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Past Issue • Oct-Dec 2012

DBA: A Solution to the Faculty Supply Problem

Professor SP Kothari analyses the faculty supply deficit in management schools and proposes an alternative path to improving the quality and quantity of faculty -the creation of a teaching-oriented doctoral programme that would train candidates in both research and pedagogy.  

In this short essay, I begin with my observations on the current state of supply (quality and quantity) of management faculty in India. I conclude the essay with a proposed solution for expanding the supply while also seeking to enhance the quality of management education in the MBA programmes. My observations and the proposed solution overlap to a degree with what Professor Phanish Puranam has written in an accompanying article, but the overlap is purely a coincidence.

Inadequate Supply of Management Faculty in India

The number of MBA programmes in India has risen dramatically over the past decade, with well over 1,000 colleges and universities offering the coveted MBA diploma to aspiring Indians. The supply of well-trained and qualified faculty to keep pace with the demand of a rapidly rising pool of MBA students has been woefully inadequate. Faculty positions are filled with a huge number of practitioners engaging in nothing more than storytelling of their experiences, disguised as valuable lessons in management education. A chorus of recruiters laments the inadequate training of freshly minted MBAs and complains about the need for corporations to retrain the young graduates so they become qualified to be supervisors, managers and decision makers.

The speed with which the demand for MBAs has risen is only a part of the reason the faculty supply lags the demand. The diagnosis is complex, with several layers to it. Let me begin with the source of high-quality faculty: doctoral degree-granting institutions. The investment necessary to run a high-quality, research-oriented doctoral programme is very costly. Naturally, the output is tiny − virtually insignificant. Moreover, the demand from the vast majority of MBA-granting institutions is only for teaching, not research. This is in part because, in the aggregate, the economy can support only so many research-active management faculty − certainly not all of the faculty from the 1,000+ MBA-granting colleges and universities. Naturally, the pay to management faculty in most of the institutions is low. As a result, qualified students do not pursue doctoral programmes, which explains why their applicant pool is not terribly impressive. This too adversely affects the already small supply from the doctoral degree-granting institutions.
So, what do MBA schools do in their attempt to put faculty in the classrooms? The quality bar for becoming a faculty member gets lowered. The first casualty is the degree; a doctorate is not essential. Individuals with an MBA coupled with work experience are prime targets for faculty positions. The educational institutions compete for faculty from the same pool as does the industry. The total remuneration in the industry outstrips that from educational institutions, which means the educational institutions attract lower-quality candidates compared to the industry.

The net result is that Indian management institutions have very few research-oriented, high-calibre faculty. The supply is failing to catch up, and instead the gap is being met through the hiring of a large number of poorly trained faculty with neither the training nor credentials that would measure up to world-class standards. These faculty are responsible for educating a massive number of MBAs, but you simply cannot make up for quality through quantity.

How Can We Improve the Quality of Faculty Supply?

Competition among the large number of MBA-granting institutions is fierce in India. The competition comes not only from domestic institutions, but because an MBA is a global degree, high-quality institutions face competition from international institutions as well. Faculty quality is an important means of surviving and getting ahead of the competition. To attract a superior quality of faculty, some of the institutions have raised their faculty salaries to become competitive nationally and internationally. However, this does not quite address the lack of supply of quality faculty.

Indian management institutions have very few research- oriented, high-calibre faculty. The supply is failing to catch up, and instead the gap is being met through the hiring of a large number of poorly trained faculty with neither the training nor credentials that would measure up to world-class standards

A high-quality research faculty creates new knowledge through ideas (research) and disseminates knowledge in the classroom (teaching). Both of these activities require rigorous training. To be research-active, however, requires a significant ongoing commitment to working on new ideas that would transform management education in the future. In contrast, teaching activity calls for an understanding of the body of knowledge and a commitment to communicating ideas to students. The

latter type of faculty is in tremendous demand in India. In my opinion, this demand is screaming for the creation of a management education programme that rigorously exposes students to the cutting edge of management research and also trains them in the art and science of pedagogically organising and communicating the ideas (teaching) in the classroom.

It is obvious that I am proposing a distinction between a research-oriented doctoral education, a PhD in management, and a teaching-oriented graduate education, perhaps a DBA or Doctorate in Business Administration. A similar dichotomy exists in the field of education, with some receiving a PhD in Education, whereas others are being granted a Doctorate in Education (DEd). DBAs would be almost at par with the PhDs as classroom faculty. Schools competing with others would signal their higher quality by recruiting DBAs, which would replace their current model of sourcing faculty. The resulting demand for high-quality DBAs would manifest itself

in their commanding higher compensation, which in turn would contribute to a better-quality applicant pool for DBA programmes.
The essential building blocks of a DBA programme would comprise: 1. Rigorous exposure to the body of knowledge in management in general and in the student’s field of interest in particular; 2. Developing an understanding of the relevance and applicability of management education in practice through the writing of two cases; and 3. Training in how to be effective in a classroom and the development of a course that the candidate might teach upon graduation.
The first element brings a DBA candidate to the cutting edge of management research in his or her field of interest. In addition, the rigorous training required to reach this point also prepares the student to be able to digest new research beyond graduation, so that as a faculty member, he or she can remain current in the field. The first part of the DBA programme might not differ much from a typical PhD programme except perhaps in a desire to expose a DBA student broadly to the field of management, compared to a typical PhD programme that focusses narrowly on the field of specialisation, e.g., finance.

The second and third components of the DBA programme are designed to prepare students to be high-quality instructors in the classroom. The writing of cases and the development of curriculum for a course serve as a substitute for a PhD thesis.

A DBA programme might take three years. An important distinction between a PhD and a DBA degree programme would be that the outcome is likely to be far less uncertain for someone entering into a DBA programme. The uncertainty in a PhD programme is high in part because a student’s ability to eventually come up with ideas that count as an original contribution to the literature (i.e., a PhD thesis) is unobservable and relatively rare. In the absence of creative genius, many highly

talented and knowledgeable doctoral students experience frustration and sometimes drop out of the programme. More importantly, this uncertainty and the prospect of modest pay even after one has jumped through all of the hoops discourage many promising applicants from applying to PhD programmes, thereby adversely affecting the ultimate supply of faculty in management. A DBA programme is less demanding along the dimension of an original, creative thesis, thus considerably mitigating the uncertainty of a successful outcome.

Recommendation

Leading management institutions in India should consider introducing a DBA programme. Such a programme would dramatically augment the supply of faculty; it would enable educational institutions to compete on the quality of faculty; and finally, it would impart quality education to MBA students.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  • Kothari_Management_Faculty_supply_Problem

    SP Kothari

    Deputy Dean and Gordon Y Billard Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
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