The efforts of the organising institute, and the entire CAT team, have had a positive impact on registrations. Initiatives such as media outreach, timely reminders to candidates, addition of more test cities, and the creation of a user-friendly application system have encouraged more individuals to apply for CAT, says Professor Sanjeet Singh, Decision Sciences Area, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow and CAT 2023 convenor. Talking about the record-high registrations, he says, “This year, with some of the big tech firms like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, etc, laying off employees, and startups having announced cuts across sectors, individuals prefer pursuing higher education in such an economic scenario.”
“India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and that itself demonstrates a huge demand for MBAs to help graduates maintain competitive advantage in a dynamic world,” IIM-Nagpur director Bhimaraya Metri tells Education Times.
“This rise may have been expected over time. That is why the new IIMs (like ours) were set up. In a country with much scope for growth, we need more people with the aptitude, skills, and empathy to handle managerial positions,” says Advaita Rajendra, admissions chairperson, IIM Sirmaur.
Top management institutes, especially IIMs, have recently introduced a wide range of specialised management programmes in areas such as healthcare, Artificial Intelligence (AI), business analytics, and blockchain, among others. The growing demand for these programmes has led to an increase in registrations, says Singh.
Shifting education trends, such as greater emphasis on specific business-related programmes have contributed to a historical increase in numbers. Dhruv Galgotia, CEO, Galgotias University, says, “There is a great demand in the corporate world for MBA graduates. All IIMs and several educational institutions have picked up the new trends and revamped their MBA curriculum into a combination of modern business management courses embedded with technology/digital components. As a result, of the new skill sets offered by the business schools, CAT applicants have increased.”
The number of B-schools using CAT scores for admitting students has increased their seats because of which the applicant pool has increased, adds Galgotia. Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) decided to accept CAT scores for admission, which has had a positive impact on the number of applications.
The increase in registration will not translate into an increase in the number of seats in IIMs. “We are currently not planning to increase the number of seats, and the admission policy will be released by the end of October. We are looking to introduce several changes for students with diverse work experience, educational backgrounds and regions,” says Rajendra.
Experts claim that the demand for Management courses post-Covid pandemic has increased. “Pandemic led to economic uncertainty which in turn prompted working professionals to upgrade their management skills,” says Singh.
Karthikeyan Balakumar, placement chairperson at IIM Sirmaur, says, “It’s plausible that after a period of economic slowdown, many might see value in upskilling or pivoting their careers through management courses.”
Test cities and centres
On a greater number of test cities, with an increased number in exam centres, especially in tier-II cities, Singh says that there is a possibility that these factors have resulted in the highest-ever registration numbers. The wider testing options make the exam more accessible to a broader range of candidates, including those from smaller cities and towns, which can lead to increased registration numbers.
Centres in tier-II cities brought inclusivity and impetus to aspirations of rural youth, says Metri, adding, “Earlier, CAT takers were mostly from urban areas. Increasing exam centres in tier-II cities has created awareness among rural youth. There is also a huge infrastructure growth in tier-II, and tier-III cities, and rural India due to quality roads and PM Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).”
Reflecting positively on an increase in exam centres, especially in tier-II cities, Rajendra says it will help showcase more diversity in backgrounds in our classrooms.
CAT 2023 registrations have seen an increase in women applicants. Out of the total registered candidates, 1.17 lakh are women this year. “Over the years, there has been a shift in societal attitudes towards women pursuing careers in business and leadership roles. More women are encouraged to enter business schools. Management institutes have also been proactive in promoting gender diversity through affirmative actions which has resulted in the highest-ever female applicants in CAT this year,” says Singh. Saying that it is a good indicator, Metri says, “IIM Nagpur has given supportive policies in various stages of admissions aiming to improve gender diversity.”
“The diversity and inclusivity of programmes has supported women to pursue a professional degree like an MBA,” says Galgotia.