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Downturn sees people heading for class

Downturn sees people heading for class

New Delhi: For the Institute for Integrated Learning in Management for Higher Education (IILM), the economic downturn might just be a case of third-time lucky.

After the New Delhi-based business school tried, first in 2006 and again in 2007, to set up a one-year postgraduate programme in management designed for students with some work experience, it had to cancel the programme for lack of interest.

This time, with a record 25% increase in the number of experienced professionals applying for its two-year MBA course, IILM has decided to give it another shot. “Over the last two years, employers were not willing to give (students) one year off because they needed the manpower, and people who had cushy jobs didn’t want to come to us," says Anand Rai, a vice-president at IILM. “This year, we see this as the right market."

Other institutes have also seen an uptick in applications for their one-year management courses, a trend that many link to the slowdown in economic growth to the slowest pace in six years. Around 1,200 students sent their entrance exam scores to the Noida campus of the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIM-L), for example, to express interest in its executive MBA programme. Last year, that number was around 600.

“The downturn in the economy gives a boost in terms of people who want to use this time to come back to school," says Punam Sahgal, chairman of the executive programme.

The Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, too, processed 25% more applications this year, up from less than 4,000 last year to almost 5,000 for the next batch, according to the school’s communications director, Bhuvana Ramalingam. It also increased the number of seats in the programme from 440 to 560.

At New Delhi’s International Management Institute (IMI), the admissions office received 224 applications for the 2010 batch of 60, up from 178 last year. “This year, people think it is not a good time to be in the job market," says Arvind Chaturvedi, who heads the executive programme.

Other schools, especially those that rely on firms to sponsor students, have seen a decrease in the number of applications.

The Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon, for example, took in around 1,000 applications this year for its executive management programme, compared with 1,500 last year, according to C.P. Shrimali, who heads the programme. The economic crunch has forced some companies to cut their education budgets. “Someone sending 10 people will send five," he says, “and some people may not like to take the risk of leaving the job".

Other business schools credit the increase in applications partly to their own marketing and recruitment efforts. ISB, for example, took last year’s roadshow to smaller cities such as Pune, Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Vijayawada, Lucknow, Kanpur and Indore. The school has yet to process data on this year’s applicants, but Ramalingam expects much of ISB’s growth to come from its increased outreach.

Applicants to the institutes are also coming from different backgrounds compared with the past few years. If the most common applicant profile at IIM Lucknow was that of an engineer, this year’s applicant pool includes dentists, accountants and architects, says Sahgal. “There is a definite change in the profile," she says, “we find that people from different professions are wanting to do an MBA".

IMI’s next batch includes four doctors, a profession that hasn’t been represented at its executive programme in the past, says Chaturvedi. It has also received health care industry applicants from Tanzania, Madagascar and Afghanistan.

IILM is aiming for 20 students for the first batch of its one-year programme. The first version of the programme includes a tie-up with a university in Paris, but only four were ready to join, and, Rai says, the firms that IILM approached weren’t interested in letting their employees go on a year-long study sabbatical.

He says the school will start marketing the new avatar in March, and admit students by June.


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