Is it time for b-schools adopting IPRS to re-think the role of students during placements?

The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM A) hosted the second conference on Indian Placement Reporting Standards (IPRS) on September 29, 2012. An interesting point raised was the role of students in the placement process. Some of the delegates in the conference said that corporates are not willing to share data in accordance with the IPRS specifications when students are involved. So, is there a case for the process to be faculty-led instead of the current student-driven approach?
A case in point is S P Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), Mumbai where placement is driven by faculty and staff and students are involved only at the transaction level which is fully supervised by faculty. The institute has managed to obtain data for all its students from recruiters and published its placement reports, in accordance with the IPRS, on time. Abbasali Gabula, deputy director, external relations and administration, SPJIMR thinks that IPRS can be successful only if staff or faculty are involved. He says, “Students tend to take decisions for the short term whereas faculty will always look at long term interests of the institute.”
The same view is shared by Umesh Chandrasekhar from PSG Institute of Management, Coimbatore. “If the institute has to build a brand, you need long term engagement with the company which cannot be achieved with the students. Students come in with their own agendas. Obviously, faculty involvement increases the credibility of the process and helps build relationships with corporates over time.”
However, Saral Mukherjee, the IIM A professor who had been driving the IPRS, looks at it differently. “We are training the students to be future managers and managing their careers is also part of their job. There is no question of delinking them from the placement process. Obviously, data collection has to be done under faculty supervision. Most of the data which was missing from our placement reports was from international companies. Some domestic companies had apprehensions revealing the information when we asked them for data which was auditable. In many cases where students were not successful in procuring the data, our faculty had to step in and convince the companies.”
Sudeep S Kumar from TA PAI Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal offers an interesting perspective. He believes student involvement is directly proportional to the rank and reputation of the b-school. He says, “An institute which enjoys a reputation like IIM A can afford to have students driving the entire process. For an institute like ours which is neither on top or bottom, it has to be a faculty-student mix. For lower-rung b-schools, the faculty needs to take more charge of the placements.”
Saral Mukherjee further adds, “For private b-schools, building relationships is an extremely important exercise. They do not like to entrust this job to the students. For a government institution like ours, building relationships are important but it is not a make or break situation for us.”
We spoke to some student members from placement committees across b-schools adopting the IPRS. Abhiram R from IIM A says, “We faced problems while speaking to companies last year since IPRS was a new initiative. In many cases, our faculty members had to speak to the companies in order to get the required data. This year, we faced lesser problems than the last year and things will only improve as IPRS gains wider acceptance across corporates.” Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development (SCMHRD), Pune, had to reorient their entire placement process as they were not getting the required data. Praveen Damodhar from SCMHRD says, “We had to get our faculty coordinator involved in the entire process as many companies were not willing to share data with the students. Once the faculty member got involved, there was no problem at all.”
PaGaLGuY also spoke to a leading recruiter in various b-schools on the issue. Not willing to be named, the representative from the company says, “Companies are not comfortable to hand over such sensitive data to the students. When a faculty member is involved, it lends more credibility to the entire process.”
So, what is the step ahead for b-schools? Is there a need for students to take a backseat in the placement process? Savita Mohandeep, faculty coordinator for placements, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar, does not think that students need to left out of the process. “The faculty obviously cannot handle so much data. Ultimately, placements are for the students. Students have to work in sync with the faculty. They cannot work in isolation.” Umesh Chandrasekhar agrees, “Students should handle the operationalising part whereas faculty should concentrate on strategising the entire process.” Abbasali Gabula has a different take on it. He says, “IPRS was started to eliminate the discrepancies which student committees were creating by giving out inflated figures. If this process is once again handled by students it will raise many questions on the authenticity of the process.”
The recruiter we spoke to, however, suggested that b-schools should create awareness of IPRS among companies first. “Once corporates are sensitised to the cause, there will be no problem in data procurement,” says the recruiter. Concurs Saral Mukherjee, “Once the recruiters are convinced that statistics are presented instead of competitive salary information, they will come on board. It is not a question of students or faculty but of wider acceptance.”
Incidentally, no tangible outcome came out of the IPRS conference. Some of the participating institutes will now send proposals to IIM A and revisions will be made to the current format of the IPRS.

Read Next