Students on the IIM Calcutta campus (Photo: Subrata Biswas)
A GOOD INSTITUTION IS ALWAYS A WORK-in-progress. It dynamically responds to emergent challenges while drawing on its core strength. At a time when internationalisation of higher education is part of our everyday reality, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIMC) could not have afforded to remain insular and marooned in its originary national context. As a consequence, IIMC took the well-considered plunge in an increasingly competitive world of accreditation and rankings, and did a splendid job of acquiring what is popularly called the Triple Crown, that is, accreditation from Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). Interestingly, IIMC was the first institute of its cohort to have the far-sighted vision to move seamlessly from the national to the global without undermining its foundational mandate. Moreover, IIMC is the only institute from India which is a proud member of the Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS), a cross-continental alliance of 34 business schools offering the prestigious Masters in Management (MIM) programme. Likewise, we participate in all prestigious rankings from the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) of the Ministry of Education to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. We do that not only to showcase what we are but also to learn about any possible change of direction to be in step with the changing landscape of management education worldwide. Yet, we are not an accreditation-obsessed institute.
As a pre-eminent public institution of management education, we do not simply impart a set of skills to bright young men and women who come to us. We consider them as co-learners, and encourage a culture of debate and discussion inside and outside the classroom. We let diverse perspectives collide in order to build and nurture a critical academic ethos on campus. We do not think that our faculty members with their high standards of scholarship have the last word on any topic. We are dialogic. We listen to one another, critique one another’s ideas and remain open to multiple traditions of knowledge and learning. We believe in an interactive, democratic and participatory classroom. We believe in amicable exchange of ideas with plenty of room for disagreement amidst bonhomie. We have imbibed some of the elements of the city we are part of. We are articulate, but never loud and boisterous. We question almost everything and everything but never without losing our sense of courtesy and decorum. We write letters and petitions amongst ourselves, occasionally to the director, and the Board of Governors, but without losing our sense of purpose. We teach zealously and research rigorously with the fullest sense of academic autonomy. We connect with the outer world as an institute whose business is to produce ethical and socially responsible leaders. We walk the extra mile to work in areas, such as education and health, to contribute our modest bit to such important public policy domains. Recently, we organized management development programmes for thousands of headmasters, principals and teachers for the Department of Education, Government of West Bengal. More importantly, we disrupted our comfort zone by switching over to an altogether new language of instruction: Bengali.
We give equal importance to student-driven activities through various clubs that act as fora to demonstrate students’ literary and artistic talents. We read prescribed management textbooks but also organise plays where faculty and student participate with equal vigour. We watch films and talk for days about them. We read Philip Kotler on marketing, and Richard B Chase, Ravi Shankar, F Robert Jacobs and Nicholas J Aquilano on operations and supply chain management. But we read Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera as well. Our faculty colleagues know as much of economics as the critical nuances of Bengali literature. So, many of our support staff are poets, painters, theatre enthusiasts and connoisseurs of art and culture. We are institutionally inclusive. We are politically encompassing. We look at education as lifelong learning, something that leads to the making of a breadth of vision that respects pluralism and diversity. We foster international collaborations and exchange programmes as we see them inculcating a global outlook in our students. We wish our students to prepare for a diverse cross-cultural business landscape. We want them to add to the innumerable success stories of the Indian diaspora worldwide, and make us proud.
NO WONDER OUR alumni carry our intuitional flag all over the place with so much élan. Their accomplishments in different walks of life give us energy and impetus to continually strive for excellence. Even as we bask in the reflected glory of their success, we never let complacence take hold of us. Rather, it adds to our sense of responsibility to preserve and nurture our legacy of rigorous research and relevant teaching. We derive the kernel of our institutional strength with our connect with our deeply affectionate and well-cherished alumni. Where else will you have an alumnus like Ajit Balakrishnan who paid from his pocket to visit IIMC at least four times a year for full 10 years even when he was the chairman of IIMC’s Board of Governors? Where else will you have someone like Shyam Srinivasan who declined our proposal of business-class air ticket to deliver the institute’s Foundation Day Lecture, and visited us at his own cost? True to IIMC’s institutional ethos, our alumni have excelled in fields such as literature, history, bureaucracy, public advocacy, NGOs, social entrepreneurship and heritage conservation. These are the fields which are generally seen beyond the ken of usual management education. This is not to undermine the stellar success of our alumni in the field of corporate leadership. The world of business is too aware of them to go for any indicative list of names.
We engage with theories emanating from the global North while continually highlighting their ethnocentrism. We look askance at their relevance to our sociocultural, economic and historical context. We, too, do case-based teaching but without privileging it as the essential pedagogical tool for a management classroom
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Finally, as an institute, we remain open to outside influences without getting swept off our feet that remain grounded in our continual quest for socially impactful research and pluralistic pedagogy. We engage with theories emanating from the Global North while continually highlighting their ethnocentrism. We look askance at their relevance to our sociocultural, economic and historical context. We, too, do case-based teaching but without privileging it as the essential pedagogical tool for a management classroom. Even as we had foundational institutional collaboration with Sloan School of Management with discipline-specific focus, we have never hesitated to work with faculty at Harvard Business School (HBS). In fact, in recent years, our association with HBS has acquired more substance. The HBS faculty has sat on our Board of Governors; our faculty colleagues have attended their Global Colloquium on participant-centred learning. As an institute, our use of Harvard cases has gone up significantly. So has our resolve to produce quality India-based cases through our Case Research Centre (CRC). Our colleagues regularly attend the Academy of Management (AOM) conferences and share their cutting-edge research with their global peers. But then, they equally lend their learned voices to Critical Management Studies (CMS) at the AOM to bring out the inherent asymmetries in the realm of knowledge production and dissemination between the Global North and the Global South. We remain at the vanguard of the persistent call for an epistemology of the Global South. We remain steadfast in our commitment to a kind of management education that reiterates the vision of an inclusive, just, fair and humane world; an education that cares for our planetary health as much as it contributes to the growth of business.