Spurious MBA education - a useless, fancy, label

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In background checks carried out during 2014 23% of all potential employees that were screened in India showed up a lie or a discrepancy, with more than half of this related to education. This statistic grows at 26% per annum and a lot of it originates in fake degrees and certifications obtained from dubious institutions. The MBA degree has seen a lot of clamouring by candidates in recent times. Between 2009-10 and 2013-14 the number of AICTE affiliated MBA institutes grew by 2% to 3,364 but the student intake increased by a whopping 15% to about 350,000.

The MBA supply side is comprised of an illustrious crown – about 20 top-tier institutions with sterling reputation and enormous industry clout, a set of about 50 – 75 institutes with modest credentials and equally modest output of graduates and placements, and a long tail of more than 3,000 institutes that have neither the academic competence nor the market credibility worth the lacs of rupees of fee they charge students for. A substantial tail-end, though, is a bunch of dubious institutes that do not even qualify to be places of learning, let alone business education, but masquerade their shiny facades and dole out spurious MBA degrees for as hefty a fee as the rest of the tail charges.

The aftermath? Hordes of mediocre – or less – MBA degree holding ‘graduates’ that infest the job market with fake degrees and, worse, near-zero employability. Still, poignantly, thousands of gullible young minds and their parents and / or caretaker-sponsors are duped to co-opt into the racket. One such unfortunate case rues, "It was all so rosy when they counselled me and hard sold the admission – fancy course names, who-is-who recruiters, the works – but all I am left holding now is this piece of paper not even worth the ink on it." Similar stories abound the job market – conned candidates walking around with skin-deep management jargon, false labels, and poor communicating ability even.

What explains the gullibility is wide-spread false pride and societal pressure. Keeping up with pumped up aspirations, a generation of job seekers fall for an imagery filled with suits and ties, and visions of being catapulted into a board room to present pretty Powerpoint presentations. Parental expectations are driven by societal conditioning. The MBA is the new, shiny, qualification in town and we have to buy a ticket and board this gravy train.

So, it is not lack of awareness – on the contrary – but social anxiety overriding logic and reason. A parent of another fake-degree victim, has a hint of regret on his face when he says, "When the IIPM lid was blown it should have set alarm bells ringing in our heads. But, such is the influence of media and the facile impressions it makes on us, that the fleeting news of the exposure faded and the earlier, long running high-on-blitz and full page, advertising campaign and its trappings stayed on in our collective memories." Short-lived factual memories and long-lasting aspirational illusions, may we say!?

Still, don’t parents and caretakers carry out even a semblance of due diligence before shelling out their hard-earned money on little-known institutes with high-decibel claims?

However, the lies must get called out some day – even if after a while – and further course of action could be initiated by the parents / caretakers? Apparently, they and their wards get fooled by not knowing what to expect from an MBA course and an excessive focus on latching on to the hopes of a degree. "An MBA course is popularly perceived to be more about broad-brush business awareness and personality development. And, even if these abilities have to be imparted, by parading a fluffy approach to doing so institutes get away with low-cost superficiality", A professor at a mid-tier MBA institute says. He did a brief stint at a dubious institute before getting to know about its reality and quitting. “Some even project internships as an extremely crucial element of the course and try to put the responsibility of securing an internship on the students.”  This way, the institute can cut back on facilities, overheads and faculty.

But is there a stage when the unmentionables hit the fan? At least with a few victims acting on late realization? The legal route is a long-winded option for already embattled parents who wish they could get back the fee amount at the very least. This, the institutes foresee and extract the maximum possible money right at the outset.

As the number of the unscrupulous dwindle, the ones remaining still manage to victimise the gullible. Separating fools and their monies is an art that does not require having an MBA, but selling one – a fake one.

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Kunal Sen, Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services

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