05 Feb 2021 22:09 IST

Creating a research-focused environment in B-schools

Research-active faculty bring data-backed findings to classrooms, contributing to students’ development

In India, management education gained momentum after independence when public sector enterprises, newly established, faced challenges in finding employees for managerial positions. XLRI was the first management institute to be established in 1949. It was only after the Ford Foundation intervened in collaboration with US business schools such as Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan that the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) were established and management education began gaining prominence in the country.

Over the years, the Indian classroom, especially for higher education in management has acted more as a means for distributing existing ideas and approaches, typically based on research findings and cases in the Western context, to future workforce members than a place for creation of new ones. After the student leaves the classroom and enters the practice world, they realise that the "real-world" examples taught in their classroom do not apply to the unique Indian corporate context where they operate.

Indian context

The lack of research focused on India, or any similar emerging markets leave the faculty no other option but to turn to examples from the Western world. This research-deficiency exists because a PhD has been seen primarily as a license to teach. Laws in India require individuals to obtain a PhD to become Assistant Professor under UGC guidelines. This has led to a tunnelled focus on teaching and a continued increase in India's chasm between research and application.

Emerging markets contribute nearly 60 per cent to the global GDP. As developed markets become more saturated, emerging markets become critical to make a global impact. The growth of emerging markets has led to an increased interest in understanding them by corporate executives and academicians alike. Researchers understand that tools and solutions applicable to developed markets might not work for emerging markets due to characteristics and phenomena unique to them. Researchers in emerging markets, especially in India, given its size and diversity, have a unique opportunity to lead this research and be at the forefront of knowledge creation.

Research incentives

The task of creating a research-focused environment in India is easier said than done. Publication in top journals that requires rigorous and relevant research, which in turn, requires collaborations, training, and skill-building. Several management institutions with postgraduate and doctoral level programmes in the country have ensured steady movement in this direction Premier B-schools do it through training, exposure and collaboration with foreign partner institutions and faculty. The government encourages knowledge creation through SPARC programmes. Furthermore, institutions are also offering incentives and grants that support and encourage publication to help motivate the faculty, especially keeping in view the low acceptance rates in reputed journals.

Industry relevance

Implications for research is not just restricted to furthering academia and learning. Academic research focuses on real-world problems and draws data to solve them. In doing so, the research also contributes heavily to advancing business practices and processes. Furthermore, research experience ensures that any consulting undertaken by management faculty is grounded in empirical evidence, and so is of great relevance to the industry.

Apart from answering the present academic and business questions, and contributing to practice,when faculty members are research-active, they bring cutting edge research findings to the classroom, contributing to the development of future business leaders of our country. A research-active teacher is not only seasoned in the foundations of their field but is also up-to-date with the latest research ensuring that the curriculum is current.

Competitive edge

The increased focus on research and knowledge creation by faculty of top management institutions in the country has been influenced by several factors. The inclusion of research as a criterion in the government NIRF ranking framework is a step in the right direction. Several postgraduate institutions including IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, and IIM Udaipur focusing on research as an essential component for the role of a faculty, tying promotions to publications in top tier journals have also accelerated the pace.

There has been a greater emphasis on collaborations to ensure that the institutions are competitive in academic research. Faculty members from Indian schools are uniquely positioned to leverage their teaching and consulting experience to identify real-world problems and find rigorously researched solutions. Building a research environment in the country is gradually making headway with Indian institutes finding themselves ranked globally in research rankings. The UT Dallas research rankings lists ISB among the top 100 research institutions globally. The next decade can see many institutions will be staking our claim as knowledge producers.

(The writer is Faculty, IIM Udaipur.)

With inputs from Sakshi Babar, Research Assistant, IIM Udaipur.

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