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Should exec MBA courses do away with placements?

October 04, 2010 08:42 IST

Will executive or one-year MBA programmes be more fruitful without the bling and stress of the placement process? We found this to be a question worth pondering over and asked a few academicians and students for their opinion.

The debate is this: being one-year programmes, a majority of the attention and energy of the participating students is absorbed by the rush of getting at least three offers in hand, negotiating the salary and finally converting the one best offer. This process usually takes up around four to six months of the students, which is sometimes half of the total course duration.

"I see the senior executive programme participants potentially spending too much time during their one year on campus trying to get placed rather than on learning the best they can from the programme. No campus placements would help address this as jobs are anyway easier for them to get soon after they complete the programme creditably. In fact the best candidates for an executive MBA are those who do not need campus placement," says professor Ganesh Prabhu, a professor of strategy at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore.

Sidharth Malhotra, pursuing an MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad says, "Students with considerable work experience enter an MBA course to add skill-sets and grow their networks with others. The focus changes at this point to building careers from a mad job rush. I personally see MBA as an investment for a 30 plus year career that lies ahead of me. So, the first job is only a stepping stone, not an end goal. Of course, schools where people with negligible work experience apply, need to focus on the job aspect more, since those students would find it hard to get jobs from their own networks outside."

The director of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, professor R Sriram said, "The placements have become growingly important for the students and are very difficult to separate from the course. The students come to the institute for a course like this with the aim of value addition to their current work experience, which means a better job. The people who enroll for these courses have a great opportunity cost, thus placements cannot be separated." The placement process at Great Lakes begins in December, when invitations are sent out to companies for participation in the final placement week, which happens in January.

The other thing that b-schools offering executive management courses are facing is the attitude of the candidates. There is a huge chunk of students who wish to use executive education as a way to 'change their field or profession', 'try something new' or 'explore a hidden talent'. Most who opt for executive MBAs giving any of these reasons are proved wrong and return to the sectors/ fields/ industries they came from.

"A management course for the executive is not the place for trying something new or exploring your inner calling. This is a place to add value to what they were doing or their existing field of expertise. We make the candidates aware of this during the selection process itself," said Kannan AM, the director admissions at ISB.

Relatively a newer kind of management degree, the executive or one-year MBA courses are on the rise. Almost all the Indian IIMs and other ace business schools offer a course specially designed for those with higher work experience. These programmes are usually of a duration of one year or less and charge a fee well over Rs 15 lakhs. Executive or one-year MBAs have replaced the three-year part-time MBA or PGDM as the most preferred option for working executives.

Students of executive programmes strongly believe that in the present context, academics and the job hunt will have to go hand in hand. Rahul Thapa, a student of the on-going PGPX batch at IIM Ahmedabad, says, "Harvard offers a management course for working executives of a duration of only six months. Many might argue the value of the course but in a format like that, the question of placement does not arise. In our context, when corporates are not sponsoring candidates, not giving out sabbaticals and not really supportive of the executive education per se, writing off placements will be very difficult."

Placements for executive MBA usually transpire very differently from those of a conventional two-year MBA. The placement process for the executives is usually like a lateral placement process, where the interviews happen over a period of time. Many a time, the candidates are called to the company headquarters, ostensibly to get a feel of the company before the final decision is made. This usually takes anything between three days and a week during which the students have to make time for travel or conference calls.

The opportunity costs for both the student and the corporate are high, thus the time spent is justified. But the question still remains, it is justifiable to design a course that compels students to spend this time at the cost of academic face time?

Copyright 2010,

Vasundhara Vyas,