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Some are taking the first faltering steps, some struggling to stay afloat, while yet others have lost affiliation after years of existence. B-schools in Bengal haven't taken off even after the joint entrance for management (JEMAT) was introduced last year.

And there are not enough takers either. In 2004, around 600 candidates took the JEMAT. This year, the test had to be conducted a second time to draw more applicants. Less than 1600 students took the WBUT-conducted exam for 900 seats. Which just goes to show the poor brand value of state B-schools. Those affiliated to the CAT fare better in terms of infrastructure and students' performance. But quite a few haven't been able to rid themselves of their negative image.

Take for instance, the Institute of Modern Management on Loudon Street. One of the oldest private B-schools in the state, it was set up in 1975 and has never quite had the necessary credibility. Even today, it functions from a rented apartment without an AICTE approval. From the coming session, Visva-Bharati University is going to withdraw its affiliation to IMM. Director Dipak Rudra admits that they are in a 'precarious situation'. 'We must find some affiliation this year or get some other institute to take us over,' he says.

The institute depends entirely on part-time faculty for 'experienced, full-time teachers are difficult to get', say the authorities. 'This is one of the reasons why local B-schools lack credibility,' says Dr Arun Samaddar, director of Pailan College of Management.

Even Jadavpur University, which started a part-time three-year evening MBA in 1985, supports the argument. Till recently, it was rated as the best in the state outside IIM Calcutta. Now, even the authorities admit that the biggest strength of the programme is the JU tag.

Wanted: good teachers

Most management schools in the state are below par but quite a few are doing well now. We need more publicity for these, frequent exchange of ideas and an active industry-institute partnership to enhance the credibility of local B-schools,' says director Bhaskar Banerjee.

But more than publicity, it's their performance that will matter, says Rudra. 'There is a wide variance in the standard of B-schools at the moment. Only the fittest will survive and there won't be more than a few,' predicts Rudra.

Heritage Institute of Technology (HIT) at Anandapur is another that suffers from the same ailment ' shortage of good teachers. It has seven full-time faculty for 99 students and has to depend on part-timers. The authorities admit that the general standard of teaching 'could be better'. 'It's a chicken and egg problem. Unless you have a reputation, you don't get good teachers and vice versa,' claims director Dr Bani Sinha. HIT started its MBA in 2003 and the first batch is passing out this year. So its placement performance is still untested.

Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions like the Institute of Engineering and Management (IEM). It has got a strong faculty that includes 12 core members and as many part-timers. 'We make sure that there are IIM graduates in our faculty and that makes a difference,' says dean of management Amitabha Gupta. IEM has a huge library, a computer lab and 24-hour Internet access for students. Applicants are taken in through CAT to ensure that it gets better students. Placements have been consistently good.

Future Institute of Engineering and Management too has had companies like Tata, Ushacomm, ITC Infotech and Hutch on their campus for summer training. Some have already got job offers. But even these schools are struggling to build a reputation.

Poor placements

The schools in the districts with the notable exception of IIT Kharagpur's Vinod Gupta School of Management are in a worse state. Some have huge campuses but little else besides. Their placement record is also quite abysmal. Institute of Management, for instance, has come up on a 100 acre plot in Durgapur. It has a huge building, hostels and a library. But placement has been poor. Director Prof. S.C. Bhattacharjee admits that 'not all subjects have good teachers' in his school.

Another problem that beleaguers B-schools in the state is that of an unimaginative and dated syllabus. The WBUT course which they follow leaves much to be desired, say experts. It's huge and has not been updated for quite some time. 'We need more frequent revisions,' says Dr Amit Biswas, director of FIEM. But it's no use blaming the syllabus alone, adds Dr Biswas. 'All schools are experiencing teething troubles. It will take at least five more years for us to take off properly,' he adds.

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