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MUMBAI : Saloni Mehta, 24, is putting her dreams of getting an MBA on hold. The uncertainty about securing internships and jobs in the next two years influenced her decision to postpone her plans.

“It’s going to be hard to get a job in the current economic climate. I currently have a job as a digital marketer, so I going to stick to that. I will try again next year if the economic conditions improve," says Nagpur-based Mehta, who works with an e-commerce firm.

The pandemic has disrupted the plans of many young professionals intending to attend B-school in India and abroad this year. Many are concerned about whether the curriculum is relevant, considering the scale of social and economic disruption caused by covid-19.

Leading Indian B schools are unfazed by the current economic crisis. While there will be short-term impact on classes and executive programmes, the economy will recover by 2022, they believe. The middle and lower ranked B-schools, however, will take a significant hit, especially in terms of placements, which rely on sales jobs that involve travel, says Ranjan Banerjee, dean, Bhavan’s SPJIMR.

Some B-schools have adapted to the change by tweaking their course duration and medium of teaching. Indian School of Business (ISB) restructured its programme and went online two months into the lockdown, and cut semesters to four weeks from five. “We were doing this partially for the executive MBA course, and were planning to roll out more such modules. The pandemic hastened that process," says Siddharth Singh, associate professor of marketing.

Prof Banerjee believes hybrid models will have to be adopted out of necessity because not all students may be able to join on-campus classes when they open. This also gives them an opportunity for them to reach out to a wider pool of international faculty and industry leaders. “Online classes are not new but now, industry experts, faculty and students are more open to the idea," he says.

Many students aren’t happy about this, and feel online classes don’t justify the high fees. “I don’t think you retain as much as you would in a real classroom. You pay so much to get real-world exposure and understanding of global business," says Pune-based Aditi Khade, 25, got into a business school in Paris but is deferring for a year.

Campus experience and networking are important aspect of choosing an institute. “A major part of an MBA course is networking. When institutes invite industry leaders for guest lectures, students get an opportunity to interact with the person. You lose this when it’s online," says Varun Shrivastava, 28, who would have spent nearly 50 lakh for an MBA course he was planning to take in Canada.

Professor G Raghuram, director, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, says it’s too early to comment on whether the fees are too high for online classes. “Most of the costs for offering an MBA are sunk and fixed costs," he says.

Those seeking to join a business school are also wondering whether having an MBA degree will be useful given the changing business landscape. Khade decided to wait it out till the curriculum was updated to reflect the post-covid scenario. “With the state of the economy and changing consumer behaviour, I would look for a course where the curriculum is in sync with the rapid changes in business," says Khade.

Yet, the value proposition of foreign B schools will not diminish, believes Gaurav Srivastava, regional director – South Asia, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts GMAT exams. “While students might feel they are going to lose out on the campus experience for the semesters that would be covered online, what they would be gaining in terms of knowledge still remains the same," he says.

Prof Singh says business school curriculum is already up to speed. “B schools like ours are applied schools and respond to market needs. The faculty has solid grounding in fundamentals, and make students future-ready. We teach students to innovate in the context you are in, whether today or 50 years down the road," he says.

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