Single entrance exam okay, but not if AICTE is conducting it: XIMB director

A single entrance exam is a good idea but not if AICTE conducts it, says Fr PT Joseph, SJ, director of Xavier Institute of Management (XIM), Bhubhaneshwar in an exclusive interview with PaGaLGuY.
What changes in the b-school or the curriculum can the incoming batch at XIMB expect to look forward to?

There has been some complaint that the courses are very theoretical so we are exploring the option of making our courses more practical. Since we are still thinking about it, I cannot disclose too many details about the exact line of action. However after we finalise it, students who come to XIMB will get greater practical exposure.

I have personally been teaching a course on emotional intelligence and leadership. We have plans to expand it and make it a more practice-based course. During this course, I make the students aware about their dominant leadership styles, which may vary from customer service leadership, entrepreneurial leadership, strategic leadership, transactional, charismatic and so on. However, all this is a little theoretical. Students know their style of leadership but do not realise how they are applying these styles in actual life. For example, students at XIMB have always looked after placements. However, there has never been any official evaluation for their performance as placement team members. On the same lines, the institute will also look at the performance of the students whenever they participate in events happening at different management institutes. This course is not a grade-oriented course. It will only make the students aware about their leadership skills that I believe will help them become better managers.

Any new courses being added in the curriculum?

A number of electives are going to be increased from next year onwards. We also have fresh exchange programme opportunities for students who are interested in going abroad. However, we have observed over the past couple of years that students are not willing to take up the opportunity for a variety of reasons. We have exchange programmes with four universities in France. This year we have had 23 students from those universities coming to XIMB but we have sent only four students to France.

We also have a joint three-continent global management programme in collaboration with a universities in New York and in Belgium. In this programme we have 16 students from Europe, two each from America and China and one each from Indonesia, Turkey and India. There are many reasons why students from India are hesitant to become a part of such programmes. The first is that at Rs 30 lakhs, the fee structure is rather high. Second, we are not assuring placement to the students of the three-continent global management programme. Finally, we also have a one-year management programme but students are not very enthusiastic about a one-year programme.

What are your views on increasing diversity in the management classrooms today?

As far as gender diversity is concerned, since last year we have made sure that one-third of our student population comprises of women. As far as having more non-engineering students in a management classroom is concerned, I continue to believe that it is a reality today that students who score high in CAT or XAT are engineers. So it is unfortunate that we are not able to call people with arts background unless we lower the cutoffs drastically. We tried it last year by lowering our quantitative aptitude cutoff. Even this year, we have given more weightage to verbal and logical reasoning over quantitative aptitude. If we would have taken a higher quantitative score, our cutoff could have gone as high as 97 to 98 percentile. However, since we have not done so, our percentile cutoff for this year rounds off to 94 percentile. Over the next few years, I think we should be able to achieve a more diverse group. However, as an institute we are not overly concerned about the factor since we have already a rural management program which has a majority of non-engineers in the class. This ensures that we have a lot of diversity on campus.

After a break of 15 years, XIMB is considering admissions through CAT scores. What was the reason behind this and has it affected the number of applications to the institute?

We were with CAT till 1997, post which we shifted to XAT. Last year, because of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) circular, which said that the XAT will be discarded in favour of a single admission test, the case for which is still in the Supreme Court, we decided that it would be safer to take students through both XAT and CAT. As a result, we have got almost 5,000 more applications this year over and above the 11,000 applications we got last year. The increase includes duplicate applications of those who applied through both CAT and XAT.

Your thoughts about a single management admission test for the entire country?

A single exam is a wonderful idea. But CMAT through the AICTE, which is a regulator conducting an All-India level exam does not sound great. Normally all government agencies may have certain amount of corruption in them, so it is better to have a third-party agency or a neutral agency conducting the exam. In addition, the format of the test should be according to the GMAT exam.

There were talks about XIMB becoming a university. What is the status?

In that regard, we need to get a bill passed from the government of Orissa that would approve our status as a university. Unfortunately, the government has not shown a favourable response as of now. The bill is stuck in the law department and until it moves further we cannot say or do anything about the matter.

In addition, there were talks about starting a university in Sambalpur. What is the status?

We cannot really start a new programme unless we get a university status. We do not want to depend on AICTE because they do not give approvals easily. We cannot invest and then wait for approvals to come through. Of late, the Government of Orissa is not encouraging increase in MBA seats. They sent a circular to AICTE around three to four months ago asking them not to increase the number of seats in PGDM institutes in Orissa. The major reason is that a number of PGDM institutes are closing down. Thus, the idea of university at Sambalpur has been put on hold for the time being.