Information Exchange on Student Exchange

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Author: Sriram Jayaraman, PGP2, IIMA

170+ outgoing students each year. 5 continents. 33 countries. 60 partner universities. While we don’t have a strict barometer for comparison, one can hazard a guess that IIM Ahmedabad’s student exchange network is perhaps the most extensive among all universities in the country.

For the uninitiated, student exchange, as the name suggests, is a process whereby students from the home institution are selected to study abroad in one of the partner institutions for a defined time period. Typically, student exchange MoUs are two-way, and the parent institution also hosts an equal number of students from the partner university.

At IIM Ahmedabad, students opting to go on exchange study overseas for a trimester in their second year. A handful of them also choose to complete a dual degree with the partner university, which requires them to stay abroad for an additional term in the second year.

Not surprisingly, student exchange is a much talked about topic on campus, given that a third of the students in a batch spend a semester abroad each year. While most universities select students solely based on their academic performance, IIMA rewards overall talent and is well-known in B-school circles for having a complicated, yet holistic process of selection. At A, the Student Exchange Council ranks students based on their performance in a variety of factors, with weights assigned to their performance in academics, sports, extracurricular competitions and business events. Post ranking, students sit for counselling, akin to the process followed for undergrad admissions, and select a college based on the availability of seats.

The upsides of exchange are quite evident. An opportunity to spend three months abroad with outstanding peers and faculty in some of the best institutions in each geography does not require much elaboration. Moreover, for Indians going abroad, it works out to be a good bargain, as the students are only expected to pay fees at the parent institution for the exchange term. Similarly, incoming exchange students add flavour to the life on campus (engineers will understand) and take classes with the second years. Their diverse exposure significantly adds to the perspectives brought out in a classroom otherwise dominated by monochromatic views from the Indian populace.

However, there are limitations to the exchange programme as well. A PGDM at IIM Ahmedabad is considered equivalent to that of a Masters in Management degree by several universities, since the admission criteria and course curriculum center around students with 0-4 years of work experience. The mismatch in student profiles restricts our ability to facilitate exchange with some of the other well-known MBA programmes, such as those offered at Harvard and INSEAD. Further, a student on exchange misses out on some of the fascinating courses offered on campus, such as Prof. Anil Gupta’s all famous Shodh Yatra. Lastly, given their absence from campus, students going on exchange are restricted from taking up positions of responsibility, an important point to note for those who enter campus with ambitions of becoming the batch’s General Secretary etc.

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