Perspectives from ISB

In last week’s blog, Should You Go to B-school?, I wrote about a few things that could help you decide if B-school is right for you at this point in your career. If you believe that you have reached a stage where it can help both career growth as well as personal growth, you may be curious about the differences between studying in an Indian B-school and studying abroad. So let’s take a look at some of the key parameters you need to think about while choosing a location. In each case, I will also explain how we approach it at ISB. Many of the points may also apply to other Indian B-schools.

Local context – Top global B-schools have robust MBA programmes that equip their graduates with the necessary tools and abilities to do business anywhere in the world. That being said, having local context can provide sharp insights that you will need in your post-MBA job in that country. Whether you are studying consumer behaviour, the public policy system, accounting norms, or just about anything else, nuances vary from country to country. My suggestion to you is to go to B-school in a country where you intend to work after graduation.

The ISB PGP is structured so that there is a good mix of local and global context. Visiting faculty coming to ISB from various parts of the world bring case studies and insights from their countries while Permanent faculty provide a strong understanding of Indian business fundamentals, based on their research in local companies and organisations. This gives our students a breadth of exposure to international practices along with depth of expertise in Indian business. That means that not only will you be able to thrive in an India-based role, but will also be able to adapt quickly to an international posting.

Pedagogy – While deciding between Indian and international B-schools, try to learn more about the pedagogy a school follows. Is teaching purely case-based, or is it driven by lectures, or is there a mix of both, or do they follow something else? International schools often use different pedagogical tools than what’s common in India and different students respond differently to the various teaching methods. So pick a school that uses methods that work for you.

At ISB, while the subject matter being taught provides flavours of Indian and international business, the method of delivery follows global best practices. We use a combination of lectures, simulations and case studies, depending on which is better suited to a subject. Case method of teaching may have little to offer in a class that is introducing basic accounting terminology but would be critical in a class on change management, where a lecture by itself cannot lead students to uncover the complexities and nuances of the subject. And if you want to understand how customers react to your marketing strategy, why not use a simulation?

Faculty – Most of you will agree that the faculty at a school play a central role in determining the quality of education that students receive. In fact, students’ decision to apply to a school is often heavily influenced by the strength of the faculty there. Some schools have a roster of Nobel laureates as faculty, while some other schools boast of faculty with a track record of nurturing student companies into technology giants, and yet another school’s faculty may be known for developing and using unique pedagogical tools. While choosing whether to study in India or abroad, consider what the faculty have to offer you – your learning in B-school is highly dependent on this.

In fact, why limit yourself to the faculty of just one school when you could learn under top faculty from several global B-schools in your programme? ISB’s unique portfolio faculty model offers you precisely that – a potent combination of Permanent faculty from ISB and Visiting faculty from other schools like Kellogg, Wharton, LBS, MIT Sloan, Fletcher, Stanford, Haas, Darden, HEC, CEIBS, NUS, and many, many other top schools. Some of our Visiting faculty even come from organisations like UNICEF, World Bank and NASA! The Visiting faculty bring a strong international element to the PGP.

Our highly accomplished Permanent faculty add tremendous depth to your learning. We follow the tenure system, which is designed to reward faculty that perform high-quality research. So when you learn from them, you are the beneficiary of a wealth of knowledge and insight that they have accumulated by analyzing tons of data over several years, closely interacting with decision makers, and conducting impactful research that gets published in top-tier journals. 100% of our faculty hold Ph.D. degrees.

International exposure – Obviously, if you want to learn more about life in a particular country, a great way to do that is to live there. Combining it with business education makes it an experience of a lifetime. Some international schools also have a very diverse class with the majority of students coming from other countries. If cross-cultural experiences are what you seek, then going to such a school would be prudent.

At ISB, international exposure through peer learning is critical, with approximately 30% of our students having had significant international experience. In addition to their input as well as that of foreign students that enrol in the PGP every year, we provide global exposure through our faculty (as discussed above), various international B-plan competitions and industry visits, and our international exchange programme. ISB has exchange programmes with 40+ schools across the world and this gives you a great opportunity to either visit those countries or host students from there when they come to India. Explore the international exchange opportunities at ISB to learn more about how you can benefit from them.

Careers –A lot of students are interested in international careers. Once again, studying in the country that you would eventually like to live and work in is a great way to build networks and uncover opportunities. However, do the necessary homework to figure out the visa requirements, work culture, long term career options, taxes and regulations, quality of living, impact on family members, exit options, etc. before investing your time, money and effort in a B-school programme in a particular country.

The placement process at ISB includes an international placements component. Companies with presence in multiple geographies and looking to hire for an international posting start their recruitment process at ISB much earlier than those looking at domestic placements. Students in an international exchange programme may also have access to career fairs and mixers being held at the host school.

Cost – Finally, let us take a look at a critical parameter in most applicants’ decisions to take up a programme. Various costs associated with going to B-school include tuition, books, accommodation, living expenses, insurance, opportunity cost of not earning for the duration of the programme and miscellaneous expenses. Not counting opportunity cost, an MBA programme from a top school in the US may cost a single student (as opposed to a student travelling with his family) about USD 180,000 for 2 years. A 1-year programme in Europe may cost about EUR 80,000. Taking today’s (currently high) exchange rates of INR 61.6 per USD 1 and INR 84.7 per EUR 1, this approximately works out to INR 1.1 Crore for the 2-year programme and INR 67.7 Lakh for the 1-year programme, not counting travel and documentation charges. If you plan to bring your family along, these numbers increase. There are less expensive programmes available, of course, and there are many ways to finance your education too – scholarships, loans, etc. What is important is that you determine how much debt burden you can take on, given the opportunities and experience this offers you, and how you plan to service that debt.

We believe that it is important to keep opportunity costs low and so have adopted the 1-year format for the PGP. This means you can graduate and get back to the workforce faster, now earning a multiple of the salary you entered the programme with. Also, at INR 25.7 Lakh (including taxes), cost of the ISB programme is significantly lower than comparable international programmes. Of course, this is higher than most other Indian programmes but few can match what the ISB PGP offers – a 1-year, internationally top-ranked, research-driven business programme delivered in world-class campuses by faculty from some of the best schools in the world! I should also mention here that ISB is AACSB-accredited (the first in South Asia to earn this accreditation) and is supported by Associate Schools – Kellogg, Wharton, London Business School, MIT Sloan and Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy.

So keeping the various parameters discussed here in mind, do your research and evaluate different options for your B-school education. Your requirements and constraints are yours alone and you need to find the programme that suits you best before you embark on an experience of a lifetime! If you find that you need more information or advice at any point in the decision-making process, you are always welcome to contact us.

All the best!