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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Beyond the Casemats

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Author: Namrata Yadav, PGP2, IIM-A

“Do barriers of entry make an industry attractive or unattractive?” asked the professor as he turned to face a class of 90.

He is joking right? We are about to complete one year at IIMA and he asks us this question? Barriers are unattractive or they wouldn’t be called barriers. Duh!

Someone from the back shouts “Depends on which side of the barrier you are on!” There is scattered laughter in the class at that cheeky but predictable comment. By now, you’re so tuned to this bunch of 90 people that you can predict the stuff they say before they even say it. You can also guess how the professor will discuss a particular case. You’re a long suffering veteran now.

The professor laughs at the joke but continues, “What about the barrier of entry to IIMA? Pretty high, right. Did it make it more or less attractive to you?”

Umm..well, IIMA is IIMA. It cannot be compared to some industry, right. Right?

But the professor hasn’t had enough. He says with a devilish smile “And now that you are here, how is life? Very easy? Pleasant? Highly attractive?”

You look back on quizzes, assignments, exams, placements, the soul-breaking competition and the near permanent sleep deprivation. Definitely not attractive. But….well…ummm….

“So, is your answer still unattractive?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the pedagogy at IIM Ahmedabad is all about. It is designed to surprise when you think you are finally getting a hang of things.

In simple terms, we follow a case-based pedagogy which essentially means that there is very little in terms of theoretical knowledge and almost every subject stresses on application. More often than not, we study a case per subject per session where we analyse a certain situation faced by a company and come up with our solutions to the issues faced.

While that’s great and stuff, the real superstars of IIMA are the professors. They don’t simply teach. Some lectures are 75-minute session of theatrics, complete with variations in voice. expressions and emotion. Some just nonchalantly dismiss such banal things as the country’s fiscal policy or certain world views you hold so dearly. Some look like they are the sweetest people alive and then trap you in a web of arguments. Some are supposed to teach you about law but end up giving valuable life lessons through discourse on philosophy. Some make you understand a concept with “Kabir Das ke dohe” and its hilarious English translations. And some professors make you feel how feeble your solutions really are, a testament to your inexperience and how much of the world you are yet to see.

My class used to replace the nametags of some students with some funny names and the professor was a sport and read those out while asking questions to those students. In his final session, every student replaced their nametags with nicknames. The professor was stunned and he spent the entire class addressing people by their nicknames and took a picture of the class with his phone at the end. As I look back at the past year, these amazing moments with the faculty stand out. How every student at a perennially well-dressed professor’s last session wore a shirt and tie to fulfil his lifelong wish of seeing a room full of well-dressed professionals; how a professor conducted a simulated game of Kaun Banega Crorepati to test the class’ understanding of the concepts learnt; how a professor gave an emotional narration of how he had to change his teaching style to keep up with the times as the class gave him a standing ovation.

And then there are the students themselves. There are so many different faces, so many personalities and if you set out to it, you could learn a lot from them – and not just in professional life. The best part of any class is when a student who has prior work experience in the company whose case you’re studying tells the tales of the ground realities. In a class of 90 odd people, you often get a wide variety of views. Some you agree with, some you don’t and the clash of the detractors is a great spectacle that plays out in class.

IIMA teaches you punctuality. An 8:45AM class means you have to be in the class by 8:45AM. Class Participation (CP) points are closely monitored and the class makes sure you do not get away with putting up random points in front of the professor. The students are allotted to study groups at the beginning of the academic year and all the group assignments, presentations are done within the group. Some of your group members become your best friends and there will be many times when you put up all-nighters in the dorms or library for a submission.

All in all, the “A” in IIMA does stand for Academics, but thankfully, the students, the faculty and the administration make sure the ride is well worth it.

Meenakshi Lekhi visits IIMA campus

Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi, MP, Govt of India and Supreme Court lawyer, visited IIM Ahmedabad on July 6, to give a talk on “Ms. Meenakshi LekhiPerspectives on Indian Economic Development and Policy Making”, as part of the Speaker Series organized by the PGPX batch.

Ms Lekhi began her talk speaking about the situation in which the current government took charge, and proudly spoke about its achievements in the past year, including reduction of fiscal deficit, improvement of current account deficit and containment of leakages. She spoke about a two-pronged strategy for development- augmentation of the current resources and distribution to people who require it. She touched on a number of issues, such as the contribution of food and a healthy lifestyle to economic development, creation of an economic policy for the unorganized sector, focus on renewable energy and the PM’s pet project, Make in India. She justified the dismantling of the Planning Commission, saying that it carried the burden of a “dole out” economy. She also laid out the new government’s idea of using a quasi-federal structure, with a central policy but localized implementation.

She moved to talking about Delhi and criticizing the previous government’s land acquisition policies. She took to task the fact that there were slums and squatters on government land authorized for development. She spoke about smart cities and waste management systems required for better management of resources. She ended with a flourish, declaring that India deserved a UN Security Council seat as it was part of the country’s destiny.

After what seemed like a slightly haphazard speech, touching on a plethora of topics while not giving specific insight into the vision of the government regarding policymaking, the floor was opened up to audience questions. A gentleman questioned the lack of direction in the government’s plan on implementation of reform in various areas, such as administration, judicial and labor. Ms Lekhi refuted the statement that there was a dearth of talent in the government, and asked the audience to have faith, affirming that the GST bill would be passed, and stating that improper articulation about the land acquisition bill led to the current state of confusion. She skirted the question about implementation of policies, and avoided the question on the government’s education plan.

When asked how much black money would flow back into the country, she joked that she was bad with numbers but said that means needed to be created to make the black money white and bring it back. On facing a tough question about postponing investment in flashy things like the Sardar Patel statue or bullet trains until necessities for all were achieved, she stated that while necessities were needed, it was also necessary to generate pride in oneself, and hence some of the above expenditures were required. She avoided the tougher questions about the government’s plan of action and repeated that the country needed to have faith in the PM’s vision and desire for change.

In all, the talk summarized the achievements of the government since election, but did not give much clarity or perspective about the state of policy making in India.

– Arundhati Hazra (PGP 2014-16)

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