"I looked at my potential return on investment," says Kavya, now a second-year MBA marketing student in Christ University. The average salary of students from the college was more than Rs 6 lakh per annum. Even during hard times, placements were "100 per cent". Top performers, she soon discovered, could earn more.
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In 2011/12, networking equipment giant Cisco offered a salary of Rs 11.5 lakh to a few marketing students. Software product company Tally offered Rs 9.5 lakh. Many others, including Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Ford Motor, also hired students from the college. Christ University has risen 12 spots to No. 37 in the 2012 BT Best Business Schools survey.
Along with his faculty, Father Thomas T.V., the energetic director of the university's Institute of Management, has been trying to address the need for affordable education that does not exclude any segment of society. The team has also been trying to improve the quality of education, as well as the calibre of students enrolling in its programmes.
"There has been a 10 to 15 per cent increase in applications over the past three years. This has resulted in good selection and a jump in the quality of students," says Thomas.
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"With due respect to textbooks, we are trying to make them as redundant as possible," says C.N. Kshetragna, Head of the Department of Marketing, sitting in a spacious lounge near the director's cabin. "We moved away from the cliched classroom kind of stuff, where students are bored to death with PowerPoint presentations. We drove the marketing students into live projects," he adds. "For instance, every day after 5 p.m., some students went to Shoppers Stop for three months. They studied brands that were not selling well and gave real-time solutions."
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Projects such as this, along with a sustained drive to get more corporate bigwigs to hold workshops and lectures, have helped Christ University build a "corporate connect". More and more companies, as a result, have now started to show up during the placement season.
This was not the case as recently as three years ago. There were fewer Ph.Ds among the faculty, the student-teacher ratio was not all that healthy, and most students had little work experience. "Close to 30 per cent of our faculty has Ph.Ds now.
The staff-student ratio has gone up to 1:16 from 1:20 earlier. And more experienced people are preferring Christ University - we now get people with two to three years of work experience," says Thomas.
Little known outside Bangalore, even today, Christ University was founded in 1969 and became a deemed university in 2008. The management institute started in 1994, under Bangalore University. In 2004, it started to develop its own curriculum and experimented in innovative teaching methods such as online simulations. Such simulations are used to collaborate and solve problems or conduct a mock analysis of companies. Things started to change rapidly thereafter.
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"The quality of education has changed significantly. We have invested in learning management systems and online simulated teaching. We have empowered our five departments - finance, marketing, human resources, lean operations & systems, and general management - giving them more autonomy for decision making," says Thomas.
The university, nevertheless, has its work cut out for the future. It has to develop incubation facilities for start-ups and increase its mindshare among the country's recruiters with some high-decibel marketing.
"When I was looking to enrol in an MBA course, I had no doubt that if it was not IIM-B, it had to be Christ University," says Neethu Joy, a former student who is now a recruiter at IT services firm Wipro Technologies. "But Christ still has to work on its brand to be better known."