Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

April 25, 2009

Case for Admissions Profession

Why do we need profession of admissions and enrollment management in India?

I used to work in admissions office at ISB. It was quite difficult for me to explain people what I was doing after earning degrees in engineering and management. At a very simplistic level--it was education marketing and recruitment. However, I see it as a cross-functional role, which included concept selling, recruitment, interviewing, career counseling, external relations, research and brand management. Above all it offered an opportunity to interact with top talent and support their best fit with the institution. But the "profession" of admissions and enrollment management is simply non-existent in India.

In contrast, admissions and enrollment management profession is well established in the US. It plays a central role in attracting and retaining top talent for the universities. It has advanced to the level that apart from professional associations there are even specialized research centers like the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice (CERPP) at the USC and a journal published by the CollegeBoard.

This month, I attended two international conferences in the US that focus exclusively on admissions and enrollment management:
  • NAGAP (National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals) has more than 1,800 members and focuses on graduate admissions.

  • AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) has more than 10,000 members and focuses on undergradaute admissions.
I have been quite engaged with the admissions profession for last few years. I presented at conferences; published several articles; served as on-site conference chair for NAGAP; earned a research grant from NAGAP and currently serving as member of internatioal relations committee of NAGAP. This engagement had been invaluable in terms of networking, tracking latest trends and professional development.

For institutions who aspire to build brand and reputation, need to understand that admissions is not a clerical role about filling seats. It is a professional role of a brand manager who has competencies for building a brand and attracting the best talent. This is critical because alumni are the best brand ambassadors an institution can ask for.

Rahul Choudaha, PhD
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April 08, 2009

Guru Mantra: Dr. Jim Spohrer, Director, IBM

"Guru Mantra" is the series of interviews where senior professionals will share their persepctives on a range of issues related to higher education with special reference to India. I am starting this series with the perspectives of Dr. Jim Spohrer.

Dr. Jim Spohrer is the Director of IBM Global University Programs. This program develops collaborative research and course/skill development projects with universities around the world, on topics such as nanotechnology, cell chips, supercomputing, cloud computing, service science. Formerly, he was the Director of Service Research at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA. His work in the emerging field known as Service Science seeks to understand value-cocreation phenomena of service systems and networks. The field seeks to improve service quality, productivity, compliance, and sustainable innovation. As a founding advisor of the Service Research and Innovation Initiate, he works with global universities, governments, non-profits, and businesses to understand future skill needs to create, scale, and improve knowledge-intensive service activities. Dr. Spohrer has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Yale University, and a B.S. in Physics from MIT.

Jim Spohrer's Blog

Q.-What excites you about your role as the Director, Global University Programs for IBM?
JS-Working with universities around the world, and thinking about the future of higher education. In a global knowledge-driven innovation economy, universities are key players, and they are evolving! I also enjoyed my role as director of service research, as well, creating the first service research group in IBM, and attaining an 8x return in just six years, as well as launching the Service Science Management and Engineering emerging academic discipline. And before that my role as CTO of IBM's Venture Capital Group during the big internet bubble in Silicon Valley. This job really gave me an appreciation for how rapidly IBM Global Service Business units could scale up a small VC-backed companies innovation, and impact IBM's major customers. IBM is a great place to keep learning and broadening one's experience. The theme in all three jobs was the same -- rapidly scaling up new knowledge to make a smarter planet, unlocking the value of that new knowledge in the process.

Q.-What role can SSME play for the developing country like India?
JS-SSME is still in its early stages. India can certainly drive the theoretical foundations of this new area. Also, India has many global service delivery centers and a wealth of data about how to improve existing service systems and design new types of service systems.

Q. What advise do you have for Indian higher education institutes related to SSME?
JS-Become members of SRII (Service Research and Innovation Institute) and volunteer to help build out industry vertical and discipline vertical Special Interest Groups (SIGs). There are already INFORMS (Operation Research and Management Sciences), AMA (Marketing), AIS (Information Systems) and many other groups that have established "service" SIGs. SRII is the umbrella organization that seeks to create practical knowledge at the intersection point of industries and disciplines (e.g., healthcare-operations, retail-marketing, etc). A good SSME graduate can communicate across all these industry and discipline verticals, and is deep in at least one.

Also, drive the theoretical foundations deeper. Create an ontology and epistemology that can underlie service science, and be used to understand service or value-cocreation phenomena between service system entities.

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April 07, 2009

Education for the Service Economy

Indian services sector is growing and now contributes nearly 60% of the GDP with rest contributed by agriculture and manufacturing. There are institutions of formal education and research for agriculture sector. Likewise, excellent programs in engineering and technology have been long existing at institutes like IITs and NITIE, that focus on tradtional manufacturing and industrial sector. Ironically, there is no formal education that prepares talent for innovating and improving productivity for the service sector that contributes most to the GDP.

Enter Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME). The interdisciplinary initiative of SSME focuses on “the application of scientific, management, and engineering disciplines to tasks that one organization (service provider) beneficially performs for and with another (service client)” (Spohrer, et al.). IBM helped emergence of Computer Science as a field of study and now it is leading charge to help create Service Science. IBM Systems Journal also released a special issue on SSME in 2008 and the University of Cambridge and IBM issued a White Paper.

My PhD dissertation focused on developing a competency-based curriculum for a master’s program in SSME. I surveyed industry professionals and faculty members to identify a competency model for service science professionals and developed a curriculum blueprint that may deliver required comepetencies.

Some of the early adopters of the SSME in India are:

SP Jain

SSME is an interesting opportunity both for engineering and management institutes to take a lead in developing highly relevant interdisciplinary programs. This would aid in developing a cadre of professionals, who would innovate in the service economy in an efficient and effective manner.

Rahul Choudaha, PhD

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April 01, 2009

Reputation@ISB = Innovation x Conviction

Foundation stone for ISB was laid in 1999. Ten years down the line, ISB ranks among the world’s top 15 business schools (Financial Times 2009). ISB emerged as an inspiration for Indian higher education, especially in the private sector.

Much is written about the tremendous success ISB has achieved but what is also important to understand is that ten years back there were many more people who didn’t believed in the ISB model than who believe in it today. Many more articles were written about why ISB would fail rather than why it would succeed. Consider this article published in the Hindu “Indian School of Business -- Counting unhatched chickens”

“In sum, the mindset of the founders reeks of the ‘what-is-good-for-the-US-is-good-for-the-world’ syndrome, because it equates Western with the US. Not a single academic institution from the UK, Europe or Asia has been regarded the equal of Kellogg and Wharton. The biggest lacuna in the governing board is the absence of the Tatas, the Birlas, the Oberois, the National Dairy Development Board, the T. V. Sundaram Group of companies, Maruti Udyog -- to cite but a few examples -- which can compare with the best in the world in experience and management skills, though not in puffery.”

Doing best practices analysis is easy, as hindsight is always 20:20. Today, it is much easier to find many factors which enabled ISB success. Among several factors, I believe the combination of innovation and conviction had been the most critical success factor for the ISB.

Rewind ten years and let us assess following parameters on its innovation and conviction to deliver:

1. Tuition—In the early 2000, Indian MBA market was still conditioned to tuition fee in the range of Rs.30,000 and ISB launched its program in the range of Rs.1,000,000. Thus, in a price-concious market, ISB was positioning for high quality at a price.
2. Location—A decade back, Hyderabad was gaining attention as the IT hub, but it still didn't had the cache of Delhi or Mumbai. Convincing faculty members, funders and corporates would not have been easy.
3. MBA Program—Indian MBA programs were typically of two-years duration, launhing a one-year MBA program was a novel concept.
4. Work experience—In India, most of the students of MBA programs joined it straight out of their undergradaute colleges. Asking for work-experience as a preference for admissions process required ISB to reach to a different target segment--working professionals.
5. GMAT—CAT was the norm as the admissions test in India and asking applicants to take GMAT exam, which was also much expensive was disruptive. However today, according to GMAC, ISB (not Harvard or Wharton) receives largest number of reports from the Indian GMAT test takers.
6. Faculty—Flying global faculty under a visiting faculty model from international b-schools was definitley a huge logistical and financial undertaking.
7. Fundraising—Raising standards of professional higher education management and professionally and ethically raising money when no one understands “development” in higher education context?
8. Partners Schools—Convincing global B-schools like Kellogg, Wharton & London Business School to lend their names to an institution which exists only on paper?
9. Infrastructure-ISB campus was built to provide world class facilites and required significant upfront cost (more than Rs.20m).
10. Executive Education--Finally, a high quality executive education program with global faculty which was again positioned with a premium pricing.

It may be easier to make one incremental innovation, however, radical innovation in a price concious, regulation driven education market is truly remarkable. ISB case proves that innovation requires relentless conviction to achieve successful execution.

Now, what do you think about possiblity of failure or success of some of the following initiatives:

Vedanta University

Georgia Tech, India

South Asian University

Rahul Choudaha, Phd
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