Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM


Programme in Development Management

Admissions at the TDA

Discussions regarding PDM 9 have been somewhat quiet, and I think that many people are uncertain how to interpret this silence. The series of comments at the “About this site” page—comments which come from a TDA faculty, a current PDM student, and a PDM 9 student—are an indicator of this uncertainty. In this post, I will present a few of my views on the admissions situation; I welcome a lively discussion on this topic!

PDM 9 will happen. It will start this year—in October—a few months off target. Of this, I have no doubts. In fact, I would say that we would be ready to start the program whether we had 5 students or 50. In some ways, a low number would be amazing. I cannot express how happy I would be if I were able to work directly with a student for two years, even collaborating on some original research (hint-hint)—something that might more resemble an apprenticeship. With a batch of, say, 20 students, this is a sizeable challenge. Additionally, the development sector needs good people, and I think this is justification enough to ensure that, even if the batch is small, the course still happens.

That said, stepping back and looking at the enrollment size in a different light, it is in the Academy’s best interest to try and guarantee at least a minimum number of students in each batch for at least three reasons.

  • First, class size does make a difference. I have been teaching since I was 21, and I have taught classes ranging from 3 to 45 students; with experience, I’ve come to see the 15 to 25 student range as my “sweet spot.” Sure, small classes offer an intensive learning experience, but it is also a limited learning experience. When I look at the student body at the TDA, I am always impressed by the range of personalities, family backgrounds, and geographic representation. All of these add value to the program—a value that is difficult to quantify.
  • Second, a the Academy strongly supports the idea of students as teachers. During the fieldwork and development practice segments of the PDM, students get to work in a diverse selection of areas under different themes; sharing their experiences and lessons upon their return is one of the more rewarding experiences for me as a faculty, and I hope the same can be said for the students at the Academy.
  • Third, finance is indeed an issue!

With that in mind, what happened? Unfortunately, I do not have enough information to be able to accurately answer this question, but I imagine that there are several reasons for low admissions which go beyond us being a relatively young academic institution.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons might be the idea that “the PDM is free; there must be a catch.” That’s true. There is a catch. What you get when you sign up for the PDM is a demanding education that will push you to your limits. But it pushes you to limits you would never expect. I’ve seen fellow faculty crying in the field over the desperate situations of the poorest citizens of India; but I’ve seen the same faculty work with admirable vigor trying to make the situations at least a little less desperate. I’ve seen students humbled by the kindness of villagers who invite them into their homes and provide shelter for their fieldwork studies. And I’ve seen people change their views from the idea of “development as a job” to “development as a lifestyle.” So, yes, there is a catch. By coming to the TDA, you do not just get an education. You change… you grow… you don’t shy away from the 3-year work requirement after graduation, because you know it’s the minimum that can be done to help India’s development.

Another limitation might be positioning. As Keshaw pointed out in his comment, it seems that many NGOs are afraid of branding. It’s true, the Academy has a long way to go in promoting its “brand” and, in part, that’s why this site is here. Where the “DHAN Collective” has had most of its success is in creating what might be called a “cultural identity.” The problem with this is that while there is strong commitment and understanding from those within the organization, the view from the outside is not necessarily the same.

But the development sector is, overall, not an “attractive” sector to most. How do you “sell” the kind of work which will be required? Not everyone has a sense that “returning something to society” is important. Nor does everyone have a common idea of “development.” For example, as much as it hurts to admit it, I seem to have an extremely difficult time convincing some of my students that throwing their candy wrapper out of the bus is a development issue! The point is that, just as no one really enjoys carrying their garbage around with them when throwing it on the side of the road seems to have little direct impact on the individual, so too can it be difficult to convince someone that social concern or social development is important if poverty in one sector of society seems to have little direct impact on them. In other words, how do you convince someone that society—that the world, for that matter—would be a better place if they were a little less self-centered? How do you brand something like that?

Incidentally, I would not say that DHAN Foundation or the Academy is averse to branding; indeed, we teach branding as part of our curriculum. Ironically, however, the Academy doesn’t even have a logo!

A third limitation is the application process itself. With a desire to get only those students we truly feel will leave their mark in the development sector, the Academy invests a lot of resources in the long recruitment process. Not only is there an exam to test basic skills, but there are interviews, group discussions, village visits, presentations, and orientations as part of the process. This takes a lot of human resources, but in some cases, may also over-filter and exclude potential candidates.

I hope that after reading this you understand some of the complexity behind the admissions status. I do not have any doubt that, come October, we will have a strong batch of students joining PDM 9, ready to leave their mark in the development world.


Filed under: Admissions, PDM 9, , ,

12 Responses

  1. anjalisinha says:

    As the faculty has decided to take examination again to increase the number of students in PDM IX, then what about the second list? There are some students on that list who are waiting.

  2. anjalisinha says:

    There is not any link for those 18 who want to come (those who were selected at the time but couldn’t register themselves on time).

  3. Ananda Mahto says:


    Here is a list of the 18 who were selected the first time around. I’ll try to update this list as more people are selected.

    If there are any questions, feel free to post comments here or to contact the Academy directly (by email [tatadhanacademy@satyam.net.in] or phone [91-452-2475318, 2475219]).

    Blog readers: If your name is on the above list and you have not yet confirmed, please contact us as soon as possible (before August 31).


  4. jkram says:

    To get focused students for our PDM 9, it’s better to use e-groups. We can post our advertisements in select e-groups of yahoo, gmail and orkut relating to social work, development education, management education or similar line of group titles. I find some Orkut groups on social work which has membership of more than 2,500. May be such initiative will help to reach right people. What do you think?

  5. suneethavalleti says:

    Out of the 18 selected candidates 3 members are joining TDA and 4 members are yet to confirm. The second list candidates are also being contacted.

  6. suneethavalleti says:

    I also had the idea of posting our ad in select e groups. I didn’t get a positive response from moderators. I am now sending our TDA admissions form as a chain mail to my friends. May be this will help?

  7. keshawbhardwaj says:

    Hi Seneetha mam,
    May I know the names of the four members who are yet to confirm and others who have conformed.

    As per I know there are eight among selected student who are willing to join the course.
    On 29th July 31, 2008, I sent you my confirmation letter and Rajkumar Gupta had already sent his confirmation. Anjali Sinha will send her confirmation tomorrow and I have got very positive response from Kundan and Sony.

  8. keshawbhardwaj says:


    On 29th July, I sent my confirmation letter and Rajkumar Gupta had already sent his confirmation.

  9. Ananda Mahto says:


    I’ve updated the Google Doc to show who has confirmed and who has yet to confirm. Bold with an asterisk = confirmed; centered = uncertain; right-aligned = not sure–perhaps Suneetha can provide an update on their status.

  10. keshawbhardwaj says:

    Thanks Ananda for the quick reply, I’m really grateful for it.

  11. anjalisinha says:

    Hi, Suneetha mam

    May I know what is programme schedule of our classes. because as in the last time we have to sign the bond form after one month and the presence of graduation is necessary in that time. Then what is the schedule for this time. Because it will help me to take the reservation ie, either the graduation has to come this time or after one month.

  12. anjalisinha says:

    As I have talked with some those students who are not selected in 18th then it seems to me that they are waiting for 2nd list uptill. So may know that the 2nd list will be published or not so that they can again fill-up the form if possible.+

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