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Why need Autonomy in Management Education?

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Private educational institutes with financial independence and robust infrastructural and technological set up can make better efforts to impart quality education. While aiming at quality education and imparting the same, the institutions can make strides to meet the goals of experiential learning based on critical and analytical thinking and relating it to problem-solving exercise which any value addition activity demands per se. Along with such private educational institutes, there exist a few government-owned educational institutes such as IITs and IIMs which have been making herculean efforts towards professional education for many years. More so, the management education in India, in its processes and practices and also in its pedagogy, has been owing a lot of debt to western models of professional management education. For example, the Harvard Business School Case Study platform is a testimony to the previous observation.

One of the strong ways to impart such kind of professional education, which is meaningful in terms of its curriculum, pedagogy, and outcome, is to have your educational institutes autonomous. The term ‘autonomy’ strictly implies “academic autonomy”. This, in simple terms, means “academic freedom” towards the choice of academic programs and their effective execution.

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The KLS-IMER (Institute of Management Education and Research, Belagavi) has recently been bestowed upon the status of an ‘autonomous’ management institute by the UGC for a period of 10 years starting from 2020-21 to 2029-30. Having had a strong academic legacy through the Karnataka Law Society, the IMER is a well-known brand in the Northern belt of Karnataka state. The Institute has witnessed various escalating stages of growth since 1992 under the leadership of KLS Management and able hands of professional directors. Today, the institute has earned its autonomous status by going through a rigorous process of an academic and non-academic audit conducted by a professional team of UGC experts.

Although IMER will execute its autonomous program from the coming academic year 2020-21, it will remain affiliated to the Rani Chennamma University (RCU). This implies that with IMER’s own MBA program or programs, the MBA degree will be conferred upon students by the RCU. This clearly implies that IMER as a professional management institute is not delinked from the RCU.

As stated earlier, ‘autonomy’ means complete freedom of choice of academic program/s, its design, its contents and the methodology (in the academic term we call it ‘pedagogy’) to execute a program in its most efficient manner. With one’s judicious thinking and exposure to the business world, the management education program can be made more realistic and close to expectations of the business world. And since there is plenty of scopes to do this under an autonomous structure, the gap (as it is talked of many times and many on many occasions) between academia and industry may be bridged through a selection of such management programs which have a strong bearing upon industry requirements. For example, today, industry and services sector have been changing very fast upon the invasion of digital technology and computer software (programming) which are highly committed to using ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) and ‘machine learning’ in manufacturing and service sector processes keeping productivity and efficiency as their prime objectives to be achieved. There are other related sectors such as finance and banking which are also experiencing sea changes in their product specifications and activities. The tone of marketing has now become ‘digital’ in its nature of activities and in its ways of executing plans. The payment modes have become digital using Gateway Systems. All such forces engulfing the business world demand highly modern and technology-driven education and absolutely different skill set preparation through management programs and courses. The autonomy status paves the way to introduce in your program such as industry-oriented courses.

Naturally, if such programs and corresponding courses are introduced and students’ population learns these courses, there is a much greater possibility to enhance employment not merely in terms of a number of jobs but, more meaningfully, in terms of matching job requirements and employees skill set. There are jobs in the market but ‘search unemployment’ reveals the fact that skill sets are not matching job requirements and hence there is ‘educated unemployment’. The conventional management program has failed to take into consideration this paradox. Any autonomous program has a good scope to overcome this problem and do away with the paradox.

The autonomous institutes are expected to examine the academic credentials of students in a more non-traditional and professional way. To achieve this, through the autonomous process, examination pattern, schedules, assessment criteria, nature and difficulty level of examination and all related things to the examination system demand more meaningfulness in terms of critical and analytical thinking and building different skill-set useful for industry. This shift in the present examination system, which is conventional in terms of its descriptive and informative nature and, at times, outdated in its acceptance, needs institutes to become autonomous.

The diverse nature of pedagogy is the present urgent need for management education. The conventional MBA program lays greater emphasis on the traditional method of classroom teaching. This, in one sense, an outdated model, implies teacher teaching in classrooms and students listening to him or her in one-way communication. In its existing structure, there is no automatic feedback on whether students understand what teacher talks in classrooms. To make the entire teaching-learning process more students’ centric where this process becomes more interactive and discussion-oriented, a host of methodological tools are being practiced in highly professional management schools. For example, a very popular methodology used is the case-study approach which has its origin in Harvard Business School teaching practices. Group discussions, lab and library assignments, field studies, simulation models, role play, storytelling are a few more sensitive ways that are being practiced in good management schools. The introduction and effective execution of these methodologies strictly demand greater flexibility and independence in the existing teaching-learning process. Such flexibility and independence can be brought in through autonomy. All such methodologies, in their diverse degree of significance, add greater value to the applied and problem-solving learning processes which is strictly experiential in its nature and in its way of implementation. Autonomous way of thinking, in much needed academic processes, would certainly help make the present text-book oriented management education turn applied oriented. This certainly requires autonomy.

Autonomy in academics widens the spectrum of activity-oriented value addition to academic programs which not only help students become more professional and academically mature but it also directly or indirectly bridges the gap between academics and industry in terms of latter’s actual field requirements and the existing domain knowledge and skill set of students. For example, activities such as industry visits, company projects, MoUs signed with companies and educational institutes, curriculum mapping through industry inputs, etc. definitely help the process of congruence between academics and industry. To bridge such a gap, we certainly need an autonomous way of thinking while implementing academic programs.

Today, a lot of educational exchange is taking place internationally. In such an exchange, there is a transfer of educational ideas and programs from one country to another. For example, such academic exchange is witnessed in academic areas such as educational programs, educational pedagogy, educational technological and skill-set and educational evaluation methods. To make the best use of such educational exchange, one of the ways is to go autonomous in introducing and implementing internationally acclaimed academic activities and programs through signing MoUs internationally. This type of initiative requires flexibility and independence in the academic operational structure. Once institutes become autonomous and other required essentials are provided, this becomes possible.

To have desired outcomes from the program objectives (POs) through an autonomous structure, the prerequisites are plenty. Apart from highly sophisticated infrastructure and modern technology, the success of autonomous programs depends on full commitment, utmost dedication and very sincere efforts on the part of faculty and related stakeholders. These academic values incorporate in them the necessary flexibility and dynamic structure in the entire academic set-up. The transformation of these values into actual POs is certainly a dynamic process.

If this process goes smoothly without any hindrances, the industry expectations from management graduates and the required skill-set may be matched successfully. This, then, may address a serious problem of educated unemployment or it may take required care of ‘search unemployment’. Today’s curricula are definitely redundant and obsolete to meet this requirement. Also, mere emulation of ‘western-oriented management education models’ will not work unless they are catered to the needs of indigenous requirements of management education in emerging economies. This adaptation is a central force to the success of the application of ‘western models’ to Indianised conditions.

All this to happen in a fruitful way leading to enhancing the ability of our management graduates to become able to solve business problems requires autonomy. This process, ultimately, not only helps make an investment in management education meaningful but would also increase return on such investment. That, perhaps, is one of the goals of professional management education.

Atul R. DeshpandeAbout the Author: Dr. Atul R. Deshpande, Director, Institute of Management Education and Research, Belagavi. Contact: 8600617014
E-mail : [email protected]

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