mumbai and even Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) which prides itself in an admission process that tests for a creative bent of mind.

This circular of course does not affect the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as they are not governed by the AICTE, confirmed an official of the All India Board of Management, AICTE. It is also not binding on b-schools that are affiliated to universities or deemed universities such as Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Symbiosis, IIFT Delhi or FMS Delhi.

But why?

When asked why this blanket covering for b-schools like SP Jain and NITIE which are known to offer more qualitative education, Dr Sahoo said that there was no harm in using a common pool of students under a common exam and if any institutes needed to test for specialised skills, they could always do so at the GD (general discussion) and PI (personal interview) stage. “After the state CET exams are held, the states competent authority will send a list of students names to the individual b-schools and at that point, the schools can decide on granting admission based on their individual criteria,” explained Dr Sahoo.

The reason for this circular, Dr Sahoo says, was because there were too many b-schools admitting students only to make up their numbers and make some additional money without bothering about offering qualitative education.”With this move, we will streamline the process and ensure that quality in maintained in the institutes. People will not be taken in only to fill seats but on the basis of merit after sitting for the entrance exam,” said Dr Sahoo.

An official from the All India Board of Management, AICTE who spoke on the condition of anonymity said however that it will take some time for these measures to be put in place. This official, who was also part of Maharashtras Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) and the Maharashtra CET admissions team some years ago said that practically speaking, a move of this sort will be laborious for the state governments.

“Making provisions for conducting admissions of such huge number of aspirants will not be an easy task for the DTE or any other competent authority. Chances are that DTE may raise some objections,” he said. Dr Sahoo however said that DTE will have to comply with the new rules when they come into effect. He added that as of now, these rules will be binding on admissions for the next academic year.

He added that any kind of objections to the circular will be entertained in the next few weeks. “Those management institute directors and others who would like to express a view point contrary to the circular can do so and a discussion will be held at the AICTE meetings.”

Prof Parimal Merchant who looks after admissions at SPJIMR said that there was much debate going on at the moment on this issue. “This might work for those institutes which are only state based. For institutes like ours which has so many branches all over, this mechanism will not work.” Prof Parimal added that this task (of conducting admissions for all of the states b-schools) was a huge one and it is not clear whether the Maharashtra state has the machinery to handle it all.

The XAT viewpoint

XLRI, Jamshedpurs Director Fr E Abraham is not certain yet if the XAT has been taken off the list of entrance exams. Incidentally, the Human Resource Development minister Kapil Sibal had also announced these regulations at a public forum last week. To that Fr Abraham replied, “I am not sure Mr Kapil Sibal said that. He is a liberal and forward looking politician and is very much committed to liberalising education. If he said that it would be very unfortunate that XAT which is one of the oldest entrance examinations in the country is proposed to be stopped. In a pluralistic country like India, we need multiple tests. That is why AICTE decided a few years ago that there should be five national level entrance tests for management.”

Fr Abraham quoted the older AICTE decision passed in 2007 – Admissions to MBA/PGDM (or equivalent) programmes, shall be through one of the five (5) All India Tests, namely – CAT (conducted by IIMs), JMET (conducted by IITs), MAT (conducted by AIMA), ATMA (conducted by AIMS) and XAT (conducted by XLRI). All institutions admitting students on all India basis will have to opt for one these All India Entrance Tests.

Fr Abraham pointed out that the latest circular read that “Admissions to all PGDM courses shall be done through common entrance tests such as CAT/MAT or examinations“, which only posed CAT and MAT as examples and not the only allowable exams.

When asked why so many entrance exams were needed, Fr Abraham replied that from the students perspective a single entrance examination would be detrimental to their chances.” If a student has a bad day on the date of the single entrance test, then that student would have to bear the consequence by applying to all the institutes.”

Fr Abraham said that the major difference between CAT and XAT was that the XAT had the Business Decision Making section and the essay-writing section which measured the candidates skills in understanding unstructured topics and writing skills.

“Besides, the XAT paper is reputed to be the only paper where the pattern is unpredictable. And the CAT and other online exams have to under go normalisation in order to compare the scores of students in different slots. That process is subjected to statistical errors. XAT being a paper pen based examination on a single question paper set, is fair to the candidates as no one loses out due to errors in normalisation,” said Fr Abraham.