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Education Reform Could Help Indian B-Schools

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on April 20, 2010

The Indian government is considering liberalization of higher education in the country, a move that would allow foreign universities to establish campuses in India. Check out this story from Monday’s Financial Times for more on the proposed changes. One angle that story misses: How the proposed reforms could help local schools. Consider one problem faced by the Indian School of Business, the B-school based in Hyderabad that is partners with Wharton and Kellogg and has just announced an alliance with Sloan. (For more on ISB, look at my story about the school in the current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek here.) Since ISB isn’t affiliated with a university, it can’t give MBAs to its graduates. Indian students don’t mind: Most of the other top B-schools in India can’t give MBAs either, and everybody knows that the piece of paper you get from ISB is an MBA in everything but name.

Still, the lack of MBAs makes it difficult for ISB to attract students from outside the country whose friends and family members and would-be employers aren’t quite so understanding. Not being able to offer MBAs “does make a difference when you are trying to attract international students, particularly students from the Asian region,” deputy dean Savita Mahajan told me recently in an interview in her Hyderabad office. “That has been a challenge for us. When you go to Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, China, they are more conscious of the [MBA] label.”

ISB’s Dean, Ajit Rangnekar, says he’s hopeful that the proposed education reforms could eliminate the problem, allowing ISB and others to grant MBAs. That would make the school more competitive in recruiting students. Non-Indian students currently make up only about 5% of the student body, says Mahajan. “We will truly be in that [top] league only once we are able to get international students,” she says. “That’s one of our biggest drawbacks now.”

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Reader Comments

Deba Nanda

April 21, 2010 02:00 PM

It is nice that Indian government is taking steps in reforming higher education.Allowing foreign universities to operate from India will compel Indian universities to be competitive on the quality front.But what will happen to schools like ISB when their partners in progress and prestige will compete with them.Perhaps time will only decide the prudence of our political decision makers.


April 21, 2010 04:41 PM

Its kind of ridiculous that the current education system doesnt allow a school like ISB to offer an MBA degree. This probably curtails the chances of hundreds of students graduating from there to seek jobs outside India. I hope the Indian education system corrects this asap. This should have been done a long time ago.


April 22, 2010 04:12 AM

The fact that ISB is not an accredited B-school in India makes it impossible to grant proper degrees. Hence its post-graduate programme is not called an MBA. Of course, some might argue that as long as the market accepts the ISB graduates, the fact that their degrees are not called MBA does not. To some this suit. But to school it means lots of constraints: (1) As its degrees are not accredited, graduates cannot pursue further studies; (2) The cornerstone of any graduate school is research. As ISB is not recognized, it can never offer a Ph.D. programme. It tried to circumvent this by offering a pre-PhD preparation programme and it failed miserably.

No matter what ISB claims, at some point it will have to seek accreditation in India. Without that it cannot grow academically. It has to follow the law of the land. Even in IIMs the degrees are not called MBA or Ph.D, but that's by choice. In fact, because ISB is a fully private school, it may not even be allowed to use the word 'Indian' in its name. The government has already forced many private institutions to drop 'Indian' from its name. E.G. IIIT, the first 'I' stands for International / Indraprastha (i.e. anything but Indian / National).

ISB is a good school. It needs to do a lot more to become a great school.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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