Top Indian technical and management institutes are perennially on the radar—as students scramble for admission in the summer and soon-to-be graduates jostle for job placements in the spring. Next month, a committee under the chairmanship of professor Yashpal will release a report on the renovation and rejuvenation of higher education in India.
One of the committee’s recommendations is encouraging more interdisciplinary study at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM). Broadening the course of study at IITs and IIMs is imperative: India needs well-rounded technical and business leaders.
As the global financial crisis worsens, the master of business administration (MBA) is under fire, because MBA-holders were key players in Wall Street’s tumults. Bloomberg columnist Matthew Lynn recently wrote that MBA “factories” had “legitimized a pseudo-scientific approach to finance that turned out to be bogus”.
The MBA crisis is a reminder that global business leaders—including those from IIMs or IITs —need well-rounded study. As IIT and IIM grads often pursue leading roles in a spectrum of industries beyond their courses of study, they need at least some understanding of the civic and political structures they engage with. And exposure to humanities and social science courses can improve writing and communication skills.
One limitation, though, is how to implement interdisciplinary study: It would be difficult for IIMs and IITs to find qualified professors from other fields—as they already face a staffing crunch. Further classroom and scheduling infrastructure must be expanded.
Again, the specialization of the institutes should not be lost. The Yashpal committee has pointed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, which has leading English and political science departments alongside top-tier engineering programmes. All students benefit from such a diverse academic community.
Technical and management problems are no longer strictly disciplinary. Energy engineers, for example, are often steeped in environmental policy. A rigid curriculum won’t foster this, but encouraging students to take say, policy courses—along with civil engineering ones will surely serve them well in the future.
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