BUSINESS SCHOOLS — STEP WELL TAKEN
The establishment of the private institutions can be termed as the completion of first phase of development in the field of education
By RAZA KAMAL
Sep 16 - 22, 2002
Needs give rise to opportunities. This cardinal principle of business has been well exhibited by the business schools in the country. "Mushrooming" as termed by some academicians was the call of time and some entrepreneurs ventured in the higher education stratum and in 1990's business schools filled the gap that could not be met by the public sector. The geometric expansion of students for higher studies and its fulfilment by indigenous resources today can be termed as a wise move; especially after the aftermath of September 11 when we witness a denial of admission abroad to the students for political reasons. Imagine the plight of our students if this gap had remained unfilled?
The establishment of these private institutions can be termed as the completion of first phase of development in the field of education. These schools have the highest rate of return as compared to any industry; therefore it would be wise to consider their inclusion in the list of formal industries. They should also operate as per the regulations applicable to other industries. It is also time that we realize that these educational institutes are not merely business ventures but also have a national and societal obligations to fulfil.
While the public sector universities have their code of conduct and long term unified objectives it is amiss in the private sector. At the most UGC controls their status and initial accreditation but thereafter it is left to these institutes to chart their own individual courses.
* The role of UGC had been under discussion for some time and now some guidelines have been issued. Beside the approval their role should include effective monitoring, fee restrictions and future objectives for these institutions that are time oriented.
* The return of the provincial assemblies is being viewed skeptically by some of the entrepreneurs in the field of education who feel that their NOC's and accreditations would be unduly delayed due to bureaucratic red tapisms.
* The disseminatory role on behalf of universities for developing an intimate interaction with the chamber of commerce and other ministries should also be encouraged. Later this body could guide universities to develop their curriculums and include new disciplines in cognizance with the requirements of national imperatives. Presently it is left at the whims of universities who later find that corresponding response is weak from both the market and the students leading to wasteful utilization of resources.
* Another aspect which should be included in their domain is to ensure that universities which are categorized as NGO's abide by its regulations. This should not be a disguise to claim tax exemptions only.
* Our higher education system lacks university-ranking criteria and tall orders are claimed leading to confusion in the mind of students. Although the foreign ranking credibility at times too is questioned yet they have their benefits. This authority should lie with this educational body.
* It is the right of the students to choose their respective schools and discipline. However the lack of coordination, intentional manipulation during the recruitment campaign; the students are denied the right to select their best choice. As the institutes reserve the right of admitting students according to their criteria similarly the students should have the option to select their best institute according to their monetary constraints, intellectual levels and preferences. The UGC should synchronize the selection and closure of admissions within the same interval of time by all the universities.
Some of the institutes prefer to call their students as mere customers, a myopic approach. The student community too is more at home with this terminology! In actual fact the students are the product of this industry and the markets are the real customers. At best it is a relationship between a supplier and a consumer; the teacher being the supplier and student a consumer. This clearer definition is likely to reengineer our orientation and help us navigate toward ports where bounties are abundant for every ship, captains, sailors and passengers. Our dilemmas concerning breakevens, intellectual abuses and arm-twisting from some quarters would be eliminated. Market acceptability of graduates vividly differentiates those Schools; which refine and polish their students and those, which only serve their students.
Quality should be the mainstay of education if our goals are to remain meshed with national imperatives. The private universities lack research projects due to lack of interaction with industry and the industry's reservation of investing in this area; although the schools are equipped with manpower, time and intelligence to undertake these projects. The students are at times denied access for internships, an important activity to correlate theory with practice. The lack of this interface is felt in the classroom environment where students can neither contribute meaningfully with their individual experiences nor challenge any old-ridden dogmas and readily accept instructions as delivered to them.
The level of coordination and areas of interaction between the universities needs to be streamlined. It is time to shed away the cocoon mentality and pool in our individual intellectual resources for the benefit of all. The spirit of competitiveness should be replaced by the philosophy of collaboration amongst these educational institutions. In doing so they would be applying the second cardinal of business; cumulative business will increase if their policies are unified. Students anywhere need the best resources; for this is how we instill in them the highest ethical standards of team working.
* Faculty sharing is the first step in this direction. In the areas of specialization there appears a deficiency of tutors as well as adequate class strengths. The institutes instead of dissipating their meager resources can concentrate and share in areas of their respective competencies and add more value to the final product. This would also develop inter university communication leading to refinement in the curriculum and healthy competition.
* Our present academic benchmarks are foreign based which needs to be corrected. There are plenty of public and private enterprises that can acclaim to fill these positions and should extend their helping hand.
* There never has been a formal forum between the private universities where individual or combined problems have been highlighted. Seminars, teaching workshops and student competitions will help bridge these gulfs.
* Business faculty is another question where academia- industry cooperation is required. Business faculty lacking work experience will never be able to translate theoretical concepts nor relate them to local conditions. Probably this is the reason that there is no indigenous textbook used at any of the business schools. Experienced managers from the industry should be loaned by the organizations during the mornings to take study assignments. Such mutual experiences would have long-term benefits.
Business schools are now vying to elevate their status to university level by offering diverse disciplines for study. However their approach in this regard lacks meticulous planning, national orientation and research. Universities should shirk to venture into newer disciplines at this infantile stage of growth but supplement the disciplines where the public sector cannot cope up. The traditional disciplines although well covered by the public sector but do not fulfil the needs of market and need to be supplemented. There remains a vast gap in the fields of agricultural technology, textile engineering and public administration. Some of the areas where they need to venture are: -
* Supervisory class in all spheres of business lack formal training and education. At most business and industrial organizations are able to impart narrow focused technical courses but not intensive all-round education. Due to this deficiency the intellectual gap between managers and employees is ever on the increase. This adds on to the work pressures for managers who cannot delegate work due to lack of proficiency in supervisory cadre. Organizations mesh up as teams only when all tiers of management energize towards goals.
* One reason for not carrying out this vertical integration by the universities is that stakeholders perceive that programs of such nature would affect their status adversely. This untapped resource although may not give premium profitability but their contribution margin in term of revenues due to sheer numbers will offset any monetary disadvantages. We have probably lost sight that the present network of universities especially in UK became possible when their polytechnic institutes were elevated to the status of universities.
* Our business schools are marketing or manufacturing oriented. This is not in consonance with either our economy or national resource base. Marketing of agricultural products, distribution of perishables and their penetration in the international markets are some areas where the business schools should concentrate.
* The orientation of students on graduation is to find an urban- based job. The present glut of unemployment of these specialists is so since their education cost has reached disproportionate ratios and therefore lesser modest options are not even examined. "Agribusiness" schools is more an answer to our problems where these specialists would find ready employments, meaningful satisfaction and would integrate themselves in the economic development of the country.
Beside the internal problems faced by students there are some areas where they have no influence and resultantly can only feel frustrated. A large number of students in business schools take evening program at their own expense, a healthy orientation! However their parent organizations neither provide any support nor relaxation in terms of work hours. This forum is being used to voice their concern and the realization that up gradation of their skills would eventually serve the better interest of organizations.
Business education has become a lucrative opportunity and a necessity. It is gaining grounds as a double-edged weapon if left unbridled. The need to keep it quality controlled, mission oriented and credible is only possible if there is an intense interaction between the government, industry and the business schools. A faltering at this stage is likely to mar progress made so far.
THE AUTHOR IS DIRECTOR OF ACADEMICS AT PAF-KIET.