The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B) had brought in two ‘progressive’ changes to its academic process last year. It had made summer internships optional and permitted students to miss lectures. However, both the ‘privileges’ have met with a lackadaisical response. A close look at the concessions reveal that they both came with huge riders and that was possibly the reason why they did not take off as expected. Officials at IIM-B are however unperturbed. They expect the changes to take effect gradually and believe that “some option is better than no option”. Optional Lectures
Contrary to what was believed, IIM-B had not made a sweeping decision to permit students to bunk classed as per their whims and fancies. All it had said was that the decision to waive off class attendance would be put into the hands of the lecturer. If the lecturer thought it feasible to allow students to miss lectures, it could be permitted.
In reality, very few lecturers cut down on class attendance and many linked class participation to attendance. Prof Ishwar Murthy who teaches Quantitative Methods and Information Systems said that the rule, when implemented, made it very clear that the decision to allow students to cut down on attendance was purely a call that the lecturer had to take. “It depended on the lecturer and the subject being taught. So faculty members put into force their individual rules which was correct because the need of every professor and subject is different.”
Prof Murthy, who for one gives immense importance to class participation, chalked out a transparent plan for students. If there were 100% attendance in his class, students would be awarded 10 marks at the end of the term, if the attendance were 80%, the marks awarded would be 8 points and so on. “For me class participation is important so this is how I have chosen to treat the privilege. After I make the rule, it is upto the student to take a call,” said Prof Murthy.
The new rule differs from the one that existed in IIM-B all these years — that of 75% compulsory attendance across the board. The Quant professor further explained that in the earlier system if a student did not make the minimum attendance requirements, a penalty of grade points was slapped on him or her. “But now with professors being able to decide how much attendance is important or needed, it makes the system more practical and useful for both the faculty and the students.”
Students seemed supportive of the new rule. They told PaGaLGuY that all professors had stated their individual preferences and students too had taken a call as per their personal approach and requirements. “Not much has changed. Even students understand that class participation is important. Not only for the marks but it also helps get a better understanding of the subject,” said one student.
A side argument to this novel idea of letting professors decide class attendance could be that students pay lakhs of rupees to study in an IIM, what then is the point of making lectures optional? Especially so in the case of freshers who may not have the acumen to treat this license wisely. IIM-B features among the top three b-schools in most b-school rankings in the country and lectures are the bedrock of any good b-school’s academic process. How to make lectures interesting so that students attend is entirely up to the individual professor. But a counter-argument could also be that students with considerable work-ex, who are pursuing their MBA with a focused outcome in mind can exercise the option of going slow on subjects not relevant to his or her final destination.Optional Internship
IIM-B had also allowed students who have 36 and more months of work-ex to opt out of the summer internship. Last year, the first time this rule got implemented, only ten students opted for this hand-out from a total of 380+ sized batch. Sapna Agarwal, head of the Career Development Services (CDS) at IIM-B said that she was not expecting a huge number to take up the offer in the first year. “We have just introduced the idea. It will take a while to get around and understand it. “
When asked why the idea had come into existence, Agarwal said that it had arisen from student feedback. “We have students who come here after years of work-ex. Some of these students told us that it was not a useful exercise to undertake a summer internship, if it is not directly connected to the student’s final goal,” she said. Over the last three years around 25% of students pursuing PGDM in IIM-B have had over 3 years of work-ex.
Students told PaGaLGuY that it was also felt that during summer internships, the kind of work doled out by companies was not always up to the standard of a person who had some three years of work-ex behind him. “Since it is a summer internship, the work tends to be simpler, the projects are shorter and the learning sometimes becomes superficial for those who have already spent years in the industry,” said a student.
Students have to state at the beginning of the year itself if he or she wants to opt out of the summer placement process. And if at some later stage, the student does feel like joining the process, then as per the rule he will have to take whatever offer is made.
When asked how different it was from other b-schools which also allowed students to opt out, Agarwal said that this concession was only given to those with a certain years of work-ex and not to everybody. “Besides, those who opt out are not bound by the school to produce a report card of what was done during the summer internship months.”
What this means is that the students have a right to do absolutely nothing in the two months, if they are qualified to opt out of the internship. IIM-B does not expect these students to disclose their activity for the two months. When PaGaLGuY tried to contact a few of the ten students who had opted out, none were available on campus. “We don’t know what anyone is doing. We will know only once they come back,” admitted Agarwal.
Summer internships however also help corporates in recognising prospective employees for pre-placement offers (PPOs). According to Agarwal, this rule will not have an effect on the PPOs as companies are known to make offers to students irrespective of whether the student has interned with it. “At IIM-B, students with work ex of 22 months and more are eligible for lateral placements so a student who has opted out of internship can go for lateral placements,” she said.
IIM-B as a rule does not have any tailormade programme or alternate study schedule for those who opt out of summer internships but is working on some plans. Sapna Agarwal reiterated that since those who availed of this opportunity were the older students with work-ex, they were bound to be doing something useful with their time. “It is next to impossible that those who have chosen to stay away from summer interships will just laze around at home. Sometimes an MBA is done for a complete change of career and the two months can be used to work on that factor. May be in researching or networking. The two months gap is too large for students to take it easy.”
IIM-B would continue to allow experienced students to not intern anywhere this year too. The school expects people with family businesses and those trying to pursue something off the beaten path to take up this offer more seriously in the coming months. From a logical view point, this condition seems fair to students who may want to pursue something different or find something without the placement cell’s assistance. It is only in India that colleges-assisted placements are key to a b-school’a reputation, be it summers or final. In the US and many European countries, students are expected to find their own jobs. However, schools abroad rarely admit freshers into MBA programmes and those with work-ex tend to use their own contacts and networks to find a job post-MBA.