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ISB vs IIMs: How they match up

February 08, 2010 15:12 IST

It's out. The results of Careers360's first-ever ranking of B-schools, which attempts to look at India's B-schools first hand, are out. The Indian School of Business, Hyderabad edges IIM A out to take the top position.

On examination of the rankings, it is quite clear that in terms of inputs and process, the big four are quite there with negligible differences. ISB's advantage of foreign faculty gets balanced out with IIMs' larger contingent of resident faculties. In fact, in terms of faculty-to-student ratio, the IIMs win hands down.

Even with an increased batch size and multiple programmes the average student-to-faculty ratio in IIMs are way ahead of the ISB. But as a student of IIM puts it, the faculty-to-student ratio is a misnomer. With their commitments, how much time IIM faculty spends with the students actually must be measured. Good thought, provided that information is available in the public domain.

On the contrary, a former student of IIM informs us, an ISB model is advantageous since one gets to interact with a diverse pool of faculty. And with the kind of research-intensive faculty that ISB gets, the quality of teaching would be substantially better. For want of objective measures, we could not differentiate too finely, between the teaching processes across the institutions.

In placements there is a clear gap between the institutions. The ISB's average salary of Rs 15.4 lakhs, the lowest in their bands (for those with about five years of work experience) is comparable with the IIMs. But it is still a clean 3 lakh rupeess above what an IIM graduate could expect. But once you calculate the earnings as a ratio of fee paid, IIMs edge ahead, though ROI is never calculated on a year on year basis.

The ideal methodology would be to rate alumni performance the way an FT or an Economist does. But if we were to go by media reports; we might have to wait for some time before one gets to know how they compare in terms of earning potential.

The ROI is a factor most of us take to decide on a B-school. While the ISB programme shows a marginal difference on the returns, it is the saving of one-year that some students think of.

The differentiating factor, however, for ISB seems to be the input in terms of the global diversity of students and work experience of candidates who look for lateral placements. In terms of process of learning and the output that have over the years resulted in placements it's a tad higher than what students get at the IIMs.

What stands out clearly, is the research output of ISB. A cursory glance at the research output would give you an impression that between ISB and IIMs -- at least IIMA -- has a similar quantum of knowledge production. But the point is to discount it in terms of output per faculty. And this is where ISB clearly scores, as can be clearly seen from the table on publications.

An argument could be that IIMs, especially Ahmedabad, produce substantial work in terms of research projects. Unless they get converted to academic papers, they never get reflected as academic work anywhere in the world. But what gets one's goat is the raise in productivity of the so called Tier 1 institutions such as MDI, which are almost biting at the heels of the three big IIMs. Dr B S Sahay, director, MDI, informs us that MDI has categorised journals into A, B, C categories and those who publish in A category journals get upto Rs 5 lakhs as incentive. The results do show on their publication record.

But the IIMs just don't seem to see the urgency of providing thought leadership to the country. The IIM Lucknow web site has no information on faculty publications, and seems to be least interested in informing the reader as to how productive its faculty is. In an interview in this edition with Careers360, Dr Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, ISB, asserts that a tenure-track assistantt professor at ISB would either publish or perish. Hope the system comes to effect at the IIMs, too. The IIMs even today continue to get the best students and the brand has an enviable reputation. But unless they buck up fast, the day is not far off, when the troika of ABC get dislodged from the positions it has occupied for so long and so comfortably.

It's time for the IIMs to buck up.

B Mahesh Sarma

Careers360 is a complete education and career magazine offering campus and course reviews, career features, scholarships, expert advisories, entrance exam preparation & solved papers, admission alerts and more.