Executive (one-year) MBA Part 2: Schools insist they do a good job of it and that students’ expectations are a bit too high

(Graphic by Sanjit Oberai)

In the first part of this two-part series, we highlighted how executive MBA courses haven’t quite delivered to the expectations of the students pursuing them. In this second part, we take a look at what the b-schools have to say on the subject

On placements…

While the students we spoke to threw light on the abysmal placements for the participants of these programs, b-schools claim that they have done a good job with the placements. Infact, Runa Sarkar, chairperson, PGPEX, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM C) says that the placements have always met with a 100% success rate. William Litwack, consultant, Executive Post Graduate Program, IIM Bangalore adds, “Through IIMB’s Career Development Service we provide extensive support for placement but do not guarantee placement. In practice, virtually all graduates do get placed.” XLRI also claims that it places more than 99% students of its GMP program. However, their response seems to suggest that the going is not easy. “Uniqueness in profiles sometimes makes it challenging for the students to find dream jobs. The industry is till maturing on how it treats executive MBA students,” says Pranabesh Ray, dean academics, XLRI Jamshedpur.

Where’s the difference?

Not just in placements, b-schools have also not been able to have a well-defined exclusive strategy in place for their one-year program. XLRI, IIM B, IIM C, Great Lakes Institute of Management along with many others share faculty for the two-year course as well as the one-year executive management course. SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) has only 3 dedicated faculty members for its PGPM course. Any course which does not have dedicated resources will always find it difficult to carve out a separate identity for itself. It wouldn’t perhaps be wrong then, to describe the program as a squeezed out version of its two-year counterpart.

The curriculum also tends to be similar to the two-year program, on the lines of a general management program. While the institutes stress on the fact that learning methodologies are indeed different, the fact that curriculum tends to be similar and b-schools tend to make use of the same resources, the scope for doing something different in the classrooms becomes highly limited in such an environment.

Money matters

Given that a general slowdown in the economy is not in the hands of the institute, should the fees charged reflect the overall outlook? Also, is there a case for b-schools to restructure their tuition fees as per outcome of the course? An answer in the negative is the unanimous response from these schools. The b-schools justify the high fees on a variety of grounds. “It is difficult to have a program which is cutting-edge without this kind of money. Price and value is an equation. With international faculty and other resources on offer, it is difficult to deliver value at a lower price,” says VK Menon, senior director, career advancement services, admissions and financial aid, Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad. S Sriram, executive director, Great Lakes echoes the view. He says: “There is a case to balance both brand value and price point. If you significantly reduce the price, the brand value may get diluted. Face-to-face form of learning is often expensive so technology can be used to reduce costs. But the industry needs to have a shift in mindset first as technology-enabled courses which can be learnt sitting away from a classroom still do not find too much acceptance.”

Lack of flexibility in the programs also hinders executive MBA aspirants to stay away from b-schools in India. Piyush Nagda, senior vice president – EBG, JM Financial, chose to pursue the INSEAD Leadership Program for Senior Indian Executives course from the INSEAD. He said: “I was looking at the PGPX course from IIM A but dropped the idea as I would have to quit my job for one year. In the INSEAD program, I had to undertake the classroom training for only one and a half weeks once in 6 weeks or so and then could come back to my work and apply the concepts here. They also had some sessions in India which made it easier for me. Although I was also considering ISB’s PGPMAX which offers a similar facility, I had missed the deadline for it. Moreover, the fees for the program was close to Rs 27 lakhs while INSEAD’s course was Rs 20 lakhs. This course worked well for me because I wanted a diverse peer group which was possible only in an international school such as INSEAD.”

Common logic would point out at the fact that b-schools tend to see a spurt in demand for these courses when the market conditions are not bullish. But the small batch sizes seem to suggest otherwise. Yet b-schools remain ignorant of these signs and are positive about these programs. Ray adds, “B-school education is independent of market conditions and aims at grooming professionals for middle and senior management roles. A GMPian is prepared to take well-informed personal and professional decisions in the best and worst of the market conditions.” Mr. Menon from ISB also asserts that the demand for these programs has been fairly consistent and the trend is more of a western phenomenon.

While b-schools cannot be expected to take the onus of the career upon themselves, a more proactive attitude towards the participants careers, can resurrect the morale of the participants as well as the health of the program. The most b-schools can do is give a patient hearing to the queries of the program aspirants and be more transparent.

Here is a list of things b-schools could implement to better the health of their executive/ one-year MBA program:

1. Be transparent about placements

2. Provide exclusive faculty

3. Curriculum be made more relevant for senior level professionals