Why GIM decided to use ATMA scores for admissions this year

In an interview with PaGaLGuY, Goa Institute of Management (GIM) Director Mr Peter FX D’Lima and Associate Professor of Marketing Prof Ajit Parulekar describe changes in admission policy and curriculum at the institute which has just moved to its new campus at Sanquelim, in the interiors of Goa.

What new things can the incoming batch of 2013 look forward to at the Goa Institute of Management?

One of the things that they can look forward to is that the new campus of GIM will be ready in entirety. Although the current batch has moved to the new campus, they have to grapple with some incomplete facilities and no-extra curricular activities. But by the time the new batch comes in, they will have a state of the art auditorium, an amphitheater, tennis courts, basketball court, a football field and more. Beside, all the hostel blocks will be ready for moving in and the campus landscaping will also be complete.

Apart from that, we are updating our curriculum with 2-3 new courses every year depending on new happenings in the business world.

How is the new campus different from your older campus?

The new campus is spread across 50 acres land amidst hilly surroundings and is about 50 kms from the Goa airport. It has all the basic necessary facilities such as wi-fi connectivity over a 10 mbps connection, centrally air-conditioned academic blocks and classrooms and housing for faculty.

Besides that, it is a very high-tech campus wherein the student ID cards are RFID Smart Cards. All the facilities they use like copying, library or canteen are all recorded in the card automatically. Whenever they walk into the classroom, the RFID automatically records it in the attendance records. Using this system we have also implemented controlled access to both students and the faculty to various parts of the campus.

Why has GIM started accepting ATMA scores apart from XAT this year during admissions?

For a couple of years, we’ve been contemplating taking another score than just XAT. We wanted to try XAT plus CAT, but running both XAT and CAT simultaneously brings in a lot of complexity and issues of score equivalence to grapple with. Last year, we received 13,000 applications with XAT alone. Had we gone with CAT this year, our applications would have increased to at least 20,000 which was too large a number for us to grapple with in one single jump because of the complexity issues. So we decided to experiment with a smaller exam like ATMA and use it to gain comfort with equalizing percentiles of two different exams. But eventually we will move to accepting CAT plus XAT in the near future.

The fact that the current ATMA head Fr RD D’souza is the Founder Director of GIM gives us greater freedom and access to the ATMA data for the purpose of accurately finding out the equivalent percentiles between ATMA and XAT.

ATMA isn’t as rigorous or popular an exam as the XAT. Why will this not lead to a drop in the quality of students entering GIM?

What will happen is that I don’t expect a large number of student applications from the ATMA. Compared to a huge exam like XAT which has over a lakh takers, ATMA had just 10,000 last year. So I expect that maybe 5% of the applications will be coming from ATMA which is good enough for us as a test to see how scores of two exams should be equalized. Once the scores come, we will go through the percentiles of both XAT and ATMA applicants. Since ATMA is not as tough an exam as XAT, the exercise will be about finding what the equivalent percentile cutoff for ATMA should be compared to our existing standards for XAT. We will only admit those students from ATMA that match the equivalent percentiles of the XAT.

What parameters do you use for admissions and how is each weighed?

For the final admission, we are allotting 50% weight for XAT score, 30% for both the Group Discussion and Personal Interview combined, 10% for consistency of academic performance and 10% for quality and quantity of work experience. Our interview calls are not on the basis of XAT alone, but they are profile-based calls where we take into consideration the quality of work experience and past academic performance. We test both these attributes during the interview again and adjust the weights for work experience and academics again if we learn something new about the applicants.

Do you strive for a particular kind of class composition during the admissions stage?

For us the gender balance has been good. We’ve had 37-45% women in class since years now. We’re happy with it and it is better than the average balance in Indian b-schools.

However what we’ve found in the last couple of years is that lately too many people with engineering, IT or BPO background are applying and getting through. We made a conscious effort to modify this. Last year was the first time when we looked at industry and past academics while giving interview calls and tried to give higher weightage to those with diverse profile backgrounds. What happened of course was that the result wasn’t as we wanted. The reason why it didn’t work was that while we gave extra weightage to those from commerce, pharma or arts background, we were also giving weightage to work experience and it is the engineers who apply with work experience with an overwhelming majority. That work-experience weightage compensated for whatever extra weightage we had given to the diverse backgrounds and so we couldn’t reduce the number of engineers or IT professionals in the batch. So this year we’ll further skew the weightage for those with engineering, IT or BPO backgrounds on the negative side.

How will this work behind the scenes?

The XAT cutoff remains the same for everyone. The ones from IIT, NITs or other top engineering colleges will not get either a positive or a negative weightage. Those from other lower ranked engineering colleges will get a negative score while those from BCom, arts, science, medical, pharma or other diverse background will get an additional weightage. Similarly on the work experience parameter, we’ll give the lowest score for BPO or software work. Whereas someone from the shop floor or sales will get higher weightage.

That a diverse classroom makes for a better classroom experience especially in the case study method is well known. But why is it only now that Indian b-schools are suddenly waking up to the virtues of diversity?

You see, 10 yrs back when I joined GIM, we used to get 45% engineers in the batch which was a pretty good balance. What has happened in the last few years is that the number of engineering colleges has grown by a larger margin than the number of colleges for arts, science or commerce. So if you want an engineering seat, it is easy to get it today. As a result the number of people getting into engineering too has grown by a huge margin. So as a result we find that the number of people applying to MBA from non-engineering backgrounds too is less, because fewer ambitious people are going into such schools. Realizing this skewed balance, schools are taking corrective measures to have a diverse classrooms.

Does the industry also believe so? Will a diverse classroom also stand the test of the job market during placements?

Yes of course. Maybe five years ago when GIM had mostly IT companies recruiting, diversity would have been a problem. But now we’ve got a reasonably good spread of companies from all sectors, so there is no problem with placing people from diverse backgrounds.

Will there be an increase in the fees for the incoming batch of 2013?

The fees will increase by about 7%. It was a little lower than Rs 5 lakhs but for the batch joining in 2011 it will be about Rs 5.35 lakhs. The hostel charges for the two years will be about Rs 30,000 in total, so a total fees of Rs 5.65 lakhs approximately.

What changes in the curriculum or new electives are you adding before the new batch joins?

For the current year, we’ve introduced electives such as Technical analysis, Balanced scorecards, an organizational behaviour elective on self-discovery called ‘Understanding self’. There’s an elective called ‘Lyrics and management’ which is about drawing parallels between poetry or musical lyrics and management principles. Then there’s also a new elective in behavioral finance, and so on.

How many faculty members do you have and how are you planning to expand that number?

We are about to grow by almost 50% in terms of faculty strength. We had 24 faculty members last year and now we will have 36 or 37 faculty members after everybody joins, before the next session starts. Another new thing is that the faculty will now be housed on the new campus, so students will get better access to their professors. In the older campus we had that limitation because the faculty didn’t live on campus.

B-schools are struggling to recruit even one or two faculty. How have you managed to recruit 10?

We have the same problems that the industry has when it comes to getting faculty. Getting and retaining faculty are both tough. I think what is working for us is that all through the year we are doing faculty seminars, resulting in a lot of referrals.

Are you having to recruit a lot of inexperienced faculty to meet your target? What are the qualifications of the new faculty you’ve hired?

The faculty are coming from two categories. There are the young faculty who are young PhDs with one or two years of academic experience. The other type are those with a huge amount of industry experience. These typically tend to be 50 years or more in age and carrying 20 to 30 years of work experience. Goa is a lovely place to come and settle down at and the quality of life is great, which works for them. But the faculty that is in shortage and toughest to get for any Indian b-schools are those with 5 to 20 years of academic experience.

Read Next