The Growing Popularity of One-Year Management Programs in India: What Is the Value Proposition?

Sep 15, 2012
Tags: B-School, Choosing the Right School, MBA, School Selection

Savita Mahajan

Provided by Savita Mahajan, Deputy Dean and Chief Executive of the Indian School of Business (ISB) Mohali Campus

The one-year MBA is on a rise. While the traditional two-year MBA has certainly stood the test of time, broader trends do point to a marked shift towards the one-year format. In India, a market that I have witnessed closely, when ISB pioneered the one-year format in 2001 there were many sceptics who felt that it would not take off. But the success of ISB’s programme apart, now almost every top business school in India has added a one-year programme in its offering. There are good reasons for this shift. 

Fundamentally, the notion of time and its value is a lot different today from what it was earlier. Across the globe, an ambitious working population is seeking quicker and more efficient progress. The one-year programme is aligned with this trend. Viewed purely from a financial lens, the value is fairly obvious. By doing a one-year MBA, a student not only saves the fees and living expenses for the additional year, but also gains the earning potential of a full year, allowing for a much faster pay-back. This notion tends to get accentuated in a rapidly growing economy like India, where new and exciting career opportunities abound. 

Notwithstanding the financial logic, a two year course is better suited to fresh graduates, usually without any professional experience. The longer duration allows for a more comfortable pace, helping the uninitiated to grasp concepts better. But for those with a few years of work experience behind them, a one-year programme is a sound option. It allows them to leverage their experiences from the workplace, and thus improve their understanding of what is being taught. More importantly, it allows the institution to craft a class that is more diverse, enhancing the learning for everybody. For instance, a typical class at ISB would comprise students who have worked in diverse industries across the world, at various levels of management. Compared to a class of graduates without any prior experience, this diversity is meaningful and relevant to management education. It fosters valuable peer- to-peer learning, and helps correlate theoretical concepts with practical, on-ground realities. Any marketing, finance or operations class is vastly more enriching with such an experienced peer group. 

Finally, one has to look at how industry views the one-year format. I believe that the initial scepticism on whether the one-year programme hampers learning has largely been put to rest. From our own experience of placements at ISB, companies acknowledge the rigour of a one year programme, and recruit in large numbers from ISB, year after year. It is not surprising therefore, that one year management programmes are gaining popularity at some of the best business schools around the world.