Fearing an emerging crisis from a faculty shortage, the six Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) plan to pool resources for increasing access to more courses and expertise across campuses.
They also plan to offer more perks to improve lagging enrolments in doctoral programmes, while some are considering relaxing eligibility criteria to increase applicants.
Details of the programmes are still being worked out, such as transferring credits and timing terms. But the IIMs hope to have a system in place by the time a new batch of doctoral candidates join in the second half of the year.
As of now, each of the IIMs runs its own doctoral programme, called the Fellowship Programme in Management (FPM). The consortium approach seeks to expand the range of subjects that the institutes can offer and add breadth to the programme.
Compared with some of the leading business schools, “the IIMs are smaller institutions with limited faculty strength,” says Deepak Sinha, FPM chairperson at IIM Bangalore. “Because of this, there are many courses that our faculty cannot offer at the FPM level.”
Individual IIMs have a faculty strength of around 80, though the sanctioned number is about 100. In comparison, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has more than 250 faculty members across 11 academic departments.
The six institutes are hoping to address the shortage by turning to each other. According to IIM Calcutta director Shekhar Chaudhuri, the proposal focuses on enabling students to access expertise that might be available at another IIM campus.
Added attraction: IIM Bangalore plans to make its doctoral programme more affordable from this year.
“We are looking at some sort of arrangement where FPM students can take a course at another IIM if they need to,” he says. The options could be either allowing students to physically go to another campus for a programme or even log into a class through videoconferencing.
While many areas of specialization are common across IIMs, some campuses have unique courses.
IIM Ahmedabad, for example, offers a specialization in agriculture, while IIM Bangalore is the only IIM that offers specialization in public policy.
IIM Calcutta’s campus offers regional development and sociology, while Indore boasts international business and entrepreneurship. And IIM Lucknow has a decision sciences specialty.
To make the programme more attractive and affordable, beginning this year, IIM Bangalore will offer a stipend of Rs15,000 per month; up to Rs1.5 lakh in contingency support to meet academic expenses; and Rs1 lakh for participating in conferences abroad during the programme.
These rates are expected to go up in the future, according to the institute’s brochure for doctoral students.
IIM Bangalore has also relaxed eligibility criteria for the programme. According to Sinha, now postgraduates from any discipline, or those with professional qualifications—such as chartered accountants and company secretaries—considered equivalent to a postgraduate degree with at least 55% aggregate marks and a certain amount of work experience, can also apply for the programme.
Admissions also have been opened to engineering graduates with at least 60% aggregate marks and two years of work experience after graduation.
Earlier, students could submit scores of either the CAT (common admission test), GMAT (graduate management admission test) or the GATE (graduate aptitude test in engineering).
“We decided to relax this because we found that many of our target students who would otherwise enroll did not have these scores,” says Sinha.
The institute plans to put shortlisted students through an internal test before selection.
But while Krishanu Rakshit, an FPM student in Bangalore, lauds the gestures, he questions their impact. “Most students who enroll for the programme have anyway given up well-paying jobs because they want to pursue the course. The money does not really matter,” he says. Further, he says, relaxing eligibility criteria did create some concerns on the quality of students but the promise of internal scrutiny allayed his fears.
While the other IIMs intend to continue using test scores, they are making other changes. IIM Calcutta, for example, offers Rs10,000 monthly for the first two years and then Rs11,000 monthly for the next two years.
“We are now looking at a significant increase in stipend,” says Chaudhuri, adding that more funding for conferences is also planned.
IIM Ahmedabad is also reviewing its stipend. All the IIMs offer doctoral students other facilities, including free housing on campus or a housing allowance, and the chance to work as a teaching or research assistant for extra pay. Most also offer a few scholarships.
Ironically, the IIMs face no crunch when it comes to applications for their coveted MBA programmes. Last year, around 230,000 students took the CAT exams for the 200-300 seats in each of the IIMs.
“Even as the demand for management education grows, we are not able to concurrently develop our faculty resources to match the requirement,” says Chaudhuri.
The average annual intake of doctoral students is 10-15 students at each campus.