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Sunday, April 11, 1999

Self-study at SPJIMR this season 

Nivedita Mookerji  
After two years of experimentation, S P Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, is finally launching the innovative self-study project this academic year. Meant for the second year management students, the new concept will help give them attain a career focus.

Says assistant professor, Mythili Venkateswaran: ``Our objective is to help students have the advantage of working in an industry or a company of their choice, after they have chosen their areas of specialisation.'' They can work on a project that will enable them to simultaneously apply what they learn, she adds. Also, she points out that such a project will give them a career focus. She says: ``We believe it is careers that that have to be focussed on and not merely jobs.''

The self-study project is significant in many ways. First, SPJIMR does not have a traditional summer project like other Indian B-schools. Instead it has a programme which requires every student to work with NGOs in the rural areas, or with the corporate sector indevelopment work. Therefore, the self-study project allows the students an exposure to the industry. Also, Venkateswaran says that the second year MBA curriculum should cater to individual abilities, likes and aptitudes. And self study projects are just that-students work on projects of their own choice in areas of their interest and expertise. Since they remain on campus, they even get valuable inputs from faculty, adds Venkateswaran.

Although the concept was first discussed some years ago and introduced in 1997, so far it has been unstructured. But a good number of self-study projects were carried out both in 1997-98 and 1998-99. Now the institute proposes to make the scheme more structured and has formalised to help build a long-lasting relationship with the corporates.

The new scheme will operate something like this. The first stage of the project will see the institute request companies to offer projects for second year students in various areas. At the second stage, CVs of interested students willbe sent to the companies, on the basis of projects on offer. The third stage belongs to the companies. They'll select the candidates based on their own requirements. And the selection process should be complete by April 20. The fourth stage is that of preparation by the students. The preparation includes collecting data from literature survey and Internet browsing, which must be done in June. It is at the fifth stage that the project actually begins, sometime in July. From July to November, students will start working with the company one or two days a week, depending on the nature of the project. Finally, at the sixth stage, students will have to submit their reports. The last date for submission of reports has been fixed for December 15.

The thrust of the project being `work on a project while still on campus', Venkateswaran elaborates: ``Students will put in 40-42 days of work spread over five months from July to November, on Wednesdays and Thursdays.'' She adds: ``A regular summer project would alsoinvolve only so many days of work.''

On the kind of help that faculty can offer to students working on company projects, she says: ``Faculty of SPJIMR are mostly people who have been in industry. So they are rich in academics as well as practical experience. Their inputs would make the projects more meaningful, relevant and application oriented.''

And, is the self-study project an alternative to summer project? Venkateswaran says no. She explains why it is not like a traditional summer project. She says: ``The self-study project is undertaken at the start of the second year when students are studying their subjects of specialisation. So their approach is more focussed, more targeted, and their knowledge and expertise greater.'' As a result, a student selects an industry or a company in line with his career plans.

Venkateswaran further explains the difference between summer projects and self-study projects. As against summer projects being a first-year activity, the self-study project begins only in thesecond year. Also, the self-study project is of much longer duration--spread over five months. Again, the maturity and knowledge level of students are much higher in the self-study project than in a summer project. Plus, in a self-study project, students have access to the infrastructural facilities of their institute, which is generally missing in summer projects. And if all goes well, this summer will witness the launch of yet another innovative programme from a leading business school of the country. If successful, the self-study project may well turn out to be a trend-setter in the world of management education.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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