Picking an institution for studying MBA can sometimes be a herculean task. First, there are several B-schools, with new ones popping up each day, vying for attention; second, most of these schools make tall claims (including top-ranks and 100% placement) adding further to the chaos; and third, there are too many parameters to judge and no easy golden rule to evaluate the B-schools.
How would you then pick the best B-school for yourself, so vital to the rest of your career?
The article discusses aspects that many B-schools don’t disclose, and in turn gives you an insight into what information to search for when you pick your MBA institution.
1. Who is doing the ranking?
Most B-schools show one rank or the other to claim that they are right at the top. But candidates must check how authoritative these ranking agencies are and how popular is their ranking among students and more importantly, among recruiters.
Rankings that the popular among student community include those by The Week, India Today, CNBC TV18, Outlook, Business Today etc. Similarly NHRD-PeopleMatters ranking is read by a large number of HR professionals, the recruiters.
However, the most important thing to bear in mind is that Rank is one of the parameters for evaluating a B-school. In the absence of a single, consistently rigorous and credible ranking system, Ranks can only serve as a reference, an important one of course, but not the only one.
2. Is 100% Placement claim to be taken seriously?
Students are often enamoured by 100% percent placement claims, without going into the details of who the recruiters are, and what salary they offer. An institution can easily achieve 100% placement by not keeping a minimum salary for its students. Or by inviting companies that are not established players.
These are tough economic times and any such claim by institutions that are not tier-I players need to be taken a bit cautiously. Candidates must find out who these companies are and whether they are reputed national organizations or MNCs.
You should seek detailed information on batch strength, number of companies visited and how many offers were made to students. Such information should be made available by every credible institution.
3. Does the institution have a legacy? An alumni network?
Most students don’t realize the importance that Alumni network has for an MBA institution. A good alumni network means better Industry exposure, better placement and internship opportunities and better student mentoring.
Older institutions that have a strong legacy have better alumni network, unlike those who came up only a few years ago. For example, a 15-year old institution is more likely to have a better Alumni presence and stronger brand recall than another which is only 2-3 years old. Also older institutions, like older IIMs, are more likely to have pioneered management education, when MBA was not in-vogue.
4. What do you mean by World-class faculty?
Lets agree on this. Faculty is the single most vital parameter that shapes your MBA career. Your learning is almost directly proportional to the quality of faculty. However, getting good faculty is the most challenging task for most MBA institutions.
Several institutions claim to have faculty from IIMs, IITs and other top Management Institutions. But are these full-time faculty members or they are taking just a course or a few classes? It’s easy to get an IIM passout to take a single class. It’s quite difficult to have someone join the institution as a full-time faculty.
5. Best-in-class Industry Exposure. How?
Top-class industry exposure needs a lot of effort. While getting a few junior or middle level managers to come and speak to the students is easy, it’s not sufficient. Also, true engagement with Industry comes from a multi-layered effort, involving students, faculty and institutional processes.
For example, any institution with a good industry exposure must have regular seminar talks, conventions, conclaves and must be able to have Managing Directors, CEOs, CFOs and other CXOs, and VPs of large companies to come and speak to students and interact with them, must have student-driven industry projects, funded-research and consultancy projects and more importantly, have strategic tie-ups with important industry bodies.
6. What’s going on?
An institution is as good as it does. A good institution should be abuzz with activity throughout the year and should have a professional looking website rich in content. Quality of content is a key parameter that tells you how professional the institution is and whether it really is what it claims.
Check the institution website. Is it full of student activities, conferences, conclaves, seminar talks, competitions, various development programmes etc.? If it is not, then probably the institution is claiming too many things and not doing anything significant.
7. Does the environment facilitate learning?
MBA is unlike Engineering. While in Engineering Education, most of the learning happens through lectures in the classroom, in MBA education, the learning is through multiple channels. Classroom lecture, group meeting in hostels, informal discussions in the canteen, reading in the library, working outside the campus on class projects, various student activities and seminar talks.
The academic, hostel and overall infrastructure plays a crucial role in facilitating this learning. A good institute must have a large campus with several classrooms, a large auditorium for talks, a significant library with a large collection of books, classrooms with PA and multimedia equipment, campus-wide wireless connectivity, attached hostel, syndicate rooms, computer lab and multiple playgrounds.
8. Does it look good on your CV?
Your MBA is not just for those two years. For most of you, your entire career would be driven by those two years. When you go and apply to various organizations, a key point on your CV that you will be evaluated on is your “MBA Institution“. Therefore, you need to ask how well-known the institution is. Ask around. Have people heard it’s name? Is it an All India Brand?
An institution can easily claim many things in it’s advertisements or even rank at the top. For it to become a big brand, it needs consistent performance, a large population of delighted stakeholders (e.g. Students, Alumni, Faculty etc.), a strong legacy and a vision for future.
-by Prof. Ashutosh Kar, Associate Professor (IT Area). Alumnus of NIT Rourkela & IIM A