IIMs and IITs have built this virtuous cycle over the years by attracting the top talent (530,000 applicants are vying for 9,600 seats in IIT in 2011). Even if the students learn nothing in the classes, they would still excel by learning on the job. However, not every institution is fortunate or competitive enough to select only top 1% of the applicants. Thus, institutions need to systematically develop and implement a strategy to attract the best talent.
An admissions office in most Indian institutions is limited to a brochure selling office. What is completely ignored is outreach and recruitment to attract and nurture the best talent. Marketing is considered to be same as advertising, which has limited impact in higher education (earlier post on advertising malpractices). The concept of engaging and counseling prospective students is almost non-existent.
Higher education institutions are an integral part of the talent supply chain and to be productive and efficient, they have to collaborate with other stakeholders. Institutions focus on building relationships with employers while completing ignoring partnerships with feeder schools and the larger community to create a stronger impact and a positive word-of-mouth.
In the US institutions, admissions play much larger role as compared to placement. There are professional associations like NAGAP, AACRAO and NACAC which serve the needs of admissions officers, registrars and counselors. Placement offices are called "career services" which are not about getting employers on campus or highest salaries, but to counsel, prepare and support students with job search and career development.
Institutions aiming to build and strengthen reputation of an institution need to recognize that institutional reputation is highly dependent on the quality of students and alumni. Thus, having a systematic and targeted approach to attract best talent through best practices in admissions would anyways make role of placement office easier and reputation building faster.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha