Should IIMs also have courses in social sciences?

Should IIMs also have courses in social sciences?
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First Published: Thu, Jan 08 2009. 10 46 PM IST

Expanding horizons? The IIM campus at Ahmedabad. The panel has even suggested that IIMs should offer undergraduate programmes. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Expanding horizons? The IIM campus at Ahmedabad. The panel has even suggested that IIMs should offer undergraduate programmes. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Updated: Thu, Jan 08 2009. 10 46 PM IST
New Delhi: The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) should no longer just be about management.
That’s one of the recommendations of a panel set up by the Union ministry of human resource development to suggest the road map for the six new IIMs that are to come up across the country. It is unclear whether this recommendation that the premier B-schools offer courses in social sciences and humanities, and another, that they offer undergraduate (UG) programmes, applies to the existing IIMs as well. The IIMs currently offer only postgraduate programmes, and only in management.
Expanding horizons? The IIM campus at Ahmedabad. The panel has even suggested that IIMs should offer undergraduate programmes. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
“Today, management education needs to be looked at from a different perspective. It should not be market-driven but scholarship-driven in the sense that the value and relevance of subjects taught must not fluctuate with the market situation,” said a person familiar with the recommendations of the panel, who asked not to be identified before these are submitted to the ministry.
The former head of an IIM said the recommendation was a bad idea. “Trying to convert either IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) or IIMs into regular, full-fledged universities goes against the very concept with which they were set up. Management education is not meant for basic education, but for specialization which has let them excel so far. I would say it is a bad idea,’’ said Jagdeep Chhokar, former dean and professor at IIM Ahmedabad.
In December, another panel appointed by the ministry and headed by Yashpal, who uses only one name, suggested that the IITs change from mere “undergraduate factories” to full-fledged universities offering postgraduate and research-related studies, a suggestion opposed by most IITs.
The panel on IIMs included IIM Ahmedabad director Sameer Barua, IIM Kolkata director Shekhar Chaudhuri and IIT Kanpur director S.G. Dhande. It was set up to address issues related to the reluctance of the existing IIMs to mentor the new B-schools because they didn’t have enough people to do so.
The panel is also looking into issues such as cost, space, infrastructure and regulations on classroom strength for the new schools that are to be set up by 2012 in Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Haryana. The government plans to set up at least three of these this year and will spend Rs250 crore on each, ministry officials said.
Still, not everyone is convinced the recommendation on humanities and social sciences is a bad idea. Pankaj Jalote, a professor at IIT Delhi who has signed on as director of Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi on deputation, said that there is a move in universities across the world “from specialized courses” to more social sciences and humanities subjects.
Arvind Sahay, a professor at IIM Ahmedabad, said the study of humanities and social sciences would do no harm. “It should be about application of social sciences in a business context. If you are teaching group dynamics, it can be dealt with in umpteen contexts but at the IIMs, it should be made relevant in a business context and not in a psychological context.”
Like Chhokar, however, P.V. Indiresan, a former director of IIT Madras who earlier opposed a similar suggestion for the IITs, said B-schools were not equipped to teach humanities. Such courses do not lead to fruitful professions anyway, he added.
And, while Pulapre Balakrishnan, an independent economist who has taught for a decade at IIM Kozhikode, said humanities courses were fine, he opposed the introduction of UG courses in management at IIMs.
“At the risk of simplification, one might say that management is less of a discipline in the sense that economics or physics are than it is an informed approach to practical problems. An MBA is the right level at which to pitch management as a subject, for students will then come to it with a sufficient disciplinary background earned at the undergraduate level. Does the Harvard Business School, for instance, have an undergraduate degree in business?” said Balakrishnan.
Pranay Kumar, an alumnus of IIM Bangalore’s batch of 2006 and currently a sales manager with PepsiCo Inc., said that while the basic course module for a management programme at the IIMs could stay the same for the first year, a combination of humanities and arts courses in the second year would enlarge the course menu available to students.
“Obviously, social science courses would add some variety and add more value to our learning,” he said.
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First Published: Thu, Jan 08 2009. 10 46 PM IST