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CAT helps us get better quality students: FMS dean
Jayashree Maji | 29 Sept, 2012 0140 hrs IST
FMS dean Raj S Dhankar said switching to CAT has been fruitful. He also shares his thoughts about inadequate faculty and the plans to make FMS an internationally competitive B-school
"We have to formulate a strategy to see that despite slowdown, we succeed in getting companies at our campus both for summer and final placements." Raj S Dhankar
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is your first time experience with CAT? Are you satisfied with the quality of the students selected via it given the fact that there was a little delay in the interview process that led to several top ranking students choosing IIM-A, IIM-B and IIM-C over you?
Initially, we had apprehension about the quality of students as we were a bit late (sometime in September) in our decision to switch over to CAT. Once we decided, we worked on a war footing and were able to bring out the admission ad within 10 days. And the whole process was successful without any hassle, problem or delay.
The interview process got a bit delayed because of the procedure. Unlike our own exam, when the score would come following just a telephone call, here we had to wait to obtain CAT scores from IIM Calcutta (the institute organized the exam last year). There was also a long list of students, meaning the ratio of a seat to the number of students was 1:10 compared with 1:5 earlier. It took a little while to get the score of 2000+ students from IIM Calcutta.
Regarding the quality of students, I think they are better in a number of cases. When we used to take our own test, almost 100 per cent of the students appearing for it also took CAT, as IIMs and FMS have a common basket where students move back and forth between the institutions. Before choosing CAT, we did check how many students, who were admitted to FMS in 2011, wrote the CAT exam. It turned out that almost everybody took that exam. Then we checked the CAT percentile of the student at the bottom of the FMS list. It turned out to be 97 percentile. This year, the CAT percentile of the last student in the general category was 98.73. So, it is higher than the previous year.
Q: FMS had to extend the deadline for the online submission of application forms till December 20 from November 30 to allow more candidates to apply. But, at the same time, there was chaos due to slowdown in the online system and payment gateway. How are you ensuring that the situation does not repeat?
Even CAT extended the deadline last year. As said earlier, we joined CAT at a later stage and the faculty thought that it was important to increase the window for another 10 days or so. There was not any technical glitch and we just extended the deadline. Our admission process ran completely error free.
This year, our advertisement appeared on September 12 and the registration process has already started. It would continue till December 14. It is a fairly long window this year and we hope that we would be able to target the kind of students by keeping this window open for three months. We will also monitor that there is no co-ordination problem between the banker and the online agency that we have hired. This year, Sify Technologies and HDFC Bank are managing the process.
Q: What is your take on students from varied educational backgrounds in one classroom and the gender ratio?
We are very conscious of admitting students from diverse backgrounds. I think we need to re-look at our process of admission. The current process gives people with quantitative background an edge over others. We are also aware that management education is highly inter-disciplinary and we have a mandate and responsibility to see to it that every section of the society gets its due share. We are also committed to improve the gender ratio. Being a government-funded college, we have greater responsibilities.
Q: Faculty has been a prime concern across B-schools. How do you plan to improve the faculty strength at FMS?
This is a very critical issue. FMS is doing well despite the lack of infrastructure compared with IIMs. We are holding our fort in terms of the ranking. It is because of the good faculty. But, with growing number of students and addition of new programs, we need to have more faculty members. We have provision for 60 faculty members but currently have just above 30 on our roll. So, we are almost working at half the capacity and are bridging the gap by inviting guest faculty members from the corporate sector. This trend has been continuing for quite some time now. The university is conscious of it and we are hopeful of getting some new faculty members in this academic session. That will reduce dependence on guest faculty.
We have advertised for 35 positions, but let us see how many good people we get. We will opt for really good ones only. Some posts are lying vacant for five-six years as we have not compromised on quality.
However, the shortage of good faculty is a problem that engulfs the management education system. In IIMs too, 25-30 per cent positions are lying vacant. B-schools must focus on doctoral research to tide over the problem.
At FMS, we have 30 students doing their PhD. It is the responsibility of top IIMs and university schools to strengthen their doctoral programs to attract bright and talented people. In future, they can take up the responsibility of teaching.
Q: How important is the right mix of female candidates for MBA program?
Girl students are catching up very fast. In every area, be it academic or placement, they are competing hard and at times doing better than boys.
Q: What is the update on the new campus plan?
We hope that our new building in the south campus will come up soon. Hopefully, in this academic session, the construction should begin. It is likely to take two years to complete construction. The new unit will have residential facilities along with the academic block. The total area of the campus will be 2.5 acre. FMS would able to house all its activities and programs there. There would also be two hostels -- one each for boys and girls.
Q: What is your expectation in terms of average salary expectation in this placement season for the 2012 batch? Do you see the recession impacting job opportunities?
Yes, there are issues with the global economy and certainly with the Indian economy. Our GDP growth rate has fallen. Problems still persist in Europe. The North America is not coming up as we thought of. There are serious issues with the global economy and obviously there will be pressure on placement. Therefore, we have to have a strategy in place to see to it that despite slowdown, we succeed in getting companies on our campus both for summer and final placements and our students get the kind of jobs.
Our placement team is also thinking out of the box in terms of targeting public sector organizations. In fact, some students do not want to work for the private sector now. Last year, we had to request some PSUs to come and hire because students were not keen to be placed in the private sector. About 12-15 students joined PSUs. They are good pay masters and the job satisfaction is very high. The RBI took four students. We are keen on targeting more number of PSUs for placement. This is a new area we are working on. Students are also interested to work in NGOs.
Q: How does FMS manage to get increased average placement year after year? Please elaborate.
There is no trick here. FMS is a 50-year-old institute. Our track records during the last three decades demonstrate an envious placement history. Over the years, we have established to the society in general and to MBA aspirants in particular that despite our constraints of infrastructure, we have that spirit in our faculty, in our system and in our culture what it takes to produce first rate management graduates whom the industry values very highly and that is why firms are willing to pay high salaries. I think FMS has that set of ability and strength to deliver what is required by the corporate sector and also our strong alumni base. That is our strategic asset and obviously they come back and help us in terms of our placement.
From time to time, we do make changes in our course curriculum to make it relevant to the changing need of the corporate sector.
We feel that finance is a very strong area and 35-40 per cent graduates do pick up/get jobs in the finance sector. Therefore, we are setting up our finance lab like the one IIM Calcutta has. We always mould ourselves according to the changing demands of companies. That has helped us to stay ahead.
Q: What is your take on the international accreditation such as AMBA and AACSB?
I think it was not very necessary in the past. But with foreign universities and foreign business schools coming in India and setting up their campuses and in an era of globalization, international parameters are becoming important. So, if an institute gets accredited by international bodies in the area of management, it does help enrich its brand equity. FMS has just joined GMAT because we admit foreign students. Similarly, we have an association with AACSB. Entering into pacts with foreign schools for student exchange programmes gives you confidence and provides a level playing field. I personally feel that it is a very good idea to be accredited.
Q: Now, under CAT, where would you like to see FMS in the overall global ranking in the next three years?
I think we would like to have the transfer credit system. Exchange programs and MoUs with foreign universities do not work if your own system is not on par with them. And they all have the transfer of credit system. We would like to make efforts so that all our programs have credit system. Historically, FMS does have exchange programs with Harvard, Stanforrd, MIT and Kellogg for the last 50 years at the faculty exchange level. Now, we want our students to enjoy this facility which is possible only after the implementation of the credit system.
Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more news on FMS
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