17 Oct 2016 17:48 IST

‘IIM-A can learn a lot from mentoring IIM Nagpur’

IIM-A Director Ashish Nanda talks about how mentoring has been a learning experience

How did IIM-A come to mentor IIM Nagpur?

More than two years ago, MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) approached existing IIMs to mentor six new IIMs that were coming up.

IIM-A was one of the first to volunteer to do so. We said we would mentor an IIM in Maharashtra, wherever it was in the state. We didn’t know at the time that it would be in Nagpur. We thought it would be nice to have a sister institution in our neighbouring state.

In mentoring IIM Nagpur, we could be entrepreneurial and try out some new things. Sometimes, bringing about change is more challenging in an existing programme than in a new one. Of course, we would maintain quality, but IIM-N could also be a learning lab. 

How has the experience been in mentoring a new institution from infancy? 

It has been almost two years and we are proud of what we have achieved. The first two batches have been through courses designed and staffed mostly by IIM-A faculty. The quality of teaching is just as good in IIM-N as it is in IIM-A.

Some of the IIM-A faculty who have taught in IIM-N have experimented with pedagogy, trying out new ideas and new models. This has been useful for students as well as for themselves.

One of the design elements faculty coordinators for IIM-N tried out giving students the opportunity to go out into the field as part of their first year experience. When we had reviewed the PGP programme in IIM-A three years ago, one of the recommendations suggested was to give students an opportunity to go out into the field.

However, implementation of the suggestion was held in abeyance, because IIM-A simply did not have the faculty bandwidth at that time to guide student projects in the field. Given the smaller student cohort of IIM-N, we have tried out field immersion there and the experiment has been successful.

Twice during the first year, IIM-N students have gone for field immersions. Students have appreciated the opportunity to work in businesses and institutions for short terms, and have learned from their experience.

What has been the feedback on the first year performance of IIM-N?

New students tell us that IIM-N is already seen by potential students as among the top ones among the new generations IIMs. For the first few batches, we are targeting a class size of 60 students. For its first batch, 1,857 students taking the Common Admission Test who met IIM-N admissions criteria cut-offs expressed interest in the institute; 53 eventually joined.

For its second batch, 4,455 students taking CAT, who met IIM-N admissions criteria cut-offs, expressed interest in it; the second class has 56 students. Another indicator of the students’ comfort level with IIM-N’s educational environment is the number of women students joining the institute. From three in the first batch, the number has increased to seven in the second. 

When we asked students who joined IIM-N this year why they did so, several responded by saying that they see that it is already well established in terms of curriculum and activities, and because the institute has IIM-A’s full support. 

What are the challenges you see for IIM-N as an institution?

Our student strength doubled this year, with the new batch coming in. We need double the physical space for housing as well as classrooms. Our temporary campus does not have the needed capacity. We are building high quality temporary structures and work is going on at breakneck pace.

While physical capacity is being augmented, we invited second year students to spend one term at IIM-A, an experience they found useful at multiple levels. Attending classes with IIM-A students gave them confidence, I believe, that they can hold their own when compared with students from the best institutions. Also, they were exposed to the culture and values at IIM-A, and so, they can choose to take some of those elements back to IIM-N.

In addition, we need to offer both required curriculum and elective curriculum courses this year, requiring greater IIM-A faculty engagement. As the student body increases, we also need to help them organise their activities and clubs.

Placement activities are becoming more established, with the first batch having gone through summer placement and looking forward to final placement in a few months. We are also hiring faculty for IIM-N, as it’s now at a point where it is important for professors and staff to be permanently there. 

It seems to me that we are getting close to the third phase in IIM-N’s development. In the first phase, the Institute was a gleam in the eye and we had to plan setting it up. In the second phase, the Institute started with the first two cohorts of its PGP programme.

Now, we are embarking on the third phase, a phase of growth. The batch size has doubled, and we are at a junction where the Institute should have dedicated IIM-N leadership, faculty and full-fledged administrative staff. The permanent campus land has been identified and set aside; construction should begin on it very shortly.

We are mindful that in this third stage, IIM-N will be led by its director and its future will be charted by its own Board of Governors led by its chairman. We at IIM-A will be happy to lend our support in whatever way the leadership of IIM-N wants us to. Over the long term, we want goodwill between the two IIMs, and for IIM-N to feel happy with IIM-A’s contribution.