Business schools train their students in specialised fields: management and economics. Over time, their alumni often reach high positions in the business world. Higher visibility of a b-school is often a result of the age of the b-school coupled with its presence in the media – whether earned or bought.
More often than not, increase in visibility of a b-school is also triggered by unpleasant incidents like questionable administrative overheads; mal-practices of teachers and students like plagiarism; moonlighting and conflicts of interest between private consulting and research by the professors; allegations of misconduct by alumni in management positions; offenses against academic and social integrity; and so on.
Of the 3000 plus legitimate (within the legal framework) b-schools in India, some 300 of them have visibility beyond their location. The legitimacy is provided by the approval to their existence being granted by AICTE, an institution with deficient capacity, suspect calibre and lack of imagination at least in so far as the Business-Management education is concerned.
Many among these B-schools have been making “me-too” investments in topics such as ethics, sustainability and responsibility. Naturally therefore, these values have begun to act as elements of their own public self-description. It is only fair that both the public and the media check these schools and their representatives, especially school leadership and professors, against these self-imposed high standards.
Positive news from the private sector has become rather a rare phenomenon in the last few years. In the media, top managers are often presented as technocrats maximising their company’s wealth and their own earnings. A failing top manager is an easy prey for the journalists. The rhetoric of ethics, sustainability and responsibility is not lived up to in research, teaching and practice, and b-schools can easily – and rightly – be reproached with paying lip service to key values of the 21st century.
Most of these “top” b-schools operate in a space that is remote from social realities of the country. They function like closed entities. They try to set high admission thresholds for students and thereby promote “elitism.”
Barring an exceptional few, most of these B-schools have been in a rat race of seeking accreditation from “Gora sahib” agencies. In confirming to the expectations of such accreditation agencies, many b-schools are insanely chasing “internationalisation” as called for by and others which is taking its toll. For “internationalisation” a b-school is expected to have a considerable share of international students, international professors and even international administrative staff. This raises a social and political question whether a b-school should chase “internationalisation” when contact between “normal” citizens of the region, their students and graduates, and the b-school is rather limited.
These are not merely theoretical propounding. There are interesting cases like the Management Development Institute in Gurgaon which is a pioneer in seeking and succeeding in obtaining the AMBA accreditation from UK. While the b-school is third time reaccredited by AMBA, it has suffered deterioration in its domestic accreditation by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA).
Most IIMs are chasing international Accreditations like the EQUIS, AMBA and AACSB but none of them is willing to be subjected to NBA. Within the domestic system, they are the “Bada Sahibs” who control the NBA, dominate its policies and systems but never undergo self-tests. And then there are the coveted b-schools like the FMS or the IIFT or DMS-IIT which seek no accreditation, domestic or international, yet succeed through protecting their social legitimacy.
Many of the B-schools of high visibility are capable of handling normal questioning from the media. They may not be prepared for a serious problem, very often starting with a single and sometimes minor issue, in which social and public media identify a narrative pattern that can lead to scandal.
If a business school has an excellent national and international reputation, delivers relevant results in research, and attracts talented students, it will be able to cope with negative headlines over a certain period of time. However, bad news can severely harm a weak brand. Given the right light, more public scrutiny should increase the social legitimacy of b-schools.
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