How Expensive is Today’s Management Education?

Management has been one of the prized fields of study for over four decades now. The boom came with the establishment of IIM’s, and a generation ago any youngster’s dream was the IIT-IIM path to success, glory and riches. The growth of other management colleges was comparatively slow, and even a decade ago, there were less than one third of the management institutions as exist now.

Another step forward in management education was when some colleges took the risk of doing away with university affiliation, and began “autonomous” post-graduate diploma courses. Initially students were hesitant to join these, and would join such courses only when they did not get admission in “recognized” MBA colleges. But the tide turned, and soon the industry realized that autonomous diplomas were more practical and oriented towards the world of work – and students with PG Diplomas that are branded as “equivalent to MBA” have been getting equal job opportunities.

Then came the phase when private operators got into management education in a big way. Dozens of engineering colleges started MBA courses affiliated to the technological universities in their states, and even IIT’s started offering management education. Today the directories of B-Schools, as they are often referred to, run into hundreds of entries in most states.

Which institute to join and what price to pay?

Innumerable students aspiring for management education are in a dilemma when it comes to choosing the right institution. And one of the major factors is the price. Most post-graduate courses in management do not come cheap. A few colleges that have not yet acquired a reputation, charge within a lakh of rupees per year, but those more in demand easily command fees of up to three or four lakhs per annum. At times one is left wondering whether such high fee is justified, since management education does not require expensive equipment like engineering, IT or medicine. Of course, they do spend lavishly on infrastructure, ambience and furnishings – but it is debatable whether these are absolutely necessary.

Even though such fee amounts are beyond the reach of most middle-class families (particularly since many parents may have already spent a sizeable amount for the undergraduate studies), the hopes and dreams built around an MBA are so alluring that parents are willing to beg, borrow or scrounge.

Is MBA education value-for-money?

Hence one needs to ponder over the question whether the amount spent on such education gives value-for-money, and does it really ensure a bright future and lucrative returns to the student? Unfortunately the answer is not always “Yes”. With the spurt of B-Schools, many candidates are being churned out who do not necessarily acquire the managerial skills to get remunerative employment. And the aura of an MBA is such that every candidate expects to start with a fancy salary, getting sorely disappointed at times.

Practical exposure before an MBA

The exception is the growing number of candidates who are going in for a stint of work experience before coming back to do MBA a year or two later. They have a fair knowledge of the job market, and hence have realistic expectations. They take up MBA to enhance their qualifications and thus their market value. They also are able to choose the B-School more judiciously, and gain more from the course.

Prestigious institutes and the entrance tests

For those wanting to get into MBA immediately after graduation, it is imperative that they choose the college with care. Admission in good institutions is based on entrance exams, of which the CAT, conducted by the IIM’s, is the most popular, and is used for selection by other prestigious institutions also. Another selection exam, the MAT, is held three times a year, and dozens of other institutions base their admissions on the marks obtained in this test. Hence if a candidate has scored high marks in either of these entrance exams, he is assured of admission to a prestigious college. Even if he cannot afford the fees, banks are more than willing to advance a loan. These colleges boast of good campus recruitment, so the candidate is assured of a good starting salary, and can repay his loan within 3 to 5 years, or less.

Not all institutes have good infrastructure

The problem occurs for those who do not do well in CAT or MAT. Karnataka has its own K-MAT for colleges affiliated to the state’s universities, including VTU. But unfortunately not all these colleges have good infrastructure, teaching, or reputation. Students graduating from some of the lesser known colleges, particularly those who have taken loans for their fees may find it very difficult to get a sufficiently well paid job and repay the loan fast. Hence one needs to be very careful, and not get enamored with the label of “MBA”.

One should ensure the following facilities before joining a management college:
  1. Good infrastructure in terms of library, computers, auditorium, etc.
  2. Well qualified teachers who have put in a few years of steady service in the institution. If teaching staff has been leaving frequently, it is a strong indicator that the college is not good.
  3. Track record of campus placement -- and most importantly, the TYPE of jobs that candidates have been securing. It is not enough to get impressed by the names of companies doing the recruiting, because they may be recruiting for lower level posts or BPO’s.
  4. Quality of the students seeking admission, their background, their academic standards and their seriousness.
  5. Whether the college has a good industry interface and gives sufficient exposure to practicing managers and field visits.

By Ali Khwaja

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