Fuelled by rise of technology, onslaught of COVID-19 and many other drivers, last few years have seen tremendous changes in the social and business ecosystem across the globe. How should management education adapt to this change? What initiatives should progressive B-schools take to align themselves with the changing social and business order? In addition, how should private B-schools, who have contributed significantly to management education, adapt to big education policy changes in India?
MBAUniverse.com put forth these complex questions in an extensive interview with well-known academic leader Dr Vishal Talwar, Director, IMT Ghaziabad. Dr Talwar recently completed one year at IMT and has taken several initiatives to align the B-school to changing trends.
Dr. Talwar, who was earlier associated with Henley Business School (University of Reading) UK, London School of Economics and Manchester Business School, believes that MBA education in future will become three-pronged with right balance between Core Domain, Technology and holistic Liberal education. He also shared how IMT is aligning its curriculum and admission strategy to leverage these trends.
Q: Congratulations for completing one year as the Director of IMT Ghaziabad in August 2022. How was the year and what are the key initiatives undertaken in the last one year…
A: Thanks very much for your wishes. It’s been an engaged and mesmerising one year for me here at IMT Ghaziabad with some of the most motivated faculty, staff and students working hard to meet our goals and objectives. The IMT Ghaziabad fraternity works as a cohesive team and this has helped us undertake some major initiatives which would help us further distinguish ourselves as a modern management education provider. This year saw the introduction of the Centre for Enterprise and Business Improvement (CEBI), the Centre for Data Sciences (CDS) and the Mentor-Buddy system within the Centre for Faculty Development. We have had some interesting collaborations within the wider education ecosystem – for example our collaboration with IIIT Delhi and IRMA. Also, with the mission to utilise management learning as a vehicle for social good, our Sports Research Centre has been expanding its scope and presence through the launch of the National Sports Assembly as well as a Certification in Enhancing Employability for Sportspersons. Our Centre for Sustainability is taking shape and should gain further traction in the coming months.
Q: What Institutional Outcomes do you track closely? Do you see them improving…
A: IMT Ghaziabad consistently tracks important institutional and academic outcomes. These include student career outcomes, programs, faculty outcomes such as course delivery and research, industry engagement, other stakeholder engagement, entrepreneurial footprint, multi-disciplinarity, student recruitment and quality, alumni engagement and institutional visibility. We have working groups who focus on every one of these parameters, implement specific strategies to consistently move up and report these on a regular basis. I am happy to note that we are consistently improving on all these parameters- whether it’s research output quality, classroom and career impact, visibility, student recruitment or executive education.
Q: Technology and Data Analytics are becoming central to every business decision making. What are the implications for future of work and managerial skills?
A: The future of work is as challenging and as bright as ever. Of course, leaders of all hues have to be able to drop their older ineffective tools and adopt new ones. This is usually the most difficult thing to do since we would all love to carry on the way we always have. However, the new work environment requires management practitioners to appreciate and immerse in technology related learning and be comfortable in data driven decision environments. Automation and rapid technology adoption is forcing business leaders to move up the value chain and demonstrate their relevance through a continuous learning regimen and greater focus on higher order skills. The importance of both generic and specific skill sets will be important. An ability to pivot at a short notice and make quick decisions that impacts the lives of many is also proving to be a sound differentiator.
Q: Sustainability is another area where there is a lot of discussion in the business world. What is the implication of this trend on how businesses are managed?
A: Sustainability seems to have truly come to the fore in the last couple of years. This urgency is on the back of survival instincts whether we talk in terms of society, economy, health or the environment. The sustainability debate has transitioned into the mainstream mind space and this should create a more robust academic endeavour and focus in this all important area. Sustainability in all its forms should be at the core of the business school curriculum and not just as a few peripheral courses. This integration would lead to better appreciation and seriousness.
Q: Should MBA curriculum be more technology and liberal education focussed? If yes, how can this be achieved in practical terms?
A: Management education will increasingly become three-pronged with the right balance between core domain, technology interspersed with a holistic approach to liberal education. However, viewing this transition as a mere addition of subjects or specialisations may do injustice to what is required. Management problems seldom come dressed up as domain specific. This reality would need to be simulated in the classroom with faculty across expertise working with each other to enable effective problem solving. The silo-based approach to curriculum design is giving way to a more integrated approach.
Q: Coming to IMT Ghaziabad, many new Centres of Excellence have been set up in areas like Sustainability, Faculty Development and Enterprise Management. What is the thinking behind these and how will they make an impact?
A: Our Centres within IMT Ghaziabad have been doing some commendable work in the last one year. The Centre for Enterprise and Business Improvement (CEBI) is executing a number of important projects for the industry. These industries driven projects require both faculty and students to work on impact oriented research with a clear ability to drive value and create a footprint. The Centre for Data Sciences (CDS) is engaging with the industry to help shape thought around how management and technology can be more seamlessly integrated. It is also enabling more robust learning in this sphere for both faculty and students. Our Centre for Faculty development (CFD) is developing further excellence in both teaching and research through regular workshops and programs by internal and external experts. CFD also operates a unique buddy-mentor program to enable newer faculty to integrate comfortably with the ethos and vision of IMT Ghaziabad.
Q: Most B-schools struggle with their specialized programs as students prefer general management programs. IMT Ghaziabad has a wide program portfolio with many specialized programs. How do you strategize your program portfolio?
A: IMT Ghaziabad views it’s program portfolio from a current demand impact as well as from a future potential perspective. Thus, you will notice that we have the ever evolving PGDM Core program, Marketing, Finance, HR as well as Operations in our list of specialisations. Concurrently, keeping future differentiation in mind, we have the PGDM Banking & Financial Services (BFS) as well as the PGDM Dual Country Program (DCP). Both the BFS and DCP programs answer a growing need in the market for specialist management programs. This year, we have seen very encouraging traction for our specialist programs and have no doubt that such programs will figure strongly in our strategy as we go forward and keep building future business leaders.
Q: What are your views on NEP 2022? How is IMT Ghaziabad getting ready for NEP implementation?
A: The NEP has proposed some radical and potentially beneficial changes such as institutional status, multi-disciplinarily, credit banks, 3/4 year UG programs, 1/2-year PG programs, the ability to do 2 degrees simultaneously in physical format etc. The benefits of these may only become visible once these are implemented in totality. With a clearer implementation roadmap, management education in the country is set to transform with a focus on expectation alignment, scale, growth, differentiation and nudging business schools towards a larger footprint. IMT Ghaziabad is closely monitoring the various NEP led changes around and taking firm steps on the same. The nature of the changes being ushered in will require business schools to play out of their skins and question their very purpose and reasons for existence. This will then drive many of the learner centric changes.
Q: Compared to IITs and many Private Universities, top standalone B-schools haven’t fared well in NIRF rankings. How do you see this ranking, and what are the steps IMT is taking to move up on this yardstick?
A: The NIRF ranking measures all types of institutions – private/public Universities, IITs, standalone business schools etc. on similar parameters. Even if funding/sustainability patterns are different for varied categories of higher education setups, the thought behind the NIRF approach is noble i.e. progressive upliftment of higher education standards across India. The points garnered by the institution across these parameters are a sort of report card that can be used for institutional self-improvement.
Standalone business schools whose core focus maybe on student career/graduation outcomes can enhance further on this count but also work on other parameters such as Outreach and Inclusivity (OI). These are aspects that IMT Ghaziabad is concertedly working on.
In our experience, MBA aspirants follow a nuanced approach to business school selection that may incorporate some of the NIRF parameters as well as many other complex and subtle characteristics.
Q: Talking about MBA Aspirants, the overall MBA demand in India, as measured by CAT registrations, has been stagnant for the last decade. Is there a general disenchantment with MBA?
A: Incidentally, the number of CAT 2022 registrations have gone up by 11 percent due to the concerted outreach efforts of the organising institution this time. This bodes well for the CAT as one major avenue for student selection and also indicates to us the pent up nature of demand for postgraduate management courses. However, one thing we firmly believe is that good quality MBA education is here to stay and can open up unparalleled career horizons for the aspirants.
In my opinion, pioneering and progressive business schools should start making concerted efforts to attract students in a more holistic and multi-dimensional manner. A more inclusive and accessible approach to identifying the right talent is the need of the hour and IMT Ghaziabad’s selection strategy encompasses that reality.
Q. Coming to Admissions 2023, are there some changes in IMT’s strategy and selection process…
A: Yes, we are incorporating various changes in our overall admission strategy in order to attract the right mix of candidates. These include:
- Test score percentile cut offs for female aspirants are now 90 percentile for IMT Ghaziabad PGDM, Finance, Marketing and BFS programs and 85 for the DCP program to encourage more female applicants to apply to the programs.
- We are also offering a substantial scholarship of 25% on the tuition fees to all female aspirants who are admitted to any 2 year PGDM program at IMTG.
- To attract a diverse pool of applicants, merit advantage is being given to non-engineering candidates from top undergrad colleges and universities in the country. This will further enhance our batch profile.
- Quality of work experience has been given a higher merit % for Admissions 2023. We would prefer candidates who come in with richer and more prolific work experience
- Exceptional profiles in terms of undergraduate education from top ranked universities in India and abroad, candidates with exceptional background in sports or other extra-curricular activities, budding entrepreneurs and candidates with managerial level work experience in Fortune 500, listed companies and leading consulting companies will get both a test percentile advantage and a merit advantage. We would invite more candidates with diverse and exceptional profiles to apply to IMT Ghaziabad.
So, as a strategy, we are laying a focus on female candidates, candidates with diverse profiles, work experience and non-engineers both in terms of test score cut offs and merit. This we believe will attract a wider and richer applicant pool for final selection. We are planning to conduct the process online in February 2023.
Q: For aspirants, in addition to CAT/XAT scores, how important is building a multi-faceted profile? Does IMT focus on this…
A: With the nature of management education now as well as the nature of leaders sought within the corporate and entrepreneurial world, how business schools select their students is transforming and will transform further. Success in competitive examinations is important but equally important is the multidimensionality of the aspirant gained through work experience, or achievements through more evolved extra-curricular as well as co-curricular activities. IMT Ghaziabad students are a diverse mix – international sportsmen and women, covid warriors etc. They demonstrate achievement, aspiration and their skillsets can be further sharpened during the 2-year program. Building this multidimensionality requires transitioning away from a tick box exercise and imbibing the inherent values.
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